A/N: I got the bulk of this chapter from a fan-pic called remembrance. It's a sur-realist image of Lloyd sleeping and Kratos breaking down at a nearby table. It's a sad-touching pic, and I wish I could remember the artist. If anyone's interested I can e-mail them a copy so what I'm saying makes a little more sense... And the kitchen scene is a sign I'm playing way too much FFCC. The last part is very bloody and detailed, sensitive readers may want to stop when they read up to the scene at Lloyd's where Kratos declines dinner and start up to where I have left an author's note stating the rest is safe.
Oh and translation for angelic at the end of the chapter.
"It's a door..." Genis frowned. "A glowing door."
"So where's the door handle?" Lloyd asked, staring at the wall like door-thing wreathed in white light. He then reached through the light, groped at the door, disrupted the glowing angelic symbols in his groping, and there was a charming Lloyd shaped black spot on the white wall. Kratos considered it, considered being nice, but then thought of the "are we there yet" feast he had been going through for the last hour. Closing his eyes he mouthed a few words in angelic and flicked two fingers at the door. There was a flash of white, a yalp, and a sizzle as the anti thief wards were activated.
Lloyd fell on his rump, twitching, staring at the door in shock.
"It bit me!"
Kratos bit his tongue to keep from laughing at the offended expression Lloyd was favoring the door.
"The freaking door bit me!"
"Don't be illogical Lloyd, the door is incapable of biting you." Genis walked up to the en-spelled wall. "You messed up the runes so long as you don't tou-"
Kratos made another gesture, Genis landed at Lloyd's feet, electricity sparking from his hair. They looked like a nicely matched pair of porcupines, well their hair did, all sticking up and spitting little starlets of electricity. Kratos felt his shoulders shaking with suppressed mirth, as the three children looked at the door in horror.
"Do you think it knows I didn't go to confession last week?" The small silvered hair elf whispered to his older swordsman friend.
"I think if that's why it shocked people I'd be extra shocked don't you?"
"I bet only the Chosen can touch it, because it's angelic." Genis said, looking at Colette in awe.
Colette blushed at the attention her 'angelic' status was getting her.
"I can try."
Colette then gathered her courage and touched the wall with one finger. Lloyd covered his eyes, then peeked through his fingers just in case something interesting happened when the wall disappeared or turned into a door, or did whatever they imagined it would do. Cracking her eyes open Colette tapped the wall with her finger, poked, prodded, then daring she put both hands on it and pushed. Then she pushed against the glowing and non glowing parts. She even went so far as to interrupt the flow of the runes along the parameter of the wall. Finally she pressed on the large crystal in the center of the wall, tugged, and when nothing came of it looked at her friends sheepishly.
"It won't budge."
"Let me give it another go, I think..."
Kratos, not wanting to go through that again, made a slight gesture with his right hand. The door sizzled before anyone had touched it. The Chosen whimpered, and took a step back, tripping, and falling onto Lloyd making him in turn trip. Genis scrambled, managed to avoid being smushed by the pile of his tripping friends. In his haste to get away he lost balance and smashed into Kratos. The seraphim, much to his self embarrassment, felt his balance go and he landed on his rump, the child sprawled over his legs.
"Opps... I did it again..." Colette whimpered, "Is everyone alright?"
"No fatalities here." Genis groaned, shoved off of Kratos' leg to get up.
"There will be if you don't get off my cloak." Kratos snarled, he wasn't choked by the shrimp standing on his cape but he could be if he sat up.
"Wow, has anyone ever told you you're really nice Kratos!" Genis growled, rubbing his back.
"Genis," Lloyd sighed. "Just ignore him alright; all we need is a fight." Lloyd was rubbing his rump.
"He's being a jerk!" The small elf growled in a tattle tell voice
"I think I'm entitled to be a jerk when I can not breathe, runt." Kratos countered, pulling himself to his feet.
"Not to my friends you don't." Lloyd snapped, his temper starting to go.
"R...Runt?" Genis sputtered. "Runt!"
Fire crackled from Genis' hands, Kratos took a step back gripping the hilt of his blade, and to the seraphim's concern Lloyd took a stand by his friend, gripping the hilts of his swords.
"Oh I got it!" Colette clapped her hands and they forgot each other for a second to look at the Chosen. "It's in angelic; it was hard to read because the letters keep walking by. It says it's locked."
Dead quiet, Kratos could well imagine he could hear the skitter of mouse feet on the other side of the temple.
"Umm... we figured that Colette." Genis said as kindly as one could say that.
"Well I bet the key's in the temple somewhere!"
"You're telling me we have to look for a key now?"
"Cheer up Lloyd, it's got to be here somewhere!"
"We don't even know what it looks like." Lloyd whined Kratos flinched at the sound; someone had probably spoiled the boy if he was this prone to whining. "It's just gunna be boring looking for some dumb old key."
"It'll be fun!" Colette chirped, "think of it like a scavenger hunt."
Genis and Kratos looked at each other. Anger and distrust dropped away for a moment as they shared a look of equal frustration, annoyance, and pity.
"We should get going." Kratos stroked the hilt of his blade. "There are monsters about so while we search we should be careful."
"Got it." Colette smiled. "Here Mr. Key!" She skipped down the hall back to the main chapel, and the three males stared at her in shock.
"Is she always like this?" Kratos muttered under his breath.
"It's a blonde person's thing." Genis sighed.
"It's a Colette thing." Lloyd corrected, rubbing his temples. "Your turn."
"It's not my turn!"
"Is not... infinity!"
"Cheater... Fine I got it. Colette..." Lloyd ran after her. "The "key" probably isn't a dog!"
"Why..." Seeing month and months of dealing with this suddenly looming before him Kratos gripped his hair almost ripped a chunk out. "Why, oh gods, why..."
"Why what?" Genis looked up at him in confusion.
"This... Is the Chosen!"
"Yep, that's our Colette."
"She's an id-"
"Hey!" Genis poked him, considering his height he managed to poke Kratos' gut instead of his chest. "She's a good person! She cares for everyone else and she tries to help everyone! That's a heck of a lot better then some of the other Chosen's. Some of them were jerks and Colette's nice to... everyone, even you, so you better be nice to her. If you aren't I'll fireball you after Lloyd beats you up, then I'll have my sis heal you, then I'll fireball you again!"
Kratos stared at the little elf with a mocking smile curling his lips and Genis cringed back from the shear malicious sense of power that the human before him radiated. He gulped, decided it would be nice to be with Lloyd, and scampered off to go there. Snorting at the boy's cowardice Kratos took his time following them, and in the gloom choked hall made a decision. Lloyd seemed happy enough as he was; it was not his place to disrupt that with his assumptions. He had lost his place long ago, he was, as Lloyd had bluntly told him, not Lloyd's Dad.
"Mer phan." Kratos mumurred to the darkness. "Mer phan., Suda mer Lloyden. Us'il mer Osi. Ne mer nu ust Oris."
The angels above seemed to catch his words, sigh them amongst themselves, speak them through stone lips across the vault across the heavens. A mocking heavenly choir that spoke in lies, till all lies became truth. But then all angels spoke in lies, they were lies. Nothing would come of them speaking lies, for nothing could damn stone, lies only damned the living.
"Us'il osi, ne mer nu ust oris..."
"You are my son, I am not your father."
There could be no more damning a litany to his ears but lies and truth, all the more accursed because he could no longer tell which was which.
"Cool, look at this!" Lloyd pointed to the painting on the wall, a fresco. He pushed aside the few threads of white that slide over it, brushed off the sticky stuff so they could all see the painting. "Hey, Colette, who's this?"
They all hovered over Lloyd's shoulder, well Colette did, Genis squirmed past him to look. Kratos hung back, not too interested, he closed his eyes radiating boredom that even Lloyd-who was known to get bored really fast- found offensive. Colette smiled, pointed to the arch of purple.
"This is the arch of heaven. Here..." She traced the highest part of the arch, lead them up to the pretty woman clutching a staff clad in emerald green robes. "That's Martel, the Goddess of life and regeneration. The person on her left is the angel of wisdom, keeper of the summer sky." She traced the left quarter of the circle then went out a little with her hand; Lloyd thoughtfully pulled the last of the white gunk down so they could see the blue clad and haired angel. "He's the patron angel of artisans and scholars." Her hand went across to the other side of the sphere and she pointed to the tall man in white robes and long golden hair. "That's the angel of justice and autumn; he's the patron saint of adventurers and people who do good things on pilgrimages." Hesitantly the hand went down to the black part of the circle, for purple darkened, turned to black and down so low Lloyd had to kneel to get a good look.
That had to be the creepiest angel he'd ever seen.
This one wasn't all sad and happy at the same time like the ones in the book, it wasn't all vacant eyed like the statues in the main dome, it was... intent. It looked at you and just stared through you. Colette made a strange gesture, and backed away, Genis moved with her. The angel had a red sword, black eyes, and it's sober face was wreathed in dull grey shadows. Lloyd brushed some of the dust that obscured not snowy white wings but twisted feathery masses that ran red.
"Lloyd get away from there!" Colette gasped. "That's an evil symbol."
"Colette," Lloyd sighed, rolled his shoulders in annoyance. "It's just a picture, it's not like it's gunna bite me."
"Lloyd, that's the angel of death!" Genis squeaked.
"For crying out loud, it's just a picture!" Lloyd flared, staring at the sword, at the hilt of the angels' weapon. "Hey... wait a second..." He put a finger against the stone; felt an indent where the gem hilt was. He stood, put his hand on the crown that the woman in green was wearing. "They put the stars here, see... Martel's crown has a star where it should in the sky and here... the blue guy..." Lloyd put a finger on the heart and there was that indent. "What do ya know? Just like the stories."
A chill slid up his back, he turned and saw Kratos staring at him all intent like. Arms crossed, he was half in half out of the shadows, and Lloyd shivered despite himself under that gaze that gave nothing away. That gaze, the man, stared at him as if he was the most fascinating thing in the world. Slowly those eyes strayed off of him, slid to the wall painting and looked to the bottom part that had been cleaned away. Kratos looked, and saw Genis and Colette cringing away, he saw Lloyd' lack of fear. Though the lips did not turn in the slightest there seemed for just a heartbeat, a slight smile in his eyes.
"They say those who look at death without fear are the truly blessed."
Lloyd, normally having something to say, couldn't find his tongue just then.
"Come along, we have little time to waste."
Kratos took point, not knowing to feel flattered at the compliment, or annoyed for being ordered by someone else, he decided on the latter.
He also decided to get back at Kratos for being such an annoying jerk later.
"Chitter chitter click?" Colette muttered, and Kratos stopped and turned to her.
Then from above came a sound a chitter and a click.
"See it echoes, isn't that neat Mr. Kratos!"
"Chosen," The seraphim playing mercenary ordered himself not to draw his wings in building panic. "How long have you been hearing that?"
"Mmm quite a while?"
"Give me a reference child."
"Well since Genis started playing ra-ta-ta-tat on the walls with Lloyd's sword."
"Since he -what?" Kratos whirled, stared at Genis who was lazily tapping Lloyd's sword against the white covered walls. Seeing he was the target of the stare Genis dropped the sword and pointed at Lloyd.
"He gave it to me!"
Lloyd who was lagging behind trying to clean off his hands of some gunk looked up and almost automatically said.
"Whatever he said I didn't do it!"
"What happened to your hands?"
"Huh? Umm.. Nothing!" Lloyd put them behind his back and gave Kratos an all too familiar sheepish smile.
Clenching on the pain in his chest Kratos told himself now was not the time to start crying, he had an eternity to do so.
"What happened Lloyd?"
The boy blinked, startled by the mercenaries gentle tone.
"Some junk fell from the ceiling and landed on my hand. It's sticky, worse then hot cheese. That's when I asked you to bring the torch, and look up, but there was nothing there."
Kratos nodded, remembered wondering why Lloyd was so adamant about having the torch now. Having been studying some strange dragging steps in the dust Kratos had blown Lloyd off. The mercenary was now regretting that sorely. He lifted the torch up, and they all looked up.
Slender legs tip toeing across a silken road it was little wonder he had seen no tracks till those strange dragging ones a while back. The monsters of the chapel would not need to travel the floors. The whole ceiling, the walls, was a white silken road. And on that road were two glittering eyes travelers. Colette shrieked, as one of the hound sized spiders threw itself from the ceiling, Genis looked up in numb terror as the creature threw itself at him. Snarling a curse Lloyd tackled the elf, and they hit the ground some distance away from the monster. Pulling his blade out with his clean hand the brown haired swordsman met the monster with a head on charge, smashed the wooden 'sharp' of his blade into the things head. Chittering the monster took a step back, its legs tensed...
Kratos knew the move was going to charge in and help the boy but the other spider landed in front of him. It skittered on its legs, backed up and seemed to kneel with it's wrong way bending knees. There was no room to dodge aside, not unless he wanted to live the rest of his life bound to the temple's wall. He took two steps back, shoved the torch between two stones of the floor, and kneeled. When the beast threw itself forward he thrust upwards with his blade, caught the thing in the pinched looking span between its head and abdomen segments. It fell apart in two pieces, the front kept flying forward and the back slid down his blade. Wiping the green ichor form his eyes Kratos stood, watched as Lloyd did the worst thing humanly possible in this situation. The boy tried to dodge to the side of the jump, and then perhaps remembering that the walls were covered in spider web put up a hand to push off the wall so his body wouldn't slam into it.
Well the plan did work, but Lloyd was now stuck by his left hand on the wall swinging wildly and kicking blindly behind him at the insect.
At the cries of 'shoo' the monster clicked its mandibles together, venom dripped from the fangs. Kratos strode over the dead monster's companion, and delivered a two handed slash to the beasts' back half. It skittered forward, its insides pooling behind it, then slumped dead and empty at Lloyd's feet.
"Don't move." Kratos commanded in a soft voice.
Lloyd shivered as Kratos reached out with a blood stained hand, gripped his wrist and pulled against the silken looking threads. Even being what he was the hand was stuck. Oh he could rip it free but Lloyd would lose all the skin on his fingers. Seeing this, understanding, Lloyd scrunched up his face.
"Genis, you got those apple gels?"
"Yeah..." The elf's voice was shaking; perhaps he saw what was coming.
"On three..." Lloyd whimpered.
The count came and went, Lloyd whimpered in his arms, tears of pain running down his face. Colette moved to go to them as soon as Genis gave him a gel.
"Keep her out of my way." Kratos snarled at the elf. He fumbled, supporting Lloyd, holding a gel, an a sword. He let the sword drop, pulled a knife from his belt and drew a thin line against the protective skin that sheathed the red gel. Knife followed sword, as he worked the jell out on Lloyd's palm and gently began to rub it in. Whimpering in pain Lloyd leaned against him, not just skin had been lost... Lips moving to form words he dared not give any breath to Kratos summoned his power on silent prayers, channeled it through the gel. If there was a subdued glow about his hands let the Chosen say it was the hands of a merciful angel her friend's hand was save. She wouldn't have been wrong had she ascribed Lloyd's healing to an angel anyways. For a few moments, lost in his pain and the healing mana Lloyd leaned weakly against Kratos, didn't mind the half embrace half support the older man was giving him.
Pain writhed in his chest; tears burned but would not come because he dared not allow them to.
For the first time in fourteen years he held his son.
He could feel his son's heartbeat hammering against his chest, could hear and feel his son drawing breath.
Had he died in that moment it would have been with words of thanks on his lips, all his prayers would have been answered.
But the moment came and the moment went, Lloyd squirmed and Kratos let him stand on his own two feet.
With an awkward 'thanks' Lloyd practically ran to join his friends. Typical adolescent, uncomfortable with being touched it seemed. Children were so free about their caresses, had a hundred of them, a hug, kiss, pulling of the hair... Then they broke away, forgot they were children, strived to be adults, and it was then, if they ever became true adults that they remembered they were children. They remembered and picked up again the ability to touch, be touched, by the world by others about them... Lloyd snatched up the torch, wondering almost at his hand that he should have for all intents and purposes lost, and some of the hostility, the jealousy, faded away in gratitude.
Blinking back tears Kratos ordered himself to remain in control, to break down later.
Where all, in his heart, he wanted to do was grab the boy shake him. Tell him the truth. His mind knew that a pair of crystal eyes would be watching, and if he saw... Oh Gods if he knew then Lloyd would be tortured to death! He dared say nothing.
They went on.
"The path's sloping!" Lloyd announced.
"How do you know?" Genis asked.
"Let me have a marble I'll show you!"
Genis handed over a small blue marble and Lloyd set it down and it rolled right a head of them at a snails pace.
"It's not much of a slope, or the marble would zip on down, but we're going down."
"It's a downward spiral." Kratos informed them.
"Huh?" Lloyd looked at him in confusion.
"The marble goes to the left."
"Oh..." Lloyd blushed. "I should of thought of that."
"Wow, Mr. Kratos, you're really smart."
"It's nothing, let's move on."
"Can we stop now!" Genis whined as they came to a landing, they kept going down and down. It was longer then Genis had ever walked before.
"Fine," Kratos leaned against the wall. There was no more spider web, as the spiders were prowling the upper levels; the lower seemed all but abandoned. Genis collapsed onto the floor panting, Colette sat cross legged on the floor and began to pray; Lloyd rolled his eyes and eyed the door that Kratos was by. Kratos realizing that he wasn't being stared at looked at the door, took in the adventurous expression, and scowled.
"The spiders weren't enough for you Lloyd?"
"N– I mean yeah." Lloyd swiftly changed his answer at Kratos' scowl. "But if I remember a friend of mine's story this is a secondary kitchen pantry like room."
Kratos raised an eyebrow.
"What, so I'm hungry? I forgot my lunch; it's like an eight mile walk home to get it."
Kratos stared, disbelieving.
"Come on, I'm hungry, and I swear if it's filled with food I'll be quiet."
"And if I say no?"
Genis butted in. "We'll beg, I'm hungry too, and thirsty!"
"Oh there's food!" Colette forgot her prayers and looked to Lloyd. "Where?"
Kratos scowled at them all.
"I'll go in and check the room to make sure it's safe." Kratos opened the door and ducked inside. He came back five minuets later. "It's clear, come in."
The door opened and they squeaked into the room. It sported a long table, a chief's coat and hat, some cooking implements scattered on the table, a still lit stove, and a mess of ingredients all about. Genis ran to the table a series of happy chirps coming from him. Colette joined him, leaned on the table and watched as the coat and hat disappeared form their respective stands. Bread, meats, lettuce and a few other odd and end foods and food stuffs were chucked onto the table, then a white clad blur seemed to shoot from behind the counter and dash back carrying a stool. There was a grunt, then clad in an adult sized white coat and a chiefs hat Genis stood on the stool and a knife in hand. Genis' hands seemed to blur as he sliced the loaf, and laid out the first two sliced of bread.
"Mi'lady, what can I cook for you?"
Colette giggled asked for a fruit sandwich, Genis went to work he toasted the bread with a fireball spell then sprinkled some cinnamon, syrup and sugar on top. She had sweetened brown toast with a fruit layer. Happily she sat on top of a sealed water barrel and ate her lunch.
The knife went to work, there were two pieces of bread and Genis caught Lloyd's eye.
"Tomato it i-"
"No!" Lloyd went pale as a ghost.
"Then don't say 'whatever'." Genis scowled. "Or it's tomato every time."
Lloyd nodded meekly, then looked over the food.
"Beef, lemon, lettuce, onion, and cheese?"
"On it, toasted?"
Genis looked up, seemed sinister in that hat, he squinted up at the swordsman and pointed the knife at Lloyd.
"I use a fireball spell, do you think I can lightly toast anything?"
"I'll try, don't come to me when it's half cooked though."
"I trust you." Lloyd then patted Genis' head, deliberately knocking the oversized hat into Genis' eyes.
Lloyd ducked the answering fireball spell and Kratos yelled at them for starting fires in the room.
Stairs, Colette tripped, and Kratos saw why Genis had insisted why he lead. He was smashed underneath the lot of them several times before they finally reached the room with a glass floor. There were holes randomly placed, disturbingly large holes, a purple mist flowed about the holes, ghosted under the floors, and blocked the view of below.
"Hey, I see stairs, I'll head down, come on Genis, let's go!"
Both boys disappeared behind the winding stairs that ran on the far end of the glass floor and were lost after the first bend in that strange mist. There was a span of silence then.
"Hellloooo, can you hear us?"
The voices did seem far off. He went to one of the large holes.
"Yes!" He yelled. "Where are you?"
"There's a path down here with some broken bridges, there's something shiny up ahead."
There was a long pause...
"Oh shit, what is that thing a bat?"
"I got it!"
Kratos considered going down the stairs, shifted a bit.
Wait a second... I just mov-
"Stop!" Kratos barked, recalling the floor was glass and the mist could make the familiar into phantoms.
Three orbs of red arched through the hole, Kratos dodged, and behind him were three blobs of fire smoldering on the glass. His cloak had caught and the seraphim ripped it off and stomped on it. The heat of the fires was nothing compared to the fire that smoldered in his eyes when he looked down that hole.
"Ate..." Lloyd gulped, Kratos could hear the sound. "That was bad..."
"What do you mean, it stopped moving! Aren't I good or what!"
"I think.. You might of hit Kratos..."
"Oh... opps..." There was an awkward silence that was punctured by a somewhat apologetic. "Do you think he's dead?"
"No, he's not... but we are the second we get back up. Can't you feel that glare, it's like Raine's glare of pain but worse, it's like a death glare or something." Lloyd hissed.
"Why don't you boys come up here?" Kratos said in a pleasant tone of voice that did little to hide the rage underneath.
"Why don't we just... stay here..." Lloyd whispered. "For several years."
"We'd starve if we did that." Genis pointed out.
"Better that then going up!"
"I know angry adults, I live with Raine, and if he comes after us I think he's going to get even more angry."
"Is that possible?" Lloyd squeaked. "He sounds pissed."
There was a pause, and the whispering voices began to drift back to the stairs.
"Lloyd... are you scared of him?"
"Of... course I'm not scared of him!" Lloyd flared. "I'm not scared of anything!"
Kratos flinched at the lie he could hear in Lloyd's voice. He looked up as the Chosen called to him, expecting some inane comment, some frilly little girl observation. He stopped breathing when he saw a mass of rock and clay pull itself from the wall. Cursing himself for letting his attention get entangled about something not related to the job he drew his sword, grabbed the girl and shoved her behind him. He should of shoved her for the stairs, for along the longest wall where statues of angels sculpted out of clay stepped down from their pedestals of earth and trudged after them.
"Run Chosen." He barked, nine to one odds, not a bad set.
"What's going... Oh shit, it's an army of them!" Lloyd drew his swords. "Come one Genis, let's go!"
"Dear Martel..." The elf whimpered. "Is there a time we could run the other way?"
Kratos growled when the boy skidded up to him, nearly slipped on the glass, and used his swords to catch himself.
"All of you get out of the way." They had a little bit of time, if they ran...
"No, we aren't running." The Chosen drew out her rings, she had two having lost the lucky third on in the Desian earlier. "Martel will let us win this fight."
"Umm yeah... what she said." Lloyd twirled his blades.
"Fine," Kratos snarled. "Chosen, elf, you stay back and use projectile weapons, and you." Kratos let his voice grow vicious as he grabbed the far too enthusiastic red clad child's arm. "Stay with them."
Lloyd jerked his arm, wrenched it free of the iron hard grip.
"Lloyd." The girl turned the name into a question.
"The ususal guys." Lloyd glared at Kratos, rubbed his arm then turned away.
Genis did not pull back, just began his chant right there! Even worse the Chosen gripped her chircun's like one would hold knives perhaps. Lloyd charged, and Colette was only a few steps behind him. Cursing Kratos moved to grab the Chosen at least, it was a suicidal attack for three complete novices. She looked at him in shock, struggled in his grip.
"Let me go!"
"No Chosen my job is to protect you and if that means even from your friends so be-"
"We trust you, now you have to trust us!"
Kratos' grip loosened just a tiny bit, a woman with brown hair looked at him part in pain part in love. She was going into danger willingly, knowingly. She was going for a time back into the mouth of hell, knowing full well what to expect.
I trust you, I know you'll do what you need to do, now you need to trust me. Maybe I'll get hurt, maybe I will die, but you have to trust me to try my hardest not to do either.
Kratos let Colette go and she spared a second to smile at him. Then she charged the monsters, as reckless and head strong as Lloyd was. They had no style, lashed wildly when the stiff limbs, ducked behind a screen of crossed weapons or just plain out ran from the counter attacks. Kratos watched for a few moments, picked out the rather simple pattern, and then found his place in it, and what was a shaky stand off, a frantic holding back turned to a victory.
"Last... one..." Lloyd puffed. Colette and Genis had finally ran to the stairs, but only because they were so shaky on there legs they could not stand without supporting the other.
"You can pull back, I've got it." Kratos offered.
"Nah..." Lloyd whipped his face, ignored how drained he was. "I'm... good..."
Then they didn't bother with any more words. It had been nuts, ducking ad weaving under a mess of flailing stone arms. He smashed out with his blade, struck stone, ripped soft clay, leapt up and left impressive gouges on the broad robed chests of the earthen angels. Genis would smash into the marked sections with his fire magic, turn the clay brittle and dry, and the fired area would shatter under the next strike, the monster falling apart into rubble. Well if it was an important area that got hit...
But the trick was knowing the weak points, so Lloyd had been running and weaving, Colette behind him, besides him, trying to do the same. She'd finally pulled back, thrown her weapons and smacked them into the closer monsters. Then Kratos had gotten in. He sheared through the clay, didn't leave marks, he ripped the things apart, gouged the stone decimated the clay sections, and did all by himself what it was taking Lloyd, Genis, and Colette to do. Now the two swordsman were fighting side by side, no magic, no nothing but steel on stone.
The earth angel balled up both it's fists, smashed them into the earth like a hammer strike. Lloyd and Kratos who had been charging side by side split up, both took a differing side. Lloyd swiped at the arms, it was clay. Seeing that the Iselian called out, Kratos brought his sword around and neatly cut off the things hands. Now the arm stubs were swiping at them, the mercenary dove under the strikes, lashed out at the legs, a line of sparks told then it was stone. The mercenary was forcibly expelled from under the sweeping arms by way of a nasty kick. Cursing Kratos slid across the glass, spun in a dizzy-to-look-at speed and came to a stop at the very edge of one of the pits.
"Kratos, curl up!" Lloyd yelled as the monster charged the downed man.
Perhaps used to taking orders the mercenary did so. The monster, as did most, lost the fight the same way as did the wolves in the forest. It closed off everything but the target, Lloyd charged and using his ex-sphere jumped and kicked off the thing like he had the wall. It bent under the force of the jump, tripped over the ball shaped lump that was the mercenary, and went into the hole. Well it kinda went into the hole. It fell, it's massive arms pin wheeling, then there was a flash of light. Cussing in pain the mercenary rolled over, looked at the stone-clay statue thing, except it wasn't a statue, it was now a block. The block fell into the hole, there was a loud 'clunk' and the warriors looked at each other in confusion.
"I think we might have made a mistake." Kratos admitted with a blush, staring at the rubble that had been their foes.
Lloyd counted up the holes, the things Kratos called golems, and moaned.
"This sucks..." Lloyd gasped. "You're telling me.."
The wall shivered, there were eight golems standing on the pedestals. One was empty.
One block one empty pedestal.
"Not again!" Lloyd wailed.
"Hush, let me think." Kratos crossed his arms and stared at the glass floor, at the purple mist under the glass floor, Lloyd just kept a weary eye on the golems.
"We don't have time!"
"I wager the Chosen's presence sets them off." Kratos said calmly. "It's only logical, if things were to have gone as they were meant to she would be here alone."
"You did know that didn't you? About the trials."
"I thought the priests..."
"Members of a pacifist order aren't going to pick up arms when an enemy approaches, even to save their Chosen, she might as well have gone here alone. That's not important now, let me figure this out..."
Not important, Lloyd wanted to slug Kratos for saying that! But slugging someone took energy, and he didn't have enough of that to do anything so he just sat and let Kratos think.
"Show me where the stairs are."
Shrugging Lloyd did so, they went down the spiral steps, walked through the chill purple mist, and looked down at the mess of broken bridges. Kratos stared at it, nodded, and then they went back up.
"We need two of the gaps filled, the rest aren't important."
"We have to fight all eight of those..."
"Actually so long as the Chosen.."
"She has a name you know!"
Kratos scowled and Lloyd cringed back from that glare.
"So long as the Chosen remains off the glass it should be a matter of pushing the beasts to the proper holes."
"It can't be that easy!"
Much to Lloyd's disgust it was.
It was red, the first observation, it was pretty, the second observation, the third one that was of some significance was that it could manipulate mana. While Kratos did not like the little boy he was grateful that he offered something to the conversation that was constructive. Genis yawned when he got the ring to work, it only sputtered a few embers and to him that was something he was doing when he was four. Colette was leery of it, didn't even want to touch the thing fearing it's magic. Lloyd happily carried it for her, and then began what the Chosen, himself, and the elf would dryly refer to as the trial of the ring. Lloyd used it once, twice, was thrilled and like a little kid he kept using it. Over and over and over... When lighting the path back became boring Lloyd found another target.
The first time was an accident, Lloyd had honestly tripped while making it spit fire and the end of his cape had caught.
The half elf had whispered some encouragement and needing very little as was Lloyd's way the game was declared. The boys had made it their past time to singe him. Finally losing his temper he turned around and demanded the ring. Lloyd sulked, scuffed his feet, but at least Kratos wasn't having to live in terror of having his hair cooked off. The ring stayed in his pocket.
Until Colette asked to see. She studied it, read the angelic runes then gave it to Lloyd to 'cheer him up'.
Kratos then decided to have a little chat with Lloyd. He let the others go ahead and whirled on the boy.
"That ring so much as lines up with my hair or my cape I swear I'll vivisect you, do we understand each other?"
"Yeah," Lloyd yawned. "No offense, but your responses aren't all that funny anymore." Kratos felt his back twitch, Lloyd went on unperturbed by the instant death glare. "I mean the only reason I'm doing it is cuz Genis thinks it's funny."
"Funny!" Kratos sputtered, then glared at Lloyd, who was laughing at his expression.
"He's weird like that." Lloyd shrugged. "Guess it's an elf thing. Anyway I'm done so you can volosoc something else, alright"
Kratos' eye twitched.
"It is vivisect. And do you even know what it means?"
Kratos took a deep breath, and while Lloyd looked at the path his friends had traveled Kratos wondered what the Hell had happened to his son.
"What? What's with the pitying look."
"Nothing, let us just catch up with the others."
Most holy Martel, hear the voice of a child.
Hear the voice of a willing child, the voice of a youth, a pure one.
One who has lived reading the words set upon the vault of the heavens.
Your name the only name exalted upon these lips.
Hear my voice Goddess.
The voice of the falling world.
Give this world wings so that it may fly to the heavens to your light,
Let it be known the passions of flesh have fallen away,
Let it be known the passions of the dark have been forsaken,
Let it be known the voice of sin has been stilled,
In myself, in all the world, for I am the embodiment of the purity,
Of the light,
Let all fall away and let there be light
A soft song, half song half chant, light, and a mark. A stone lay over the heart, whose crystal threads would pierce that heart at the next seal. She would not be submerged in the scalding hot tides that crafted the world, would not be baptized in the fire that does not burn yet turns all to ash. She would not be poisoned, and then re-poisoned, and when the heart fails would power by shoved into her, and the light of the true heaven denied. She would receive light, all the light she could bare, until her slender form would fail her bit by bit. It's failing unnoticed, unseen, until the bitter end when at last blood would not stop.
She sang prayers to her Goddess, the elf sang his own prayers, and the boy in red looked awed by Remial's flashy appearance. He was stereo type of the angels, pale in face, a slip of a man obscured by long flowing robes. Soft wings, the color of snow, framed him, as did golden hair wind round his utterly dead eyes. Kratos gritted his teeth, wanted to grab these children, yell at them, beg them, to see. As he stood, arms crossed in the cool darkness he did not look to Remiel, he stared at nothing, appeared bored to death.
His own voice was raised in desperate prayer, a silent prayer, that echoed in the vaults of his mind since the day she had died.
Anna, help me, this must end this must be the last!
I can bare it no longer, help me, if there was ever a goddess in my life it was you.
You were my purity, my hope, for all my world. Do not forsake me!
Help me, let us end this,
Even though my hands blood seeped must once more be immersed in crimson.
Make this bloody baptism the last,
Make this the last sacrifice!
I care not for Martel, oh my friend, forgive me, but I dare not any more!
Too much blood, too many children, this will be the last.
There was silence, the child cried out in joy as the angel called her father. Remiel looked to him, caught his eye, and smiled. A cold empty smile that said he had done as ordered.
He had been ordered to do this, to bring Kratos this pain.
Rage choked of the helpless cries of his soul, rage filled the empty abyss of his heart.
Another voice, not his own, not Anna's, it belonged to the embodiment of infinity, of creation, and at last spoke the words that he had waited years to hear.
The time has come.
Kratos nodded, smiled at the darkness even as the children were blinded by the glory of the light.
"So that was an angel! Wow we saw an angel Lloyd!" Genis squealed. "Wasn't that amazing!"
Colette wiped her eyes, tears of joy pouring down her face for she now 'knew' her father.
Kratos snarled, pulled away from the dark, disgusted and shamed. To hear Lloyd say something to the same affect as these children would have pushed him over the edge, he would lose it, draw his wing and damn well shake some sense into the lot of them…
"I dunno… I was expecting… something else?"
What, what in Hell did you expect? Anyone who's read the vulking scriptures should be coached well enough in their lies to 'know' what to expect.
"What did you expect Lloyd?" Colette said, the embodiment of 'Devine' patience, Kratos just went to the teleport disk.
"I… this is gunna sound stupid, but I don't think his wings were right."
"Lloyd, he's an angel how can his wings not be right?"
"They just look wrong."
"For the thousandth time," Genis flared. "Angels don't have multiple wings; it's in all the scriptures! And you should be nicer to Colette's Dad, how'd you feel if I called your Dad short!"
"I… I'm sorry..." Lloyd hung his head. "I didn't mean anything bad about your Dad Colette, sorry I just wasn't thinking."
"It's alright Lloyd, I know you didn't mean anything bad by it!"
Kratos rushed past them, hope, pain, twisting in him.
"Hey, you alright?"
Lloyd looked at him in concern, his son looked at him in concern...
"Fine," He said curtly. "This room is too cramped, I will await for you down below." He bowed stiffly to Colette then activated the disk and let it's mana take him away.
"Well here's my house Mr. Kratos!"
She expected some response, it was a cozy little cottage surrounded by flowers. He could think of nothing to say about it, nothing flattering since he wasn't one who liked plants over much. But he managed a laconic.
Considering the emotional ups and downs of the day he was pleased that he managed something.
"Grandma and I put in all the plants when I was little!"
"You don't talk all that much do you?"
"Oh well, since were friends I understand!"
Kratos managed a noise in his throat that she took as a response.
"Oh I know what's wrong, you don't like the Quera herb." Colette bent on the small walk way and offered him a flower to smell. As mortal habit dictated, he did so, and adverted his face to sneeze violently. "Yep, just like Lloyd! He gets all sniffly and snippy when he smells it too!"
Charming… he stared at the plant, the name and shape of it burned in his memory in a heartbeat. Recalling seeing this bloom all about in Asgard during the summer he mentally resolved to make them pass that area before the hot season came upon the land. He'd be a poor guardian, hacking, coughing, and sneezing every moment for a few months. Colette put the small bloom back where it belonged, in the ground, her innocent mind unknowing that Kratos was imagining dipping ever last one of it's specie into an angelic mana stream and laughing like a maniac while they burned.
Well he thought it was him imagining it, the tingle from the stone over his heart made that source of the image in some doubt.
"Grandma!" Colette went through the door, embraced the elderly woman. A man, appearing to be a few years older then Kratos, smiled a sad little smile at the Chosen.
"Oh Daddy!" Colette ran to the blonde haired man and they met in a tight embrace. Surprised, pleased, but shocked, all that flashed in the man's open face. She saw it and buried her face into his neck. "I don't care that Remiel's my Daddy, you are too, nothing will ever change that!"
"That," Phadria smiled. "Sounds like something Lloyd would say."
"He helped me figure it out a little." Colette admitted.
Kratos leaned against the door frame; his posture had enough of a slouch in it that the eye would slide right over him. He did not wish to intrude upon this, but as a 'mercenary' he would be demanding some form of pay after all. If he had o act the heartless bastard he would at least determine the level of heartless right now. He rather enjoyed watching them talk, they forgot him, as it was supposed to be, but reality would soon come for them, rip them apart, he was about to clear his throat when something tapped against his legs. He turned, saw a short pudgy man in a bright red vest with a showy walking staff in hand. A young man, with that same oily black hair looked up at him in scorn. I seemed as if the boy and this elder would look at everything in scorn. The thing tapped against his boot again, the 'thing' being the tip of the walking staff.
"Ah Chosen one, your journey has been successful no doubt?"
The man looked at him, or rather over him, and spoke through him like one would a slightly ajar window.
Kratos felt his eyes turn to slits, the staff tapped against his heel, telling him mutely to stand aside. You used such a tactic on a dog, not a man. Kratos was not Yggdrasil's pet, was underling to no one, especially not this richly dressed poppin jay. The seraphim lifted his boot and brought it down on the walking staff, he brought it down… hard. He felt the end snap, and lifted his gaze from the broken staff to meet the eyes of the human before him.
"Hey, that's dad's staff you just broke!" The brat then pulled twin swords from his belt, one blade was already lined at Kratos' throat, the other was pointing at his belly.
Where have I seen that completely awkward sword style before… is it a conscious mimic, and what of it if it is?
"You don't even know how to hold those, put them away, boy."
The brat exploded, stammered some threat and swung despite the Chosen's protest. Kratos took a step back, the blades cut the air an inch in front of him, showing the boy was not one to pull back a swing. In that one move the brat showed himself to be violent, and not shy about shedding over people's blood.
Let us see how you stomach shed blood when it's yours.
Kratos stepped forward as the blades smacked into the wall and tangled, he didn't even bother with his sword, delivered a kick to the boy's gut that sent his sprawling onto a bed of freshly put in fertilizer.
"I apologize about the seedlings Chosen, Holyness." Kratos said, then brushed past the protesting man in his rich garb, picked up the son who was just as richly dressed and covered in that which he richly disserved. Holding him by the front of his tunic Kratos carried the boy, kicked open the date, and tossed the brat in the road still muddy from yesterday's rain.
"There's a well on the west side of the house, just follow the stone path." Phadria called to him, a smile on her face.
The fat man who was sputtering made a few incoherent noises of absolute rage, he did however, not go after his ward.
Kratos bowed to the priestess, and while he washed his hands at the well he evsedropped his keen hearing picked up every word, every protest. The father muttered something to his daughter, something about tending her wounds and getting cleaned up. It was the priestess and the well dressed man.
"He's going with the Chosen, him, he's just proved himself to be a homicidal maniac!"
"You're son's done worse to Lloyd and I've never heard you say a word against it, rather him then your boy, that's all I have to say about it. Erick."
"It's your mayor-ship, old woman."
Kratos wasted some water to clean of his boots, spotting a fork like gardening tool used it to scrape off the worse of the muck.
"You don't deserve that title, it was given to you and we all know why it was."
"So, is Lloyd going? Since you seem so intent on sending our hope with crazed, degenerated specimens of humanity he'd seem a prime choice for the journey."
"You go too far in that, Lloyd is a good child, while your brat is anything but! If Kratos and Lloyd are signs of poor specimens of humanity your son doesn't even qualify as… I am a high priestess, I swear if you raise hand against me I'll have you excommunicated."
Kratos snarled, put some more speed into the cleaning, he dared not start then finish, or it might lay suspicions that he was not as he seemed.
"So is the dwarf spawn going?"
"That is his decision, Colette's, and the adults who are going on the journey with him."
"Good, this will be an opportunity to get rid of the non-human filth all at once. Ms. Raine Sage will be going, I've already sent messengers to the temple for her."
"She has a little brother…"
"He's twelve; he can take care of himself."
"Genis is a capable child, but would you orphan him in one stroke? She's all the family he has!"
"You seem eager to make the proper sacrifices yourselves, why should she and he be any different. It's all sacrifice for the Regeneration after all, the whole world makes its sacrifice."
The tool in Kratos' hand snapped in half. He tossed the pieces of the tool into some bush and dumped the last of the water over his boots. Clean enough.
"Where's the bloody well again?" The mayor's son growled.
"East side, you have to cut through the rose bushes. And you can leave your swords here at the door young man, I don't mean it literally."
Kratos pulled the bucket all the way up, dumped it's contents on the earth and then spent a moment knotting the rope so that it would take a bloody long time for anyone to untangle. Petty yes, but it made him feel just a little bit better.
A woman's hand had lay on his shoulder, it wasn't hers, but he imagined her not minding. The cane shattered, her feet unsteady, Phadria had asked him to give her a hand while she made some refreshment for her guests. He escorted her to the kitchen, away from the argument between the silver haired woman named Raine and the Mayor of Iselia.
"My brother can't go with us, it's too dangerous!"
"We have no funds or means set aside for the orphans of Iselia." The mayor all but purred.
"That son of a bitch." Phadria growled, Kratos rose an eyebrow and the old woman smiled slightly. "We swear Mr. Aurion, we are still human despite the robes we wear."
Kratos chuckled darkly; set the spices from the middle shelf she had asked him to get down for her while she puttered around the kitchen using the long table to support her weight.
"Lloyd will be going as well."
"What!" Raine flared. "No, Lloyd can not go with us he's…"
"The fact he is a friend of your brother is insignificant for my vote to say he goes."
"No it's not." Phadria muttered to herself. "You want that poor boy completely defenseless so you can sic that sadistic brat of a son you've sired on him." Kratos stared at Phadria and she sighed. "I am sorry Mr. Aurion, you are going to be wallowing in our back water and brutal personal hatreds and politics until you leave."
Kratos managed a shrug.
"Sit down Holyness, I can cook."
"Can you?" Phadria took the chair he pulled out for her with a wan smile. "That's good to hear."
She watched Kratos move about her kitchen, said nothing for a long time as the war between Raine and the Mayor continued.
"You have say in his, where will you stand?"
"They are children." Kratos worked the knife over the vegetables he was making for a salad. "Children should not be sent to their deaths."
Phadria blinked a few times, took a shuttering breath.
"Sometimes they are though, and we can't do a thing about it…"
Kratos met her gaze, saw the wet paths running down her face.
"We save those that we can then, and try not to think to hard about the others."
He went back to his work, and behind him on a shield of crossed arms the old woman lowered her head and cried.
"Hey Lloyd, how ya been, buddy?"
"What the hell are you doing here?" Lloyd snarled, taking a step back and gripping his blades. Genis cringed behind him, but when none of Ivan's toadies came out from behind the bushes Lloyd relaxed, a little. The mayor's son wouldn't dare try anything here, not practically on Colette's doorstep! Even Ivan wasn't that brave, not now anyways.
"How was it, hiding back in school waiting for the Desian's to leave Lloyd-e boy?"
"I didn't hide, but I bet you did!" Lloyd flared.
"Yeah, dream on dwarf spawn. I fought them in the town!"
"Yeah, well I went to the Temple!" Lloyd growled.
Both boys glared at each other and Genis picked up a pebble. He knew what to do, they'd done this for years and years. He threw the pebble at the window, Ivan seeing the move drew his blades.
"You know what shrimp you throw that next pebble and I bet Lloyd's dog won't be able to find the freaking pieces when I'm done with you!"
"You and what army Ivan!" Lloyd drew his swords, wood verses steel. He was royally screwed.
The door opened and Kratos stood framed by the crimson light that fell from the fireplace that was blazing behind him.
"What's going on here?"
Lloyd sighed in relief, sheathed his weapons.
"We were just trying to get in."
"Liar, you were picking a fight!"
"No he wasn't, he's honest Kratos you know that!" Genis half protested half pleaded.
The mercenary stared at them, his gaze was like he was seeing the overs and unders of everything. He only stared at Ivan's drawn swords and the boy sheathed them with a nervous gulp.
"Come in Lloyd, they were about ready to send the city guard to hunt you down."
"That... doesn't sound good."
"Sounds like the usual you little fre- ack!"
Kratos grabbed Ivan by the scruff of his tunic, trotted him past the startled boys and then chucked him out onto the muddy street.
"Your presence has been dubbed disturbing to the Chosen one, make yourself scarce boy."
Snarling Ivan staggered to his feet, wiped the mud from his face.
"I swear to the Goddess I'll have my father exile you you…"
"Just ignore him." Lloyd waved off Ivan's sputtered threats. "He says crap like that to me all the time."
"Some day Irving, you aien't gunna have Phadria, or Frank, or that freak elf friends, or that bastard in black, to save your sorry ass."
That was a threat Lloyd could not ignore, it was an insult that he could not look away from. It insulted him and his family, it was the one attack that could never be ignored. He clenched his fists, shoved past Kratos and glared down at the Mayor's son.
"Any day Ivan," Lloyd snapped. "Any place, any time, name it and we'll fight out in the open like men. Unless you're gunna hide behind your family and cry every time you get nicked."
"Ha, at least I have a family and Mommy didn't abandon me to a dwarf. I bet the second she got a look at your face she killed herself…"
Scarlet, trembling in rage, Lloyd would have thrown himself at Ivan, pounded the bloody hell out of him. A hand held him back even as he moved to do so. Ice cold, even colder, that touch brought him back from the hate and steadied him. His brain blanked, he found himself walking on Colette's porch not even remembering what had happened.
Kratos had said something, then what? What had he said?
Lloyd looked to Genis, who was pale as a sheet; he didn't even need to ask.
"He said, I'll deal with it." Genis gulped. "I've never heard anyone sound so scary when they said that before Lloyd…"
Lloyd normally counted himself as brave, but he did not have the guts to turn around and see how Kratos 'handled' Ivan. They went in to the small cozy cottage and Phadria smiling at them gave them both a bit of food to eat. He didn't ask, and tried not to think about it as Kratos came back in, face utterly expressionless, manner as cold and distant as a statue.
He didn't have time to think about it as he got lost in the whole regeneration journey preparations.
"What do you mean I can't come!" Lloyd had howled. "I did good in their, I held up my own and I protected Colette."
"That Chapel will be as nothing compared to the rest of the trials, she needs to be protected by those who can, who are skilled."
"Logically the more numbers the safer it is!" Genis had protested.
"Genis, I know you want to come with us but you can't…"
"Wait, your going Professor?"
Raine nodded, with all the blackmail the mayor had put her under she had no choice. Exspecially since he threatened to exile them both if she dared remain.
"Yes dear, I am a healer after all."
"I'm sorry Lloyd, I really am, but I'm needed somewhere else."
Lloyd blinked back… tears? Kratos was surprised; he had not imagined the teacher and pupil were so close.
"Take care of Genis for me?"
"Of course…" Lloyd managed a shaky smile. "Why?"
"Because it's dangerous," Kratos had said in a slightly sympathetic tone of voice.
"Because," The mayor growled. "I ordered it. It is my will, and you should do well to learn to obey, those who don't obey are a danger not only to themselves but the entire village."
"Oh yeah, everyone knows you sic the Desian's on anyone who doesn't do as you say." Lloyd snapped.
"Obedience is the key stone of our lives, to be disobedient is against the Goddess' will, farther more since you're a filthy heretic and that means nothing to you perhaps a more immediate example should be placed before you. I do not sic the Desian's they come for those who disobey the treaty. You've skirted on that a time or two boy…"
"Oh you mean the treaty where they're not supposed to attack the village, what was this morning then?"
"Shut up! Get out! Now!"
"Colette, please, you've gotta let me come!"
Colette stared at the table, said nothing.
"I said get out!"
"Look, Erick, I don't care what the Hell you say! So why don't you do the world a fav-"
"Silence boy!" A hand lashed out and Lloyd staggered under the hit.
His legs buckled, he whipped a thin trail of blood left by a jagged edge on the man's wedding ring off of his face. Weakly he stood, drained from fighting Desian, monsters, and hiking; he was obviously down to his la dredges of energy. Dead silence boiled about them, Kratos shivered in fury, Raine in anger, Genis cringed against the wall he had been standing behind, Colette only whimpered with tears running down her face.
Taking a deep breath Lloyd turned on his heel, walked to the door. He paused, fiddled with the door knob.
"I'm sorry Colette…"
The door opened then slammed shut behind him.
"Wait a second, Lloyd." Genis cast the mayor an angry look, then went after his friend.
Colette stood, and then went outside before the Mayor could bully her into staying.
Kratos went to the window, pulled it open a sliver the children's voices drifted in.
"Oh Lloyd I'm sorry I never meant..!"
"It's alright Colette, it's not your fault. I just opened my mouth not thinking you know?"
"Lloyd are you OK?" Genis pipped.
"Heh, I'm fine." Lloyd laughed. "Erick just got me when my guard was down, and it's nothing compared to the crap Ivan throws at me. Birds of a feather huh?"
"Phh… Your shaking, you are not OK!"
"I just need to sit for a little, then I'll be fine, don't worry about it."
"Here, Daddy has an extra jell, I don't think he'll mind you using..."
"I got some, no problem." There was the sound of someone fumbling though pouches. "Ung these taste nasty!"
"They look nasty, that's why I'd never eat one."
"You should probably eat an orange one too…"
"Eww, no way!"
"Lloyd, don't be such a baby! I swear Raine probably meant for me to look after you!"
"Did not infinity, ha I beat you to it! Hey, where's the well again? I need a drink to wash out the taste."
"That way. Just follow the stone path."
The mayor stiffened seemed ready to say something but Frank not so accidentally bumped him so the man spilled his tea on his lap. The mayor made a few muffled oaths; Kratos' glare encouraged him to keep his voice down.
"Well, I'm sorry your birthday didn't go that well, I made you some cookies, but if I had known I would have made you something more special."
"Oh I love your cookies."
The last only Kratos could hear thanks to his enhanced hearing prowess, Kratos flushed a bit knowing that tone as he had spoken with it often enough when he had forgotten Anna's birthday.
"Hey Lloyd weren't you gunna make her a necklace or something?"
Lloyd chugged water –nearly drowned himself- to avoid speaking.
"Lloyd, weren't you gunna make her a…" The half elf yelled on the top of his lungs, Raine blushed and shook her head.
"It's almost done!" Lloyd yelled back and Phadria, Frank, Kratos, and Raine, shook their heads, knowing from that tone it probably wasn't. "I'm sorry Colette, it's almost done, I'll have it ready for you before you go, I swear."
"Liar!" The elf hissed as Kratos moved to close the window. He had heard the Chosen say something about returning and promising to pay Lloyd a visit before the journey.
"Hey if I get started now I'll-"
"Get started now!"
"Hey, don't you start, you sound like Raine!"
"You forgot! Colette's birthday and you totally forgot!"
"I… I did not! I was gunna give her a ring but Dad flipped so I had to make the necklace. Anywa-"
Kratos slid the lock home as the Chosen opened the door to the living room.
"Hi," She smiled at them, more cheered for having talked to her friends.
Kratos noticed that the Chosen did not smile or even look at the Mayor.
Smart girl, subtle as it was the action had a meaning behind it that no one missed.
Perhaps the journey wouldn't be as bad as he thought it would originally.
Night, the cold winds served as shadow's hands scuttled amongst the leaves of the trees as they walked. Kratos had been adamant, if Lloyd lived so close to a ranch then he was going to escort his client. He stubbornly put his foot down and the Chosen and her family had agreed. Though they said the forest was haunted with demons at night so that no one except Lloyd actually was brave enough to go outside, not even the monsters of two or four legged variety.
"With the amount of gald you paid me Ms. Phadria." The woman had insisted he call her by name so he had. "I'm not letting that girl out of my sight, especially if you keep your end of doubling it after the journey is completed."
It was a logical reason, good for his disguise.
It was in truth a lie, for in his heart he knew why he was going.
I want to see him, need to see him, one last time.
He'll never look at me, even if it is him, he'll never accept me, so why go?
Because he needed to, a need screamed in his soul, he could deny it no longer.
The stars gleamed above, so bright, they whispered their secrets with words of light across the dark. Like that day so long ago, that spring so long ago when those hounds or earthly and unearthly nature had hunted. A wolf bayed out to morn the death of the moon, Colette shivered leaned against her mentor, Genis clung to his sister, and he strolled ahead at home in the dark. For it wasn't dark, their was light in the night sky, but they who looked only at the road, who thought only of light in terms of sun and hearth did not see. Would not see the soft glowing silver flecks across the back of the onyx sky, could not see the silver streaked foliage, hear the music of dark and wind across the leaves, the grass. They were deaf and blind, away from the glare of torches, away from the deafening glory of the morning light. Only he could see, and appreciate the world about him.
I wonder, does he find such glory in the night as in the day? Can he see in this impure darkness as I can? It is my prayer you can my Son, one of a displaced father's prayers.
"You're really brave Mr. Kratos!" Colette said to him as they passed a sinister looking mess of shadows made by the entwined branches of a tree.
"It's just a matter of training the eyes to see in the dark." Kratos lied easily.
Easy lies bellied a hard bitter truth.
"Why did you wish to come when there is a party in your honor going on in Iselia?" He asked, staring at the Chosen, wondering why she would brave such a place -that was for her- filled with fearful demons.
"It's always worth it." Raine smiled, speaking for her pupil, for them all. "Lloyd and Dirk always make it worth it."
"Dwarven vow number one hundred and five, A visitor of the home is a visitor of the heart." Genis chirped, sparing him a smile. "You know those things are kind of nifty…"
"Nifty?" Raine said in a hard tone.
"That's a little better." Raine ruffled that silky silver hair. "Don't worry, I know how Lloyd-ism's are catchy, you'll shake it off with a good long read of the 'Founding of PalmaCosta by slermon'."
Kratos strangled, the boy was twelve, he hadn't even had an easy time slogging through it and he was several thousand years old. It had bored him to tears and if he had been mortal it would have bored him to sleep. Anna had called the author sleepmon, the book had been her pillow for many nights until they had both decided to use the blasted thing as tinder for a fire when they'd run out. It had started some five or so fires.
"It's really interesting how the merchants made all those in clan treaties and became a burcracy."
The boy's interest in that section, a part so insanely boring that he had defied his nature and had fallen asleep over it, was like salt on an open wound.
"Oh tell us about it Genis!"
Kratos twitched, his wings wanted to come out so he could fly away from that insane pair of elves and Chosen.
"Well you see a thousand years ago…"
"How far are we from the boy's house?" Kratos had to cut him off, if he heard about it he'd probably defy his nature again and pass out in the middle of the road.
"Wow." Colette giggled. "Now you sound like Lloyd! He always asks a lot of questions when the Professor or Genis start talking about history."
"Just… answer the question Chosen."
"We should be there really soon, hee hee… You even look all wide eyed and scared like Lloyd!"
Raine was favoring him with a long look.
"If this is an indicator of the level of your intulectual curiosity then perhaps you would behoove from listening in on a few of my lectures."
"Pardon?" Kratos had a sinking feeling in the vicinity of his gut.
"Well I am a teacher; you don't think that just because I'm on a journey that I'm not going to suddenly stop giving lectures."
His stomach was making it's new home around his boots at the moment.
"Yeah, the professor's a really good teacher, I bet she's the best ever!" Colette hugged her mentor and Kratos mentally sighed.
"What is your study of specialty Ms. Sage?"
Anything but history, I don't need everything I've seen and lived through parroted back at me…
"I've taken extensive studies of the history of ancient civilizations, governments, as well as modern history, and geography."
Damn I all it was history.
"Of course I dabble in medicine so I can better understand the affects of my healing mana has on my patients, but I've never really excelled at biology."
"Ah," Kratos would worry over that line 'never really excelled at biology' latter on. "Isn't that interesting?"
"You sound like you got a mouth full of R- errr bad cooking." Genis laughed. "I guess I am right, all swordsmen are dumb after…"
Kratos favored the boy with his 'death glare' and the elf shrinked back into his sister's shadow.
They traveled on in silence.
A fight, blows, anger and rage, what a charming welcome it was. Lloyd blushed, looked at them nursing a sore cheek, and sighed.
"Guess you all heard that huh?"
Kratos did not inform the boy he had heard the last bit of evidence he needed. Did not tell them all how he had the dubious honor of listening in onto the whole conversation.
"I'm sorry Lloyd, because of me…"
"Genis, it's alright." Lloyd's voice became calm, soothing. "It's fine OK, don't ever think it was your fault. I think… that was coming for a while now anyways, the timing was just really rotten. I'll tell Dad we have some visitors and I'll chuck some food together, you guys look starved."
"If it's alright…" Colette blushed as her stomach rumbled.
"No problem." Lloyd smiled, "Hold on a sec I'll be right back."
Kratos looked around; he looked at the bridge of shoddily strapped together logs and scowled. How could anyone trust their lives to something a good swing of a blade would break into mere tinder? How dare anyone trust his son's life to such a…
Taking a deep breath Kratos favored the small house with a jaded eye. He who lived in a palace of marble and crystal, who had dinned in the great hall of Kings in Meltokio, who had broke bread with the high clerics of Sylvarant in the opulent section of the PamaCosta chapel. He knew the luxuries of the elite, and he knew the simple luxuries of the road. The place served to keep water off one's head, was made cozy perhaps by the people's presence it held, but was strictly spartian, he could easily see the smithy that the house jutted out of, for the smithy was built with obvious care and caution where the house was very slop shod. The entire of the roof's shingles probably needed to be replaced, one of the walls looked like it had been on the brunt of a battering ram and... Well someone was fixing things, there was a ladder put alongside the flank of the house, someone had probably been tending to it if the pile of shingles scattered about meant anything.
Still the idea of his child living in such conditions -by a Ranch no less!- set his teeth to biting down on the edge of a storm of angry words.
"Guests? Why in Gnome's good name did you leave them standing out in the cold? Aye we aren't done having words don't you doubt, but we'll have our talk much latter lad. Leaving… Colette! You left that poor slip of a lass in the cold! Oh we'll talk young man, about your lack of good manners among other things!"
There was a stomp of heavy feet, and a dwarf, dressed as no sane dwarf ever would be dressed for he looked every inch the human blacksmith, tried his best to fill up the human sized frame.
"Come in… come in… You wont be standing out in the cold on my watch!"
Kratos stared at Dirk, something tugged at his mind, but that infernal block in his mind, a wall he could not pound his fists into, could not scale over, a searing darkness that no light of thought would penetrate. Kratos rubbed his head, as a searing pain slashed it's way from temple to temple then did a few full out passes on his dazed mind… He looked again at the dwarf, was surprised at his lack of surprise at the dwarfs human garb, but said nothing of it. Dirk stared at him, stroked his beard, but said nothing.
So this is the man who's been a father to my child I come to his step and he invites me for dinner. No caution, no reservation, a complete stranger in the company of acquaintances of my son would be at the very least put under some surveillance by me, but look there he ignores me! He is a fool, an honest one, who would be fooled by any wolf wearing a sheep skin cloak.
Kratos let his lip curl into a sneer for all of a heartbeat, then composed himself, restrained himself. If Lloyd took it into his head that he did not like his "father" then Kratos would be given even colder treatment then he had at the temple. Not a cheering thought that.
"I'll make you all some stew, some dwarven stew eh? Now what's the occasion besides the lasses birthday?"
"Well the angel's came down from heaven and… Mr. Kratos, aren't you coming in?"
"No, I'll be outside."
"No guest of mine…" Dirk began heatedly.
"Sir," Kratos said in such an icy tone the fiery dwarf lost his bluster. "It would be to all of our greater comfort if I stayed outside."
Because if I go inside and see you and my Son together, acting close, I might just lose it. I don't know if I'd kill you or myself or us both, but one of us would be dead and that would definitely destroy Lloyd. You see I care more for my Son then myself. I protect him, even if it's from something as simple my own anger and violet impulses that my anger can bring. I can distant myself enough from my anger to see when I am a danger to him and those he cares for and extract myself from that situation. I would never strike him, no matter my rage, I would never lay a hand on him! Unlike you...
Kratos felt his back twitch, felt the muscles writhe, he needed to get away from them before his wings ripped their way out of him.
"If you could point me to your water pump, I need to make use of it."
To wash away the blood, because I'm all of five minuets from drawing my wings.
He gritted his teeth in pain, probably looked like a homicidal maniac teeth smashed together, eyes blazing, back spasoming, luckily the dark was so great he imagined none of them to see it.
"Here." Lloyd tossed something small, metallic, at him. Kratos caught the bronze key, looked past the dwarf at his son. "It opens the door to the smithy, should be the first thing you see to your left."
"Lloyd… I don't be trusting this one, he's stranger then that damned dog…"
"Dad, for the hundredth time, Noishe is not dumb! And he's probably not a…"
"Later Son, we'll talk, for now we have guests."
Kratos stormed off, barely managed to open the damned door –he used his mana to pick the lock as the key wouldn't work for him- and closed it. With yet another spell locked the door behind him. He pulled off his tunic, and just to be safe worked off his pants, threw the garments to the side. Pain fell upon him, he dank to his knees shivering, gasping out softly despite himself. Light licked the sides of his back, like hellish fires, for the hottest of fire was blue, came that light. His muscles tensed, braced the feathered membranes that rested under his skin. He bucked violently, gripped the smooth wooden floors as his skin slit apart and began to drip red.
It had been months since he had drawn them last, couple that with the mental turmoil he'd gone through and the fact he had almost drawn several times earlier today. This was the consequence. He was a master of knowing consequence, of knowing the lash of the Gods. Still he cried out in pain under the lash.
Closing his eyes he gasped, as he felt the muscles lock, his hair fell into his eyes as he bucked violently and managed to muffle a scream by biting his hand. The fires built inside of him sheathed his wings with the hue of blue tinted stars. It burned, under his skin it burned, he prayed it would not be so bad he would have to claw them out. But it wasn't it wasn't going to be a repeat of that nightmarish time he had refrained from drawing them for two years. They pushed, the wings fully formed thrust out of him, dripping blood, spreading the length of the wounds and putting hellish pressure on the rest of his old scars.
It was agony, purest agony as muscles literally broke off, snapped and reformed. He could feel, and knew from Anna's somewhat strained descriptions that his back literally bucked and heaved while the rest of him was still. He panted like a dog, felt the muscles tighten, tense, and find differing patterns. His wings flapped, set a rain of crimson about him.
He shuddered in something like ecstasy for as they slid out of him, as the pain left, there came a sweet sense of power. It replaced pain. The rest of his frame shivered as power flowed, changed, reformed him. His very metabolism shifted from its slightly human patterns to one that had no needs; that fed off of mana. The world changed, became more intense, he could feel the knot of earth mana in this room, the taste of fire mana of the forge, the life and history of this place through the elements of poured into him. Such a sensation was as close to religious rapture as he had ever gotten, to him, this was a touch of the Gods sight. To Yuan, Mithos it was a tool, to him it was not a tool. He cried out softly in passion, indulged to allow himself to feel these things as he was alone.
How bitter it was alone now. Anna had been a Sensitive, a human capable of feeling the flow of very strong mana. Their bond had made her capable of sharing this, her presence had halved the pain and had doubled the pleasure. He recalled witht a pang the first time they had worked what he was into… Well it had made their love making so very sweet as they had both shared that rapture that had tied into a more… baser show of pleasure and affection for them both.
He mentally kicked himself, exerted some disceplien, for the side affect of the euphoria was a stroking of all the levels of pleasure, even the animal ones. All he had to do was rebuke himself, that this not the thing to be thinking about with your Son a room or so away, and he resisted the temptation of his never forgetting memory and his bodies confused baser messages.
Behind him were four fully formed wings, the longest was the length of his arm and perhaps another grown man's fore arm, the shortest ran the length of his wrist to his index finger. The other two pairs were only slightly smaller then his primary. The all dripped blood, a charming image. How ironic they had feared the angel of death, certainly the artisan who had done the painting four milenia ago had shared Lloyd's stance. No fear of him, only an interest, a curiosity. That woman had to be the bravest woman ever born, second to Anna of course, she'd taken in the sight of his wings, told him to stand still, stop the flapping, and that he would be mopping up the mess after they were done.
And Kratos had honestly mopped up the mess, the Angel of Death cleaning up after himself, go figure that.
He cracked a slight smile, felt a little better, the pain was gone, but then so was every other sensation in him. He could barely feel that the flat plane under him was wood, only memory allowed that. He closed his eyes, knew his body, rod out the fit, the angelic mana filtered through this cruxis crystal, through the mess of aions in his blood. He sighed as he could tell the grains of wood from the wood itself, the dust was a annoying scratching under his digits. He sighed, opened his eyes as his world shifted to its hyper sensitive state that served as normalcy.
He looked, surveyed the amount of blood and sighed, charming it was on the walls. A good thing he always carried a rag and some soap, he was going to need it.
(A/N OK nasty part is done, I'm through grossing out, it's a safe read from here on out.)
Lloyd talked to Genis, hung with Raine, and Colette, it was for them like every other time. What made it horrible was it was the last. That knowledge was like a cold lump that kept getting bigger every time he spoke to them, he decided to go 'check on Kratos' it was a good excuse, he honestly didn't expect to find the guy outside, figured he went back to Iselia. Dad made him take a bowl of stew, his and the mercenaries, with him.
Honestly Lloyd couldn't tell the difference between the bowls, he's had a bite but it had felt like a rock in him so he hadn't dared eat any more. Oh well, if Kratos was hungry enough he could have both, and if neither of them could eat Noishe would get a treat.
"What the?" Lloyd stepped over a small river of water that started from the smithy and rolled down the side of the small hill to blend into the greater river. "Hey Kratos, you OK in there?"
"I'm not in there, but I am fine." Came a terse reply.
"Oh," Kratos was behind the smithy, but the only thing back there was… Lloyd put some speed into it, and if he had lingered he would have seen a blue feather drift down the fake river, carried off by the water of the pump.
Turning the bend, in the shadows of the smithy was a grey stone, and though it was a normal slab of concrete it seemed touched with marble in the starlight. Besides it, staring down at it, was the mercenary. His hand stroked the blunted triangle base, the motions were shockingly tender. A wind sighed, a hint of winter on it so subtle that only the experienced who knew to look for the slight crispness would pick up on it slid over the site. Llyod smiled, that was his Mom's way of being with him, he had always loved winter, and he had a feeling that she had loved it too. Sighing quietly the Iselian looked at Kratos, the man had clasped his hands behind his back, he steeped to the side, almost like an honor guard or something, and turned to stare at Lloyd.
"If I may ask?" Came the tense question.
"Mom." Lloyd smiled sadly. "She died when I was little."
Lloyd had meant to come here when everyone had left, or just to spend a little time now to vent if nothing else, but with Kratos there he couldn't now could he?
Kratos shook his head, stared at the ground.
Oh Gods, here it comes, the speal, 'I'm so sorry your Mom died, I'm so sorry you have a dwarf Dad, you poor pathetic..'.
And funny as it was maybe it would be too much for him to take, he couldn't, didn't want to deal with it today. He'd dealt with a lot today and he knew that that would be the last thing.
"Shut it." He snapped as Kratos opened his mouth. "I don't want to hear about how sad it is Mom's dead." Fire flashed in his eyes, stubborn defiance. "She's not dead. The only people who think that she hasn't been there for me are the stupid ones, alright!"
Kratos stared at him, said nothing, then at last it came out as a mere whisper.
"There is no name."
"She… wasn't able to tell us that before she died, and… I don't remember."
"I see." Kratos stroked the stone, his eyes distant.
Nothing, silence, it was creepy how Kratos just seemed to… belong here. He had exploded when Colette, even Genis had come here. They had tried to console him, comfort, and maybe that's what caused him to get nasty with them. Kratos just continued to stroke the stone.
Lloyd set aside Kratos' bowl, sat cross legged one the ground and toyed around with his food.
"It's not fair," Lloyd muttered to his Mom, not caring how Kratos could hear, whatever, Kratos didn't matter. "It's no fair how Colette's gotta go on this journey. I don' like it, but I can't do a thing except go with her. She doesn't want me to go, she's hiding something, but you know how she is, she'd sooner die then tell what's wrong." Lloyd sighed into the night air, ignored how Kratos was just staring at him. "I'm sory mom, I hope… that if they caught you… I didn't have anything to do with you getting caught. Gods what a crappy thing to say, some Son I am!" Lloyd laughed bitterly, gave up on even toying with the food. "I don't even think about how it felt, I just want to know that I didn't cause it… the angels came today… well one did… Remom, Romin… something like that…. Man they have some pretty weird names. The Desian's tried to stop us but we managed to get by, though… it was kinda hard…" Lloyd went on to summarize the day, habit his Dad called it, but to him it was just talking to Mom. She didn't talk back much, but she listened, which was all he needed for now. Just someone, -besides Noishe- to listen.
Startled Lloyd looked up to the dark, saw Kratos, he'd totally forgotten about… oh shit half the stuff he said had been to grip about him hadn't it? He cringed back, and was startled to see, just for a sec, a flash of pain in Kratos' eyes.
Kratos knelt on the stone besides him, gently stroked his hair.
"No matter what they tell you… she is listening, and some day she will answer, you will get your answers, all of them."
Tears burned in his eyes, a pleasant pain at having someone just say that to him when everyone else had said the opposite.
Kratos smiled slightly, stood.
"Wait…. Umm aren't you going to eat?"
Kratos shook his head. "I am one of those people who don't have much of an appitite, I have a delicate stomach."
"After you got kicked into next week by that rock I'd have a sensitive stomach too." Lloyd grinned up at the man. "Well if you aren't gunna eat just dump it in the slop tray by the pen."
Kratos blinked, seemed to think something over, then Lloyd guessed Kratos changed his mind, because he sat and took up his bowl.
"Perhaps a bite won't kill me." The mercenary placed the bowl in his lap.
"So…" Lloyd nibbled on the cooling stew. "What do you do when you know everything."
"When I know everything I'll let you know of my plans." Kratos countered.
Jerk, had to show off how smart he was…
"Do you want the truth?" Lloyd nodded. "The truth is this. It's not the knowing, or the not knowing, it's what is known and unknown and what you make of it that is true damnation or salvation."
"You…" Lloyd swallowed a mouthful noisily. "Think waaaaay too much. You're gunna have to lighten up when you travel with Colette."
Kratos rose an eyebrow.
"You don't believe me?"
"As dad would say, sounds like crazy talk. Star chasing, moon staring, crazy talk."
"Hurmph." Kratos took a bite and made a face and coughed up the stuff. "Tomato." He said sheepishly.
"Ung… man I knew Dad would get back at me, that's it give me that." Lloyd snatched the bowls. "Hey Noishy, special supper, with your favorites. Tomatoes!"
The bowls were dumped and Lloyd returned empty handed. He considered the party going on inside, he'd go back in a minute, there was one last thing he had to do for the night. Much to Kratos' shock Lloyd sat down by the stone and leaned against it, looked up at the stars.
"That is not very respectful to the dead." Kratos said at last, in a tight somewhat angry sounding voice.
"Look," Lloyd lowered his gaze from the heavens to stare at Kratos' pale shadow wreathed face. "I am being respectful, I don't think my Mom would like it if I just came here and looked at her, OK. This area is her place, I come here to eat, talk, and star gaze, and I'm not interested in what you think of as respectful. I'm being respectful to her as a person, not as someone would be to a rock that isn't her but is."
"A monument." Kratos supplied.
"Yeah, that works." Lloyd looked at the sky.
Kratos gently gripped the edge of the stone, stroked it, then used it to pull himself to his feet. He leaned against the stone, looked up to the sky, and seemed to think of stuff far away.
"Hey, look!" Lloyd pointed and Kratos turned to the section of sky that held Martel's crown. "Well I didn't miss it after all!"
"The diamond's flare." Kratos said softly, a thin smile on his lips. "A benediction from Martel upon the heart, to mend a broken heart and to keep all same hearts together."
"That's what it means? I just thought it was really neat. I come out here with Noishe to watch it sometimes, but he's being bad so…"
"It happens every two years…."
"When it's lined up with the crown." Lloyd finished. "Other wise I just flashes off of nothing every spring and no one knows why it does it."
Kratos stopped stroking the grave, his face went still his lips moved but said nothing. Before Lloyd could say anything though he felt it, a weird tingle in the air the scent of winter became really strong. Llyod shivered as his ex-sphere tingled, stroked the stone and felt a weird calm that only came at this time for him. Every year he came out here, sick, well, when the spring teased him with a hint of winter on it's breath, and the stars seemed alive. It was over pretty fast, he sighed, from his pen Noishe howled the passing of the flashing star. Normally he'd fall asleep, let himself just drift off with that pleasant warmth tingling in him, making him feel safe.
"Hope caught in silver,
Bound by eternal flame,
When darkness fall I look up and see you once again,"
Kratos' voice was slightly choked as he sang that part of a song. And Lloyd wondered, if somewhere in a secret place Kratos had a hidden grave. Somewhere no one was supposed to go, hidden away behind a home, where everyone wanted him to forget.
"You OK?" Lloyd awkwardly patted the man's hand.
"Perhaps, I will be." Kratos muttered, looking at him, not through him, no picking him apart, just looking at him all intent. Kratos let out a soft sigh. "It's been years since I even thought of that song."
Lloyd went back to looking at the sky.
"Perhaps you weren't supposed to think of it until now, until something special happened. I mean the star was pretty special and most people don't even bother to see it."
"Perhaps, that's it."
"How's the rest of it go? I mean if you wouldn't mind."
Kratos looked to the heavens, to the star that no longer flashed with the spring light.
"When Aska flees the heavens,
The night then comes to life,
A multitude of human hope then light the darkened sky,
Hope caught in silver,
Bound by eternal flame,
When darkness fall I look up and see you once again,
No mater where you are,
We all see the same dark sky,
And from same sky we see same stars and come together you and I,
No matter where you are,
Forsaken or alone,
Together you and I will come no matter what dangers show,
I'll be by your side before the edge of fiery wing,
Comes over edge of world,
You must only call my name,
The name on night winds carried,
Is the surest messenger of all,
And I shall hear and I shall come no matter what."
"That's a nice song." Lloyd whispered, not able to think of anything else. "Sheesh, that sounds lame. It's a promise. I hope you can keep it."
Kratos smiled, tears glittered in his eyes.
"It's time I saw to keeping it." Kratos whispered. "I hear you are coming with us on the journey."
"Yeah." Lloyd traced out the head of the great lion of courage with his gaze. "That's right."
"Good," The mercenary chuckled. "You are nodding off Lloyd, go inside before your friends accuse me of boring you to sleep."
"Wouldn't…" Lloyd yawned. "Want that…. Raine might Raine you…"
"Hmmm…. Indeed… go on, or I'll drag you to the pump and wake you up that way."
"I'm going I'm going…." Lloyd yawned. "Umm if Dad asks, we ate the stew."
"We ate the stew." Kratos smiled, knowing that Lloyd was asking him to keep him out of trouble, for once Kratos would help him in that.
"Thanks. G-night, see ya in the morning Kratos."
Kratos said nothing, hummed the old tune to himself, stroked Anna's grave with a sad smile on his lips.
"Excuse me, you be Kratos?"
Kratos turned, saw…. The dwarf. He frowned, lost his good mood almost instantly.
"I am Kratos Aurion." The seraphim acknowledged, watching the human shaped creature like he'd watch a foe. A rival, and in that Dirk was all those things for him.
"You save my Son's life, if what he's telling me to be true, and his hand, a craftsman's lively hood a hand is."
Kratos shrugged, held onto Anna's grave for support, expecting he'd need it to make it through this skirmish.
"What do you want with me Dirk." Kratos whispered, he looked up at the man and the dwarf shivered.
For when he met the mercenaries eyes… they were fey, filled with the stars.
"To thank you sir…. And to ask you a question. I heard a little of your chat with my boy." Dirk stroked his beard. "What is he to you?"
"Pardon?" Kratos met the dwarf's eyes coolly, he'd stared at dying men with that ice flecked gaze.
"I know you, and I think you know me." Dirk said softly. "So let's no be all coy about it. I want an answer, and if I don't get it by gnome I'll tie my son up to keep him from going with you."
"He would hate you for that."
"He would be safe." Dirk growled, shifting his belts around. "I keep my boy safe no matter what."
Kratos met those earth hued eyes, smirked, a sneering smile that made the dwarf's bluster into nothing.
"He is a good person,that is all he is to me."
"You're a damned liar!"
Kratos rose an eyebrow, said nothing.
"You're a merc. I'll make you a deal." Dirk pulled out a dagger, the hilt was shapped into wolf's head, the blade gleamed with mana infused steel.
"And what coin do I trade for so mighty a gift craftsman?"
"You leave my son alone." Dirk shivered. "I don't know you and I do and when those things crop up in my boy it leaves him in bloody tatters. I'm not as strong as he is, he isn't strong enough for more. You take this, you leave him and me alone, and that's that."
Kratos let the dwarf all put ram the item into his hand.
He did not close his fingers, he stroked the steel hilt with a finger and let the wolf fall from it's sheath. The red knife gleamed crimson as it fell, clattered against the stone.
"You protect your son, but with what coin does that protection cost him, consider that craftsman." Kratos stepped past Dirk, paused. "As a father I know the urge, to run in and save them, to step in every time. A child must fall when they learn to walk, they will perhaps bleed, perhaps cry, that is the way of a child. It is the way of a father to let this pass, to held them when it hurts too much, to sooth away the pain, but we must put them down and trust them to try again. And to know, that someday they will succeed."
Dirk stared at the man baffled.
"Don't short him, don't make him lose this chance to stand on his own, he deserves that much, doesn't he?"
Kratos walked of into the dark, to him and Lloyd that dark was not pure. But even to the dwarf it seemed a evil thing, a foul omen when Kratos faded into the night.
But evil or not, Dirk was haunted by the man's words.
They would pray on his mind until the dawn of the next day, when his son would come to him intent on his own path. It would guild a letter, what might be one final letter. A letter that Lloyd would find on the road and open to read and smile over. Where Kratos found the pieces of his life that night Dirk began to realize something, something about the man that would haunt him. One night, before all came to an end Dirk opened a small box under his sons bed, a hundred letters to a friend were laid out, he would shift through that pile until he found a paper. A drawing, Tylor's depiction of a character from Lloyd's dreams, form a star tale.
It wore black, black robes, and held a red blade in it's hand. The auburn hair fell into the eyes, the eyes were black pits that housed the stars.
What does he mean to you?
He is a good person…
Undernieth the drawing were three words. 'Derris fa sith', the angel of death.
What does he mean to you?
Holding the picture Dirk began to tremble. Recalled something Lloyd used o say.
The angels are good and bad, some are nice and others look nice but are mean. That's what Daddy told me.
"Oh Gods, oh Gods…" Dirk let the drawing fall, he could do nothing, for Lloyd had been gone for months. "Not my son, please don't take my son."
You must trust him stand alone,
"If you hurt him, I swear to gods if you hurt him…" Dirk began to cry, helpless, utterly helpless.
As a father I know… What coin do you pay?
Dirk paid as Kratos had paid so long ago, in biter tears, but tears are the price sometimes of hope.
"Hey Kratos, bro, what's up!" Lloyd pounced him from behind, and Kratos easily rolled him off his shoulders.
"How many times…"
"Yadda yadda… whatever old man."
"Sorry, sheesh." Lloyd brushed the dust out of his hair. "It drives me nuts you so kick m tail even when you aren't trying."
"Habit." Kratos smiled.
"Oh it is so not habit; I got a hit last match."
"You still have a long way to go, pupil." Kratos rolled his eyes, pinning Colette's word on their relationship.
"Phhh… hey if I am your pupil can I fall asleep when you talk?"
"Only if you hold two buckets."
"Hugely funny Kratos." Lloyd stuck out his tongue. "come on, you promised!"
"I'm, going to run out of tales."
"A promise is a promise. And didn't you tell me a real swordsman keeps his promises? So if ou didn't you'd be half a swordsman? Then I'd really kick your butt then!"
Kratos chuckled, ruffled Lloyd's hair fondly.
"Alright Lloyd, a promise is a promise, you have me there." Kratos looked to the fading sky. "You see how the colors fade behind the sun as if sets? There is a place, far north of here, where all color gathers…"
Lloyd sat at Kratos' feet, let the tale take him far from the confusing world of angels and seals. And for a time Kratos too forgot the angels, and the wings they would blot over his new found happiness. He was home, at long last he had come home to find his son waiting for him. As he drew an arm over his son's shoulders, Lloyd did not draw away from him as before. Under the guise of brotherhood Kratos would offer what he could to his way ward child. Until the worlds became safe for truth, and though the truth must lead to tears it would be the last set, and if the gods were smiling those tears could someday end in a smile.
Review responses: Long chapter Long responses, just bare with me, nod your head, I'll be quiet soon enough.
Ark Navy: Sorry… yeah the short story class I'm taking is making me write longer stuff… the teacher isn't pleased with the thirty to forty page stories I'm turning in, but I can't seem to trim the setting and plot enough to make it a short story. She used to say that I couldn't write longer stories/chapters… until she scanned my get into the class submission and read three chapters of "Shards". Anyway this chapter shoult be the last and longest of the batch since it covers a large span of time.
Anyhow from my POV: Colette-isms are fun to write and confuse readers with, Lloyd-isms save me a ton of time and wordiness, and Kratos-isms are harsh, fun, and hard to write.
Noishe-isms, those are for the obsessive TOS people, or for obsessive "dog" people.
Bows, I be tryin' t' knock the socks off me readers don'cha'know… Sorry I've been reading "Eddings" lately and one of the character's dialogues is really catchy. It is actually, Kratos is still mourning, he's just keeping it inside, you'll have seen that "hopefully" by the time you have finished the reading. To answer you question in the Kratos Lloyd Falnoir scene there's a chunk of dialogue like this.
"Did you know I was your son the whole time?"
"I knew the second I found Anna's grave at your house."
A lot of people who write the opening scene have Kratos kind of wondering when he hears Lloyd's name, have him shrug it off when Lloyd gives him attitude, and then have a break down at Anna's grave and realize it's his son. I've always wanted to ask writers who go that route is Kratos really having a breakdown because he "finds out" Lloyd is his son, or because he sees what his son has become. I mean Kratos has like this ultra high IQ and then his son turns out to be a total idiot. I think I'd be crying a little too.
Funny thing, that clever move… wasn't planed. I didn't do "Shards" at the way beginning because I had like six versions of the Vidarr fight, couldn't pick which one worked best, couldn't figure how to handle Kratos w/o spoiling stuff, and had not finished DES (On chapter five when I started my notes I think) when I was putting my notes for Shards together I didn't know a lot about Lloyd or Kratos at the time, so I skipped that section of the game to save myself some grief.
"Hostile?" I was so disappointed when I picked the "What did you say?" option when I started out. I was about as thrilled as Lloyd was when Kraots showed up first play through because I was kicking Vidarr's butt. I didn't need Kratos' help, didn't want it, he was arrogant, had a nice voice -I love Clark's other VA work but ah well I'm straying off topic!- but still didn't redeem the fact that the guy got on "my" wrong side right off the bat. I loved the hostility between Lloyd and Kratos at first. My parent came into the room, right when I had just picked that option and said something to the effect of it being, an "intense" scene. The slight sniping back and forth between the two was interesting and kind of stroked my writing muse the right way I guess cuz I promised myself to write a one-shot Lloyd Kratos fic centering around their hostility for each other.
Now look where that stupid impulse has gotten me!
I blazed through the game and now I'm writing "Shards" a plus 400 page story, all those fic-lets, DES, and it's still not shutting up. If only I could control what triggers it… Oh well, when I got to the half way point of DES I lost that 'make Lloyd and Kratos' fight idea, just didn't work and seemed to cruel to Kratos you know. But then as I finished DES and realized there was still a story to tell and it needed telling. Hence "Broken" came to be.
I forced myself to make up my mind about the Vidarr fight, took a little from everything I'd written though I wanted to do a flame hammer strike thing but I just didn't think it could fit… Don't worry if you're confused I think Magnius will do it in the final battle between him and Lloyd. Anyways to cut this short, I re-played the beginning of the game, the intro and the Vidarr/temple stuff. I realized that there had to be a fight, Lloyd and Kratos were just way too different, and two strangers both trying to protect Colette, complete opposites, neither knowing of the other's significance, plus male machismo...
I guess I got my Lloyd Kratos fight scene after all.
I forsook the Kratos suddenly discovers, because like FairyV once said to me, I couldn't believe it that he just didn't know. Totally in the same boat, so Kratos may not want to admit, may be at war at himself for the whole temple and after (as implied in Shards) but he knows, even if he doesn't want to. As Kratos says to Anna in the end.
"It's not the knowing, or the not knowing, it's what is known and unknown and what you make of it that is true damnation or salvation."
Well that does it for me here! I'm going to work on Shards now!
Thanks to all who have reviewed, read, or given my profile, stories, or e-mail, a click!
Lloyden: Formal version (AKA angelic) of Lloyd's name, also known in literal translation as "star edge"
Mer: I am
Ne…nu: double negative, more meaning then just Ne.
Us'il: You are
Ust: You, your, context of sentence determines its meaning.