Introduction: This story is Suikoden III as I would have liked to see it. I do not intend to transcribe the game, or chronicle the events therein. Instead, I'm going to take a lot of liberties… so be prepared for changes, large and small. Still, I have a lot of love for the Suikoden world, and I'm going to stay true to it. (At times, my own theories about certain mysteries will be used as truths, where applicable.)
First and foremost, this is a romance. I felt that the game set up a lot of potential for an interesting relationship between Chris and Hugo, but let it run out into the sand. I'm going to take care of that potential, and expand on it, and hopefully someone will find it entertaining. If you've always wanted to read a good romance between Chris and Hugo, or a heroic, fast-paced rewriting of the Suikoden III plot, I'm going to try my best to make you happy.
In addition, if you're a Suikoden veteran, you might see a couple of familiar faces down the line… there are some characters I like too much not to include when I'm actually doing a Suikoden fanfic. Still, they won't take up too much space compared to the characters from Suikoden III.
In order to keep this from story from expanding beyond a manageable size, I'm going to focus thoroughly on Chris and Hugo, excluding several key characters except where necessary. This will be especially true about Geddoe. Don't get me wrong, I like Geddoe a lot, and he's an integral part of the story. I'm just not going to be writing about him unless he's involved with Chris or Hugo. It's some form of heresy to say this when you're talking about Suikoden, but I'm going to try to finish this story with as few characters as possible. ;)
Oh, and please review if you like/hate the story! I'd love to hear from you.
The wind howled in Hugo's ears as he sailed through the air, clutching onto the feathers of his faithful gryphon steed. With his stomach pressed against the creature's back, and his hands around its mane, he could see the undulating landscape below; a canvas of lush green and earthen brown dotted by trees and bushes. The sight was intoxicating, as always, and he relished the exhilarating feeling in his stomach as he commanded Fubar to dive, closing the distance between the ground and their perch in the sky. In the distance, he could see a small gathering of discordant colors that stood out from the landscape; the tents of Karaya. At this distance, it might as well have been an ant hill splashed with a dozen dyes.
At his command, Fubar aimed for the village, cruising straight as a dart towards the ground. The beast's hawk-like call, "Kweee!" was piercing enough to speak above the wind, but Hugo's words would be drowned at the instant they left his mouth. Therefore, he relied on pats and tugs in order to steer his friend.
In order to better see the approaching destination, Hugo leaned to the side to peer forward, and was immediately caught by the buffeting gale; the locks of his short hair flittered like a tree on the savannah during a storm. Still, he held on, laughing as his cheeks were assailed by the wind stream.
Drawing closer, Hugo could see motion among the colorful tents, and with his keen eyes, he had just enough time to tell friends and family apart as they flew past his vision. He was aiming for the small hill at the edge of the village, steering Fubar towards its precipice. The setting sun shot crimson shafts of light from the horizon, suddenly blinding him as he drew closer to the ground. He raised his hand in order to shield his eyes, nearly losing his grip: Fubar shrieked in protest as Hugo grasped his feathers with his right hand alone. Pushing his body down against the beast's back, he felt his heart beat quicker than before. When he saw the ground rushing up beneath him, he laughed, letting go of his feathered friend and leaping backwards.
The world seemed to gravitate around him as he was spun full circle, and he stretched out his arms to feel the wind against his tanned skin. The moments seemed to draw out into minutes as he relished the feeling of weightlessness. Then, with a quick twist of his thighs, he turned and planted the palm of an outreached arm against the grass. With first contact, everything happened in a sudden moment; his body was tossed back, and he fumbled for contact with his other hand, sliding along dirt and grass. He buckled his knees and then reached out a foot, settling onto the ground as he was turned upright. His heart beat to a wild cadence as he reached far in front of him with his other leg, seeking solid ground. Stamping down against the grass, he came to a halt, and his torso was flung forward. Filled with exhilaration, Hugo stepped quickly in order to keep upright, matching the pace of his gathered momentum with a series of hurried, unbalanced steps.
When he came to a stop, he found himself looking down on the village from the very edge of the hill's precipice. His left foot was planted in the dirt of the decline, and he could hear the ground crunch underfoot, sending small stones dislodged from the mud towards the base of the cliff.
Though his breath was ragged and his knees felt as though they would buckle on their own at any moment, Hugo remained upright, stubbornly transfixed in his awkward stance. ((I'm standing!))he thought, filled with delight.
Just then, he heard a quacking sound from beneath the cliff. "Humans were not meant to fly," a voice called out.
Looking down, Hugo found the source; a squat, feathered man dressed in the martial gear of Calm Lake, the village of the ducks. With a laugh, Hugo suppressed the desire to leap down from his perch, and called out, "Sergeant! See, I'm standing! I finally did it!"
The duck smirked. "Yes, and about time too. Another foot, and you'd have been tumbling all the way to your mother's tent. I'm not too sure she'd be amused."
Hugo laughed. "Don't be so drab, Sergeant! I came out alright, didn't I?"
"Sometimes, lad, I wonder…"
Sitting down on the ledge, Hugo tramped his feet down the slope and planted his hands behind his back, finding decent footing before he slid down the side of the hill towards where his friend was standing. Elated, he closed the distance between them in two steps and flung his arms around his fuzzy body. "It's great to see you! What are you doing here?"
Before Sergeant Joe was able to answer, Fubar swept down, alighting on the ground just near the duck. He flinched, but regained his composure quickly, tapping the butt of his halberd against the dusty ground. "Hrm. Well, the chief of Karaya has asked me to come."
"Mom? How come?"
"I expect we'll find out once we speak to her, lad," the sergeant said, brushing dust from the feathers of his waist.
Absently patting Fubar on his ruffled mane, Hugo nodded. "So you just got here?"
"That's right. If you're done risking your life in ways the spirits had never imagined, perhaps you would care to come?"
Grinning, Hugo nodded. "Sure, I need something to eat, anyway."
Just making their way to the chief's tent had taken some time: Sergeant Joe was well-known and liked in Karaya, and Grassland courtesy demanded that each and every one of them pay his or her respects to the visiting warrior. Exchanging words with the villagers became a tedious, but appreciated process. When they finally slipped underneath the tent flap and stepped into Chief Lucia's tent, they were greeted by a low table stacked with traditional Karayan food.
Hugo's mother was, as usual, not alone. Her martial advisor, Beecham, was seated cross-legged near the entrance, stroking his unkempt beard. At the back of the tent, Luce, a plump woman, was helping the chief put the finishing touches to tonight's dinner, while her son, Lulu, was seated at the table, trying not to fidget as he sighed, toying with a leg of chicken. When he saw the visitors step inside, he grinned broadly and stood up. "Hugo!" he called his friend "were you flying!"
Hugo smirked, stepping gingerly around the edge of the table to take a seat next to Lulu. "You should have seen me; I finally managed to—"
"—risk your life like a fool?" his mother filled in. Her voice was calm, but there was a touch of irritation beneath the sarcasm. She turned without hesitation to Sergeant Joe, offering her greetings and asking him to make himself at home. The warrior graciously took a seat next to Beecham, who was smirking at Hugo's plight. When Hugo met his eyes, he grinned and turned to Sergeant Joe, engaging in the casual talk of peers.
Hugo looked at his mother, who happened to be staring him down with an imperious look on her face. Feeling his cheeks flushing, he averted his eyes and tapped his fingers melodiously against the surface of the wooden table. He wanted to divert her attention from what he had been doing today, and he wished that he could ask about her business with Sergeant Joe right at this moment. That would have to wait, though: No business could be discussed before dinner, no matter the seriousness of the dialogue. For now, he would have to improvise.
"Err, you look impressive today, mother," he fumbled.
She snorted, clearly unimpressed with his feeble attempt to curry favor. Still, she casually ran the fingers of her hand through her blonde hair as she sat down next to him. She did not broach the subject of flight, though Hugo well knew that he would hear it before long. As they began to eat, Hugo felt a tinge of annoyance. He had not been raised to be timid, and his mother had certainly set a bold example during her own youth. She had no right to ask him to behave like some cowardly ironhead.
Chris could still hear the cries of the people echo through the weary head as she walked up the stairs of the Council Hall, accompanied only by her squire, Louis. There had been precious little time to rest following recent events, and the parade that the council had forced her into just as she returned to Vinay del Zexay had done nothing but tire her further. Besides, it had succeeded in giving her a magnificent headache that threatened to bore a hole through her skull. She was not in the best of moods when she stepped up to the oaken doors and rapped her gauntleted knuckles against the surface.
"Enter," came the muffled reply.
Chris was just about to twist the handle when Louis cleared his throat. "Shall I take your sword, madam?"
"Hm? Oh…" Chris sighed. "I guess that knightly rights are not recognized here. Hmph. Very well…" Her mind barely followed the motions of her hands as she untied the sword by rote, handing it to her squire. "Here," she said.
"I will wait here until you return, madam," Louis assured her.
"Thank you, Louis." ((Time to get this over with…))
Straightening her back and raising her head, Chris pushed open the doors and stepped inside the councilors' chamber. The gold-fringed orange carpet she had been standing on ran underneath the doors and crossed the distance of the chamber before her, where a polished, octagonal table claimed most of the space. The surrounding walls were home to a dozen bookshelves, each one laden with leather-bound volumes that looked like they had not been touched for decades.
Glancing over the four councilors present, Chris stepped up to the closest chair and laid her fist on her chest in salute. "You called for me?"
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, madam. Please, have a seat," councilor Rean said, motioning for the empty chair across from him.
Without a word, Chris stepped in front of the chair and sat down in one swift motion. "I thank the Goddess for allowing us the chance of gathering here today," she spoke without thought. Folding her hands on top of each other in her lap, she looked straight at Rean.
Her blessing was repeated, but then silence ensued. For a time, it was broken only by the cautious coughs and cleared throats of the councilors, but Chris was not about to give up the initiative by breaking it; if they had called her here, they would have to speak first. Her head was throbbing painfully as she waited. ((What? Do you expect me to say something? You can't expect me to be intrigued by your reasons for summoning me…?)) To tell the truth, she was a bit intrigued—stumped might be a better word—but she was not about to show it to these people.
Finally, Rean was the first to speak. "Again, thank you for coming, madam. You must be tired after the parade, and we're appreciative of that."
((I'll be appreciative if you could get to the point)) she thought acidly.
Rean gave her a few moments to interject, but when she remained silent, he continued. "Thanks to our Silver Maiden, and the Mighty Knights of Zexen, we have taught the barbarians a lesson in humility. This great victory called for a celebration, of course, and your role in the parade was splendid."
((Is that what happened? It didn't seem much like a victory to me…)) Chris thought, tightening her lips to remain silent. As she glanced at the councilors, she could tell that they expected her to say something. "We knights have fought to protect the people of Zexen. I am glad that the war is over."
"Indeed," rasped councilor Lekshan, a pudgy man seated to the left of Rean. "The barbarians are stumbling over each others' feet in hurry to sign the truce. Preparations are almost complete for the true celebration of our victory."
"The clans are in concord already?" Chris asked, surprised. She had not expected things to progress so quickly. Peace between Zexen and the Grasslands might finally be on the horizon, then.
"Yes," Lekshan said with a slight nod and a predatory smirk. "Already, Chisha and the Lizard Clan have sent envoys to sue for peace, and we expect the Karayan messenger any day, now. With that, the clans will be spoken for."
"What about the remaining three clans?" Chris wondered.
It was Haman who replied, snorting. "Karaya and the Lizard Clan are all that matter in the equation. Still, they seem to hold a strange reverence for the Chisha, inconsequential as they are.
Chris had to agree with Haman's logic; during the brief war, the Lizard Clan and Karaya had done the fighting for the Grasslanders while the other clans had remained in the background, with a few exceptions. If the belligerent clans sued for peace, it seemed good enough.
"If I may ask, what does this have to do with me?" Chris said on an impulse sparked by her splitting headache. She suppressed the desire to remove her gauntlets and rub at her temples. Still wearing her armor, she was tense; far too rigid to feel comfortable, even in the cushioned chair provided for her.
"Madam, as our White Hero, we need you to oversee the signing of the armistice. In fact, without your presence, the clans would hardly accept the truce. It is you that they have come to respect as an adversary.
((That might be true,)) Chris thought. ((With the death of Captain Galahad and Vice-Captain Pelize, I have been thrust to the foreground. They will recognize me… and the barbarians will doubtlessly send their leaders.))
Perhaps the better part of her judgment had been worn down by the rigors of the long day, but Chris found herself feeling sarcastic. "Why don't you go yourselves, sirs? Surely the Grasslanders would be impressed to find the Zexen councilors staring them down at the signing of the armistice."
Looks passed between the councilors before Rean cleared his throat. "It would not look good if we were to send our highest echelon of power simply to sign a truce with barbarians. The clans would be emboldened by such a display.
((Well, they would certainly be 'emboldened' if they were to see you on the battlefield. You don't even have the guts to let your own knights wear their swords in front of you. Not even your 'Silver Maiden,')) Chris thought.
"Of course," she said simply, straightening her back with a silent sigh.
"You will need to leave first thing tomorrow, madam. The armistice will be signed in four days," Rean informed her. "Is this acceptable?"
Chris nodded. "Certainly; whatever the council's order, it is the duty of the knights to comply. However, I have a request, if I may…?"
Rean nodded. "Go ahead, madam."
Drawing a deep breath, Chris leaned slightly forward. "We knights have not yet had the opportunity to bury our late Captain Galahad and Vice-Captain Pelize, much less mourn them. I request that we carry out this ceremony before leaving for the meeting with the clans."
She caught a smirk on Lekshan's face, but Rean did not even need to confer with his peers before rendering his decision. "Your request is denied. Acknowledging our losses at this time would weaken our position in relation to the barbarians. We must wait for a better time."
"But sir!" Chris protested, "I must object: How can we celebrate our victory without acknowledging those that were—"
"That's quite enough, madam," Rean interrupted her.
Chris frowned, leaning back.
"Perhaps," Lekshan mused, "Our Silver Maiden wishes to hold the state funeral quickly in order to solidify her claim for the title of Captain of the Knights…?"
Chris flew up, slamming her palms into the table. "Nonsense! How could you!" She could barely contain her rage; she wanted to scream at them, to release the frustration that had built up over the course of a war fraught with countless injustices, many of which were the fault of these very people. And yet, as a knight, it was her duty to serve them, regardless of their orders, or failings. She forced herself to calm down, to take her seat and compose herself again. She carefully folded her hands on top of each other again, pretending that she her outburst had not occurred.
The councilors looked at her, each one with a different look upon his face, ranging from disgust to amusement. Finally, Rean spoke. "That will be all, madam. You are excused."
Chris stood up immediately. Regardless of the outcome, she was glad to be dismissed at last. "Let us thank the Goddess for allowing us the chance to meet here today," she murmured.
"I thank the Goddess for allowing us the chance to meet here today," the councilors said in choir.
Louis held up her sword as she left the chamber, and she took it briskly, fastening the sheathed blade at her hip. Her squire waited until they were out of the building before speaking.
"Madam, how did the meeting go?" he wondered with timid optimism.
"Horridly," Chris replied. "I'll explain when my head stops…" she went silent, sighing. "I'll explain later," she said.
Louis nodded. "I'll draw a bath and prepare some tea," she said cheerfully as they stepped through the ornate gate and into the flowery garden courtyard leading up to her family manor.
"Thank you, Louis. That sounds wonderful," she sighed.
When the knight had left the chamber, Rean sat in silence for a while. Finally, he tapped his hand against a letter before him. "This war has made us a fine hero, hasn't it?" he mused.
"Indeed," Lekshan agreed, shifting in his chair. "But only a hero that dies in glorious battle is forever."
On this, they could all agree.
When the dinner had been consumed, Hugo and Sergeant Joe stood alone outside of the tent, watching the glowing moon in the night sky. Hugo held in his hand the rolled piece of vellum containing the message that his mother had written to the Zexen leaders.
"Sergeant," he said, "do you think that there can ever be peace between the clans and the ironheads?"
Sergeant Joe patted a feathered hand against his bulging stomach, quacking in contentment. "Who knows, lad. Nothing lasts forever. Let's hope that this truce holds for at least a generation."
Hugo stared at the message, suddenly feeling the weight of the assignment he had been given. By delivering this message, good or bad, he could help dictate the future of the Grasslands. His mother's life had been torn by war; in the Grasslands, and in the Dunan Republic, which felt so distant. She had fought bravely, but suffered defeat after defeat. The Karayans were proud, but was pride enough to survive in this world? The ironheads had never treated his people with fairness; he could not imagine that they would begin now. Still, though he was raised a warrior, he knew nothing of war. On that eve, he felt that his heart was resolved.
With his own hands, he would grasp for peace, but prepare for battle.
Author's Notes: Thanks for reading, and suffering through the prologue, for which I found no better way of entertaining you. Hopefully, the next part will be better. You will probably notice that it's sticking very true to the game so far. I just wanted to setup the plot and remind those who don't have encyclopedic knowledge of the game about what's going on. Expect more changes later on.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me.