Twilight Eternal, Chapter One: Silver Swordsman – An Alternate Start
Disclaimer: Konami owns Suikoden, no money being made here.
Preliminary Author's Note: For those who have played the game, I might as well warn right here that this is an AU. Expect things to be changed right at the very beginning. Everything will be explained in due time, sooner than later.
A handsome young man idly leaned against the boat side watching the placid river waters glistening in the midday sun. Silver hair extended to his shoulders and hung loose. He wore a black silken shirt with an ornate rune emblazoned in gold and silver print and matching trousers. A long martial blade was girded at his side, and he sported plated silver bracers on his wrists. Only the small vessel gliding with ease through the River Feitas caused the slightest stir in the clear and tranquil waters. The boy's crystalline blue eyes turned to observe the small rippling waves that the ship's unyielding motion created as they cascaded outward and disappeared into the horizon in a constant stream.
"Heeeey…keep staring into the water like that and you're gonna get seasick, Prince."
Prince Faroush Falenas sent a neutral glance towards his long-time bodyguard and constant companion as she let out a giggle and skipped over to stand next to him, mimicking his position on the rail. The Prince shook his head at the ridiculous comment. "…We're on the river, Miakis."
"Then you'll get RIVERSICK instead." She replied with an annoyed expression that the Prince at once knew to be an act. Miakis never really became cross with him and they had been together virtually a decade, ever since she came to the Sun Palace to become a Queen's Knight's Apprentice. Her sire had been an elite soldier in the Feitas Dragon Cavalry, the strongest independent military corps in Falena, but she hadn't been able to continue his legacy due to her gender. Women were not allowed to serve in the Dragon Cavalry. The Prince despised such traditions, being victimized by one in his own right as pertained to the royal succession, even though without the Dragon Cavalry's sex bias Faroush likely would not have ever even met Miakis. The silver-haired boy would now be pressed to remember a time when the older girl hadn't been with him. The Prince had been a rather lonesome and quiet child growing up in the Sun Palace prior to her entry into his daily existence, never having anybody near his own age to associate with. Despite her being almost seven years his senior, he stuck to her like glue back then and nowadays they were virtually like brother and sister.
Or perhaps something else, the Prince mused as he spared the girl another long look and slowly drank in her rather exotic appearance. She wore the traditional blackened tunic with triangle patterned black and gold embroidered edges that distinguished a Queen's Knight, except hers extended down only slightly below the waist and was thus more like a long shirt than a robe. Over this she wore a protective plated brass corset with matching gauntlets and leg guards and had her trademark duel daggers sheathed at her belt. A gold colored silken ribbon tied in a bow at mid-back, trailing down behind her in two parts. Below the belt she was dressed only in a low-cut turquoise miniskirt that quite proudly displayed curvy hips and strong legs, her short Queen's Knight tunic only going down to where the azure garment also ended. She had short purple hair that was arranged in two circular loops above her head, the wild bangs obscuring her Queen's Knight standard hitai-ate, and wide lavender eyes that augmented her constantly cheery personality. Despite and in some respects due to her odd quirks, Miakis was an extremely attractive young woman and her growing royal charge was having an increasingly harder time ignoring and concealing these thoughts regarding his bodyguard in recent days.
"There's Sol-Falena dead ahead, Faroush."
Faroush turned back to watching the horizon as the tall eye patch wearing knight behind them spoke. "I can recognize my own hometown, Georg." the Prince quipped with a smile that the larger man couldn't see. "I was only born and raised in the capital, you know. But thank you regardless." 'Deathblow' Georg Prime was known throughout two continents as a warrior without peer. Faroush's dad, who also commanded the Queen's Knights as was the queen's husband's traditional role in Falena, had recently invited him across the sea to the southern nation. Georg had been ranked among the Six Great Generals in the Scarlet Moon Empire on the distant northern continent prior to becoming a Falenan Queen's Knight. Only Ferid could even begin to compete with the man in combat. Though still new to Falena, Georg had already become something akin to a surrogate uncle to the Prince and his younger sister.
"And remember, Georg, you have to call him 'His Royal Highness Prince Faroush' when we get back to the Sun Palace," Miakis turned and admonished the man with a teasing grin while moving to sit upon the guardrail, her bright shining doe eyes narrowed in mirth. "I'd hate to see the Queen get mad and ZAP ya or something."
That remark spurred yet another Queen's Knight, the last remaining in the Prince's entourage, to comment in a deep and menacing voice. "Lady Miakis!" The man's normally cold eyes were uncharacteristically alive at that moment as his long graying hair swayed angrily in the sudden breeze. "How dare you speak with such open disrespect towards Her Majesty!"
The Prince rolled his eyes and went into his usual role as mediator in these disputes. Faroush's stern and proper swordsmanship instructor and his happy-go-lucky and irreverent bodyguard almost never got along. "Please let it go, Sir Zahhak. Miakis didn't mean any insult and you know it," the Prince pleaded with a conciliatory expression. The stoic Zahhak in most cases had little to say unless it was to reprimand a younger colleague or apologize over his or her supposed misconduct. Miakis and the always lecherous Sir Kyle were his usual targets.
"Be that as it may, Your Highness, there are certain behavioral standards that a Queen's Knight must adhere to at all times." Zahhak had already calmed down and had adopted a stern lecturing tone, though he seemed rather displeased that the Prince had taken the younger girl's side in the dispute. "You mustn't indulge her attitude like this."
"You must be relieved that the Prince is back in the capital unharmed, Miakis." Faroush sent Georg an appreciative look, pleased that the newest Queen's Knight had been able to divert the conversation elsewhere. What Zahhak had stipulated about decorum had been both correct and proper, but the Prince still didn't want to come out and agree with him. The purple-haired girl only shrugged in response.
"This one's a lot tougher than he looks." Miakis plopped back down onto the deck and took the younger silver-haired teen by the shoulder. Faroush didn't know whether to be smug with the acknowledgement or annoyed at being told that he looked like a weakling. "He's been training almost ever since he could hold a sword. I wasn't really worried about him getting hurt or anything." She clasped her hands behind her back and bounced up and down on her tiptoes a couple times. "Aaaaand besides, I LOVE hanging out with the Prince. It's NEVER been anything like work to me."
Zahhak shot Miakis another narrow look, displeased with hearing the terminally perky girl admit that she didn't regard her sworn duty as such. The veteran knight however said nothing. The Prince had already known that she didn't see him as a chore and was quite happy about it. He knew Miakis well enough to know that she was deadly serious when push came to shove and would walk through Hell and back to protect him in an instant.
"We're all okay," Faroush sighed. "But I can't at all say the same about Lordlake." The Prince and his three sworn protectors had been sent to the ruined town bearing that name in order to inspect the area and its inhabitants and give a report to the Queen. The task was a most unpleasant one, but Faroush had brooked no complaint when asked to undertake it. He too would serve and protect Falena soon.
"Hard to believe that Queen Arshtat would do such a terrible thing…" Georg crossed his arms and closed his one good eye. Two years ago, Lordlake's citizens had rebelled against the Queen, raiding the East Palace and stealing the Dawn Rune sacred to the Falenan royal bloodline. Faroush's mother responded to the betrayal with total and unprecedented brutality, unleashing the Sun Rune's divine judgment against the once lush town. Now nothing remained save scorched earth and desperation.
"Things weren't always like this here," even Miakis seemed somber at recalling what the small party had seen and experienced. Only Zahhak had been unsympathetic to Lordlake's plight. He maintained that the people there were traitors to the crown and that they deserved even more severe punishment than what they had received, treating the enraged citizenry with equal contempt throughout the royal inspection. Faroush was surprised in retrospect that Zahhak's attitude hadn't sparked any violence, though he also knew that the veteran knight would have mercilessly cut down anybody insane enough to attack the royal party.
Said Queen's Knight interrupted whatever Miakis was going to continue saying. "We have arrived in Sol-Falena, Your Highness. We must prepare to report to Her Majesty at once." The Prince nodded in surprise, having not even noticed the boat docking in the capital's harbor due to his own musings, and moved towards the exit ramp with the three Queen's Knights trailing close behind. Georg seemed a bit annoyed with the poor reception that they received, only some palace bureaucrat with a small armed escort.
The master swordsman settled with being indignant in silence, however. Miakis visibly bristled as well, though more due to her Prince's composed acceptance pertaining to this insulting welcome home than to the actual reception. Faroush realized that his gender rendered him a political and thus more or less an overall nothing in most eyes, Falenan royal succession being matriarchal, and having been around him so long, Miakis somehow knew that he knew it and knew that he accepted it, and that seemed to irk the young woman not a little. The Prince could say nothing to reassure her at that exact point though, not without drawing overt attention to the malcontent and making a public scene. He had to settle with gently placing a hand on her back and shaking his head in conciliation. Zahhak gave an approving nod at the young royal's measured restraint even though he too seemed somewhat less than pleased with the overall circumstances.
"Your Highness," the palace envoy began. "Welcome back to the Imperial Capital."
"Glad to be home." Faroush responded with as much politeness as he could pretend. Miakis only snorted.
"The royal investigation went smoothly, I hope." The bureaucrat prodded with a less than sincere smile. The Prince ached to draw out the silver Kung Fu sword always girded at his side and proceed to cut out the man's serpent tongue. How he hated the Senate and its supporters. "The Queen is awaiting your report. Please proceed to the Sun Palace."
"We know our mission, sir." Zahhak cut in sharply. "There's no need to remind us."
That was all that needed to be said. The royal entourage took its leave without another word as the Prince and knights proceeded up the stone harbor staircase and made their way down the great raised path that led to the Sun Palace. The palace guards at the entrance gave the Prince a much more enthusiastic welcome than he had received at the harbor. They made it through the main entrance, whereupon Faroush was ambushed in his blind spot and gripped in a strong but passive headlock almost at once. The Prince couldn't help but crack a genuine smile at his dad's antics. His eyes were level with the handle on the redoubtable silver broadsword that Ferid wielded in battle.
"You're back," Ferid said with a laugh. "Welcome home, my boy." He was the nation's greatest hero, as well as both Queen's Knights Commander and the queen's husband. When the New Armes Kingdom to the east invaded Falena eight years prior and laid waste to the domain, the great warrior went into battle personally to drive them away and protect the realm. Not very many other rulers would do the same. Whenever Faroush was around his dad, he always thought about the great name that he would have to be equal to in times to come.
"Ummm…it looks like the Prince's starting to turn blue, Commander." Faroush squirmed weakly in Ferid's grip to show that he was still conscious when Miakis spoke up. "Maaaaybe you ought to let him go. I'd rather not have to drag him back to his quarters." The teen clenched his blue eyes, really not wanting her or anybody else present to think that he couldn't even handle this. All he had to do was hold on until Ferid gave up.
"No worries, Miakis." Faroush tried to say with nonchalance, though his wheezing voice rather compromised the intention. "I can take anything this big sea ogre can dish out." Ferid let out a proud chortle and clamped down a slight bit harder, the enormous man bringing another hand over to give his only son a lighthearted noogie.
"Oh ho ho…now don't you start chewing more than you can swallow, my boy." Ferid smiled as he at last released Faroush, keeping a muscled arm gently draped around the silver-maned royal's shoulder. "Now then, tell me what all you saw in Lordlake."
"But Your Commandership, perhaps we should…" Zahhak sent a pointed glance towards the royal audience chamber and then stared back at his commander. Ferid scratched his unshaven chin and gave the matter a second's thought, then nodding his agreement.
"True, we shouldn't keep Her Majesty waiting. Go in and present your report, son."
"I don't think I'm ever gonna get used to you having kids, Ferid." Georg chuckled as the small group started moving down the marble hall. Various palace personnel greeted the Prince as he passed.
Ferid shooed his son and entourage towards where Queen Arshtat awaited their arrival. Faroush took a moment to consider what he was going to tell his mother. Delivering ill tidings to the Queen was akin to taking one's health into one's own hands in recent times. Ever since she had chosen to bear the Sun Rune on her person, the Prince's mother would snap into terrible magic-induced rages whenever any decision she made was brought into question and Ferid seemed to be the only person who could bring her around. And yet the Prince could not in any proper conscience pretend that all was well and good in the inspected provinces or condone what his mother had done to those people.
"His Royal Highness Prince Faroush has returned!"
Senior Queen's Knight Galleon's cry heralded through the Sun Palace and the inside guards pushed opened the audience chamber's massive double doors. Upon the throne casually sat the Queen, a peerless beauty with long silver hair and clear blue eyes almost identical to her son's. She wore resplendent royal robes and a great golden tiara shaped in the Sun Rune's image. Arshtat's very person symbolized Falena's might and greatness. The red marking between her brows corresponded to the True Rune that had caused so much anguish within the Queendom ever since the Lordlake Uprising. The rune that was meant to make the nation lush and prosperous had now become a cataclysmic weapon.
"Here goes nothing," Miakis whispered in Faroush's ear as they entered the room. The Prince chose to ignore her at the moment. There was nothing to be said. His mother's visage lit up with a radiant smile when the inspection team came into view and she stood upright, quickly moving down the stairs that led to her throne to take her son's hands in her own.
"Oh, you're back home! I had worried. As soon as you were gone I regretted deciding against your aunt to Lordlake with you." Faroush leaned into his mother's warm embrace and rested against Arshtat's shoulder despite being all too aware that the others were watching him. He somehow knew that Miakis was laughing at him with her eyes. Public displays were unbecoming the Queen's usual nature, but the Prince was happy enough that Arshtat seemed to be in high spirits. "But it seems as though you've handled everything quite well on your own."
"Always, mother." The Prince gave his succinct response. The Queen smiled again.
"Our Prince is growing into quite the capable young man," Faroush's Aunt Sialeeds chimed in at her place standing beside her sister's throne. The voluptuous chestnut brown haired woman was a much sharper conversationalist and was much more adept in political matters than her young nephew. "Our Little Lym will have nothing to worry about with him in her corner once she becomes Queen." Faroush likewise regretted that his aunt hadn't been sent on the inspection squad. Explaining matters to his mother would have been a more secure proposition with Sialeeds prepared and able to do the talking. Ferid had opted to send her but Arshtat had vetoed the decision, believing that the Prince needed to gain experience handling political matters using his own devices.
"Indeed so," the Queen amicably agreed. "Georg and Zahhak, words cannot express how much Ferid and I appreciate your watching over the Prince on this important mission." Zahhak only nodded his thanks expressionlessly. "Such work is beneath your abilities."
"No need to thank us. This too is our sworn duty as Queen's Knights." Georg added.
"And you, Lady Miakis. You have always done exceedingly well as his bodyguard," the Queen continued. The violet-haired knight gave a perky smile and nod in response.
"Well then please tell me everything you've learned." Faroush managed to keep his practiced innocuous expression, but the hesitation was apparent in his protectors' eyes. Miakis especially was by nature hopeless when it came to guarding her emotions. Queen Arshtat's bright smile dimmed somewhat as she stepped back to observe the group. "Nothing bad happened, I should hope."
The lone royal and three Queen's Knights glanced at one another. Faroush wanted either Uncle Georg or Sir Zahhak to attempt to explain, thw two knights being more experienced in court matters and better able to choose the right words. Arshtat seemed to be in a good mood today and so maybe the meeting would proceed without incident. The Prince hated thinking such thoughts about his beloved mother, but the truth that the Sun Rune was eating away at her mind more and more with each passing day could not be ignored. Arshtat's attention was entirely upon her son, making it evident that his was the tale that she most wanted to hear.
"Ahahahahaha…" The Queen laughed callously when her son concluded his tale. Faroush chose to stick to the actual events and to avoid making his own interpretations. He described the team's initial meeting with Talgeyl, an elderly town representative, at the entrance to Lordlake. The Prince decided to omit their stop in the local clinic. Zahhak had at once recommended that the woman doctor be arrested and then brought to the Sun Palace to be interrogated and punished, Queen Arshtat previously having decreed in her wrath that no physician was permitted to practice in Lordlake or treat its citizens. Faroush had all but begged Zahhak not to bring the matter to Arshtat's attention, but he couldn't be sure what the cold and stern man would do. The Prince had done that all he could do regardless.
"Arshtat…" Sialeeds ventured with a concerned expression. She was interrupted at once.
"…To think that those people continue to live out such pathetic existences in that scorched Hell." The Queen raved on. Arshtat's crystalline eyes were no longer gentle or caring, instead now shining with sadistic mirth. The unnatural gleam made the woman a terrible yet somehow alluring sight to behold. "In the end, all that I can honestly say is that Lordlake has gotten exactly what it deserves. Ahahaha…"
"But some people are…" The Prince silenced his bodyguard with a motion and took over.
"Mother, I do understand your anger. The rebellion was treason, there can be no doubt." Faroush attempted to placate the Queen. "But there are innocent women and children living in Lordlake. The elderly and crippled, people that had nothing to do with the revolt. We cannot allow them to continue su…"
"SILENCE!" Arshtat thundered. "For you, my own blood, to question my divine right…"
"Your Majesty, please…" Even Zahhak did his best to calm his enraged liege.
"ENOUGH! I am the sun's AUTHORITY! I can DO no wrong! I do not MAKE mistakes!" The Prince shielded his eyes with a hand as Arshtat's body began glowing with a supernatural radiant aura, the Queen now rendered powerless to resist the Sun Rune's intoxicating sway. The Prince noticed Georg turn his head in response to the light as he closed his good eye, the great swordsman's lips tightening. Miakis shuddered and Zahhak took a cautious step backwards. "The Sun Rune ALWAYS lends its divine protection to the righteous! Lordlake has sinned against the sun, and its people shall…"
"Ferid…I…" The rage departed the Queen's eyes and she went slack upon hearing her husband's shout. The man's hurried arrival could not have been any timelier. Arshtat took another step back and slumped down into her throne with apparent mental and emotional exhaustion. Sialeeds and Miakis both released the breaths they had been holding in during the short ordeal in unison.
"Perhaps we should all take a break, dear." Ferid soothed as he stood beside Arshtat and placed reassuring hands on her shoulders. "Everybody must be quite exhausted due to their long travel. We can both hear their entire report later."
"Yes…you're all dismissed. Please get some well-deserved rest." Zahhak and Georg both saluted the Queen and withdrew. Miakis started to leave as well, but halted when she noticed that the Prince hadn't yet moved. The silver-haired teen was staring at his bereaved mother with a most pained expression.
"Heeeey," The purple-haired girl prodded. "Let's go get something to EAT, Prince!"
"Miakis, please wait out in the parlor." Faroush requested in a quiet but emphatic tone. "I'll be along as soon as I'm able." He did appreciate Miakis attempting to raise his spirits even though she knew that he wasn't going to budge. He wasn't so cold-hearted that he would even consider leaving a situation like this one. Miakis was boisterous and outright tactless at times and had a remarkable tendency to talk nonsense, but the young woman was nowhere near dense or stupid. She reached over and squeezed her Prince's hand supportively and then took her leave. Faroush strode over to stand next to his mother. Arshtat grabbed him with a sob and clasped her eldest child against her breast.
"I'm sorry…I'm so sorry. I've been such a terrible mother." Arshtat was all but crying now. The Prince hugged his arms around the Queen and held her. "I should never have made you visit Lordlake in my place. Facing that horror was supposed to be my trial and not yours." Faroush rubbed soothing circles into his mother's shoulders as his Aunt Sialeeds came over to remove the Sun Crown and the considerable weight that along came with it. Ferid placed one hand on his son's shoulder and the other on Arshtat's back.
"Shh…" Faroush attempted to coo gently. "Don't be ridiculous, mom. My only regret is not being able to do more to help out." 'Mom' was something that he could only call Queen Arshtat in private. Proper court etiquette dictated that he use the more distant and impersonal 'mother' on other occasions. Faroush always cherished the times where the constraints put upon them all by their stations were removed, when Arshtat and Ferid could be 'mom' and 'dad' rather than Falena's ruling couple and he could be their son rather than the Prince.
"Such a good son." Arshtat replied in an almost broken whisper. "Ferid and I are so blessed to have such children as you and Lym. She's probably dying to see you. Go on and call on your sister. I'll be alright now, thank you." The son rose again and brushed aside the argent wisps covering his mother's brow. Faroush placed a gentle kiss on the revealed skin, taking care to avoid touching the Sun Rune with his lips as though even such miniscule contact would cause his soul to be blighted with its curse. The Prince then departed without a word, leaving his parents and aunt in the audience chamber.
Miakis and Georg were waiting in the parlor when the Prince entered. The one-eyed Queen's Knight took the initiative to mention their other colleague's unexplained absence. "Zahhak's gone over to the guard room. I'm about due there too." Georg popped a crick in his neck. "Wanted to make everything was alright with you and your parents."
"They'll be okay, but I appreciate your concern. Give my regards to the other knights." Faroush said with a smile. "I think I'm going to relax like mother said. I'm exhausted." The Prince knew that going over to the Princess's quarters would be wasting energy. Lym was already out storming through the rooms and corridors in search with her hapless protector in tow.
"You do that. I'll see you later, kiddo." Georg started away with a nod and thin smile.
"Maybe we ought to go and visit the Princess. She'll be FURIOUS otherwise."
"Don't be silly, Mia." The Prince said almost under his breath. 'Mia' being the pet name that he used with his protector. "We both know she's long since gotten impatient and started with the Royal Hunt." Faroush couldn't help but let out a warm chuckle at thinking about his little sister's antics. He didn't deserve the love that the younger girl always showed him, not with how he had treated her all those years ago. Envy was a terrible thing, and the Prince could never have enough gratitude that Lymsleia had looked past all his mistakes and still adored her moron brother in the end. "We'll be sure to meet her quicker waiting in my rooms than we ever would chasing her through the corridors."
"Yeah, you're probably right." Miakis agreed and then wrinkled her nose in disgust. "And I could really use a soak in the tub. I stink like dragonhorsie poop." Faroush raised an elegant silver eyebrow at the muttered declaration. He thought that she smelled good.
The odd pair traveled up the stairs and into the castle's eastern wing. The Prince courteously dismissed his attendants once he and Miakis reached his private rooms, sending one girl on an errand into the palace kitchens to retrieve choose delectable dainties to be sent in. Faroush walked over to the most inviting cushioned couch against the near wall and plopped down. The couch was set up along a corner and another was right next to where it. A large circular mahogany table with three posh armchairs arranged around it sat in the area between the couches. The entire area could accommodate eight to ten guests with ease. The young royal kicked back onto the table with a contented sigh. "So nice to be back home."
"Yup." His companion giggled. "I'm using your bath, Prince." Miakis declaimed and vanished into the large restroom connected to her royal charge's bedchambers. She had long since decided that her position as Faroush's bodyguard entitled her to use and abuse his things as she pleased, not that he lodged any complaints. Her purple head popped back out mere seconds later and glared over at the relaxing Prince. "And NO PEEKING!" The saucy wink that accompanied the yelled order rendered Faroush a bit bewildered.
The sensation doubled when she stood there with her back to him and casually started stripping down without even bothering to shut the wide open restroom door. Sir Kyle would give both arms and a leg to witness this little show. Faroush was wary that he would be caught staring, but to his luck the large vanity mirror several meters away allowed him to view the scene in amazing detail. And sure enough, Miakis glanced back as she removed her metal corset to make certain her Prince wasn't staring. He wasn't a total pervert or anything, to be certain, but no true red blooded male could resist such an enticing display. The gauntlets and leg guards were next to go, the quirky girl lazily tossing clothes over her shoulder onto Faroush's oversized canopy bed. Once the tunic and skirt melted away, the Prince was able to observe three intriguing details. First, Lady Miakis seemingly declined to wear a bra underneath her robes. Second, her underwear was patterned with red and blue 'dwaggie howsies.' And most important, third, she had a very nice rear end. Faroush prayed to the sun and moon above that Lym wouldn't choose that moment to come charging into the room.
The Princess didn't arrive, but a knock sounded on the Prince's door. He saw Miakis blush red in the mirror and she slammed her own door shut. Annoyed that his view was interrupted right as the main event was getting underway, he stood and answered the knock. And sheer irony would have it that the person waiting on the other side was the one who would have most wanted to watch the proceedings that his arrival had interrupted. A devilishly handsome blonde Queen's Knight stood in the corridor with a Cheshire grin that the young Prince heartily returned due his unique knowledge regarding the situation. "There's a meeting going on down in the guard room, Kyle." Faroush greeted his uninvited guest with a knowing snigger.
"I know," Kyle retorted airily. "That's why His Highness is retaining his most loyal knight in his quarters until it's over." The Rogue Knight winked and sauntered into the Prince's room and looked around. "Guess it might be a bit late now to come out and say 'welcome home,' but welcome home. Nice digs you've got here, Prince."
"It's not like you've never been in here." Faroush demurred. "You sneak in to skive meetings at least once or twice a month. And thanks a bunch. I always relish getting lambasted by Old Man Zahhak in your place." And that was what would invariably happen, as it had time and again in the past. Kyle would evade getting into trouble and the Prince would be made to endure a long-winded lecture over his 'abetting that disgrace in his delinquent behaviors' during training with the old grump the next morning.
"Knew you'd understand, magnanimous Prince that you are." Kyle removed his ornate silver katana and placed it down on the table next to the Prince's straight Kung Fu blade. The blonde was but twenty years old, two years younger than Miakis, and had only concluded his apprenticeship to the Queen's Knights six months ago. "I'm not seeing your usual waist attachment, by the way." The blonde swept down into an armchair opposite where Faroush had returned to his couch. The silver-haired youth knew that he was asking about Miakis.
"She's busy commandeering my bathtub." The Prince yawned. "What's mine is hers it seems, or at least that's what she thinks."
"Only means that she likes you." Kyle replied. "Lucky bastard. Maybe someday that'll extend to your bed too."
"There may be some truth in that." Faroush knew that he shouldn't make the boast that he was about to make, but something about Kyle brought out the worst in the Prince. And the blonde was savvy enough when it came to women that he wasn't any danger to run his mouth. He did lower his voice so that Miakis wouldn't hear in the next room. "She didn't bother closing the door when she started getting naked." The Prince smirked as the older man's grin threatened to reach his ears. "Too bad your ass had to show right when she'd gotten down to her underwear."
"Too bad I knocked rather than coming in on my own, you mean." Kyle scowled. Miakis would have noticed him and tossed a dagger into his gut in a heartbeat. The purple haired vixen might have let Faroush peek at her but there was no chance she'd allow this lecher.
"Whatever you say. I'd rather not have you bleeding out on my carpets, to be honest."
"By the way, Prince," Kyle decided to change the topic. "Some nobles were badmouthing you down out in the halls near the guard room a minute ago, calling you useless deadwood or something. Thought you might like to know. I called them out on it and told them I'd keep my mouth shut about the whole thing, but you know how I am. Those two about pissed themselves when I threatened to tell you. Seems like you made a genuine impression the last time you caught one babbling." The Rogue Knight laughed.
Faroush remembered that particular event. Some little minor aristocrat had complained about Arshtat allowing the Prince to sit in equal prestige to his sister at a court banquet to his servants outside the Senate Hall when Faroush and Miakis so happened to be passing through. The whole mess had ended with the Prince's blade pointing between the little cockroach's eyes and some well-placed threats being uttered. And then Mia had mule kicked him in the groin and tossed him down into a nearby water pool as an added extra.
"Well, you know what I've always said." The Prince quipped. "The only good court nobles are dead ones." A gross generalization, but generally true with a couple exceptions. Lordlake's late and lamented Lord Rovere had been a good man prior to the uprising and Estrise's Lord Wilde was an earnest and loyal servant whom the prince thought a valued acquaintance. Most others were worthless trash that merited the executioner's axe. Especially the two rival leaders in the Senate. Faroush would kill Lord Salum Barows and Lord Marscal Godwin on the spot were it within his power and would have no regrets whatsoever about doing it. Hell, he'd exterminate their entire bloodlines to be thorough.
"Let me know the next time you…" Kyle never got to complete his sentence.
A high-pitched girl's voice that would have grated on most people's ears but was music to the Prince's sounded as his closed doors crashed open and a ten year old hurricane tore into his room looking about wildly. Faroush let out a slow whistle and his baby sister turned to the corner where he and Kyle were lounging. The brown-haired dervish ran over and threw her arms around the amused older teen's waist, burying her tiny head into his stomach.
"BROTHER! BROTHER! BROTHER!" Lymsleia squealed over and over again. Faroush remained quiet and let her continue until she'd had enough and then sat her down on his knee. Meanwhile he glanced over into the open doorway where another girl stood waiting. Kyle was content to observe the scene with a cynical grin.
"Stop being a stranger, Lyon." The Prince smiled. "Come in and have a seat with us."
"Thank you, Prince." Lym's bodyguard gave a minor bow and crossed into the room. Lyon was the sort that wouldn't dare ever enter the Prince's quarters without an invitation. She was still an apprentice knight, though she possessed enough talent to become an actual Queen's Knight and still have considerable skill to spare. Ferid had come across an orphaned Lyon alone while out on a campaign during the war against Armes eight years ago and had brought her back to the Sun Palace. Her skills with a blade were beyond any reproach. There was little comparison to be made between her abilities and the Prince's even though the two were almost the exact same age and Faroush had been learning underneath the best swordsmen in all the land since his childhood. Lyon was a true prodigy and the Prince could not lay claim to ever having bested her in a match, even though the gap between their skill levels was narrowing as time went on.
She was a lithe girl with pale skin and short raven hair. Lyon had the most expressive eyes that the Prince had ever seen, liquid blue-black orbs that always seemed to sparkle with emotion. Ferid regarded her as his third child and she was more or less loved and respected by everybody within the palace. Faroush too saw her as somebody very special. There were occasions where he thought that she might have become closer to him than anybody else, perhaps in another world or an alternate reality. Her garb was somewhat lighter than what the other knights wore, with leather armor rather than metal and less restrictive clothing than the heavy black and gold Queen's Knight tunics. Lyon glanced between Faroush and Kyle several times and opted to sit down next to the royal siblings.
"Brother, I missed you so much while you were gone." Lymsleia gave a pout, wanting to monopolize her brother's attention and annoyed with Lyon about having usurped it. "Father keeps on sending you out on all those stupid inspections even when I keep asking him not to. I hate it." The Prince ran a consoling hand through his sister's hair. "I wish you could be home with me all the time and not have to work so much. I'll bet he even sends you away again tomorrow. I never get to spend time with you anymore."
"These are our duties, Lym. All these things have to be done." Faroush attempted to explain things without bringing his mother's condition to light. Lymsleia was still largely in the dark about the numerous issues plaguing their parents and the Prince wholly intended to keep things that way. She was too young and innocent to have to cope with such heavy matters. He knew that indulging her childish naiveté was spoiling her to a degree, but Lym was his one true weakness and he wouldn't and couldn't do anything that might hurt her. Things would be getting rough on her soon as well, what with those damnable Sacred Games and thus her premature wedding engagement looming on the near horizon. "I'm not sure when I'll have to leave the Sun Palace again, but we'll go out and do something super special together tomorrow."
The young girl brightened to a considerable extent. "But remember, you promised!" Perhaps he'd take her out boating on the river. Faroush kept a small personal vessel docked out beyond a hidden passageway that he and Miakis had discovered years ago near the knights' guard room. Lym almost never got a chance to escape the palace so she would have a good time. The hard part would be clearing it with their mother. Faroush's head servant then returned with other palace employees who brought the snacks that the silver-haired boy had requested earlier and set the serving trays onto the table. Everybody present began helping themselves to this or that.
"Look, he even ordered grub." Kyle said as he grabbed a pear. "Nice work, Prince."
The various hot desserts on the table drew the known resident sugar hound's attention within mere moments. "Something smells deeeelicious out here and I'm starving." Miakis emerged through the Prince's back door dressed in an orange silken shirt with black print as well as matching white silk pants and bath shoes. He purple hair was still wet and was let down, extending below her shoulders in the back and she still had her leather dagger belt around her waist.
"…Those are my clothes you're wearing, Miakis." The young royal commented in a mild sarcastic tone. The Prince and his bodyguard were about the same general size and Faroush's attire was not designed to accommodate a woman's curves. The nicked silken ensemble she wore was thus somewhat tight in the chest and hip areas. Lyon's cheeks had a pink tinge to them and Lym was outright scandalized, eyes wide in horror.
"Sorry," Miakis's chirping tone indicated that she wasn't in the least. "But when it came time to choose it was either borrow your old clothes or prance out as bare as an Armadillion's bottom." Miakis stared over at the seething Princess Lymsleia sitting with her elder brother and tapped her chin in pretended thought, then showing an innocent grin. "It's too bad you've got guests or else I might've picked the LATTER option, Prince."
"Why you…you…wearing brother's clothes and then saying those things…" Faroush placed his head in his hands, trying to conceive some method to abort the coming meltdown and also a little embarrassed due to his shameless protector's audacious skit. Miakis had a most peculiar talent when it came to getting underneath Lym's skin and she seemed to like nothing more than exercising it at every available opening. The purple haired girl pressed her game, purposely ignoring Lym and sitting down next to the Prince as she grabbed a candied sugar plum and munched down with considerable gusto. Lymsleia reddened ever more at the silent insult and opened her mouth again.
"Well…there's at least one person here who wouldn't have minded the view." Five heads turned at hearing a sarcastic woman's voice in the still open main entrance. Another head added to the impromptu gathering as Sialeeds stepped into the Prince's quarters. The older woman tossed her hair and tsked at one Rogue Knight. "Kyle! I ought to have known you'd be hiding here. Shame on you. Zahhak and Alenia are both on the warpath."
"Hey, I've been hard at work here." Kyle shrugged with his trademark nonchalance. The handsome blonde man tossed his eaten pear core into a wastebasket, his aim right on the mark. "Somebody's got to shield His Highness's virtue and keep him chaste, you know." Kyle leered at Miakis as he spoke that last sentence.
"Kyle's absolutely right, Lady Sialeeds." Miakis agreed with a nod and then scowled accusingly over at the one girl who didn't have common blood with Faroush and pointed. "Now listen here, Lyon! Stop trying to vamp all over the Prince, you little succubus!"
"But I haven't…" Lyon's accommodating nature tended to make her a somewhat simple target, since she generally lacked the viciousness to give as well as she got. Besides the teenage girl had a rather literal mindset and would take an intended quip to heart and be legitimately insulted. Right now her eyes were wide and cheeks stained crimson with anger and embarrassment. Faroush became somewhat aggravated when Miakis chose to include the sensitive Lyon in the verbal repartee, a rather rare event where the quirky girl was concerned. A comment like that could have serious potential repercussions when it involved the Queen's son and was not something to be made as mere banter.
"Don't you dare start picking on her, you no-good hussy!" Lym was compelled to come to her protector's rescue. Kyle seemed a little disappointed, and the Prince guessed that said blonde lecher had been hoping to see the two bodyguard beauties duke it out then and there in the room. Faroush wouldn't have minded either, to be entirely honest.
"She's right," The Prince ended the minor altercation. "Be nice, Miakis."
"This is almost a real party." Sialeeds drawled as Miakis mimicked the Prince's succinct reproach under her breath and stuck her little pink tongue out at the silver-haired youth. Faroush grinned and pinched her small nose in response, twisting gently until she gave in and behaved. "All we need now is some proper tonic."
The Prince knew his maternal aunt's proclivities well enough to grasp her meaning. Coincidence would have it that he had what the doctor ordered in his private storeroom. Faroush summoned his attendant again. "Please have that import Kanakan wine we've been saving heated and bring the whole lot out with our best drinking bowls."
Kanakan wines were prized throughout the two continents and beyond, though Faroush thought them rather too strong on the whole. The Prince wasn't a heavy alcohol drinker by nature and would typically do so only when pressed, and by somebody with a bit more clout or authority than Miakis. This particular vintage had been sent over by the insular state's ruler as a present several months ago, and one case had made its way into Faroush's stores. He would likely never have done anything with the drink on his own, so he was rather glad to have the opportunity to serve it to guests.
"Ah, the goodwill wine…I wasn't aware you'd laid your hands on a case, nephew dearest. I'm quite sure your parents would be most displeased to hear about this. Not that I would ever run and tattle on you," Sialeeds commented with a pleasant grin.
"Mother might not be all too happy." Faroush absently agreed. "But dad was the one who had it earmarked and made over to begin with. He'd only be disappointed that I let it collect dust in the storeroom as long as I did."
"Yeah, that's our Ferid. But at least he's honest about it." Island Nations men like Ferid loved their liquor with a passion and the misplaced warrior was no exception. He now schemed to instill the same mania within his son, as the Prince well understood. Ferid had once been somewhat disappointed to see that his eldest child had come out to be Queen Arshtat's male look-alike in several respects, appearance and aristocratic grace in particular. He had been delighted and proud beyond words when the Prince later took an early interest in the martial arts and soldiering, and in sailing up and down the Feitas. All were evidence that the sire's adventurous Island Nations blood coursed thick and strong through the colt's veins. Faroush tried to do his best to please his dad, and knew that he succeeded every time Ferid's eyes shined with pride when his son advanced another crucial step in his training. And at no time had the great hero been more so than when the Prince had lodged his most recent request.
Eventually the heated wine came and the other dishes were cleared away. The Prince wondered how he'd managed to end up hosting a raucous drinking party when all he'd wanted to do was visit with Lym a while and then go to sleep. Miakis scored an eventual victory in prodding him into drinking one moderate sized bowl with Kyle and Sialeeds as willing conspirators. Faroush still didn't like the wine's taste at all. For her part, the purple haired girl commandeered the largest and deepest dish in the Prince's drinking set and drained it almost three times, then passing out onto the host's shoulder whilst mumbling incoherent sounds. Lyon wouldn't touch even a single drop and nobody would allow Lymsleia any save Miakis, who made her best attempts to taunt and wheedle the impulsive Princess into taking a swallow while she was still somewhat lucid, knowing that the little girl would be rendered powerless to accept the challenge. Kyle weathered a moderate shot to his precious masculine pride when Sialeeds managed to drink him clear under the table with practiced ease. Hours passed and the small gathering dispersed when Lym had to leave in order to conduct her scheduled studies.
Late that evening, Prince Faroush sat alone in his study idly reading a military history pertaining to the great battle at Fort El-Eal that took place well over a hundred years prior and had ended the struggle between the Island Nations and the Kooluk Empire, driving the once mighty northern power back onto their own mainland never to return in great numbers. The great empire collapsed inward not long later, the actual reasons never wholly documented save by one historian whose claim was widely disputed. Most agreed that an internal rebellion was responsible, however. Now all that territory was ruled by Scarlet Moon. The entire Island Nations War was testament to what small numbers could accomplish with proper strategy and strong leadership. Having a True Rune didn't hurt either.
The maneuvers described were more or less irrelevant to the Prince, however. The battle had mostly taken place on the sea using Rune Cannons. Falena had not once employed a true seaborne navy in its entire storied history and Rune Cannon technology had long since been lost to the world due to the technology needed to create the unique shells being compromised. Really he wondered why he was even reading the old tome. Absolute boredom was the explanation he decided to accept. His dad would at least be pleased to note that the Prince was reading something pertaining to Ferid's homeland.
"Ah, there you are. I'd thought you might have already gone to sleep." A voice spoke.
Invoke the Devil's name and he shall respond, or so it seemed as Ferid strode into the room and took a seat in a leather chair opposite his son. Or at least those in Armes would say that the man was something akin to a Hell-spawned demon.
"Miakis," the Prince demurred as though that one simple word explained everything. "Drank one bowl too many earlier and is now stretched out like a kitten on my couch." Ferid raised an inquisitive eyebrow. Never having been around a sleeping Mia, the Commander didn't really understand and so Faroush condescended to explain. "That girl's snoring could disturb the dead. I'll not be getting to sleep in that room tonight."
"Well, you're stuck with her now." Ferid grinned. "I seem to recall once wanting to assign Lyon to you and Miakis to Lym, but you got so upset about it that I switched their assignments." Faroush recalled that moment as well. Miakis had been his only real emotional support when his parents and their retainers had been so preoccupied with driving back the Armes invasion eight years ago. Lym was too young to even talk back then and Kyle hadn't come along until later, not that the perennial skirt chaser would have taken much interest in hanging around with an eight year old boy in any case. Faroush had been right livid when his dad had told him that he wanted to take away his Mia and replace her with some unknown new girl that Ferid had dredged up somewhere. He now had a much higher opinion about Lyon, but still would not have made the trade.
"I've never once regretted that decision, either." The silver-haired Prince admitted with certain tenderness in his voice. "To be honest, I quite covet her company. All those quirks and eccentricities only make me like her more, though in retrospect maybe I could do without her obsession with picking trouble with Lym. I think Lyon's a very sweet girl too, mind, but our personalities aren't anywhere near as attuned." As a training warrior Faroush was not a very dependent person at all, and he was convinced that Lyon's incessant mollycoddling would have driven him into madness at some point had the two been paired together. Or perhaps he'd have come to like and accept being shown that much single-minded devotion and loved her even more due to it. There was little point in considering the matter.
"That's good to hear," Ferid responded. "Anyway, I was hoping you'd still be awake."
"I'd gathered that much." The Prince said dryly. "You certainly wouldn't have come and checked in here otherwise." Faroush reached over onto the small table to his right and took the small sake bottle and two cups, pouring servings into each and passing one over to Ferid along with the bottle. The young royal liked the quality rice wines brewed in Falena's own Yashuna Village over the imported drinks, especially the sweet plum type. "I'm sure you'd sooner be boiled in oil than venture into a study hall on your own."
Ferid threw back his head and laughed as he drained his cup in one swallow and poured another. "You know me only too well, my boy." The Prince's comment wasn't meant with any malice. Ferid was a very shrewd and intelligent man, only that he had never seen the value in spending one's time poring through books. His years spent adventuring and in battle had taught him more than a myriad tomes could ever hope to. His expression then turned serious, and his son realized that there was a meaning behind his late visit. "I wanted to let you know that I'm going be sending you out to oversee the Sacred Games preparations." That was the one topic that the Prince was never happy about discussing, and he showed it by verbally abusing the parties responsible. His voice was dangerously low, much more threatening than Faroush's usual relaxed tone.
"…I still can't believe we have to tolerate this. Salum Barows deserves to be hanged." There was no secret about the eastern aristocrat having pushed to have the traditional arms tournament held now while Lym was still very much underage. The man's power in the Senate had been slipping in recent years and he hoped to regain lost ground through having his son emerge victorious in the Sacred Games and become the Princess's betrothed, thereby placing Salum as the next Queen's in-law and vastly increasing his prestige and authority with the nobles. Faroush clenched his hand in anger and retook the sake bottle, taking a long draught without even bothering with his cup. "Thrusting our Lym into this position over his petty squabbling with that bastard Godwin in the Senate. She's barely even ten years old! She should not be getting engaged to be married!"
"I know, my son. I know and I agree." Ferid sighed. "But going through with this is your sister's sacred duty as our next Queen, whether we two protective brutes like it or not." Ferid grinned as he described the pair. Father and son had already agreed to draw lots to decide which would get the initial crack at intimidating Lym's betrothed once the tournament was over. "We've both always known that she wouldn't be allowed to choose her own husband." The Prince had to accept this as truth. He had always known that the Sacred Games would be held eventually and that his sister would then be engaged to some sniveling little lordling whose daddy had the gold to purchase a top-rank gladiator to represent him. "Don't lose hope yet. Maybe some miraculous commoner will come along and win."
"There are only so many Ferid Egans in the world, dad. To see another like you make it through the tournament would be too much to hope. That old warmonger Godwin and his snake charming son would never allow it to happen." The Sacred Games were always held in the grand coliseum located in Stormfist, the ancient one-time capital city which was now Lord Godwin's principal domain.
"And that's why I'm sending you over there." Ferid admitted. "I want you to keep a close eye on things and do whatever you can to disrupt Godwin's schemes. I'd love to handle it personally but my going would cause too much suspicion." Commander Ferid was no simpleton, nor was his son. Both knew that the Godwins and their cronies would have the chance to stack the tournament odds as the hosts, and that they had no qualms about doing so. "That's not all, though." The great warrior smiled. "I also want you to get out and mingle with the common people as much as you can. See things with your own eyes. I'll be sending your Aunt Sialeeds along as well this time, so don't worry about having to contend with Marscal and his spawn alone."
"I promise I won't let you down, dad." Was all that Faroush could think to say.
Ferid's eyes held a glint. "You'll never be a disappointment to me, son, no matter what. Now enough about depressing topics and onto your special request. I've brought the matter to your mother's attention while you were away in Lordlake. I didn't want her to approach you about it without having the time to think it over on her own."
"By your tone, I take it she wasn't quite on board." The Prince recoiled at Ferid's nod.
"Bluntly, yes. She had always wanted to see you get involved in the Senate." Faroush understood Arshtat's plans in general. She desired to have her son introduced into the Senate in order to win support and serve as a central counterweight to keep both the Godwin and Barows coalitions in line, and then he would work in tandem with his sister on the throne to keep the nation on a straight course. Harmony between the Queen and the Senate would ensure peace and stability within Falena. Sound logic overall, but the Prince knew that his proper place was not within the political arena. And besides, Faroush had a bad premonition that black clouds were soon to obscure the Queendom's sun. War was coming again and no glib Senatorial ramblings or backroom dealings would roll back its tide.
"I'm aware, but I don't have the right mindset to do it. I despise the Senate."
"That's what I told her as well. This is no mere whimsy. I know how hard you've trained over the years, and I've managed to convince your mother that this is the path that you have chosen to walk and she has consented to allow it." Faroush grinned, but his sire held out a halting hand. "Only…I need to be certain you've made your decision."
"Yes, I have. I want to serve and protect our Queen and our nation as you do, dad."
"But remember that by taking the oath, you will become honor bound to serve under my successor as well." Ferid spoke with a warning tone. "Whomever Lym's husband ends up being will also become the next Commander when your mother eventually retires and your sister ascends to the throne. Take a moment and consider whether or not you would be willing to serve underneath a man such as Gizel Godwin or Barows' son." The Prince must have shivered in disgust, as his dad placed a hand on his shoulder. "To see you inducted into our ranks would make me proud, but right now I need you to wait until the Sacred Games are over with and then come back to me with a decision. Physically you are prepared, my boy. Anybody who might cry nepotism would be taught a harsh lesson."
Faroush took a moment, and nodded his understanding. Ferid's caution on the issue was merited. The Prince, and the entire royal bloodline by extension, would have been prone to ridicule had Faroush been ordained a Queen's Knight as he intended and then backed out and retired because he didn't happen to like the person that he'd serve under later. And so he would wait and see.
"Understood, I'll let you know once the tournament's over."
Ferid nodded and departed, leaving the Prince to consider matters. The silver-haired youth couldn't have predicted how his coming assignment would set events into motion that would seize away everything that he had ever known and ravage his own soul.
Author's Note: My attempt at a Suikoden V AU. Again and obviously, this is not an endeavor to novelize the game, as I've made several changes and twisted around relationships already. The story will get a bit darker within the coming chapters, but I need to get through the Sacred Games before I can really start getting into my own tale. There are also reasons behind my switching the Prince's bodyguard to Miakis rather than Lyon, and personal inclination has little to do with it (actually, Lyon was and still is my favorite character in the game, and I wholeheartedly support her and the Prince as a romantic item). In the end, I really don't think Lyon works as well with this somewhat darker and more cynical version of the Prince. Her overprotective nature wouldn't sit well with him. That and Miakis' character creates great lighthearted content that I intend to use on several occasions.
I've tried to write this story and explain things in such a way that those who follow my other works in larger fandoms will be able to understand and enjoy it even though they may not be familiar with Suikoden or not have played the game. I doubt that this will draw the same magnitude of attention as my other stories, but it's an idea that's been bugging me ever since I played the game and I'm pleased to have gotten at least the start on text.
My vision regarding what the Prince's weapon would look like can be seen at this URL:
Other than that, hope somebody out there liked reading this, and please let me know in a review. I'll probably post a topic pertaining to the story either at my own forums or the Suikoden Writing Community forums here at FFN.