A/N: This was one of the college speeches I wound up reading to class... I read shards chapters 1-3 then this story after and it went over well (I passed the class) so now my class is done I shall inflict it upon you. This does not contain any spoilers for Shards, how some situations/scenes are handled in this fic are not loyal to how I have it planned in Shards (namely the Kvar sceen) so with all the babble out of the way enjoy this one-shot at the end of the game
Oh yeah.. SPOILERS for end game!
One Shot, before the tower
"I am Raine Sage, psychotic ruin loving elf and teacher of DOOM!" Raine's favorite orange coat with it's black trim hung loosely over his somewhat scrawny adolescent frame. With every move he made it stirred about him, and showed off the mess of buttons and red fabric that served as his long sleeve tunic. The young man of sixteen snatched a stick from the ground and began to wave it around in a threatening manner. "You, were you sleeping in class?" The boy made his voice go to the highest shrillest octaves he could hit. "Well take that! And that!" He thwacked the branch against the nearest rock and hit it with a mock insane fury.
"Really mature Lloyd." The silver haired elf child sighed. He was so short his head was level with the older boy's waist. He looked to be a mere babe. His soft blue shirt and pants that were trimmed in an off shade of white only made him look younger then his twelve years, and contrasted wildly with his grey hair. Despite his short stature, or perhaps to spite it, he held himself as still and aloof as any good elven adult would. "If my Sis saw you, you'd be so dead."
"You're no fun." Lloyd growled, pulling off the orange coat and draping it over his arm. "Really Genis, lighten up already. We said we were going to do laundry and Raine hates water so she wont double check on us or anything."
"You actually have a logical point Lloyd, Raine would be so proud." The shorter boy chuckled, his thin lips curled into a smile that caught in his violet eyes. "A sign of intelligence at long last! To end of the world is coming, sweet Goddess Martel save us the end is-"
Lloyd snatched up the first thing on the top of his pile to clean and rolled it up into a ball. He dipped it into the small stream and threw. There was a very satisfying wet splotch sound and Genis glared at him from under the dripping purple bundle that was Kratos' cape. From under the angular folds of the cape Genis favored him with squinted up eyes and a glare brimming with hostility.
"Never tick the residential wizard off Lloyd Irving." The small elf growled, wiggling his fingers he started to summon a bit of lightning. The purple half formed bolt crawled over the boy's hand, crawled up the droplets of water, and then zapped Genis, cape and all.
"Kratos is gunna be sooo mad. That was his favorite cape you know."
The black ash that had been Kratos' cape drifted around the small elf like snowflakes.
"Serves you right, even I know lightning and water are bad together."
"Rebuked by a dunce..." The elf muttered to himself, his eyes glazed as he suffered from the stunning effects of his own attack.
"WHAT was that!" "The Dunce" Is it? I'll show you dunce!"
A small hand tugged on his cloak, or rather the wing like protrusion that served as the cape's shoulder pad. He turned, hand snapping over the hilt of his long sword, muscles clenched, ready to kill the creature that bothered... He stared at the young child of fourteen years, and at the sight of her relaxed ever so slightly. The blonde haired girl took his sword hand in her own and looked at him, her soft blue eyes wide in entreaty.
"Sylvarant to Kratos, she wants you to let go of your sword so she can talk." A woman in purple robes snapped, looking up from the stew she was preparing for everyone's dinner.
"Assassin, I hardly need you to tell me the needs of my client."
"She has a name you know, it's Colette! And so do I, and it's Sheena! I know I screwed up, picked the wrong way to finish my job. What I was doing was wrong, I busted my butt to clean the slate, I saved your life, so we're even, alright?"
"Hardly." Kratos let go of his blade, pushed the images of skewering the Assassin back to the far corner of his mind he piled all such fantasies, and opened his hand. Colette snatched it up, turned it over and on his palm put a few letters down in the holy language of angels. "Humph... again... I see. Thank you for telling me Chosen One."
The child, Colette, winced as if in pain than let go of his hand.
Yet she could not feel pain, so it must have been from something else.
This silent child, who was now joining the Assassin and coaxing her to "talk", was the Chosen of the Goddess Martel.
Martel was a merciful, benevolent, omni-potent and omni-present Goddess who demanded much.
Colette, at a mere fourteen years, was going to die in that deity's name in no more then two days time. She had already sacrificed her ability to eat, and had been given a pair of wings that she kept sheathed in the flesh of her back more often then not. She had lost the capability to sleep and had been gifted with keen ears that could hear far better then any mere human. Upon forsaking all tactile sensations she had been given inhuman strength in trade, a poor trade at that, as her once comical fits of clumsiness could now be very dangerous.
At the last alter that the angel Lord Remiel had demanded yet again, and the child had given up her voice, no one knew what "benefit" she had reaped as she had been unable to tell them, not that she would have could she have. It was only Lloyd's keen eyes and anger at what he'd been seeing his oldest friend go through that they all knew what was happening. But that knowledge came to little too late. Now there was only one alter, one last sacrifice, and taking blade in hand Remiel would appraise the Chosen. If she were not pure enough to serve the high purpose of Heaven, the child's father would become her murderer.
None of the children knew that last bit of knowledge of course. Only himself, the Chosen and the elf teacher. Thinking about Raine... She was curled up by the fire a fat book jammed with notes on Ruins in her hand. The fire light coupled with the coming darkness made her ghostly pale face seem something out of a tale. He watched and she read, all the while he considered informing her as to what the Chosen had just told him.
He decided against it.
Raine hated being bothered while she was studying, and tended to smack adult and child alike with the flat of her hand for even the slightest interruption. Not wanting to be smacked he quietly left the clearing and the woman in it behind.
"Take it back!"
"Never, you are a juvenile asinine..."
"I don't know what that means! All I know is you're dead Genis!"
They had fought on the bank, toppled into the water, and after a mess of spells being slung and mock punches and kicks were now trapped on an iceberg in the exact center of the river. Lloyd had drawn his twin swords and had stabbed one into a tree and the other into the iceberg. Now they were stuck, except Lloyd's grip and strength were starting to petter out.
"N..no.. ones... gunna.. he... hear ussss..." Lloyd's teeth were chattering, Genis' miniature glacier was really really cold. How the small elf wasn't suffering was beyond him.
"HEL- Oh hell... It's Kratos."
"Well well well.. playing again boys?" The mercenary drawled, stepping out of the darkness, his black eyes flicked over the pile of unwashed garments and then drifted over to them. The man crossed his arms over his chest and gave them a long suffering look. "For the love of Maxwell, the stream isn't running that fast. Just jump and swim..."
"That'd be nice, but I can't swim all that good," Genis snapped, "plus it's all rocky at the bottom, we'd get hurt when we jumped."
"Could you just... magic us across or something?" Lloyd whined.
"I should probably leave you to teach you both a lesson..." Kratos tilted his head to the side, considered them both. "Yes that would be the right thing to do..."
"Oriiis, merith celeeee! Ust'ill ou ne-nu ba cunnin saru shi'reree!"
Kratos frowned. "Lloyden, "ne-nu bast cunnian shura shi'reree" means "wont do stupid things again". You have to conjugate..."
"Look... My. Grip. Is. Going! Do something!"
"As you will." Kratos' lips curled into a smile and with a hand summoned a gust of wind to push the glacier over to land. The landing was rough, the boys fell from their perch and landed at the black clad man's black booted feet. "Next time I wont save you, and you can get your sword on your own Lloyden. Neither of you are excused from your task, so get back to work."
Kratos then turned on his heel and went back to the camp site.
"What a jerk..." Genis grumbled, wiping the sand from his tunic.
"Eh... he's not that bad." Lloyd shrugged. "I mean we did do that to ourselves. He didn't have to save us."
"And what makes it worse is that you always stick up for him."
"Oh shut up." Pulling the soap cake from his pant pocket Lloyd went to his pile of clothes to clean. "Hey, five celli coins on who gets their pile done first?"
"We've been through a lot haven't we..." Lloyd was sitting facing fire and his mentor that night. He leaned against the pine tree behind him, trying to get comfortable. Pine though had bark that made him itch and all the trees here seemed to be pine. But then Professor Raine had said it was because of the enveremot and climuut or something like that.
Well that was one more word then all his other attempts at conversation had pried out of the mercenary.
"Kratos, is something wrong?" Lloyd turned to look at his oddly quiet companion. Kratos wasn't a talker around the others but the two of them had spent so many nights sharing watch quietly chatting about so many things. It seemed wrong that the man would run out of conversation tonight.
"I was thinking..."
"About?" Lloyd pried, when the man fell silent and just stared at the air in front of him.
"Nothing..." Those black eyes slid closed and the auburn haired man let out a gusty sigh. "It's nothing important anyways."
"You're sighing, bad sign one." Lloyd ticked off a finger. "You're quiet with me, bad sign two." The second finger joined the first. "Earlier you forgot that it was your turn to cook lunch so Raine did it, that's bad sign number three and indigestion for everyone." A third finger joined it's fellows. "You didn't even flinch when Genis brought you the remains of your favorite cape, that's sign number four." Lloyd crossed his arms and tried to glare at the man. "If we were sparring you'd already have lost, do I have to go on?"
"For someone who others call a fool you are being annoyingly perspective tonight."
Lloyd just stuck his tongue out and the mercenary chuckled at the childish antics. It was a tired and distracted sound however.
"Alright, now I know something is wrong!" Lloyd hopped to his feet. "You're not sick like Colette are you, I mean you didn't even eat tonight and..."
"I am not what Colette is becoming." Kratos rose a hand to calm the youth. "Trust me when I say that. Have you ever heard the Chosen's Prayer, not" Kratos added quickly. "The prayers she does at a church, but the song?"
Lloyd shook his head.
"Part of it's verse reads
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"
In myself, in all the world, for I am the embodiment of the purity"
Lloyd stared at the man, let the words sink in and shivered. "It's just like that song, with her voice going quiet... have you heard the ending?"
Kratos shook his head.
"Where did you hear...?"
"Even if I told you, do we have time Lloyd? Does this dying world have time for us to run across the world and chase down a song?"
"No... I guess not." Lloyd bowed his head, stared unseeing at the ground. "Dammit if... if we'd have know. And you just remembered this, now?"
Kratos grimaced, ran a gloved hand through his wild mane of red-brown hair, and did not speak or even look at Lloyd for a long while.
"Kratos... you know something don't you?" The startled boy whispered, not quite believing that Kratos would hide anything from him. Though Lloyd had spent the first month of this trip having a one sided competition with the mercenary when he'd stopped being stupid they'd become close friends. Maybe as close or closer then him and Colette, and Lloyd had known Colette since they were both really little.
Lloyd was only answered with silence, and that silence was damning.
"We're friends right?"
"Lloyd... I am only a mercen-"
"Alright, that trick works on Raine, Sheena. Genis, and Colette, but not me!" Lloyd waved his hands in the air as if to cut through the lies he knew that statement would have after it. "Just.. because I don't understand you all the time, or that you're nasty to Raine and Genis sometimes, doesn't mean I try to ignore you like everyone else does! You know what's going to happen to her don't you... DON'T YOU!"
"Let the others sleep." Kratos growled, and at that quiet hint of menace in his voice Lloyd took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. "If she fails this trial she dies." The mercenary said at last, stroking the hilt of his blade and watching that hand doing the stroking as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.
"All the other trials say that too and-" Lloyd began.
"No Chosen in a millennia has passed the final trial, so for every failure the world dies a little more."
"This world." Lloyd snapped. "Sheena's from that other world, they wanted her to kill Colette so their world wont start dying."
Kratos flinched at that, but than nodded.
"Kratos... what's going to happe-"
The mercenary took a deep breath, his hand necrotic clenching on the hilt of his sword.
Lloyd had only seen the man like this once, had only seen Kratos all quiet and withdrawn just once. It was after Kratos had seen the man who had killed his family was alive. When that silence had broken it had become a violent, homicidal rage. Oblivious to the stinging bolts of lightning that had raced off of the demonic man named Kvar's enchanted staff, Kratos had walked across a room. He had been oblivious to the wounds that would later almost kill him, that Raine had announced as critical and had spent all of her energy healing. Kratos had cut the screaming Kvar to shreds. Had cut off the man's legs and than ripped open the man's stomach with a knife and had...
Well remembering it gave Lloyd nightmares, remembering the wide smile and totally insane gleam in Kratos' eyes while he'd been cutting Kvar to little bits and pieces.
"What if I said Remeil would sacrifice his child to the Goddess, that the sacrifice would be of her life blood, what then?"
"He's her... isn't he her father? No father would..."
"Of course." Kratos sighed. "No decent father would, and no angel I presume. I don't know, all I know is the final sacrifice may be worse then all the others so far combined."
"What else is there to take?" Lloyd muttered, his dark eyes haunted. Seeing Colette suffer on this journey, day after day of changing, losing her humanity, had been hellish for Lloyd to watch. It had been hellish for them all.
And an unwelcome reminder to the "mercenary" of everything he had lost so long ago.
Lloyd yawned, the silence drained the tension and anger out of the boy and replaced it with exhaustion. Kratos smiled, leaned into the shadowed back of a pine tree. He could not feel the bark, that would have set his skin to itching. The ability to do so had died within him long long ago. He ducked into the darkness only so that the child would not see his smile and misunderstand it's meaning. At such a delicate span of adolescence one had to be very careful to not appear condescending, and Lloyd always took his smiles as such for some reason.
"Go to bed Lloyd, tomorrow will be a long day."
"Will we be at Hima, you think?"
"Perhaps." Kratos shrugged. "Perhaps not."
"From Hima to the Tower..." Lloyd sighed, turned to stare at the thin line of darkness that would gleam like a giant pillar of silver on the western horizon come sunrise. "Are we doing the right thing Kratos, really?"
"You are." Kratos said watching the boy slither under his red blankets and try to make himself comfortable on the rocky ground. "I don't know if I am though." he muttered under his breath.
"Course uh aw..." Lloyd ignored his yawn and just plowed through the first sentence with lazy abandon. "If you're with us then you're doin' the right thing too..."
It was only when Lloyd's breathing had slowed to the general pattern of slumber that from the other side of the clearing a bundle of blankets rustled. squirming out from under the mess of white blankets the Chosen walked up to him. He considered her, dressed in a long white shirt and oversized white pants tied to her waist by a length of cloth, she looked only to be a little girl perhaps in need of a class of milk and a story to coax her to slumber. Despite her rumpled "cute" appearance there was something in the eyes that killed that illusion if you knew how to look at someone. She was wide awake tonight, as she had been for several months worth of nights. As had become her habit she shared the watch with him after Lloyd had fallen asleep. It was their unspoken agreement of sorts. She knew and kept what he was to herself, and he helped cover for her best he could until the very end. They would both share watch and he would talk to her to keep her from getting bored.
Or from going crazy.
Because the night in it's length and utter lack of motion gnawed at the sanity, he had several millennia's of nights to learn this lesson.
She touched his wrist and he offered her his sword hand, the hand that in two days time would spill the life from her empty husk of her body.
Thank you, Derris Fa Sith...
"Most people would not thank the angel of death knowing in a mere forty eight hours he will kill them."
She smiled, wrote some more and he chuckled despite himself.
"Yes, you aren't like others, not even those I've escorted before... I wont argue that one much..." he paused and considered the request she made with her fingers across his palm. "I can't promise that child, you know I can't make him do anything, and he wants to be with you till the end..."
Don't kill him... please
"Whether he lives or dies is dependent wholly on his actions, once we arrive it will be totally out of my hands. I am sorry."
And could she have cried, she probably would have, and have he had been able to feel as a human would have he would have taken in her arms and held her while she cried. Neither being human, could do anything even resembling human motions of comfort or grief.