Disclaimer: I do not own Suikoden III. Konami does. This fan fiction is based on the characters and plotlines of the video game and the manga by Aki Shimizu. This story has been revised to begin at a different point; the prologue this chapter has replaced will be used later. There are several original characters, but only one has main significance and the majority of the other characters will be those we know and love.
"By the spirits! Why are you going to the graveyard again in this awful rain? You're just going to get soaked. And then you'll get sick. And then I will have to take care of you. Please! Set an example for Hugo. He may be the Flame Champion, but he can still catch a cold. And he'll catch another one because of you!"
Beecham could hear Luce's words before he stepped out from his hut. Orange, beige, and black-patterned fabrics shrouded him in a raw, organic texture that thickened beside the shifting shadows of rolling hills and huts. Just as the scar running through his left eye, the Grasslands were a toughened landscape, and home to the Karayan Clan.
Peering at the sky and rumpling his blond goatee, he grumbled beneath his breath at the unusual overcast. Today marked the seventh sun the Grasslands were covered by stuffy, mute-grey clouds. He was going to lose his tan. It was rare that there would be enough rain to fill the Karayan clan's water supply for a year. Just a gentle shower in an afternoon would be considered a blessing, especially to those who did not have to carry their clay pots to the local rivers.
But this was an ill omen. Perhaps such a storm was common for the Duck Clan or the Zexen ironheads… no, Zexen soldiers… that's what Hugo wants him to call them now. Still, not even the wind spirits would want so much rain. The grassy plains had turned into muddy swamps, richly woven tapestries with deeply colored dyes had to be taken indoors, and leaks had formed from between the straw roofs.
With a firm touch, Beecham found the hilt of his sword, strapped to the back of his waist. The grip of his sword in his right hand, supported by a black fingerless glove that stretched along his forearm, was comfortably familiar. Slipping his left hand into the pocket of his beige pants, he found the rounded edges of several small potions. Good. He turned his head left and then turned his head right. No sign of Luce. Even better. Carefully, he sneaked away from the straw awning of his hut, letting the rain patter upon his head, flattening his short blond hair into thin golden leaves.
Water poured up from the ground where he stepped. It squished between his toes, and then returned back into the soil where he stepped off. Several paces beyond the down-slope entrance to the village, Beecham began to relax his stride. The graveyard was a mile away to the east, more than enough time to ponder and wait for his clothes to get wetter.
There really was little reason for him to check his gear before he left or pay his daily respects at the Karayan graveyard, as much as he said he was just being prepared. Perhaps his age was catching up to him. Apart from the rain, which monsters on the Grasslands despised, war was not on the mind of his clan, not even the Lizard Clan. But praying for the protection of the spirits, particularly for the storm to pass, gave him enough reason.
Much of the year was spent rebuilding the village, which had been razed to ashes by the Zexen iron… soldiers. Heh, taking orders from a kid. Thatching roofs. Sculpting clay pots. Herding horses. Herding cattle. Resupplying stores of food, water, trade fabrics, weapons, armor, and any extra runes. Beecham had always thought it mysterious that they could appropriate so much in so little time. Wherever the funds came from, he suspected that most did not come from Karayan hands. But it hardly mattered, as long as it helped his people.
Through the toil of his labor and his continued counsel to Lucia, it wasn't until this lingering downpour that he began to doubt his place in the village. He was an old cougar, an old boar, a spirit of the old earth, whatever the young thought was a fashionably 'old' nickname for the day. Of course, he was a cougar who could still whip anyone that didn't understand how to talk behind people's backs, but there were few Karayans who he could just have an idle chat with.
Many perished either from age or in battle. To have survived not only the Second Bringer War but the Dunan Unification War earned him respect as a warrior of warriors. Surviving all these years, though, he had given enough burials to know that luck was on his side, and that it was his charge to pass down that luck to the Karayan youth – or anyone smart enough to listen.
Beecham shrugged his shoulders at the thought. Right… a youngster wanting to hear what he had to say? Heh, that would be the…
His eyes squinted. Something was wrong. Black? On the cusp of his sight. A blot of black in the graveyard. From among the flat greens and grimy browns. Between three piles of gray stones, three burial markers. Swords and bows stuck out from the earth, weapons of lost chiefs, lost friends, lost children. Who dared defile this sacred ground?
His mind, angered, became sharp. Beecham gritted his teeth and unsheathed his curved blade as he sprinted towards the hilltop. Raindrops that would have fallen straight to the ground in front of him splattered across his face, but his eyes didn't flinch. Upon the slippery mud, his sandals gripped against the half-submerged grass and weeds, which tried to reach above the surface of the thin flood cast over the plains.
Closer and closer, the blot of black came into view. Death, it appeared, larger and larger. The ground beneath him steepened as he bolted up to the graveyard on the hill. His steps slowed. Mud ran like a corpse down a thick river.
By the time he passed the first four piles of stones, he saw that the black – no, more like an ashen grey – came from a coat of a design he had never seen before. Who would need a jacket, especially one that long? And these shoes, what were they made of? Perhaps this was the new trend in Caleria, but even then, only one thing mattered: the person beneath the black coat was a foreigner.
Beecham would not fall for a trap. His eyes widened, surveying the trespasser.
Laying face down in the dirt. The coat, shredded and filthy on the back. Probably rolled over. Blond hair. Pale skin.
"Get up!" The air became heavy at the gruffness of his voice. No response.
"I said get up!" Even heavier. No response.
He kneeled until his hand could grab a wet stone from one of the piles. Swiftly, he lobbed it at the shin of the body. Not even a flinch. Shaking his head, he crept towards the stranger with his sword held firmly in front of him. As he approached, he noticed that it was a man. Blood streamed down the man's fingers, blood that the rain rinsed away.
Standing next to the body, he put the tip of his sword inches away from the neck. Any sneak attack by this outsider would be foolish. His foot sifted below the man's arm and waist, and with a strained grunt, his leg pushed the body until it was on its backside.
It was almost a corpse. Torn to shreds. White shirt, ripped and nearly all stained in red. Black pants and black coat, ripped and probably stained in red as well.
All foreign. All tattered. All… but the face.
All Beecham needed to drop his sword, bless the spirits, slip his hand into the wrong pocket, grunt and say damn, ravage through the other pocket, grab the potions, pull the cap off all three with his teeth, jam them into the man's mouth, and remember Lucia's face as she retold what happened at the Cyndar Ruins. He then jammed the potions even further.
This wouldn't be enough. More potions? No, not good enough. A Water Rune bearer? Best shot. Sergeant Joe. Back at the village. The Duck Clan knows Water Magic. How long would it take? Joe would run faster in this weather. Webbed feet. Does he know the way here? Can't take any chances.
Beecham stabbed his sword into the ground. Bits of mud flew onto his arms. He snapped off his azure bead necklace and wrapped it around the hilt of his blade, letting it dangle and shine. Before sprinting back to the village, he turned to issue a warning.
"Don't you die again!"
Beecham's words bounced off the water droplets and sank into the man's skin.
Jimba. Still breathing. From between the graves.
By the spirits, by the sprits! Save him.