Cuttingmoon57 here, and back chapter sixteen of The Tainted Grimoire.

Credit for making sure this gaggle of words is somewhat coherent goes to Supreme Distraction. Every writer who wants to be taking seriously should have a beta, and now I have mine. Hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or anything related to it. If I did, FF12 would already be getting a direct PS2 or PS3 sequel. I also don't own any other anime, manga, or game that I take elements or characters from.

Suggestion: Head to Final Fantasy Wikia for information or images of the main cast if you'd like to see pictures of their appearance. They remain virtually unchanged in my story. (Other non-canon characters will be described.)

"Blah" = talking

"Blah"= thoughts, writing, sound effects, or flashbacks

"BLAH"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change

"Blah"= quote or short poem (cause I thought it would be nice. Poems are in Kubo Tite's blank verse style and are heavily influenced by him).


A Bangaa Gladiator made his way down a spotless hallway, doing his best to cause as little commotion as possible. Ivory walls with gold embroidering on every column stood erect for as far as the corridor lasted, and polished wooden floors provided a creak every few seconds to break the silent monotony.

The closing of a set of symmetrical gold-embroidered double doors alerted the bipedal lizard to the person in front of him, a red-headed Hume in green and white priestly robes. A Nirvana Staff was clenched tightly in his right hand.

"Good day to you, Riccio Vento. What is it that you need, child?" The priest greeted, then asked.

"Only to relay a message to you, Archbishop. We have received word that the caravan should be arriving within the hour." The Gladiator responded with the utmost courtesy.

"That is indeed wonderful news." The red haired man gave a warm smile while gripping his staff in both hands. "If you would, please make arrangements for me to visit the gate. I would like to greet these weary travelers personally."

"At once, Archbishop."

The Bangaa bowed once, before walking away briskly. The Hume allowed the scaly warrior to round the corner before he followed in the same direction.

"Only a few more days now, Maria…"

Maria Savoy de Pervenche

Why do I feel like

That setting sun in the faraway horizon

Will never rise again

Chapter Sixteen: Suspicion (of Sunset)

"How much longer do we have?"

"If this map is correct, we should be getting very close." Andie Kelt remarked to Luso, scanning a map of the area while walking next to a moving wagon. She stifled out a small yawn.

"It's about time." The boy commented back, hopping up from that same cart. "I'm just about ready for a real bed."

"Let's not be hasty. We're still not out of the woods yet." She commented. "Would you mind scouting ahead for me?"

"Sure. No problem. I could use a good stretch anyway." Luso removed his pair of blades from his person, sheath and all, and laid them down in the wagon next to a sleeping Kanin before taking off.

The events of last night had taken its toll on each person, Gully and Falzen alike. With Sothe's intentions and accomplices revealed and dealt with, everyone had assumed the situation was resolved. Though, as Andie had pointed out, it wasn't as simple as simply imprisoning them. Sothe was the Caravan's proven leader, and any suspicious action against him would cause unrest amongst the rest of the convoy.

Luso increased his speed just a bit as he cleared a sizable rock in the middle of the path, dashing past a few more wagons in the seemingly endless chain. He would pass a Falzen member on guard every few moments and give a small wave. He lastly passed Claire, giving her an apologetic look as he spotted her replacement shortsword. He'd definitely get her a new weapon with his cut of the reward gil.

A few more minutes of passing wagons, greeting travelers, and leaping over the occasional Moogle allowed him to reach the front of the caravan, a single chocobo-drawn cart rolled steadily along. The Moogle Animist and Micaiah lay in the cart, slumbering quietly with hands bound by rope. Ensei and Cid took either side of Sothe, who trudged in front of the wagon.

"How long have you two been up here?" Luso queried slowing his pace to a slow walk. Ensei stretched and released a yawn that startled a few birds in the trees.

"Since we first started moving again." Cid answered, stumbling just a bit. "I haven't slept since that nap yesterday afternoon." Luso could clearly see the bags under both his clan members' eyes.

One of the caravan patrons, a rugged middle-aged man, approached them from the back.

"Excuse me, Sothe. How much longer until we reach St. Galleria? My wagon is running low on supplies." He questioned, gesturing farther down the convoy line. Sothe, who had been mostly quiet this entire time, looked over his shoulder at the man.

"We should arrive within the hour. Please inform the rest of the group."

The man nodded before taking off.

"Remember, Sothe. You're only unbound because this caravan needs you." Cid reminded, eying his vacant face over. "Don't make any unnecessary actions, or we can't promise we'll go easy on you."

"You need not remind me." The thief responded in an emotionless tone. "To pursue Maria now would be but a fruitless venture. She has already decided in her mind, and nothing I say will change that."

"Well it's good to see that you've given up." Luso commented before taking off once more. He still had a job to do for Andie, after all.

"Given up, you say?" The green haired man said inwardly. "Hardly, Luso. There is still a way to save both her and this city. I haven't given up at all…"

His face became more serious, causing Ensei to quirk an eyebrow. An image of a red haired priest was the first thought that came to his mind.

"…I've merely switched targets."

…………………………..

"They're here! Open the gates!"

The old, timber doors creaked open slowly as the caravan finally reached their destination, the holy city of St. Galleria. Hume soldiers and Bangaa Warriors lined both sides of the rocky path leading up to the gates, and the weary travelers looked on in wonder as the guards gave uniform salutes.

"As soon as you enter the city, all caravan personnel are required to meet at the main fountain in town square for inspection and contraband check." Announced a Bangaa Gladiator as each vehicle passed.

Vice Captain of the Archbishop guard: Riccio Vento

"Wow, would you look at this place!" Luso exclaimed with almost childlike enthusiasm.

The city definitely lived up to its name as a holy city. A large wall completely covered the perimeter of the city, most likely to shield from intruders. Cobblestone roads provided pathways for the everyday citizen. Buildings and shops were surprisingly clean as opposed to what Luso had encountered in Camoa. But what was the most prominent feature was the grandiose cathedral that stood in the middle of the city.

It truly was the centerpiece of the city, a majestic building with two matching spires that shot up ninety meters high. Its surface was a polished white, suggesting that the building was fairly new, while the roof and tops of the spires were an emerald green color. Resting around twenty feet over the colossal oak doors at its base was a large balcony area, surrounded by detailed, marble rails. The sunlight that poured down from a cloudless sky gave the structure an ethereal glow.

The rest of Clan Gully stared in wonder. It was by no means as crowded as an afternoon in Camoa, but the large variation of races was still prevalent. Many citizens began to wave as the wagons rolled past them.

The last cart had finally rolled into the city, and the guards officially closed and sealed the gateways shut. Travelers began to hop out of their wagons as previously instructed and approached the gargantuan fountain that lay in the core of the town square. It was here that Clan Gully, Clan Falzen, Maria, and her two teams of bodyguards all met together for the first time since last night. Sothe, Micaiah, and the Animist stood grouped between Ensei and Cid, who both watched them warily out of the corner of their eyes.

To kill time while waiting for the inspection, the large cluster split into two. The adults of each clan formed a group while the younger members mirrored their actions.

"I think I see why this place is called St. Galleria." Gertie remarked approaching the younger Clan Gully members, who were joined by Maria and Adelle.

"Yeah, this place is like one big art gallery!" Kanin added, marveling at the architecture around her.

"I must agree." Maria spoke in a jovial tone. "Even living here most of my life, I find myself always in awe at this city's beauty."

Their wonderment was stopped short, however, as their eyes turned to a faction of guards and other figures that approached from the cathedral's direction.

"Attention, weary travelers, clansmen, and the like…" boomed the voice of the man at the forefront of the group. The various Soldiers and Warriors marched past the fountain, through the crowd, and towards the line of carriages that lay in the middle of the streets. "…We of St. Galleria would like to congratulate you for completing your perilous journey to our fair city."

Current Leader of the Church of St. Galleria: Archbishop Vaticus Finch.

All eyes focused on the burgundy haired priest, who continued to amble towards the center of the square, most notably the malice filled gaze of Sothe. On either side of him stood two prominent figures.

The first, a Bangaa Defender, stood erect with a Halberd in hand and a Knightsword sheathed at his waist. A ring fit snugly on every one of his scaly fingers and a pure white cape cascaded down his back, a decorative red cross emblazoned in its center.

Captain of the Archbishop Guard: Ignatius Loyola

The second, a simple Moogle Thief, lacked the imposing presence of the first. His outfit was that of a normal brigand, though his one defining feature was the gilded offering plate he carried around in his hand. From what Luso could see, there seemed to be a few gil coins in it, if the rattling of metal weren't enough of an indication.

Minister of Offering and Finance for the Church of St. Galleria: Johannes Tetzel

"Please, enjoy yourselves during your stay, and may the good fortune of our protector Elianto shine down upon you."

Cheers erupted throughout the crowd before people worked their way back to their was then that the once straight line of wagons began to branch off to places around the city.

The priest eyed the crowd's retreating figures, until he settled on a single brown haired girl that stood perfectly still, staring directly at him. He smiled, walking towards her.

"Greetings, Maria; I trust you had a risk-free journey?"

"Well more or less, Archbishop." The girl answered with a nervous laugh as he kissed the back of her delicate hand. "Nothing particularly eventful happened."

"I beg to differ." Raven intervened, coming to the front of the group. "We were attacked…on more than one occasion, no less."

"Attacked, you say?" His tone rang with surprise. "Well it is good to hear that Elianto protected you all." He turned around, making a gesture with his hand. His guards then formed two walls on either side of the road.

"Come. I would prefer it better to discuss this in a more private place."

(St. Galleria Cathedral)

"That sure is one long climb." Luso exclaimed in an exhausted fashion, hunching over and panting heavily. He looked around to see that he was the only one worn out by the trek. Even Maria seemed completely without any sort of fatigue, though he attributed this to her having to live in the city. Back in the real world, the most he ever had to walk was to and from school.

"Looks like we need to build up your stamina a little bit, now don't we?" Ensei whispered to the boy with a sinister grin. The boy immediately stood straight up, wiping the sweat from his brow and feigning energy. If it was anything like sparring, he did not want any stamina training with his teacher.

The large group approached the steps of the ornamental cathedral, passing multicolored beams of sunlight flowing in from stained-glass windows. It reminded Luso of those large churches back in his world, such as in England or Rome.

"Now, what exactly has happened? I would like an explanation." The Archbishop queried.

Raven, along with members of Falzen and Gully, went on to relay the events of the past few days to the holy man, making sure to add as much detail as possible. The adults each gave their accounts from their own perspectives, from the Baknamy attack at the Caravan Trail to Maria's kidnapping in the Jadewood.

"I see…" Finch stated after Andie had given her version. "Is all this true, Sothe?"

All eyes turned to the thief, who answered with a blank voice.

"Every single word…"

The Bishop sighed heavily, before snapping his fingers. Two Bangaa Warriors armed with shackles grabbed the green haired man's arms and clamped them around his wrists. Another two pairs were used to secure Micaiah and the Animist as well, who had kept mostly silent. When all three were secure, Finch approached Sothe. He stopped directly in front of him, their faces inches apart.

"And do you have anything to say about your actions…?"

Everyone, especially Maria and Micaiah, were stunned silent as Sothe spit on the face of Archbishop Finch.

"Why you little….!" One of the two Bangaa cried out, preparing to strike him down. His sword arm was stopped cold, however, by a firm hand grabbing his scaly wrist.

"What power…" Ensei remarked internally. "To be able to stop a Bangaa with one hand like that…." The samurai eyed him over once, then again, feeling as though he was unable to remember something important.

"There is no need for violence!" The priest ordered his hand unflinching. The bipedal lizard stepped back and took to his knees, bowing furiously. Finch brought his hand up to wipe away the saliva that stained his cheek. He then stared into the former caravan leader's eyes. "…is that really all you can say, Sothe…?"

The thief remained silent. Bishop sighed once more, before turning to the two Warriors.

"Well…no matter the circumstances, a law is a law. Take these three to the prison for crimes against Lady Maria." The guards did as they were told, one shoving Sothe along while the other chose to usher Micaiah and the Animist.

"Your time will come, Vaticus Finch…" Sothe proclaimed, speaking for the first time since entering the city, before exiting. Maria looked on with downtrodden eyes at the sight of her brother.

All was quiet for the next thirty seconds, no one willing to break the tense silence. Finally, the Bishop decided to clear the nervous air.

"Despite these…regrettable setbacks, you people have done a fine job of protecting the caravan…" Four more guards, all Hume soldiers, carried heavy bags that jingled with each step they took. The quartet untied the ropes binding them and opened the bags slightly, showing golden coins brimming at the top.

Both Ensei and Cid's eyes widened, and drool slithered down of corner of the Parivir's mouth. Adelle's face was no less surprised. The Parivir, Claire, Raven, and a giddy silver-haired girl all walked up to receive a gil-filled bag for their respective clans.

"I trust you will find your pay suitable."

"Quite suitable indeed!" Ensei and Adelle remarked in greedy unison.

"Sir, we have pressing matters to attend to." The Bangaa defender stated, placing a hand on the priest's shoulder.

"Yes, quite." Finch turned to the assembled clansmen. "It seems I have business elsewhere. I do apologize ladies and gentlemen."

"It's……quite alright." Andie responded, sighing in embarrassment at Ensei and Cid's inability to control themselves around a large amount of money. "We should be off before we cause any further trouble."

"Very well, then." The priest laughed heartily. "Sir Loin…Raven…" Both looked up to him. "I'd rather not trouble you any further, but if your groups would continue your watch over Maria here for a few more days until the wedding is over, I would be most grateful. You will be paid for your services, of course."

"Well I'd be happy to watch over this here young one for ya." Loin said, patting the brunette on the back lightly. Raven and Crow gave similar nods of confirmation. Finch gave them a warm smile as thanks.

The large group then began to exit the cathedral, Bishop and his guards escorting them out.

"I feel that such an occasion as this calls for a party." Ensei declared, swinging his clan's bag over his shoulder. "A dinner at the pub tonight to celebrate a job well done…" He pointed a finger at the Falzen Commander. "And of course…Andie's paying!"

"What!? Why me?"

"Just think of it as a way to pay us back for trying to capture our Moogle friend here." Loin suggested, catching onto Ensei's little scheme while ruffling Hurdy's pompom.

"Not so fast! That twerp over there sawed Claire's precious Claymore in half. We don't owe you a thing." countered the fiery Kirsa as she directed a finger at Luso, the other Falzen members nodding in approval.

"Fine, then how about this…" Cid began mischievously, unnerving Luso and Kanin. "If we can eat more than the shop value of that Claymore, then you pick up the bill and we don't have to pay a gil."

"Deal! Bring it on!"

Luso, Cheney, Auggie, Kanin, and Hurdy cringed as evil glints emerged in the eyes of both senior Gully members. Cheney walked over to Kirsa and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"You have no idea what you've just gotten your clan into…."

…………………………..

"Now what was this urgent business that you decided to invent, Ignatius?" Finch queried, re-entering the church's auditorium. Loin and Raven's respective groups had taken Maria to the celebration dinner at the closest pub. The grand room was completely silent and void of anyone, save the priest himself and the aforementioned Defender.

"That man, the one with the beard and the katana from Clan Gully…" Ignatius began mysteriously. Bishop quirked an eyebrow.

"Yes, what about him…"

"Did he seem…familiar to you…"

The priest placed a hand to his chin while looking at the floor, a gesture of deep thought. Ten seconds passed without a reply, so the reptilian gave him another hint.

"Do the Jylland Defenders of Peace ring any bells?"

Bishop's eyes widened.

"You mean…"

"Yes. That katana, the face, that voice; there's no doubt in my mind." Ignatius paused, before providing some good news. "Though I don't believe he has recognized us yet. It was quite a long time ago, but I could never forget that man."

"Calm down, Ignatius. We still aren't positive that it is him. Still…this could turn into a highly problematic situation." He began to pace around, still in deep thought. "How long will he be in town?"

"It seems his clan has become rather acquainted with Maria. It's not a far stretch to believe they would stay for the wedding."

"I see…" He narrowed his eyes. "Laying low would be impossible with our status, so for now, just act natural. Don't do anything out of the ordinary. Once I've secured my position…."

Bishop stopped in his tracks, an evil smirk playing at the corners of his lips.

"…their sun of hope will never rise again."

(The Sole Fiore Inn)

Ensei's dark eyes focused on the stunning cathedral that he could see through his room's window. The setting sun struck the elaborate structure at just the right angle, illuminating it and giving the building a transcendent glow. It was these moments that he enjoyed from time to time.

All was silent, though Cid's occasional snoring would disrupt the peaceful mood that the scene seemed to create. The Revgaji had turned in early, which was not unheard of with the amount of hours they had been awake. Though...something in the back of his mind kept him from blissfully falling asleep.

"That man......."

His onyx orbs turned to the ceiling as he rolled over in his sheets, laying flat on his back. Images of the red haired priest flashed through his thought process.

"....I've seen that man before...."

(Elsewhere)

"How much longer until we get to St. Galleria, boss?" A Bangaa Templar asked in a gruff tone, using his spear to keep him balanced along the cliff line. His breastplate had a golden dragon head emblazoned on the front, but other than that, his armor was standard Templar issue. Two other Bangaa behind him, both Templar, mimicked his motions.

"Relax, Ogma. We will arrive in due time."

In front of the three scaly males, a simple white chocobo trotted along merrily. Riding this ivory colored, pristine beast was a Hume dressed in full armor. At his belt, a sheathed Excalibur dangled with each step the flightless bird took. A blue cape with gold embroidering poured down his armor covered back and swayed with the appropriate wind. A two horned helmet shielded his facial features.

"Watch how you speak, Ogma!" The second Templar reprimanded. His armor matched the target of his scolding, though with a crimson colored dragon as opposed to golden.

"Oh, pipe down, Gerland! I'm sure Nivus is thinking the same thing." Ogma gestured to the rear of the line, where the last Templar traveled at a slower pace than the others. On his breastplate lay a Cobalt-hued dragon with white borders.

"Would you two quit arguing!?" The chocobo rider exclaimed, successfully silencing the Bangaa. "We will arrive in a few days…"

The conversation died out after that. The armored man reached into a pocket on his saddle and retrieved a letter, staring at it with a worried face. He placed it back before staring up to see a sun setting in the distance, signaling night approaching.

"I can only hope that you made it safely, Professor Auggie."

A day of peace has come, but danger still lies ahead. And who seeks out the Professor?

(End Chapter Sixteen)


Character Corner

(Maria Pierrot Savoy de Pervenche)

Job: None

Race: Hume

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Forest Green

Skin/Fur Color: Pale

(Description)

Daughter of the governor of St. Galleria, sister to Sothe and stepsister to Micaiah; Maria is a kind hearted girl who strives for nothing less than the absolute best for her city's people.

(Likes and Dislikes)

Likes: Sparrows, the Sun

Favorite Food and Drink: Sunflower Seeds, Fruits (especially with seeds)/ Tea

Hates: Finches, cold weather

Dreams: To fly on an airship one day

Favorite Color: Green

(Trivia)

-Maria not only loves to draw, but is also quite good at it. Her sketches are known throughout St. Galleria for their quality.

-Maria is loosely modeled after a Sparrow


(Author's Notes)

Yeah, pretty much a set-up chapter. Nothing particularly interesting happened, mostly character introductions. I tried something new here with the introductions and all. I thought it might be easier to remember key characters this way (since I tend to have a lot in my stories). Tell me what you think of it. (Also altered character corner. I think its better this way, since some characters don't have equipment or a job).

Also, anyone willing to look up information for me on things would be greatly appreciated. Chapters usually take so long as I'm trying to gather information for a new character. I could really use some help. If you'd like to, just pm or email me.

Next chapter should start to reveal some things, so stay tuned.