Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-one 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


"Halt! Who goes there!?"

The group did as they were told. The armored man removed the helmet from his head before wiping the beads of sweat from his brow. Messy brown hair that ended in a small ponytail at the base of his neck covered his head, and a goatee shielded his chin. His eyes were two bright pools of blue.

"This is Judgemaster Cid Randell requesting entrance into St. Galleria."


Sir Loin

Those who think they understand our world, are dead asleep

Those who have found and experienced its corruption are the ones wide awake

Protecting those of us that are still dreaming

Chapter Twenty One: Awaken (to the Threat)


(St. Galleria, Heretic Headquarters)

"Why…the strongest man in Jylland, of course."

Eyes widened and mouths opened wide at his comment. Most surprised of all was Ensei Rou, who from Luso's perspective actually tensed up, almost as if shivering. All he knew was that anyone that could make his combat teacher quiver definitely deserved to be called strong. The boy held a curious look in his eye as he asked his next question.

"And…who would that be?"

If any faces didn't have an unsurprised look about them before, they surely did now; and their focus was directed on the brown haired teenager. Kanin went so far as to place a palm to his forehead, as if checking for any sign of sickness.

Auggie only chuckled warmly to himself, before turning to the boy.

"You see, boy…there is an organization in this land, created by high mage Lezaford three hundred years ago, working in tandem with clans to protect the peace of Jylland. They are known as the Jylland Defenders of Peace."

Ensei used Luso's shoulder as leverage to help him to his feet. He walked towards the professor before turning to face everyone.

"At the cornerstone of this organization are the judges, some of the most powerful warriors from across the continent and above them all…the Judgemaster." Both Auggie and Andie flashed him a subtle yet coy smile, which he paid no heed to. "The unofficial strongest man in Jylland, Judgemaster Cid Randell."

"Unofficial?" Luso queried.

"There's always going to be someone out there that's stronger than you, lad." Cid answered. "Of course, a man or beast hasn't been found that can best Cid Randell at one on one combat." The Revgaji smirked. "Makes me proud to share the same name."

"All of this is well and nice." Vito intervened, stepping to the forefront of the group. "But it won't do us a bit of good if we can't successfully invite him to our side."

"And that's where this comes in." Sothe held up a wrapped scroll, tied together by a single black string. Everyone gathered around the circular table in the middle of the room as the scroll opened, revealing a few sheets of paper that were simply held together. However, each of these sheets was identical to the others, and all looked as if they had been carefully torn from a book. Sothe ruffled the hair of the black haired boy next to him, who smiled at his touch. "Sole was able to steal these straight from the Bishop's quarters in the cathedral."

Ensei's eyes widened as he scanned the sheets.

"These…are the missing pages…" Everyone turned to him, prompting an explanation. "A few days ago, when we had first arrived here, an inkling feeling that I had met with Vaticus before would not escape my mind. I decided to do some investigating of my own, to a visit at the local library…" He winked at Luso and Kanin, who had just realized he lied to them. "In the records of the off-limits section, I found a book with a list of Federal Offenders. There was always one page missing…" He lifted his eyes to Sothe. "…in more than one copy."

"So…you mean these are those pages?" Andie queried, bringing a hand to her chin.

"Exactly. Vaticus Finch is hiding something, and if he was in Federal Offenders, Judgemaster Cid will definitely look into the matter." He coughed, gathering the papers into one neat file. "Now it seems that we have only two more problems on our hands."

"Two?" Cheney looked puzzled. "Wouldn't getting this information to the Judgemaster be only one problem?"

"Yes, but there's also a second." He paused, and then continued. "It seems that Loin, Adelle, Raven, and that Black Mage are unaware of the Archbishop's scheme. I'm confident that if we can get one of these documents to Sir Loin, he could figure out the situation and hopefully persuade his daughter and the other two to join our cause. The only problem is how to reach them. We are wanted criminals of the city at the moment."

Silence followed, and the Parivir released a sigh. Sothe took command of the conversation.

"Let's not worry about that at the moment, though. For now, reaching Judgemaster Cid is our top priority. Without his help...tomorrow's wedding ceremony will spell the end of our city."

(Galleria Cathedral, Bishop's Quarters)

"Sir, it seems we have a problem." Ignatius remarked while entering the familiar setting of Vaticus Finch's private quarters. The room was fully illuminated by the blaring sunlight, which poured through the large glass windows on the far wall.

"What could it possibly be, Ignatius." Vaticus responded, sipping some of his tea while cloaked in a spotless white robed. "Apprehended or not, the Heretics and their supporters are now wanted criminals. There is no one left to oppose us."

"Judgemaster Cid Randell…" The eyes of the red haired priest shot open, and he barely managed to keep from choking on the hot liquid. "It seems he wishes to speak with Governor Aquila… tomorrow morning."

Vaticus took another sip, a pondering look on his face. Ignatius watched on, waiting for instructions from him.

"Very well. Take him to the governor. Aquila wouldn't dare reveal any unnecessary information." He narrowed his eyes and set his tea down on a nightstand to the right of his bed before walking past his reptilian subordinate.

"He is well aware of who is in control here."

(St. Galleria, Governor's Building, the next morning)

"This way, Judgemaster." Ignatius Loyola declared, rounding a corner and gesturing to the flight of stairs that lay in front of him. The armored V.I.P. gave a curt nod and began to ascend said staircase, followed closely by his trio of Templar.

The Defender eyed Cid Randell's back warily before approaching the stairs as well, playing back the events that had transpired previously in his mind, though he dispersed them hastily afterward.

A half minute of walking placed the five man group at the entrance to the Governor's office, and a soft series of knocks on the wooden double doors granted them entrance. Ignatius made a respectful bow as the doors opened, locking eyes with Aquila for only a moment, before leaving him and the guests-of-honor to their private meeting.

"Greetings, Judgemaster Cid." The governor offered a firm hand, which the brown haired male returned with an armored glove of his own. "I trust you've had a relatively safe journey here."

"Indeed; perhaps almost…uneventful." Cid remarked with a curt chuckle. His three Templar took seats in the chairs that were set out specifically for them, before he followed them in their actions.

"So what brings such an esteemed individual to our humble city?" Aquila asked, placing himself back in his desk chair. "I take it your not merely sight seeing."

"Unfortunately, no. I'm here looking for a certain person. A few people, actually." He folded his arms. "Would you happen to know the whereabouts of a clan by the name of Gully?"

The governor's eyes widened considerably.

"I….apologize, Judgemaster. I cannot reveal that information to you." He breathed out a heavy sigh. "It seems that the situation they have been involved in has been deemed an internal affair of St. Galleria by the victim. Until this matter is resolved, no information can be given and the law restricts me from doing so."

"Is that so?" Cid quirked an eyebrow. "Of course, the Judgemaster has the authority to intervene in such a situation if it poses a clear and present danger to the area's current approved governmental system or the region as a whole. Now please…you may continue unhindered." He smirked, and Aquila grinned as he realized what the man was doing.

"Maybe there's some hope yet."

(St. Galleria, the Sole Fiore Inn)

Sir Loin looked to the sky as he walked along the white cobblestone path, spying a few birds circling around. It was a beautiful day out, a few puffy masses of cotton dotted throughout the bright blue heavens above; though these clouds did nothing to hinder the sunlight pouring through the atmosphere.

Taking advantage of his time off from guarding Maria, the Seeq decided to pay a little visit to Clan Gully while Adelle was out blowing whatever portion of reward gil she already had on new outfits or other material possessions. He hadn't truly spent any time with his dear friend Ensei since they had been in the city, and there were still things he wanted to ask. Most notable was the lock down situation, and what the governor had told them the day before regarding it.

And it was when he had asked the front desk clerk of the Sole Fiore Inn…that he realized that something was very off.

"So you're saying they never returned last night?"

"No, sir." The clerk responded, flipping through a small notebook. "Records show that the occupants of both rooms 15 and 16 haven't checked back in since they departed yesterday morning."

Loin simply nodded dejectedly, and the clerk went into a backroom to go about his business. The Seeq escalated the flight of stairs and ended up in a somewhat long hallway, spotting the two numbers on opposite sides father down the corridor. Upon testing the handle, he found the door to be strangely unlocked. That was definitely something Ensei wouldn't do unless he was returning shortly. Undaunted, he promptly entered the odd numbered room.

"It's surprisingly clean in here." The Lanista gave the room a quick scan. Neat beds, no excessive amount of alcohol, and all of their belongings were neatly packed on the floor, ready to be moved at the appropriate time. "Clearly, something's happened to them. Ensei would never clean until he was ready to leave." A sad, but accurate observation.

Out of the corner of his eye, he eyed a green covered tome sitting on a nightstand. He felt an urge to check it out, and acted upon that feeling swiftly, picking up the book and reading the title inwardly.

"Galleria Wildlife…hmmm…an odd choice."

The Seeq had flipped open the book, wondering why in the world the Parivir would care about such information and expecting to see creatures pertaining to the book's namesake. However, what he found was completely different than expected.

"A list of…Federal Offenders?" The sound of rustling pages filled the room as Loin searched throughout the book, chuckling in memory of some of the entries. "Ah, here are the old Veluga Pirates. They were a troublesome bunch, but good for a few cheap laughs." He flipped over a couple more pages, nothing really catching his eye until he uncovered a strange anomaly with the book.

In the J section, there was a page missing.

(Flashback)

"Hey, Loin." Ensei began mysteriously, taking a sip of his drink.

The two men sat on matching stools positioned in front of the Pub counter, as it was only possible to order something alcoholic from said area. The rest of their clans and groups, as well as Clan Falzen, were seated deeper into the pub, making sure to devour the feast bought for them. Luso and Cid particularly were enthusiastic, gorging down food without forethought for chewing. They did have a bet with Claire to win, after all.

"Yeah?" The Seeq slammed his empty glass down onto the counter before signaling for a refill. He turned his head to the samurai groggily.

"What did you think of that Archbishop?" Ensei's eyes held a hint of mysteriousness in them. The Lanista raised a curious eyebrow at him while narrowing his eyes. "Did he seem….familiar to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do you remember Jacobus Sicuro? Doesn't he look an awful lot like him?" Loin immediately discharged his drink from his mouth in a most unpleasant fashion.

"Ensei, now you're just being crazy. There's no way that kid could possibly a holy man in such a city as this. Look, this whole Sothe business has left us all devoid of sleep; maybe you just need a good night sleep."

The Parivir swished around the ice in his cup, staring at the glass.

"Yeah, maybe you're right…"

(End Flashback)

Loin carefully closed the book, his eyes widened in shock, before quickly making his way out of the room, making sure not to slam the door on his way out. One thought dominated his mind as he stepped gloomily down the hall.

"What if I was wrong, Ensei…"

(St. Galleria, Heretic Headquarters)

"Where are we going?" Luso questioned, following Ensei down a hall in the hideout and making sure not to trip over any of the loose floorboards he encountered. The Parivir continued looking ahead, his attention focused elsewhere.

They reached a door at the end of the hall, and upon opening it, encountered a room devoid of any furniture or items; just lingering clouds of dust and a small window at the far wall to provide illumination. The duo entered, and Ensei closed the door behind them.

"What are we doing in here?" A series of coughs erupted from the boy's throat.

"I've been slacking off because of all that's been going on recently." He turned to the brown haired adolescent. "It's time for you to learn some new techniques, Luso. You're going to be training with Aura starting now…" The blue eyed fighter let out a yell of approval, before beginning a series of silent cheering. Ensei turned around and began to exit the door. "…see you in a few hours."

Luso ceased moving.

"Say what now?"

"This is the part of the training that you have to figure out yourself. I can help you with it." He responded over his shoulder. "Besides, I'm busy right now anyway."

"What am I even supposed to do? How do I train with it if I don't even know how to draw it out?"

Without warning, Ensei placed a hand on the boy shoulder and locked eyes with him, stunning Luso indefinitely. He whispered something in his ear, and then quickly exited, closing the door behind him and leaving Luso in a bewildered state.

Luso looked down to the floor before unsheathing both of his blades, staring at his reflection in the polished steel and repeating Ensei's words in his head.

"Find your resolve."

………………………………………….

Ensei returned to the main room and sat down at the circular table next to Cid. On his left sat Professor Augustus, and across from him, Sothe rested his elbows on the table surface. The remainder of the building's population was elsewhere, either taking Cid's advice to train or busy in another part of the structure.

"How exactly did you plan to meet with the Judgemaster, Professor?" The Heretic leader queried quirking an eyebrow in the Nu Mou's direction.

"As much as I hate making a scene, I petitioned to meet him tonight at St. Galleria's main pub when I had first informed him of the trip. If nothing has altered his schedule…that is where we must go."

"Understood." Sothe nodded. "Will you require anything manpower-wise?"

"I should be enough." Ensei answered, standing from his seat. "It would be unwise for a larger group to approach him, especially under our conditions. Too many people might be considered a threat…not that we'd stand a chance anyway."

"Right, then I leave this up to you two." Sothe stood from his seat and walked the perimeter of the table over to Ensei, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Don't fail us now. The wedding ceremony is tomorrow afternoon. If we're going to succeed, you must acquire his help tonight. Give the rest of my men hope."

Ensei smirked.

"You can count on us."

(St. Galleria, Galleria Tavern, Evening)

"Are you sure he's coming, boss? Maybe we gave him the wrong time."

"He's probably lost. He is quite directionally challenged."

"Not to mention blind...."

"Will the three of you calm down? I'm sure he'll be here any minute now." Cid Randell remarked to the trio of Bangaa Templar that sat around his table. The quartet were currently residing in the deeper reaches of the pub, surrounded by adventurers of all kinds and people who were just looking for a place to drink away their troubles. Odd, for such a holy city.

Sure, it wasn't anything like he was used to, being of such high regard and all, but he almost found the alcohol soaked air and soothing tunes of the performer relaxing…

"Watch out!"

Again…almost

The empty wineglass cut a path through the air with reckless abandon, colliding straight into the back of the Judgemaster's cranium and shattering into a rain of glassy shards. Gasps erupted from the crowded room as the noise caught the attention of most of the pub-goers. However, the calm emotionless face of the victim kept their attention.

The Hume, a dozen or so feet away, who had unintentionally tossed the glass in said victim's direction found himself completely detained on the floor. Two spears, a Lava Spear and a Gae Bolg, crossed each other over his neck, their pointed heads pierced in the ground. On the blunt ends of these spears, the scaly armored hands of two Bangaa Templar held them firmly in place, both with stony looks.

A frigid feeling ripped up the perpetrator's spine, and looked as best he could down to his feet. A solid sheet of ice covered him from the waist down, securing his lower half to the floor, and at his feet, a third Bangaa Templar wielding an Ice Lance looked down on him with cold eyes.

"You might want to watch where you're throwing things next time…" The Gae Bolg wielding Templar remarked with deathly seriousness. The golden hued dragon emblazoned on his breastplate seemed to shimmer.

Judgemaster Personal Guard Member: "Thundrake" Ogma

"…That is…if there is a next time…" The Templar with the Lava Spear completed his counterpart's threat, and both removed their respective spears from the ground. The crimson dragon adorning his breastplate seemed to have a fiery glow about it.

Judgemaster Personal Guard Member: "Firewyrm" Gerland

The Hume gulped aloud while shivering, though whether it was from the ice magic or from the fear, no once could tell. Regardless, the third Templar, an icy blue dragon embellishing his breastplate, offered the man a hand and silently helped him to his feet.

Judgemaster Personal Guard Member: "Icedrake" Nivus

"Alright, that's enough you three. Stand down." Cid called out from the table after taking a sip of his drink, as if unfazed by the entire ordeal that had just transpired. The trio did as they were told without hesitation, and the man hid amongst the rest of the crowd in fear. Attention began to wane, and the rest of the customers returned to their affairs, now perfectly wary of the Judgemaster's presence among them.

"You three are still overreacting to everything, I see."

The trio of Templar turned their heads westward, to find a hunchbacked elderly Nu Mou walking towards them with a Staff of the Magi being used as support. Next to him, a taller, Hume shaped figure stood. Cid could just make out the outline of a katana hanging at the belt under the brown hooded cloaks the pair donned.

"It's good to see you again, Judgemaster." The Nu Mou lifted his hood ever slightly, allowing only his piercing white pupils and irises to be seen. Cid's demeanor instantly brightened.

"Likewise, Professor Augustus." The Judgemaster's eyes shifted to Auggie's accomplice, who had not yet revealed himself. He sent him a look, as if gesturing for him to divulge his identity. With slight hesitation, the man pulled his hood up ever so slightly, and Cid stared at him in mild surprise.

"It's been a while, Ensei Rou."

Contact with the Judgemaster has been made. The wedding begins tomorrow!

(End Chapter Twenty One)


Character Corner

(Vito Ricerca)

Job: White Mage

Race: Human

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Green

Skin/Fur Color: Pale

(Description)

Former head physician of the St. Galleria hospital and one of the founders of the Heretics; after giving the Malboro flower to Crockett, unaware of its future use to poison Micaiah, Vito wasn't charged with treason as was the Moogle Animist, but unfortunately lost his position as a doctor. Since then, he has worked as the Heretics main healer.

"We have done all that we can. Only time will tell."

Vito, responding to Micaiah's concern.

(Likes and Dislikes)

Likes: Medicine, children

Favorite Food and Drink: Milk

Hates: Death, Murder,

Dreams: To hopefully one day study medicine at the academy in Rozarria

Favorite Color: Red

(Trivia)

-Vito, in Latin, means life, fitting for a man dedicated to the doctor profession. His last name means research. His constant bloodshot eyes are account to the hours of studying in the art of medicine and healing.


(Author's Notes)

Just wanted to get another chapter out before football practice begins. Not much else, so see you next time.