Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with chapter twenty-eight of The Tainted Grimoire. And as a side note, any beliefs expressed throughout my story are not my own. They are simply unique to the characters and their personalities. Just wish to clarify that.
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)= scene change
"Perhaps some Hedychium Pollen would do the trick?" A male voice wondered, stroking his lengthy white beard which protruded from the remainder of his silhouetted body. The shadows of his cabin, barely lighted only by a single window, did little to reveal his face.
He gazed at the black cauldron before him, filled to the near brim with a pool of emerald liquid and radiating a smell that could cause even the hardiest of stomachs to waver. He seemed to be completely unaffected by the stench, staring into the concoction calmly as the green smoke rose from its contents and entered his nasal cavity. He sniffed twice, then smiled.
"Yes, indeed some Hedychium Pollen."
Just as he took a step to his right, his ears were filled with a bellowing roar that caused the entirety of his cabin to rattle, knocking the various pots and pans lining the wall to clatter upon collision with the floor. The man reached out a hand to prevent his full cauldron from meeting the same fate.
Within the second, the roaring ceased, the shaking of his possessions and housing along with it. Once he was sure his cauldron had regained its balance, he made his way over to the window, though stopped as he caught sight of a large golden figure passing by, shaking the earth with each heavy step it took. The man could not visibly see what was occurring, but assumed the beast was departing, if the sound of flapping wings and increasingly distant roars were any indication.
"Hmm…he doesn't normally storm off in such a manner unless people begin to come close to the mountain." The man spoke to no one in particular, stroking the chin under his beard. Then, realization hit him at once, and his eyes brightened. "Perhaps visitors!?"
A few seconds passed, before his face grew reserved once more. He breathed out an audible sigh, grabbing the knobby wooden staff leaning against his doorpost on his way out.
"I should most certainly assure their safety."
Who could this old man be?
The skin crawls, the bones rattle with the thunder
The spine throbs, the silent voice withers
I slowly release you from my hand
And bid farewell to the realm of dreams
Chapter Thirty: Restless
"Your task…has just begun, Luso Clemens."
Luso Clemens remained perfectly still as he felt a pair of slender, feminine arms wrap around his upper torso. While initially shocking him, he managed to keep his face placid, allowing the warmth they radiated to wash over his weary body.
The boy hadn't even the need to open his eyes, to see the crystalline blue skin of the woman embracing him or the pitch blackness that surrounded him on all sides, to know that this was merely one of the many dreams that were beginning to frequent him as his time in this world passed on. He had begun to grow accustomed to him, accepting even, though he was not sure why. His only sure speculation was this:
Someone…something…had affected him in his last encounter with this woman.
He began to lose his focus, his muscles relaxing as he felt her flowing, ivory hair begin to engulf him, each strand delicately caressing his exposed skin. Clenching the right fist at his side, he steeled himself, and spoke in a cool-headed voice, continuing to face forward.
"Who are you?"
The crystalline being simply grinned without answering, its body fading bit by bit, molecule by molecule into the eerie darkness that enveloped them. He remained steady, growing subtly saddened as her warmness was gradually replaced with the bone chilling cold of the void.
Luso's eyelids peeled back slowly, eventually granting his bright cerulean orbs access to the darkened night sky above, not much of a change of scenery from his dream disregarding the twinkling white stars punctuated all around as well as the heat exuding from both Kanin and Adelle, the former's back was pressed against his chest and the latter's head nestled comfortably in the crook of his neck. A combination of the shady heavens above them and the light snoring noise emanating from their throats instructed him as to the lateness of the hour.
Rapidly blinking his eyes awake, he glanced around his surroundings. Hurdy lay seated upon his lap, leaning against him in the same manner Kanin was. The numbness of disuse had prevented him from the registering the Moogle sooner. Cheney sat directly across from him, leaning his head on a woven sack various vegetables and fruits the clan had purchased before setting out from Galleria. He noticed Professor Auggie just next to the Hunter, who was snoring peacefully in rhythm with his Dreamhare companion.
Ensei and Cid sat side by side in the driver's seat, the parivir keeping the chocobo of burden in check with the leather reigns in his hands, the Rev leaning back in silence. Luso could just see the Judgemaster upon his white chocobo steed and his three guards walking along the right side of the cart, the strong lantern Gerland carried providing an adequate light source.
"What time is it?" Luso questioned wearily, stifling out a yawn and catching the attention of Ogma.
"It's pretty late into the night." The Bangaa replied, keeping pace with the wagon. "I'd not waste any precious sleeping time, boy. We've got a full day of traveling tomorrow before we reach our destination."
While Clan Gully and the Judgemaster's party make there way deeper into the Aldanna Range…
Luso nodded and grunted simultaneously, quickly accepting the Templar's advice and shutting his eyes. Within moments, he was already at the beginning stages of snoring, and Ogma chuckled to himself as he secretly wished for a similar uninterrupted slumber tonight.
In the far off city of Moorabella, two associates converse.
(Moorabella, Jytras Mercantile Building)
A single Viera gazed longingly through the large glass office window out into the distance. Her light brown eyes eagerly took in the calming sight of the late evening Moorabella skyline, dominated by a number of elaborate building spires and snow capped towers.
Angling her head down to the street three stories below them, she watched as a number of pedestrians, mostly Nu Mou and Hume academy students returning from their night classes or the city library, hurried towards shelter as the snow began to pile with each passing moment. Merely eyeing the frosty particles floating from the heavens sent a cold shiver through her, and within the moment she grabbed a large Galmia Pepe designer coat from the rack a few meters to her left, draping its soft fur over her evening dress that matched the snow outside in hue. Warmth returned to her within the second, just another instance of the article of clothing living up to its colossal price tag.
A series of knocks on her office door broke her from her reverie, though did little to surprise her. Seconds passed before one of the double doors creaked open, a Nu Mou scholar shuffling into the room, a folded newspaper tucked under his arm.
"Have you received any more news, Coryn?" The Viera questioned, tucking a stray strand of her long white hair behind her head. The Nu Mou nodded, making his way around the ebony colored round table in the center and placing the newspaper in her hands.
"This one is fresh from the presses. It will start circulating by tomorrow." She unfolded the paper, taking a seat in one of main table's chairs. Seconds passed as she skimmed over the first page before her eyes widened considerably. The Scholar continued. "I believe it is as we feared…Vaticus has been apprehended by the authorities." A silence ensued for a few moments, before the Viera spoke, simultaneously continuing to read the article.
"It is…unfortunate to have lost such an influential partner at such a time as this." She refolded the newspaper and tossed onto the table, taking a deep, calming breath.
"What should our next move be, Lady Francesca?" Coryn queried. She placed her chin on propped up hands, shutting her eyes. Then, they gradually opened once more, and she raised herself from her chair.
"It would be unwise to delay any further. Inform them to move according to schedule. Also prepare me an escort. I shall personally be awaiting their arrival in Grazton."
The Nu Mou bowed his head in reverence, then exited the room, closing the door behind him. The Viera, allowing a few seconds for him to leave earshot, wandered back over to the large window, and once again began to stare out into the white distance, her light brown eyes glistening with sadness.
"The country is beginning to move…"
(Aldanna Range, Redclay Pass)
The mid-day sun hung to the east as Clan Gully's chocobo drawn wagon rolled along the path. Having opted to gather some exercise for the day, Luso Clemens strolled a marginal distance ahead of the wagon next Ogma, the two males acting as a lookout of sorts. He wiped the sweat from his brow while simultaneously reaching for the wineskin at his side that he had acquired previously. The warm water, while not as satisfying as a lower temperature would have been, nevertheless satiated his growing thirst for the moment.
Just before capping the canteen, he had noticed Ogma eye the item hungrily. The Bangaa, having known he had been caught, quickly schooled his face and looked ahead. He noticed out of his peripheral vision that Luso held out the canister to him.
"Would you like some?" His graciousness brought a smile to the Templar's face, and he eagerly guzzled down the liquid with the utmost haste.
"Thanks, boy. I was becoming pretty thirsty." The Bangaa held out the canteen towards him. It took just the sight of saliva covering the container for Luso to reject his offer of return.
"No, that's okay. I'm…not thirsty anymore." Ogma eyed him curiously, though shrugged moments later and continued to drink. "Besides, it's the least I could do for you guys, escorting us through these mountains and all."
"Hrah! I hardly consider it a chore." The Templar guffawed. "It's been a long time since I've been able to travel this much. Not everyday the Judgemaster leaves Bervenia. You could say this is a vacation for us." It eased Luso's spirits to know he wasn't burdening any of them.
"Luso!" A female voice called out from behind the two males' position, causing both to halt in their tracks and turn their attention. Kanin slowed her jog towards them as she approached, eventually stopping in front of her Hume clan mate. "The Judgemaster said that we're stopping here for lunch…"
Before the girl could even finish her sentence, both Luso and Ogma were already making a dead on sprint back towards the wagon, causing her to roll her eyes and giggle at their antics.
Every member of the group had gathered in a wide, irregular circle around a pot of boiling water heated by burning wood underneath, most licking their lips in anticipation of their meal. Both Luso and Ogma's eyes seemed almost captivated by the sight of Cheney dicing a few potatoes into the steaming broth, the two salivating comically, which brought an amused look to Adelle's face.
And so the group lounged around the fire as they awaited the arrival of lunch. Kanin volunteered to gather firewood as needed from some of the lower tree branches which grew from the cliff sides.
Luso, having finally adopted the old proverb 'a watched pot never boils' took a seat on the ground next to Professor Augustus, Hurdy, and Adelle. It wasn't long before the four began to converse, the aged Nu Mou instructing the trio about the geography of the area as well as the origin of its name "Redclay Pass", a name befitting of the smooth, burgundy rock that formed the ground beneath and the cliff walls in front and behind. Luso, while normally against the idea of any sort of learning, found himself wholly interested in the Sage's lesson, though whether it was from his teaching style or his curiosity of the world he had been thrust into, he could not say.
Every so often during the lesson he would look to his left, where both Cid and Ensei sat side by side, the former resting his eyes while he could. The later, however, sat perfectly still, as if subtly on edge. He noticed many a time that the Parivir was clearly visibly tense, though decided to dismiss it from his mind.
"Alright, I think it should be ready now." Cheney remarked while retrieving an iron bowl from the stack of cooking supplies at his side and pouring the edible concoction into it. The bowls were passed around in assembly line fashion.
Luso took in a good long whiff as his own bowl was passed to him. The broth, containing a mixture of diced potatoes and cockatrice meat, did much to satisfy his growing hunger and taste buds as he dove right in, ignoring the spoon that was passed to him.
"Could you be any messier?" Adelle, who sat on his left, commented with playful sarcasm, taking note of the sloppiness with which he ate. The boy paused while licking his lips, a pondering look on his face as if actually considering the question. The girl sighed in exasperation. "…Nevermind."
"So how far are we into the range, Judgemaster?" Cid asked preceding a spoonful of his meal entering his mouth. The brown haired Hume, in response, unrolled a map across his lap and scanned for a few moments. Then, he looked up.
"According to this, we should be exiting the Redclay Pass in less than a mile. Geography-wise, it should become more perilous as we draw deeper into the range itself."
"Speaking of perilous…" Cheney interjected, beginning to pack up his cooking utensils. "I find it quite strange that we haven't encountered a single monster since we entered the range. If memory serves, this area is usually riddled with beasts."
"These rumors you speak of are indeed factual, Cheney." Augustus chimed in, a twinkle in his eye. "It just so happens that we have a natural deterrent in our midst." His pupils rolled to focus on the Judgemaster. He continued as everyone adopted inquiring looks. "We've actually passed a number of monsters on our way here. I could see their mist signatures quite clearly. An animal will avoid those that it deems too great a threat to defeat. His mere presence in this group keeps them at bay."
"Now, now; flattery will get you nowhere, Augustus." Judgemaster Cid spoke with a pleasant chuckle. He stood from his seat upon a large, smooth rock and politely handed Cheney his empty bowl and utensils. "I shall run reconnaissance up ahead. I'll return shortly." The Hume strolled at leisurely pace, ruffling his chocobo's white head feathers upon passing the flightless avian beast.
"Is he really that good?" Luso asked Gerland, leaning to the Bangaa on his right, waiting to make sure the subject in question had exited earshot. Gerland paused for a moment as everyone perked their ears to hear his answer, a grim look dawning on his face.
"We…three brothers have, since the day we were born, experienced all manners of evil this world has to offer, witnessed the strongest of demons that have stalked the earth, have been through hell and back…" He look to Nivus, who stared absently at the ground beneath him, then to Ogma, who decided to pick up where he left off.
"…and we have never witnessed a more terrifyingly strong man as him."
Ogma's words and tone held such gravity that all remained silent for the next few seconds. For such a strong Bangaa to show fear such as that; Luso had no doubt the truth that lay in his words.
"Nevertheless…" Augustus decided to add on. "You can be sure that the deeper we draw into these mountains, the less cautious these beasts will become."
(Aldanna Range, Evening)
Adelle massaged her arms gently as frosty breath exited her mouth, glistening orange in the evening sunlight. Her black pet was nestled comfortably in her lap, curling itself to preserve body heat. The silver haired girl, taking note of that idea, grabbed part of the tarp that Kanin used as a cover and brought it over her body, wrapping the material around her shoulders.
The group was now well into the center of the Aldanna Range after having traveled without ceasing since their lunch break. Augustus had made it perfectly clear that he would like to reach their destination before nightfall, lest the range grow even more perilous. Judgemaster Cid led the group from the front upon his white Chocobo, while his three Templar guardsman and an eager Luso walked beside him. Clan Gully's wagon rolled along directly behind them, and held the remainder of said clan's members, including Augustus himself.
"How much farther do we have?" Hurdy said, turning to Augustus, who sat next to him in the wagon, both seemingly unbothered by the growing frigid temperatures.
"We should be nearing our destination soon, little one." The Nu Mou replied, patting the Moogle's head, before turning towards Ensei, who sat on the opposite side of the wagon. "Are you alright Ensei?"
"Yes, I'm more than alright." He responded. The Parivir had, for a while now, been sitting with a serene smile on his face. Occasionally he would inhale sharply, then gradually exhale, something which confused the professor. Upon performing the action yet another time, he continued. "The mist runs thick in these parts. It's such a refreshing feeling."
True to his words, the Mist in the upper portions of the range so saturated the air that it was visible to the naked eye, a feat not normally experienced by even the most seasoned of mages. As the group traveled further, the Mist particles had begun to gradually grow in population, causing vision to become more difficult as time passed on.
"Refreshing!?" Adelle queried, surprise in her tone. "I can barely breathe with all this Mist here, and Kanin can't stop shaking." She gestured to the White Mage, who shook slightly in place, her fingers massaging her temples as if infected by a severe headache. "I don't understand how you tolerate it so well."
"Kanin, how are you holding up?" Ensei asked, just now noticing his daughter's condition.
"I'm…I'm fine." The girl responded with a quiet voice, biting her lip in pain. Ensei looked upon her with a sad expression, knowing full well the source of her discomfort and his inability to solve it.
Without warning, the entire wagon came to an abrupt stop, causing all to lose their balance for a short moment, particularly Augustus, who landed on top of a helpless Hurdy. It took the group a few seconds to gather themselves, before Ensei lifted himself and leaped out of the wagon onto the flat stone ground.
He peered toward the front, where Judgemaster Cid, Ogma, Nivus, Gerland, and Luso led the party; seeing nothing unusual other than the Judgemaster's hand held up in a 'stop' form. The remainder of the party climbed out of the wagon, joining Ensei at his position.
"What's going on, Judgemaster?" Cid called out from his wagon's driver's seat. The Rev raised a curious eyebrow as the Judgemaster failed to give him a response.
As if on cue, he met the answer only moments later as a deafening roar blasted throughout the area, increasing in intensity as it echoed off the canyon walls. The noise was enough to cause everyone to shield their ears as well as elicit a scream from Kanin.
A powerful thud eventually followed that roar, impacting around dozen meters in front of them and causing the even the firm stone beneath them to reverberate. Ensei, Luso, and the three templar immediately drew their respective swords and spears, anticipating the arrival of their first monster encounter since entering the range.
Cheney, readying his bow, peered through the Mist towards his foe, the increasing force of the beast's footsteps giving clear indication that it would be no simple skirmish.
That realization was confirmed as the monster came close enough to be clearly seen by everyone.
Scarred, hardened scales, most likely resulting from a combination of experience and age, covered the beast from head to toe, their hue more golden than the visible Mist that radiated from them. Under them lay a full layer of muscle that covered almost every available of inch of the beast and majestic golden wings stretched wide, creating a draft that almost threw Luso off balance. Regaining his footing a moment later, he stared into its gaping maw, lined with the sharpest of fangs, excess electricity spewing from its gullet. Its eyes were naught but a deep crimson shade, devoid of any pupils, yet still able to pierce him to the core.
To say that Luso was frozen in fear at the sight of this majestic beast would be a sore understatement of the actual feeling. His entire body would not move, and at this moment he wasn't sure if his heart was still beating. For the first time since arriving in Jylland, he felt absolute, unbridled fear.
This was his first encounter with a Thundrake.
It would not be an encounter he would soon forget.
The golden dragon reared its head back, a bright yellow light gathering at the base of its throat, electric sparks beginning to dance around its head.
It only took Ogma, whose alias was named after their current opponent, a moment to realize the creature's next move and without even registering in his mind; he began to shout towards the group behind him.
"It's using Shock Bolt-"
The Bangaa hadn't even the time to finish his call as the mighty, lightning-wielding dragon spewed its payload out in an orb of concentrated energy. The powerful electricity filled blast rocketed towards Judgemaster Cid's position, crackling violently as it rapidly tore through the wind. He held his hand out in front of him, not even bothering to dismount his chocobo, as the remaining members of his group had already begun to backtrack in a sprint.
The lightning coated blast struck, exploding in mixture of lightning and smoke as it made contact with its destination, capturing the attention of all those fleeing. Cid shielded his brown eyes while raising a curious eyebrow, puzzled as to why the attack had detonated before it even reached him. His musings were answered in the following seconds, the smoke dispersing into the prevalent Mist around them.
All laid eyes on the figure before them that had spoke, a light brown skinned, moth-eaten old man. His purple robe, consisting of worn yet still presentable purple fabric, hung loosely around his body. Perhaps his most notable feature was the lengthy, unkempt, snow white beard that stretched from his face all the way to around his kneecaps. A winding wooden staff with a majestic cerulean orb at its peak was clasped between his hands, and various trinkets hung from its top.
"Now, now…that's quite enough Gilmunto."
Everyone except for the Judgemaster and Professor Augustus stared in disbelief as the mighty, imposing dragon not only heeded the small elderly Revgaji's commanded, but approached and kneeled before him as well. The man smiled, giving the beast a reassuring pat on its head.
Luso gazed in absolute wonder as he turned to face the group, his icy blue eyes capturing the boy's own. The man spoke, his tone jovial.
"Now, what brings you to these parts, young travelers?"
Former Royal Court Wizard of Archduke Beaudonis: Lezaford
A Fateful Encounter!
(End Chapter Thirty)
And there is chapter thirty. We are finally out of the St. Galleria Arc, and are steadily moving along. Next chapter, Luso begins his procedure to grow stronger, so don't miss it!
On a side note, I encourage anyone who has not beaten FFTA2 to do so soon. The reason for this is that you will be able to grasp some of the more hidden aspects and references of the story, as opposed to someone who has not gotten very far or not played at all. It's not necessary to enjoy the story, but it is a bonus.
Until next time.