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"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change


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.

Luso comes face to face with Lezaford!


Luso Clemens

Step by step, we keep moving forward

Chapter Thirty One: The Mistwalker


"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?"

"Young? Haven't been called that in quite some time." Professor Augustus responded with a chuckle, stepping forward from the group. A smile grew on Lezaford's face, and he made his way over to the aged Nu Mou, using his staff as a walking stick.

"You might as well be a newborn compared to me." The elderly Revgaji leaned forward with his arms stretched, giving Auggie a welcoming embrace, which was returned in full force. "It's good to see you again, my friend." They released promptly, and he turned to the other, mostly unfamiliar people that his companion had brought with him. "Come, my guests. We should promptly seek shelter, lest the night and all its creatures fall upon us."

…………………………

The mountainous air, while still permeated with an ever increasing Mist saturation, was cool and clear, especially at night. A slight breeze only furthered chilled the caravan as they made their way towards Lezaford's cottage, traversing a path that bore almost no sign of regular traffic. Beasts of the night could be heard roaring in the distance as they eventually reached the wizard's dwelling, a structure set atop a cliff face that towered nearly thirty feet above them.

Ogma inwardly scoffed as he leapt directly from their position to the summit of the cliff, landing gracefully in a crouch and turning back to peer at the rest of the group from the top.

"So how do we get up there?" Luso queried, staring at the Templar above him before turning to Lezaford.

The Revgaji merely smiled coyly at the boy, then motioned for the remainder of the group to conglomerate around him. Then, he held his staff vertically in front of him. A mumbling sound emanated from the old man's throat and, within the same second, a great magical circle formed on the earth beneath his feet, encompassing the entire group and causing them to stare at the ground in surprise. All became bathed in light blue light, and moments later vanished in a large spike of that same light.

Luso wasn't sure as to what had just occurred. As his eyes cracked open, he took in the surrounding landscape, noticing the medium sized wooden cabin and its surrounding trees. He turned around and walked towards the rim of the cliff, peering over its edge, spotting the area which they previously occupied. The whole of the group--Chocobo, wagons, and all—were all settled firmly atop the cliff.

"That's some pretty powerful teleportation magic you have there." Cid remarked in subdued awe towards his fellow Revgaji Lezaford, unknowingly voicing everyone's inward thoughts.

"Tis but a paltry spell." The wizard replied with a reserved smile, walking forward towards his cabin. He directed a hand to his right, where a small fence made of petrified wood stood erect next to a large boulder. "Feel free to harness the Chocobo. This area is relatively safe from the beasts of the wild."

As Ensei unfastened Clan Gully's beast of burden from the wagon, Lezaford led the rest of the party towards his cabin. The rapidly darkening orange sky behind it served to silhouette the quaint structure, which reminded Luso of some of the log cabins he had seen in history books, though noticeably more elaborate. Its roof bore a grayish white hue to contrast the dark wood of its walls, and a chimney stack released a thin trail of smoke.

He noticed some shallow termite damage along the wood as they ascended the deck stairs which led to a small patio area sheltered by an overhang. The wizard placed a wrinkled hand on the door handle, and with a small jerk entered, the others filing in behind him.

"Welcome to my humble abode. Please make yourselves comfortable, though I urge you to refrain from touching anything."

Luso, Kanin, Adelle, and Hurdy all gave the room a wide-eyed once over as they stepped inside first, the warm temperature of the interior comforting their respective skin and fur. The room itself was bland to say the least, with gray stonework for the floors and wooden walls climbing up to a rather tall, pointed ceiling. The only sources of light in the room came from the dust covered window on the right wall, the dim flames flickering in the fireplace, and a large plain iron chandelier that seemed like it belonged more in a dungeon than a cabin.

It was, however, the various trinkets and other items that captured their attention. A full-size, intricately woven red rug stretched most of the length stone floor while the pelt of some furry creature rested just before the fireplace. Luso surmised some sort of wolf type creature, though as to why it had arms and legs as opposed to four paws left him baffled.

They walked further in, noting the desk area right below the cabin's only window. A carved oak table served as said desk, holding up the weight of a crystal ball, a few books, an unlit, three-pronged candelabrum, and other minute trinkets.

Adelle, in wonder, wandered towards the back, where a worn staircase gave entrance to a second story, balcony type area. She ran her hand along the bookcases that covered the wall, taking note of the amount of dust that had accumulated upon the books, maps, and other magical items stored on their shelves.

"This is some place you have here." Hurdy stated in awe, his blue eyes focusing on the crystal ball on the desk table.

"Thank you." The Rev replied with a smile. "Do mind the lack of sanitation. It has been quite some time since I've had the chance to tidy up, not that I receive guests very often, if your journey here was any indication."

"We understand perfectly." Both Luso and Adelle chimed in with deadpanned expressions, the former ascending the stairs alongside Kanin while remembering the long, treacherous hike through the range. All three adolescents sat on the edge of the balcony, their legs dangling off between the open slits in the railing. Ensei, having finished harnessing the Chocobo, finally made his way in and joined the rest of the group as they found seats on the floor, facing Lezaford.

The aged wizard chuckled before releasing a few strained coughs, making his way over to his desk. He pulled out a chair, fashioned of the same dark-stained wood as the table, and placed his frail body upon it, leaning his staff against the desk as well. He turned to the group.

"Now, I know better than to assume you came here for just a visit, Augustus." He said with a wry smile.

"You would be correct in that." The Nu Mou mirrored his gesture in return, then cleared his throat before continuing on. "I would like to request use of the teleportation circle in your basement."

All adopted confused looks, except for Ensei, whose face remained placid. Lezaford raised a curious eyebrow, lowering his head and taking on a more serious tone.

"And where exactly would you like to travel to…that you couldn't already reach by airship, Augustus."

Silence pervaded the space for three seconds before the Nu Mou answered, his tone anything but jovial.

"Jagd Zellea."

Silence returned once more, though in greater force than before his words. Almost all eyes were fixated on the Sage, most of confusion, the others of realization. Lezaford sighed. He, in all honesty, knew what the Nu Mou's answer would be, as his teleportation circle was only linked to one destination. Perhaps it was a small glimmer of the hope he would say something different that required him to ask. His hopes were dashed.

"Augustus…surely you can't be serious…" Judgemaster Cid spoke as he turned to the Sage, his voice carrying the slightest tint of hesitance. "You mean to tell me that Zellea is the place you chose to conduct the procedure?"

"I am afraid so." The spellcaster replied distantly. "It's the only spot that I could."

"What exactly is this Jagd Zellea place?" Luso queried, confused as to everyone's surprised state. All remained quiet for a moment before the Judgemaster spoke up.

"There are places in this world that contain so high a saturation of Mist that it interferes with airship engines, preventing any from approaching. Because of this, many countries see no point in colonizing or keeping order in them, so they generally turn into lawless zones, full of crime and disease. These areas are called Jagd's."

"And then…there is the most dangerous Jagd in Jylland, Jagd Zellea." Ensei chimed in, his voice eerily distant, as if recalling a memory. "It's so hazardous that the government has quarantined the Jagd off entirely, forbidding all entry. There have been rumors that there's something there they don't want the populace to know of…" He received a quirked eyebrow from the Hume Cid, then shrugged in response. "…though those are only rumors."

"…Right…" Judgemaster Cid gave the Parivir another wary look, cleared his throat, then began to explain. "…I have no knowledge of such activities, though I do know that there isn't a person on this earth fool enough to brave its crags alone."

Professor Augustus turned to the brown haired Hume, and gave him a grin, a glint in his sightless eyes.

"Precisely, and that is exactly why we have you, Cid." He paused, his grin widening, then continued. "I would like you to escort us into the Jagd, long enough so that I can perform the surgery."

The two locked eyes for the preceding moments, the Sage's ivory orbs failing to yield to the Judgemaster's own. It was with a great sigh that the Hume finally conceded, turning away from him as if in defeat. He muttered audibly.

"Very well, we will escort you." He turned to his three Bangaa bodyguards, each suddenly standing at attention as he made his way towards them. "Ogma, Gerland, Nivus; come with me. We must thoroughly prepare for this operation." After a respectful salute, the group exited through the front door, the Templar filing in line behind their leader. Augustus waited for the sound of the door shutting before he spoke, directing his head to balcony.

"Luso, come quickly. It will take all night to prepare for the procedure, and we can't afford to waste any time." As the boy nodded and vaulted from his seat, pelting down the stairs, the spellcaster turned to Lezaford. "If I may, I would like to borrow a separate room."

The great wizard pointed to a door just to the left of the staircase's first step, a door comprised of differently colored boards of wood, ranging from light to dark. The Nu Mou stood still for a moment, confused as to why he hadn't said anything. Luso approached, gave him an embarrassed grin as he remembered the Sage's lack of sight, then promptly guided him by the wrist to the door.

Ensei chuckled to himself, then looked up to Kanin, who still sat on the balcony.

"Kanin, make sure to help Augustus with whatever he needs." The blonde haired nodded with a perky smile, heading down towards the room as well. Once she had closed the door behind her, Lezaford began to speak.

"I realize it is not much, but your clan is welcome to abide here for the procedure's duration, Cid."

"Thank you." The Rev replied in good spirits. With a gesture of the hands, Cid motioned for all the remaining members of the clan to head outside to gather quilts and other sleeping essentials.

…………………………

Luso Clemens tiptoed silently across the stone floor of Lezaford's cottage, doing his best not to disrupt the slumber of his clan mates, who lay sprawled out across the floor, wrapped in quilts. He found moving quietly to be much easier due to his less burdening outfit, a simple, ashen-colored cloth shirt and matching pants. A long brown robe was slung over his shoulders, covering his body from the stinging cold of an early morning in the Aldanna Range. He stepped over Cheney, who had managed to occupy the space in front of the door, before grabbing the handle and giving a light yank.

Exiting the structure, his eyes were met with one of the most beautiful sunrises that he had ever seen. The bright white-orange light captivated his pupils in a way that only the mountain elevation could accentuate.

"Ah, young one." The boy's eyes were diverted to the right, where Lezaford stood, staring back at him with a warm inviting smile. The Rev motioned the young man to come beside him, and he complied without hesitance, trotting over. He paused though, as his eyes moved to the slumbering golden dragon resting next to him. The wizard gave him another motion, signaling safety, and the boy continued. "You fear Gilmunto?"

"Let's just say that he didn't make the greatest first impression." He replied, eyes darting over nervously every few seconds. The elderly Rev let out a chuckle, which prompted Luso to raise a curious eyebrow.

"In all actuality, boy, he is more fearful of you than you are of him." This caused him even more confusion, evident on his face. Lezaford began to explain. "You see…all monsters have a very limited ability to sense Mist, but Gilmunto possesses a much more acute sense. It's as if he relies on it." The Wizard began to run his hands over the beast's scales.

"As I've been informed, your body is unable to process Mist. Without that Mist, Gilmunto cannot identify you." He smiled at Luso. "All beings fear that which they do not understand."

"I see…and when animals are afraid…they attack?"

"Precisely. Those in tune with the Mist are liked by animals." The Rev spoke distantly, staring once again at the sunrise. A few moments passed before Luso continued the conversation, his cloak and hair ruffling in a small gust that blew past.

"So what are you doing out here so early?"

"I simply decided to watch the sunrise. And you?"

"The same." The boy stifled out a yawn. "Auggie kept me up the whole night with all the medicine I had to take."

The Revgaji nodded in understanding, and a comfortable silence between the two followed, each staring out into the ever rising, brilliant orb that dominated the eastern sky. After a minute of this quiet gazing, Luso decided to speak.

"May I ask you a question?" Upon seeing the nod of confirmation, Luso threw back his robe, revealing the object tucked under his arm. He lifted it into the air; a journal-sized, tattered tome with large golden rings beautifully adorned with intricate designs on the front and back cover. "Being a great wizard and all, I figured you would be the best person to ask. Would you…happen to know anything about this book?"

The wizard grasped the book with trembling hands, and brought it closer to his face, inspecting its surface like a jeweler scrutinizing a precious stone. He opened its cover, simply skimming through a few pages before closing.

"Hmm…this…tome is both familiar and mysterious to me. I…do not believe I would be able to give you any information as of now…" Upon seeing the boy's disheartened face, he smiled, continuing on. "Your operation should take around a full day to complete. I should have some for you upon your return." Luso cheered up at his statement, presenting his own broad smile.

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of the cottage door's hinges turning, followed by the heavy footsteps of an armor clad Bangaa walking out onto the porch. Luso and Lezaford turned to see Ogma, standing erect, his eyes fixed on the brown haired fighter.

"Come."

The two heeded the Templar's orders without so much as a sound, making their way into the cabin, being careful to avoid any of the bodies still slumbering on the floor. Halfway across the expanse of the floor, they laid eyes on the remaining two guards, Gerland and Nivus, standing on either side of a shoddy, wooden door, whose appearance was infinitely more worn than any other entryway in the cabin. An eerie yellow glow emanated from underneath, sending unexplained chills up Luso's spine.

Gerland reached for the handle, softly easing the door open. Instantly a large volume of Mist poured out from the newly formed opening, simultaneously creating a hissing sound. The amount of mist coupled with the rise in heat made Luso wonder for a moment if their group was entering a sauna. His suspicions were doused as he began descending the creaking, wooden staircase.

"This will assuredly be the most dangerous task that you've experienced yet. There's no guarantee that you will come back, let alone survive the procedure." Lezaford briefed as the group traveled downward step by step. Luso remained quiet, rather laying eyes on the sights in front of him.

The room, from the walls to the ground, was comprised entirely of a greenish colored stone, on the borderline between rock and outright crystals. Various stalactites, more akin to pointed masses of softly glowing emerald, hung from the ceiling, unaccompanied by their stalagmite kin on the floor. It was like a cave, manually carved out of the rock which the cottage itself sat upon.

In the direct center of the room sat Augustus, his staff lain out in front of him and his eyes closed shut. A colossal, elaborate magical circle, reaching over twenty feet in diameter, stretched from wall to wall, glowing an almost blinding white with golden Mist radiating from it like smoke pillars. Judgemaster Cid stood to the side, directly next to a stand that held a large stone of Magicite, making sure not to disturb the Nu Mou. Both looked up as Luso, Lezaford, and the three Bangaa reached the bottom stair.

Augustus sent him a wry smile.

"Ready?"

Luso returned with a confident grin.

"Let's go."

The Time has come!


(End Chapter Thirty One)

Alright, there's thirty one. It was really short, but it was only to set up for next chapter. Nothing much else to say, so see you next time.