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
"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.
Luso returned with a confident grin.
Luso and company ventures into the portal!
Chapter Thirty Two: The Mistwalker 2
The faintest of traces of morning sunlight pierced through the dusty window curtain of Lezaford's cottage, finding its way towards the face of Kanin Heldig and consequently rousing the girl from her slumber. With a muffled grunt she rapidly blinked her eyes open, allowing her brown orbs to adjust. She found herself extremely tired, most likely due to the long periods of traveling the clan had gone through these past few days.
If it weren't for the booming, rushing sound that had burst from behind the closed, cellar door, she would have gone back to sleep.
Her attention instantly turned to said door, where not only golden Mist leaked out from every available crevice, but an overpowering sense of dread as well. She found herself completely frozen in place, her now wide eyes transfixed on that one spot.
"Hmm…well aren't we eager to get going?" Professor Auggie commented in a jovial sarcastic fashion, wobbly standing to his feet and retrieving his staff. "That's good, that's good. After all…that confidence might just be what saves your life, young one."
"The circle is prepared for transportation, correct?" Lezaford queried, making his way over to the large elevated Magicite stone, which seemed to serve as the power source of the circle.
"Yes." The Nu Mou nodded. "Though it wasn't easy, I must say." Even with the strong façade, Luso could tell just by the sound of his chuckle that Auggie was both physically and mentally drained, though out of respect for the Sage decided to stay silent.
"Alright, let's get going. We'll need as much time as possible." Judgemaster Cid spoke, heading towards the center of the circle where Auggie stood.
Luso eyed the circle carefully, initially fearful to place his bare feet on the surface. Though, with some positive, silent coaxing from Nivus, he stepped out, finding the emanating mist warm to the touch. With his newfound assuredness, he jogged lightly over, joining the two men in the center.
Nivus and Gerland soon joined the three, followed lastly by Ogma, who held up a large wooden crate on his right shoulder. Luso was at first perplexed, though soon surmised that it was medicinal tools used for the procedure. The Bangaa gently set the box down upon reaching them, and the boy's assumption was further verified as a heavy 'clank' resounded.
"Is everything prepared?" Lezaford asked one last time, receiving a series of nods from each individual. "Very well then…" Suddenly, he dexterously spun his knobby wooden staff above his head at quite an alarming rate. Luso's eyes widened at the sheer speed of rotation, a feat so dexterous that he never could have imagined such an aged man could accomplish. The spinning ceased almost as soon as it began, ending in the Revgaji slamming the tip of the staff into the ground.
One last smile followed.
Without warning, the entire magic circle exploded in a shimmering burst of light of gale force winds, blinding the vision of all at its core. Loose elements of the clothing, such as capes and robes, began to wave about with the breeze generated.
Meanwhile, Lezaford shut his icy blue eyes and began focusing, placing a second hand on his staff. His voice was monotone as he spoke, void of all emotion, though held a sort of otherworldly quality.
"Heart of the south, eye of the north, hand of the west, foot of the east. Arrive with the enshrouding Mist. Depart with the consuming gale. The shepherd's staff; the stone that bridges worlds." The circle began to glow brighter with each word the Rev chanted. "Carriage of Zomala, encircle us; grant us your passage and fly though the heavens."
Auggie placed a comforting hand on Luso's shoulder as the radiating mixture of light and wind grew at its fiercest point, causing the dust in the room to circle them. Lezaford's voice reached its highest point.
The magical buildup reached its most critical point, erupting in a mass of blinding light and visible Mist and shaking the room violently. That explosion soon died down into a large yet soft blue glow. By the time Lezaford had looked up at the group, their bodies had already vanished, leaving not a single trace of their earlier presence other than scattered cracks in the dark green, stone floor, a result of the powerful magic used.
The Revgaji lifted his staff from the ground, then looked longingly at the empty space before him.
(Jagd Zellea, Footfalls of Despair)
Luso stared blankly at the scenery before him.
The most apt word to describe what he believed to be Jagd Zellea was a wasteland, in every form and sense of the word. The haunting cries of some distant beast could be heard from the area, the only sign of native life, plant or animal-wise. Assorted stone pillars, each of different sizes, shapes, and designs, rose towered over the landscape. The ground itself was wholly comprised of a badly charred stone, varying only in color with different shades of gray and a range of different cracks ran through as far as the eye could see.
Which wasn't very far, considering the extremely thick veil of Mist that hung in the air, which was akin more to a fog than its namesake. Immediately after completing the transportation process, Ogma, Gerland, and Nivus immediately began coughing, obviously affected by the saturation. The Judgemaster also showed signs, though to a lesser degree. Both Auggie and Luso, however, seemed completely unaffected, the former already accustomed to high volumes of Mist throughout his years, the latter's body completely foreign to the substance and in turn unaffected.
That is…until today…
"There is no time to dawdle. We begin immediately." The professor barked out. Immediately all personnel moved, each one going to his assigned predetermined tasks. "Gerland and Nivus, you two draw the magic circle I showed you over there." The two nodded in confirmation and retrieved their spears from their backs, heading over to the spot he pointed out. Meanwhile, Ogma went about the task of breaking open their crate of supplies. The Nu Mou turned to Luso. "Come with me."
He grabbed the boy by the wrist and led him to the currently unfinished circle the two Templar were drawing, setting him down in the direct center. A few minutes later, Gerland and Nivus completed carving the design, a five tier magic circle, dotted on each layer's perimeter by symbols unrecognizable to Luso.
Following the Nu Mou's direction, the boy laid flat on his back, arms and legs spread out as far as possible. Ogma carried the supply crate over and placed it next to Augustus, who stood on Luso's right side. The Sage held out his right hand, looking down at the boy, then whispered softly.
Instantly, Luso's eyes became lidded, and he passed out into a peaceful slumber moments later. Auggie turned to Judgemaster Cid, who had been standing a little ways off, then nodded. The Hume returned the gesture, then turned to his trio of guards.
"Ogma, Gerland, Nivus, execute delta formation." The three acted with the utmost quickness, each taking a space along the circle, forming a triangle shape between them. The Judgemaster nodded sternly, directing his attention back towards Auggie. "This is our most versatile defensive formation, capable of defending from a nearly every point of attack."
Augustus merely nodded, and without delay began on his work. He reached into the supply crate and drew out an ornately decorated sheathed knife, hued in a pitch black with golden embellishments. He began explaining the situation as he set it upon the ground, reaching for other jars and materials.
"This surgery will require roughly seven hours. You must remain vigilant during this time period." He set down a jar full of polished, glowing crystals. "You can be sure that the beasts of these parts will take advantage of any moment of weakness you show them." His comment caused the three Bangaa to stiffen up. After setting down the last jar, a blue, jelly-like mixture, he continued. "How many have broken through this formation, Judgemaster?"
"Not a soul has broken through yet." He replied curtly, drawing his own Knightsword.
"I see…" His eyes narrowed dejectedly as he stared out into the faint distance. He counted himself fortunate that he was still able to see the Mist signatures of living beings even with the thick Mist that permeated the area.
He questioned that same fortune after view a few particularly large signatures, closing in on them by the second. He continued, speaking blankly.
"Let us hope that it is not overdue."
(Aldanna Range, Lezaford's Cottage)
"Oh, it seems you two have awoken?" Lezaford commented as he pushed open his cellar door and stepped out onto the main floor, his eyes resting on the shivering form of a young, blonde White Mage in the arms of her father, Ensei Rou. She stared back blankly in silence for a few moments, causing the Rev to raise an eyebrow of confusion. "What seems to be troubling you?"
"W-What…W-What was that…?" She stuttered out, the evident taint of fear prevalent in her tone as Ensei continued to soothe her by rocking back and forth in his lap. "So…dark…evil…"
"That…was the gateway to Jagd Zellea, right?" Ensei queried.
"Indeed it was." The Rev responded. "Some of the region's energy leaked back through the portal during the teleportation process. I did my best to contain it in the basement. It would be wise not to venture down there until their return."
"I don't understand. For so little of it to have affected her so much…" He spoke lowly, gently rubbing her back as her shivering gradually began to decrease.
"Tis but a matter of exposure." Lezaford countered, taking a seat on the ground next to him. "We have already been exposed to great amounts of such energy already. What might seem little to you and I must be torturous to a mere babe such as herself." He glanced over her, bringing a hand to his bearded chin. "Still I must say…she is quite sensitive to the Mist, much more so than most Hume I've encountered in my days."
Ensei's lips parted to respond to him, though he was cut off by a weak grunt from his daughter, who's trembling had all but ceased. He focused his attention on her before she spoke.
"Will…will Luso be okay…?"
"He will be fine, child. You need not worry." The wizard responded in a calming voice, performing much to the desired effect as she gave him a reassured smile, returning to a comforting sleep within a few minutes. The Parivir and magician remained silent during this time, merely enjoying the pleasant silence that was only interrupted by the remainder of the clan's snoring.
"There's…still something I haven't been able to figure out." Ensei said, breaking the quiet. Lezaford quirked an eyebrow, prompting him to continue. "When I underwent this surgery, I was already capable of using Mist like every other Hume. With Luso though, his body unable to gather Mist entirely, and I don't understand why."
"I see…" The spellcaster brought his hand to his chin once more. "Tell me this…where exactly did you meet Luso."
"In the Targ Wood, the forest around Wood Village. We were on a job gathering herbs for the local healing station. Kanin found him in somewhere in the woods." He paused to think, then continued. "Other than that... says he doesn't live anywhere, and that he's an orphan. That's about it."
"Really now…" Lezaford muttered cryptically.
"Well there is one other thing." He paused, recalling the memory in his head. "His clothes were very…odd in a way. Perfectly stitched, and the design was like nothing I've ever seen. But most important of all…he had an old tattered, journal sized book."
"Do you refer to this one?"
Ensei turned from his reverie over to the Rev, who retrieved a book matching his description from his purple robe. The Parivir's eyes widened in disbelief.
"That's the one! Did he give it to you to look over?"
"Yes, in the hopes that I would be able to present information for him." He brushed some of the dust off the cover with his wrinkled hands. "I have yet to delve into research, though I doubt I'd need search long."
"Why is that?"
Lezaford paused, his hands somewhat unsteady.
"I may be wrong, but…I have seen this book before."
(Jagd Zellea, Footfalls of Despair)
"Do you sense it…?"
Gerland craned his scaly neck backwards, where Augustus was currently cutting a small laceration in the unconscious Luso's right forearm. The Nu Mou didn't have time to focus his eyes on the Bangaa, but the Templar could tell the question was directed at him.
"The Mist is so convoluted and erratic here. I can barely sense anything." A bead of sweat dripped down the side of his head, hidden by his steel helm. "Though…I do indeed sense…it, whatever it may be."
"How far along is the procedure, Professor?" Ogma queried, joining in the conversation while remaining vigilant.
"It is only in its third hour." He replied promptly. "There is still a ways to go, including the most excruciating phases. Luckily, we are on schedule, and there haven't been many complications."
"That's good." Judgemaster Cid chimed in. "Still…the beasts of this area are known for their skill in tracking. There's no doubt in my mind that they know we are here."
"And with the enormous amount of Mist the surgery will soon generate, they are sure to come upon us." Augustus said, placing a small, white hued crystal in the open cut.
"Right." Cid agreed, lifting his Knightsword and resting the blade's flat on his plated shoulder. "Keep the formation tight, and let not a particle through." All three did as he said. It was after he took a few steps to the east that Gerland called out to him curiously.
"What are you doing, sir?"
He responded without looking back.
"Dealing with the problem before it becomes a problem."
The movement was instantaneous, like a bomb explosion. The man had vanished in a flash, leaving a might wind that gushed forth in his wake, causing some of the loose rocks in the landscape to roll away before settling down nearly a second after its inception.
"Quite impulsive, isn't he?" Auggie said with a jovial chuckle, not ceasing in his work.
"Yes. Yes he is." Ogma replied with the same good-natured tone. "Though if he wasn't, it probably wouldn't be as much fun."
"Indeed." The Nu Mou smiled. "Still…I should hope for his safe return."
"What's there to worry about, professor? He's the strongest man in Jylland. Nothing can touch him."
"It…seems as though you have been misled on that fact." There was a great pause after his words, all three Bangaa now curious as to what he meant. "There is truth in his title 'Strongest Man in Jylland', but he is still young. Do not be mistaken, young ones." His tone grew grave, his ashen, sightless eyes mimicking this sentiment.
"He is the strongest, but he is not the most powerful. This country is vast. Their numbers are few, but there are those that could match the Judgemaster in combat." He repeated his earlier action, performing another cut in Luso's left arm. "This is a fact I'm sure even he is aware of."
The conversation died down at that point, with the Templar taking in the revelation they had just heard. Trying to imagine a stronger being than their superior was beyond them, considering the many battles they had fought alongside him. It was a less than a minute later that Auggie would speak again.
"And this place, Jagd Zellea, is sure to contain beasts of that caliber."
Judgemaster Cid leaped high into the air in a lobbing arc, his SavetheQueen griped in both hands and raised above his head. As he neared closer to the ground, he brought the Knightsword down in a sweeping arc, easily swiping through the flesh of the beast in his path. Blood spurted out by the gallons from its chest as he continued past it, assuring his victory.
Or so he thought.
On pure instinct alone, he managed to stop his forward momentum, spinning around on his heel in time to parry the same beast, using the flat of the sword to stop its claws from progressing any nearer to his breastplate. They locked in place long enough for the Judgemaster to get a good look at his opponent.
The Behemoth was in every way, shape, and form the vilest kind of beast one could possibly experience, born solely for the purpose of brutally massacring its prey. Its long, red mane and purple hide were covered in shallow scars, indicating not only its history of battle but love of violence, if its blood stained claws were not evidence enough.
Even with its fierce presence, it took only a small effort from the Judgemaster to rotate the blade until its sharp edge pressed against the beast's palm and slice cleanly through its hand. A roar of total agony escaped from its throat, its piercing green eyes taking in the sight of its severed hand spewing crimson liquid. It stumbled backwards, loosing track of Cid in the process.
That would be its fatal mistake.
The entire movement lacked sound; no noise of his quick footsteps, no din of the blade connecting with the monster's neck. Only the sound of the Behemoth's severed head colliding with the rock beneath, and the subsequent thud of its body meeting the same fate resounded through the area.
Without even looking back at his fallen adversary, the Judgemaster continued on at the rapid pace he had before.
Judging by the amount of murderous intent and energy radiating in the eastern direction as opposed to before, he could tell he was drawing nearer. However, there was cause for concern. It had been an hour and a half since he had left Augustus and the others, and he'd not stopped other than for sparse skirmishes with the Jagd wildlife.
"If we could feel this pressure from an hour and a half's distance…"
His foothold ended just a dozen feet away, sharply morphing at a rigid cliffside. Cid sheathed his sword in the scabbard at his side, walking a few feet before stopping at the edge. His eyes stared straight down into the chasm, its bottom concealed by a dense fog of golden Mist. As he surveyed the new landscape, he found that the entire area was one huge bowl shaped canyon, filled halfway with said Mist. Various stone spires poked out from the Mist like mountain peaks breaking the plane of clouds at high altitudes.
What captured his attention the most was the colossal, mysterious silhouette that rested in the direct center of the canyon. From his distance, the Judgemaster could just make out part of its form by straining his eyes, the ever present darkness of the Jagd doing little to aid him.
"…Metal? Is it…a building?" He paused for a second, looking closer. "This place is definitely the source of that pressure we felt…"
Cid immediately discarded his thought process, his sword flying out of its scabbard as he leapt into the air once more just as an explosion of dust and debris erupted from his former position. He angled his head downwards, seeing three more Behemoth, two the same purple hue as his last enemy and the last a vibrant shade of green, staring up at him, ill intent surrounding them on all sides.
The green one, presumably the leader, let out a gruesome roar and instantly the two purple Behemoth followed the Hume in his jump, claws at the ready.
Cid spun his blade in his hand dexterously, eventually gripping it with both, then let out a gleeful smirk just as one of the Behemoth's claws collided with his Knightsword, a sharp, horrid ring filling the air.
Nivus, the perpetually silent Templar, shot his head up sharply. His two brothers noticed this in an instant, snapping around to see what had caught their sibling's attention.
Without a word of warning, the Bangaa slammed the butt of his Ice Lance into the ground in front of him, firmly planting it. He spread his hands out, making sure his palms faced forward. Seconds later, the area began to grow frigid, and a large volume of ice magic generated from those palms, forming a curving wall of ice that began to wrap around the perimeter of the magic circle.
"What's going on, Nivus. What is…?"
Gerland's question was answered at that moment when a sinewy, purple monstrosity crashed through the thick ice wall in between his and Nivus's position, letting out a revolting wail as it landed roughly.
It all happened in one moment.
Ogma spun around on his heel instantaneously, his spear already twirling around in his hand in anticipation for the already charging monster.
The Behemoth, following the base instincts of the animal kingdom, darted directly for the current weakest target, Luso's unconscious body and the Nu Mou looking up in horror at the beast.
Gerland called out loudly to the Professor to get out of the way, just as Ogma and the Behemoth made first contact. The Bangaa thrust his Gae Bolg forward at the monster's shoulder, already having lost the race to the center though still hoping to force the beast out of the Nu Mou and Hume's range. Metal pierced through the scale covered flesh cleanly, sinking deep into its shoulder and successfully knocking the monster over. It fell to the ground heavily, its arms and limbs locked in place as though it had been paralyzed.
Ogma breathed out a sigh of relief, yanking the spear from its flesh and ripping the scales around the site of impact. Electrical sparks danced not only on the spear but around the frame of the beast itself.
"What did you do?" Gerland asked, looking over at the beast from his position.
"I just electrically charged the spear." He replied, turning to his brother and subsequently turning his back to the monster. "It was the only to stop the charge."
Meanwhile, the Professor kept his eyes on the downed beast while listening to Ogma continue his explanation, his ivory orbs growing wide as he noticed the Mist inside it growing at an alarming rate. It took him only a second to realize what was happening.
"OGMA! LOOK OUT!"
The Bangaa turned around just as the Behemoth's massive claws slammed right into his side, fragments of the armor plates around the impact site splintering off. His body was blown right into the remains of Nivus's ice wall, cracking the ice upon collision before falling to the stone beneath.
Without giving either Gerland or Nivus time to react, it charged the few feet in between it and its targets.
Without forethought, Professor Augustus threw his body between it and Luso, his hands stretched out wide as to symbolize the prevention of passage.
"YOU SHALL NOT PA-"
And without the slightest of hesitation, the Behemoth brought its claws down in a vertical arc, piercing the fragile skin of the Nu Mou Sage.
A critical blow!
(End Chapter Thirty Two)
And there we are. It's a bit late where I am, so nothing of note really for now, other than this.
I'll be doing more "Tales of Gully" chapters in the future, chapters consisting of short stories about the clan members (and possibly others as well), and am always looking for more ideas. If anyone has any ideas for a short story, go ahead and send it to me in a PM or leave it in a review (provided you were going to write a review anyway. Don't like "empty" reviews like that.) Use as much detail as you can. Any input will be considered, and perhaps yours might be included, though be aware that I will only use it if I feel it will work.
Until next time!