Title: excruXiation

Author: trickssi

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I own neither the characters not their scripted antics in Symphonia, Rodeo Ride Tour, and Dawn of the New World.

Description: Coming to terms with oneself is not an easy task, especially with distractions like the Ratatosk upheaval, relationship problems, and friends going berserk. In order to move forward, Zelos has to destroy an integral part of his past. In this chapter, themes are introduced and the plot picks up from the final scene in Symphonia.

Warnings: Major spoilers for ToS, the Japanese radio drama Rodeo Ride Tour, and Tos: DotNW.


Prologue


Once upon a time—not too long ago that nobody would live to remember it, but not too recent that anyone still cared about the mishap—a dwarf by the name of Altessa was found in his home and held at knife-point by Cruxis angels until he agreed to aid them in an experiment. Looking back, he had been lucky only to have been threatened with a knife, for the power of Cruxis could have easily rendered him a soulless husk. However, it would have been against their interest to disable their new engineer.

Cruxis entrusted Altessa with plans to create a non-human vessel for Martel. The last three Chosens of Sylvarant had gotten sliced to bits after only one test of their might, and it was putting Tethe'alla far too much in mana's favor. The solution was to use the new magitechnology being studied in the Greater half of the world to create a doll: a flawless, exact vessel for Martel's essence without the wait of sixteen years to make it. It would require only a little extra research, but the time wasted therein was exponentially less than the time it had been taking for these worthless human Chosens. And Mithos Yggdrasill was getting tired.

First, Altessa had to build the robotic structure of the girl. He forged a bargain with the workers of Ozette in order to get his material cheaply. Next, they took genetic remnants from existing lineages of the Chosen, picked out the perfect strands, and smashed them all together in an injection for the robot. Lastly, they attached an object that Altessa would learn was a Cruxis Crystal, which gave her life. Quick, thoughtless, painless—the objective in mind for this entire project, in his eyes. Little did Altessa realize that he had been working at it not for weeks, not for months, but for years before its completion.

The doll was only functioning for a few moments before she was charged with mana from the Great Tree. A few moments more would proclaim her a failure, as the body wouldn't take the form of Martel nor would it properly animate. No one, human, elf, nor half-elf, could figure out what was wrong, and so the project was starkly abandoned. Still, Altessa began to feel a great weight in his heart as he saw his life's work tossed aside. That doll, inhuman as she may have been, was still being used as a pawn in Cruxis's scheme and he had been responsible for her entire existence.

When Cruxis exiled Altessa to a cavern north of Ozette, they did not know the dysfunctional doll had been taken with him. Of course—there had been more pressing matters at the time of the failure that allowed his sneaking her body into his Iron Maiden. Altessa brought her into the house one evening and propped her in his work chair, awaiting Cruxis's next project because it could bring the resources to fix her. He began to call her Tabatha, which meant "she who is resurrected" in Ancient Kharlani.

Eventually, Cruxis realized that they needed a dwarf to refine and experiment with Cruxis Crystals. That was the break Altessa had been looking for. He didn't quite understand the theory, but he replaced the doll's old crystal with one of the refined ones one day.

Suddenly, the doll whose visage haunted his shortcomings sparked to life.

"Wh...y… am… I…?" she spoke with broken bursts of sound.

Altessa replied, "You were injured badly after you were born. You are now safe in the hands of Altessa the Dwarf." He paused for a moment before deciding to say, "Your name is Tabatha, and you were being very poorly treated. But there is no longer a reason to fear."

"Tab…ath…a," she repeated. "Ma…rte…l…"

But there would be no more talk of that. Altessa, by ignoring the cry for Martel, banished the name from his household and prayed that Tabatha would not ever dwell upon it again; for, if she did, she might discover that her existence had no point but to become a pawn the Cruxis organization in their terroristic reign. Tabatha would see decades without suspecting that her purpose had been more than to serve her Master father Altessa.

However, that was a different story, relying upon the fact that she remained isolated and unaware of the world outside of her home. That is a story for a world with ignorance and fear.

Zelos Wilder couldn't care less about how Tabatha felt a connection with Martel. All he knew—or rather, believed—was that the tale of Tabatha ended with one contradicting, quashing twist: Instead of separating from her Cruxis Crystal, Tabatha kept it until she merged with the soul of Martel, thereby submitting herself to its influence and admitting her body, her selfhood, was just a husk after all. What kind of lesson would that have taught him, if had he been a younger Chosen in a declining world?

Now he squinted to see whether or not the resulting Summon Spirit carried the jewel with her. He couldn't tell in the blinding sunlight that seemed to follow his group whenever something remotely good happened. Normally, he wouldn't have cared about what a Summon Spirit looked like, but there was some hope that in front of his eyes was another being who had known the trials he had gone through—wait, trials? How did he even start thinking about that?

Back to the "good," where all eight of them were bearing witness to the naming of the New World Tree. Lloyd proclaimed it to be "Yggdrasill," honoring their fallen "friend" and his sister Martel's contribution of mana to the tree itself. Perhaps he hoped that during their final battle, everyone had realized that Mithos was simply "misguided" and a "fallen hero."

There were only three beings left in existence that would have seen that for the bottom-line bullshit it truly was, and the only one present at the time was Zelos. Mithos Yggdrasill may have been misguided, but it was of his own conscious doing, his own decisions. And he sure as hell did not deserve honor for having blackmailed, manipulated, and slaughtered his way to angelhood. Especially not when it involved personal lives; Kratos and Lloyd, Yuan, Seles—expanding even now to the lives lost in cities like Palmacosta.

Zelos had quite a laundry list of personal grievances against Yggdrasill and his followers, perhaps amplified by the fact that he was once one of them. And every time he looked at Martel, he could see just that hint of metallic skeleton, that vestige of broken dreams shining through…

"—Hey," Sheena whispered sidelong to him. Drawn toward her voice, Zelos glanced to see the woman looking slightly irritated. "Pay attention!"

Fortunately, he resumed listening to Martel's words at a valuable time. She began in a calm voice, "I ask in the name of all that consists this New World that the name of this Tree hereafter never be spoken to those who did not bear witness to its birth. Out of knowledge that its name frightened and oppressed many during its owner's reign, we must keep it a secret until every soul that remembers it, excepting my guardian, has perished. May neither demons, devils, scoundrels, nor those with ill in their hearts tamper with this oath. You must swear to me your devotion in this to complete the seal."

"Lloyd Irving swears it on his life," Lloyd spoke almost immediately. Then, Colette beside him said, "Colette Brunel swears it on her life."

"Genis Sage swears it on his life." "Sheena Fujibayashi," "Regal Bryant," "Presea Combatir," "Raine Sage"; all shared their devotion to this promise.

Zelos paused before accepting that he, too, must join them in their sealing of the Tree, lest another force like Cruxis gain control and manipulate someone else's life as it manipulated his. "I, Zelos Wilder, swear it on my life never to speak the name of this Tree."