Note: I do not own Sony Computer Entertainment America or any of its affiliates. Consider this a disclaimer to the ideas/characters presented in this story.
I haven't even looked at the Wild ARMs fanfiction section, so I don't know if this had already been done. Therefore, I guarantee that I'm not copying anyone's ideas (at least, not intentionally. If something seems similar, let me know, and I will change things. I do everything in my power to stay original and respect others' originality). I couldn't help myself, though; I'm a sucker for novelizations. Enjoy.
Note for this chapter: the Wiki for Wild ARMs suggests Rudy lived in Surf Village for several years, but I'm under the impression that Rudy passed through for only a short time. So I changed it for me :). I changed a few things for me, actually...
P.S. I promised myself I wouldn't post this until I was completely done, but I couldn't help myself! Besides, it might be a year or some before I'm done. No-one can wait that long!
Chapter One: For Hire
Rudy Roughknight sat at the bar at the Adlehyde Inn, staring into his ale. The bar top was glistening with puddles of alcohol spilled by the old men flanking him on either side. They laughed hard over shared tales, clanking their mugs and cheering aloud, adding to the din of the merry state of the entire town. It was to the entire kingdom of Adlehyde, in fact—the princess was to return home from a far off academy that practiced magic, and a grand fair was planned in her honour. Everyone was elated, full of fervor and excitement; it did nothing but drive Rudy further down into his feeling of displacement and rejection.
I'm not fit for anyone... he thought to himself, watching his ale ripple as the man to his left pounded the counter in his mirth. He'd arrived in Adlehyde an hour before because he had nowhere else to go. He didn't know what he was going to do. Then again, even after Mayor Pifer took him in several months ago, he felt stationed there, as if it were temporary, and he'd never feel like it was home. He was never close with the mayor and his wife, and it was evident the feelings were mutual once they asked him to leave town and never come back. That had been just that morning. They were frightened of him. Everyone in Surf was.
He's a monster!... he uses the ARM!... don't come near us, stay back!
It had been to save them, but it didn't matter to them after they saw the ARM. Rudy glanced to the long pouch that hung from his side, hiding his Hand Cannon, his ARM. It wasn't right for a human to use such a thing—they were an ancient item that were thought to be used by the old metal demons that roamed Filgaia, thought to have the power to destroy the planet. They were an omen. He was an omen.
For the first time since he laid down the gella for the ale, Rudy lifted the mug to his lips, and took a sip. As soon as the amber liquid filled his mouth, he spit it back into the mug. Being a man of fifteen had left him with little experience with drinking alcohol. The old man to his right slapped him on the back, and a bit of ale sloshed from Rudy's mug onto the counter, joining the league of alcohol from the other pub patrons.
"Aye, it's a hardy brew, ain't it, lad?"
Rudy glanced sideways at the cheerful man, noticing his long white beard stained with booze and the gaping holes in his smile where his teeth used to be. The younger man offered his own quiet smile, giving a quick nod.
"I was nigh your age when I had me first sip," the old man continued, but he turned back to his friend on the opposite side, "and, oh, Lord, was the world a brighter place..."
Rudy turned back to the ale, staring into its depths. The way that old man spoke to him was how everyone saw him; just a fleeting moment, a few words exchanged with a passing stranger, nothing more than another young man that would have no personal interest in others' lives. Even though he was getting older, even though he was trying to form the hard outer shell against emotion that he knew each man should have, he couldn't deny that it still hurt being an outcast. He wished someone would look at him again and give him that warm smile that only friends shared. It had been so long since he had felt its worth...
Rudy was the first to hear the pub's doors burst forth. He looked toward the front to see a middle aged man in dusty work clothes running in between tables, muttering a few words to each man he crossed. One by one, each man stood, abandoning their ales and cheerful faces, donning the looks of worry and responsibility. Soon, the entire pub fell silent, and whispers circulated the room like a cold wind. Soon, every man stood and filed out of the pub. Rudy looked up to the old barmaid standing before him briefly, and she flashed him a look of worry and concern.
"Ye best put on your best fighting greaves, son," the old man to his right said, clasping his shoulder tightly. "Looks like a call to arms is in order!"
Rudy watched the old man rise from his seat, and follow his friend out of the pub.
"I hope everything is all right," the barmaid murmured. Rudy looked to her. "The creatures have been becoming more and more lately."
Rudy looked to the door again, watching the other men leave. Would he do it again? Would he stand to the occasion, while people asked for help, just to run the risk of being shut out once more?
"Don't do anything out of your control, young man," the woman warned, "you'll be of no help to anyone."
No help. Even his most powerful gift was his most damning. No help to anyone—especially himself.
Rudy stood from the stool, leaving a few gella on the counter for the barmaid, then left the inn.
A small crowd had gathered near the front gates, and Rudy moved closer to join them. There were quite a few men, young and old, gathered near the front, while more townsfolk formed a ring on the outside, standing on their tiptoes to try and see what was going on. Over the loud murmur of everyone's whispers and worries, Rudy could hear someone trying to call out over their heads. He strained his ears to listen to the voice, but it was simply too quiet from where he stood. As Rudy joined the edge of the crowd, he suddenly saw a woman hoisted up into the air. She had short black hair, accented with a grey streak, and an unusually pink frilly dress. Despite the mirage of her sweet disposition, Rudy could see the anger and frustration on her face, even from his distance. She cupped two small hands around her mouth, then cried: "LISTEN!"
The hum of voices came to a sudden stop, and all eyes turned their attention to the woman at the front. Her hands moved from her mouth and clasped onto her hips. "That's better," she called over the crowd, her voice strong and dependent, carrying effortlessly over the distance. "Now, you're all here either because you heard that we were in need of some helping hands, or simply because you heard a rumour about an attack in the mines to the north. If you're here for the former, stick around; there might be some gella in it for you!" Some men cheered in approval.
Rudy had absolutely no interest in monetary gain, only in a place to stay and a livelihood to adopt, and he did not want another opportunity to be shut out by yet another town, by more people. Then, Rudy looked around to all the men standing before him, and he was torn; he did not want to be exposed as an omen again, but he wanted to feel included, wanted to find comfort within others. He'd spent so long living in isolation amongst people. His feet shifted slightly, trying to decide whether or not to turn and walk away.
"The earthquake you all felt this morning hit my excavation team up in the ruins to the north, and we've had a few setbacks..."
Rudy shot his head away, looking to a nonspecific point on the ground. He'd been in the Berry Caves just that morning, helping a little boy get some herbs that would help his father heal, but when he plucked the Holy Berry, the cave shook violently. Rudy had no idea that the entire Adlehyde kingdom had felt the quake. He was ashamed to learn that he had disrupted many people's lives that morning.
"...Normally, we wouldn't have so much of a problem, but the fact of the matter is that most of my mercenaries were injured in the quake, and the workers can't hold off the creatures that have come alive there on their own. That's where all of you come in; but we don't need ill equipped fighters where we're going, you'll only slow—" she wobbled a bit, the shoulders in which she balanced upon apparently giving out slightly. She corrected herself, smacking at the person underneath her, then repeated, "—you'll only slow us down. You'll be organized into teams, and your pay will be split amongst that group. Hey, no complaining!" she yelled, pointing to a nearby man, "it's too dangerous for one man to go it alone! Groups will be necessary for the safety of others.
"I'll give you half an hour to ponder to yourself and gather supplies. After that, anyone still interested will group together by the town gates again. Then—whoa! Goddammit, watch what you're doing!—excuse me... then you'll be organized into teams. Once again, if you can't fight, stay out of it! Emma out!"
With that, she slipped from view, disappearing ungracefully as her foundation apparently wobbled once more. Men began to break off, eying each other like an animal might eye its opponent for a slab of marble meat. Rudy was an independent worker, and often defaulted to taking the lone route, but he did not understand why everyone insisted in working against each other, especially when it was most obviously in their favour to work together. Rudy didn't know much about the cave of which this "Emma" spoke, but he could tell that it would be dangerous. The Berry Cave near Surf was proof that Filgaia had become a dangerous world. The fact that Rudy could wield the ARM was the reality of it.
As the crowd left to gather supplies, Rudy stayed rooted, thinking things over. He had a fair amount of bullet clips (found within the dark corners of the Berry Cave, discarded thousands of years prior) and healing berries, and he had no need for more supplies. His only concern was trying to decide if he should stay in Adlehyde, or if he should aid the other fighters in battle. He knew he was the youngest man in that crowd, but the power he had to assist them... would he risk his acceptance among these people once more for their safety? Emma's call for help seemed to be minor, but the way the man had rushed around the pub, summoning others out to the front gates spoke of more severity than Emma had. Perhaps she just knew how to keep her cool, she knew how to convince others to follow her lead. Maybe Adlehyde needed someone else who could hold his own.
Rudy turned on his heel and headed for the weaponsmith. He decided that if he were to protect Adlehyde, he would do it protecting himself. If he were forced to use his ARM in battle, it would expose him again, raw and naked, and the townsfolk would be merciless upon him. If he as going to do this, he would do it donning a sword.
She's probably talking about Lolithia's tomb... Jack Van Burace thought to himself, folding his arms tightly over his chest, standing in front of the gates of Adlehyde as men bustled around him, preparing to gather supplies for Emma's mission. He still had some aches and bruises from the Temple of Memory that he'd raided the night previous, but he was used to bearing injuries. He'd grown accustomed to ignoring the pain. He'd grown accustomed to blocking out the past.
"Might as well join them, eh, Hanpan?" Jack questioned, opening his long duster slightly, peering into the inside breast pocket. A small rodent poked its head through, looking up at Jack with wise eyes as it twitched its nose.
"Sure, you might find what you're looking for," the wind mouse said in a high pitched, accusing voice, "but you heard what that Elw recording said in the Temple of Memory. If it is Lolithia's cave, or what have you, then we should take this a little more seriously, don't you think?"
"What, you my mother now?" Jack scolded, dropping the flap of his jacket. "Nah, we'll be fine. Besides, we might find it there..."
"The Power," Hanpan squeaked, his voice muffled by the jacket, "hm, well, I doubt anything I say to stop you will get through your thick skull, so you might as well buy some food and supplies. We've only got half an hour."
"Only half an hour," Jack mocked, heading for the town market square. "Come on, Hanpan, have more faith in me."
"Well, good luck beating that hoard of men to the shops," Hanpan quipped, "they all have the same idea you do, don't forget."
Jack shoved his hands into his pockets, smiling wickedly before he replied: "I am a master of the Fast Draw."
"Your Fast Draw is like an old man getting out of bed in the morning," Hanpan bit back, "now get a move on!"
"Alright, alright," Jack said, huffing. "Jeez, you're a pain in the butt sometimes..."
She stood there as men moved around her, dispersing after Emma's call for help had finished. Even a young woman standing amongst the ranks of grown men caught no-one's attention. Cecilia Adlehyde felt she couldn't get any more obvious for people to recognize her as their princess. All of those years in the Curan Abbey had changed her, she supposed. That, or everyone had truly forgotten who she was. Cecilia had certainly felt she had forgotten herself.
Excavation site... I wonder what they're looking for?
Innocent One, a voice whispered. Cecilia tilted her head to the sound, although she knew it was only within her mind. She still wasn't used to hearing the Guardian Stoldark speak to her, but it did not frighten her as it did the day before. She wondered briefly how her mother must have felt when Guardians began to talk to her. Innocent One, joining these warriors is in your fate, but know that it will be the turning point in your journey.
My journey? Cecilia questioned, darting her eyes to the faces of passerby, trying to discern if they realized she was talking to herself, or if they somehow recognized the child in her that they used to adore.
The journey of Life that you follow, Stoldark affirmed, as a stream follows the river back to the ocean. You have the power to turn from this day, but even if you do not, it will be the best and the worst decision of your life.
I don't understand... Cecilia thought, almost pleadingly, do you mean that I should join these men to the cave?
You are powerful beyond your comprehension, Innocent One, but only you can decide whether you will use that power.
Cecilia darted her eyes around the faces of the men that moved their way around her. They were all determined, arrogant, and quite possibly over confident. Cecilia smiled to herself, for she knew she contained the ability to cast magic, which was a talent which had become a rarity amongst the people of Filgaia. Indeed, amongst these men, she was a beacon of light.
I have arrived home too early to see Father, Cecilia thought, and I do find staying anonymous rather amusing... perhaps I will follow them to this cave to occupy my time. Her smile broadened, as if the idea of going to fight off creatures to protect the men that worked for this Emma was simply another afternoon spent in a garden. There was something unbidden in the thought of outranking the men in a fight.
But, Stoldark, this cave... why is it so important to my fate?
It all begins with Lolithia, Innocent One.
Lolithia? Cecilia thought with earnest. You mentioned that before. What does it mean to me?
No reply. Stoldark?
He was gone. Cecilia sighed aloud. Stoldark did often disappear from her thoughts almost as quickly as he entered them. It was something she would have to grow accustomed to.
'It all begins with Lolithia...' Cecilia repeated. "I suppose I have no choice in the matter."
Cecilia pulled her traveling cloak closer to herself, then headed toward the market place. Who knew, perhaps there was a noteworthy magician amongst the stands who had a powerful spell to graph for her...
Rudy kept looking down to the sword at his side, watching it bounce against his leg as he walked. When he bought the blade (with the last of his savings), the weaponsmith offered him a sheath in which to carry it. However, the sheath could only fit onto his left leg, and it displaced the elongated sack at his side—the sack that held his ARM. The sword at his hip took the place of his identity, and Rudy was content that way. When he glanced back up at the gates, he could see that most of the men had returned, and Emma was coaxing a young man to lift her onto his shoulders again.
As he approached the group, he stood off to the side at the back, keeping his distance. He felt more shielded against them now, and he felt confident that he wouldn't rouse more terror and hatred in the hearts of more people. If he didn't use the arm, he would be accepted. Rudy just wasn't so sure how useful he would be with a sword in hand.
"Okay!" Emma called out over everyone's heads as soon as she staggered into view. The boy, whom Emma seemed to be sitting on, had to dance around a bit to find his footing, and Emma seemed to glide around restlessly in front of the crowd. She gave a prim smack on the top of his head, and soon she balanced out.
"Okay," she said again, but her voice was more annoyed this time. "Looks like we've got the lot of you. Excellent! The caves are just to the north, about an hour out. We'll be headed there together."
"What of t'e groups?" an old man near the front shouted, and Emma folded her arms over her chest.
"I was getting to that, hold your horses," she chided. "I'll be grouping you based on skill. Or, at least, I'll be judging books by their covers. Let's see..."
There weren't a terrible amount of people there, but Rudy could almost hear the moan from the boy underneath Emma—even he knew that her form of selecting teams was going to be painfully slow.
"I'll need a skilled swordsman. Any of you out there?"
A few men raised their hands, but one was higher that the others, and it even hung lazily, unenthusiastically. Rudy took it as cockiness. And, as Rudy knew she would, Emma pointed to the arrogant hand and said, "You, what's your name?"
"Jack," the man replied. Rudy had a profile view of him: he was taller, by at least a head, than everyone else there, and his long mane of golden brown hair was tied back and draped over his long, worn traveling cloak. Even from the side, Rudy could make out his crooked smile.
"Jack," Emma said, scanning over the crowd, "tough, fearless warrior, eh?"
"Ma'am," he replied, folding his arms over his chest, his smile growing broader.
"Could hold his own in battle?"
"Years of experience?"
"That and more." Rudy could see a few men roll their eyes.
"Might as well pair you up with some youngsters," she said, matter-of-factly, and Rudy smiled as Jack's was wiped off his face.
Emma stuck her hand out again, pointing at someone Rudy hadn't noticed before. He didn't know how she missed her to begin with; she stuck out sorely with her beautiful golden hair and starch white traveling robe amongst the aged, dirty men. "You, uh... are you sure you're up to this, miss?"
Rudy watched the beauty from the center of the crowd, and he could see her cross her arms and huff in dismay. "Of course I am!" she said in a voice made of porcelain. "And it's... Catherine!" Her hair shimmered in the afternoon sunlight, giving her voice more edge, more passion and honesty.
"Well, alright..." Emma trailed off, and Jack threw his hands up in frustration. Rudy smirked a bit—he could tell being paired up with a young woman probably wasn't on Jack's list of interests. But then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, Rudy's smile faded when all eyes turned to him and Emma said simply: "You."
Rudy turned to the front, completely caught off guard. He had registered the fact that everyone would be organized into groups, but he had been completely oblivious to the notion that he would be grouped with them. Instead of responding, Rudy simply pointed to himself, face wiped clean in shock, and Emma nodded. "To the side, guys." She didn't even ask his name. Rudy wasn't sure if he'd be capable of giving it.
"Can't we work individually on—" Jack began.
"Isaid no complaining!" Emma barked.
Rudy glanced over at Catherine and Jack, but neither of them looked up; they simply hung their heads, fuming as they stormed over to the edge of the crowd to group together. With shy, awkward feet, Rudy fumbled away towards the outer edge of the crowd, and all the men scoffed at him. Rudy may not have been a full fledged man yet, but he still had a sense of pride. At that point, though, he was too nervous to care. Not that meeting new people bothered him; it was the ARM that hung at his side that set him on edge. He felt that every moment spent closer to these strangers was a moment that left the possibility of them finding out who he truly was underneath that sword.
Once Rudy had cleared the crowd, he stood to the side, and Catherine and Jack met up with him. Their eyes landed on each other, and Rudy had to laugh at the stark contrast between them. One was a rugged adventurer, probably in his late twenties, and she was a beautiful young girl, who looked to be sixteen or seventeen. They seemed like the most unlikely pair of partners in a fight. The only thing they had in common was their glares toward each other.
"And what do you do?" Jack asked her, folding his arms over his chest, "bat your lashes at your opponents?"
"I happen to be a magician," Catherine retorted, yet her voice held the utmost dignity and grace, not letting a single trace of venom drop. "I suppose you travel the world looking for a better wardrobe. And why is there a ribbon in your hair?"
"Hey, you don't know—"
"I'm sorry, I never caught your name," Catherine said abruptly, turning to face Rudy. He simply blinked back, his eyes darting between the two quarrelers. Jack was shooting daggers into Catherine's back with his eyes.
"Rudy," he finally replied, a little uneasily, sticking out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
"You as well, Rudy," she said, shaking his hand with her silk smooth one, "my name is Catherine."
"Damn," Jack muttered, "I go out looking for adventure, and I get stuck babysitting."
"I can certainly hold my own in battle," Catherine reprimanded, "I'll have you know that I was the top of my class in the Cura—"
"So, you got any skills with that, kid?" Jack said to Rudy, cutting off Catherine like she had done to him. Her mouth fell open and her eyes narrowed.
Rudy only stared back at Jack for a moment before glancing down at his brand new sword. "Uh... not yet."
"Great," Jack muttered, "just great..."
"Don't be so pig headed; you could show him some moves while you're out there!" a muffled, high-pitched voice said, and Jack shuffled around, throwing his arms over the front of his jacket, "you've always wanted an apprentice—said it'd be nostalgic—ouch!"
Jack pounded a fist over his chest, then smiled at Rudy and Catherine. They stared back at him. "Heh, well... we'll make the best of it. If you slow me and Catherine down too much, I'll have to ask you to sit out on this one, though."
"Alright," Rudy replied, eying his chest where the voice had come from warily.
"It's 'Catherine and I'."
"It's 'Catherine and I', not 'me and Catherine'."
"Are you serious, Princess?"
Catherine stilled at this, her eyes growing wide as she stared at Jack.
"You gonna correct my grammar all the way to the excavation?"
She seemed to settle a bit, then laughed a little. "I apologize—it's out of habit."
"Huh... well, where did you say you were from, again?"
"Curan abbey," Catherine stated. Rudy looked at her quizzically, studying her, wondering...
"Oh, hey, Adlehyde's princess is supposed to study there. You know her?"
Catherine smiled a bit. "I met her a few times."
"What about you, kid?" Jack said, turning to Rudy, who was still watching Catherine intently, "where're you from?"
Rudy prepared to answer: "Nowhere," when Emma called out over everyone's heads again.
"That's everyone! Let's move out!" she called. Everyone had been broken into groups of three, and each group started off towards the gates, calling out with excitement.
"Well, Catherine, Rudy," Jack said, motioning toward the gate, "let's make the best of this, huh?" He sounded completely nonplussed.
"I'm certain that after our first battle together," Catherine said, starting forward, "you'll be singing a different tune."
"Puh," Jack scoffed, walking slightly ahead of Rudy as they followed Catherine with the masses toward the gate. A few young boys and women were standing on the sides anxiously watching the men go, and they all seemed to give Catherine a look of confusion, some of contempt. "Rudy—it was Rudy, right? How you think she keeps that pretty traveling cloak of hers so clean? You'd think a white cloak that'd seen a few scrimmages would be brown as a potato by now."
"She does use magic," Rudy said quietly, shrugging a bit, "maybe she's kept it clean that way."
Jack shot Rudy a sideways glance, then shook his head. Rudy got the distinct impression that his answer was one Jack wasn't looking for. "This is gonna be one Hell of an afternoon, kid."
Rudy had no idea how right Jack was.