a/n;; ehh… i totally screwed with canon, but i think i like my version better xD
i'll write some interesting stuff soon, i swear

--

He calls himself a collector – a connoisseur, more like. Of what, no one knows.

He's different from the others. A quiet young man in plain green robes, who sits in the smoke-veiled corners of every inn and pub, scribbling away in a great leather-bound book of secrets. He doesn't talk much, except to ask the regulars a few questions every once in a while. Mostly, he listens. To anything, really. The gossip of fishermen's wives, the meaningless prattle of old-timers recounting their days of glory, the hushed whispers of Sin's return. He simply sits there and listens and nods his head at all the right times, and folks just open up to him like flowers spreading their petals. There's something trustworthy about him, you see, something kind and curious and scholarly. And really, deep down in the depths of all our souls is the simple need to be heard.

Everyone has a story. Maechen knows this. Some are slowly winding down while others are only just beginning. He collects these stories like some people collect jewelry or knick-knacks, and though many might seem dull and uninteresting to the rest of the world, to him each story is magic.

Because above all things, above stories and poems and the skritch-scratch of pen against paper, Maechen loves history. He loves the way it is effortless and neverending, how each second that passes becomes history in its own right. He loves the way it teaches, how the mistakes of past generations become the lessons of the present. He loves the way it differs, how a woman in Besaid might remember something so very differently from a man in Bevelle.

Maechen loves how, no matter how hard he tries, he will never know all there is to know. Because the past, you see, is a constant rebuke to the present, an endless cycle of who's and why's and when's.

So Maechen does not seek knowledge. Instead, he listens, and loves all that he hears.

--

He marries a girl who likes to talk. Her name is Tula, and except for her rampant chatter she is average in most every way.

It's inevitable, really. The man who can't get enough stories ends up wed to the one who can weave them best. They spend many a lazy summer day on the sun-warmed docks of Kilika and Luca as she tells him every tale she knows, regaling him with epic myths and small-town hearsay alike. And Maechen knows that many of the tales she tells are untrue, but does not mind, because what is history without a little improvisation?

They have two children in the midst of these endless stories, a girl and a boy, and it is as Tula holds her newborn son in her arms that the realization finally hits her. They have nothing. For years now she and Maechen have lived like vagabonds, hardly a hundred Gil to their name, travelling from place to place in search of new tales to feed his growing obsession.

Enough is enough, Tula thinks. She finds steady work as a washerwoman in Kilika. She builds a home for their son and daughter, and makes sure that they are happy. From the shambles of Maechen's obsession she constructs a new, normal life for herself and the children, and tells him to make a choice.

His family or his stories.

To Maechen, the choice is obvious.

--

Spira's history is shrouded in darkness and deceit. Few know anything of the time before Sin, before war and Machina and jealousy and greed. A time unfettered by mankind's crimes.

But Maechen knows. He knows because he listens. When the wind on the plains of the Calm Lands blows in that certain way, rustling the long grass and sending ripples across the landscape, he hears it. When he rests beneath the shadow of Mt. Gagazet, where the creaking and groaning of the old mountain drowns out all else, he hears it. When he dips his hand into the Moonflow and feels the cool, ancient water trickling past his fingertips, he hears it.

Spira is full of stories, stories so old that parts of them have begun to crumble away into dust. In every rumble of stone and mighty waterfall, he hears its stories thrumming like a pulse, desperate to be told. It is strange that Maechen is the only one who can hear them – their cries for freedom, for telling, reach his ears even in sleep.

But he accepts his task graciously. If there is no one else to tell Spira of its past, then he must take the responsibility into his own hands.

Maechen, the collector of tales, will abandon his one true cause for the good of all.

--

He wanders. Not just from port to port or landmark to landmark, but everywhere. He traverses the highest mountain peaks and the most remote tropical islands, seeking those who seek history. Sometimes he thinks he sees that inquisitive spark in the eye of a young passerby, and calls out to them.

"Would you like to know about…"

But they wave him off, frowning in annoyance, and continue on their way.

The world is changing, Maechen thinks bitterly. With every passing day, the Hymn of the Fayth grows louder and louder, pulsing like blood through Spira's veins, while the ancient stories he so lovingly cherishes turn to mere whispers.

Soon, he fears, he may not be able to hear them at all.

--

He feels the dull ache of his old bones and knows that it is time to go home.

Unlike the rest of Spira, Kilika has not changed much. The houses – huts, more like – are still precarious and poorly constructed, the walkways are still choked by clotheslines and barefoot children, and the air is still heavy with woodsmoke and ocean spray. As he hobbles through the village he feels nostalgia welling up inside him, and longs for the simpler days of townsfolk's gossip and meaningless anecdotes.

But no. Such things have no place after the stories he has heard.

Maechen returns to the house that Tula built to find that she has passed on to the Farplane. His daughter still lives there, with her husband and newborn child, and though she does not recognize him he asks if she will allow an old man room and board for the night.

"Would like to hear the tale of Yunalesca and Zaon?" he asks that evening.

She smiles at him, haggard and apologetic, as she tries to calm her crying child. There are lines on her face that shouldn't be there, not yet, and for the first time he wonders what might have been had he stayed.

"I'm sorry," his daughter says. "Maybe some other time."

--

Three days later, he dies and whispers to the pyreflies, "Not yet."

--

"You there! Would you like to hear the story of Lord Mi'ihen?"

The group – a Summoner and their guardians, no doubt – all pause and turn towards him. They are quite the ragtag bunch, different from any traveling party he has ever seen. A black mage, an Al Bhed girl, a Ronso with a broken horn… Even one like himself, clinging to life by a thread. Maechen eyes the man in red curiously, selfishly wishing to know his story.

"The story of Lord Mi'ihen?" the blond boy repeats. Maechen can see the inquistiveness that lingers unconsciously in his eyes, an almost childlike naïveté. This boy is foreign to Spira, that much is obvious, and upon this realization the old storyteller feels a surge of hope. The others in the group are sighing, frowning, impatience snapping at their heels, and yet. And yet.

"Let's hear it," the boy says, grinning brightly.

Maechen falters, but only for a moment, and then smiles back.

"Eight centuries ago, Lord Mi'ihen founded a legion known today as the Crusaders…"

--

"Would you like to hear about Veganun?"

Zanarkand is quiet now that the people have left, and his wizened old voice shatters the silence they left behind.

"Yes, of course I would," the Summoner-who-is-no-longer-a-Summoner says, her eyes warm and kind. She has been good to him in his travels, always stopping to listen when no one else would, and always takes time to smile at him through her sadness.

Maechen nods. He knows, somewhere deep down, that this is the last story he will tell the Lady Yuna. It has been many years since he last felt the aches and pains of an old man, but this feeling is different. He feels… worn. Thin. Like the terribly gravity of the universe is pulling him apart at the seams, a reminder that he has long overstayed his welcome.

Maechen feels this, and begins his final tale.

"Although Vegnagun was constructed during the Machina War, there is no record of it ever being used…"

--

The pyreflies dance and flicker around him, casting their soft glow upon his old, tired face, and a lovely sense of finality washes over him. It is over. It is done. He has told his tales, and Spira will be better because of them. His duty to the world of the living is complete.

With a spring in his step, Maechen wanders off through the endless fields to find a story worth listening to.