"A Father's Pride"
"You did…very well, Jak. You make me proud…that our training program is so good."
Why did those words bother him so much?
Damas had spent the last few hours in his throne room contemplating on the reason, but he failed to come up with a decent answer. He struggled with his mind and his heart, fighting back that confused and saddened feeling that came with the words. But he was the King of Spargus. Such thoughts shouldn't bring him down and he had to maintain his strong disposition. And yet they did, and he attempted repeatedly to push them to the back of his mind. Was it because he was lying? Was it because he was happy for someone else for a change? Was it because he reminded him of someone else?
He paced back and forth, staring out the large glass windows in the back of the room. The desert night beyond was calm and beautiful, with stars littering the sky and the Green Sun shining brightly. This along with the trickling of the water in the room helped his mind slowly drift away and remind him that even with the chaos outside the city's walls, there was still peace and comfort to be found in unlikely places, whether it be areas or people. And in these grim times, one had to savor the moments while he could as there may never be another.
Damas turned his gaze upward and quickly spotted the source of much of the city's distress; the large, bright blue star that remained ever so still in the sky. Upon locking eyes with it a chill ran through his body, cold and threatening, disturbing him. No doubt the star was unnatural, having only appeared in the last year. It was strange and foreboding, as if he were looking straight into doom's eye. He recalled the monks referring it as the "Day Star" and that it was a sign of an apocalypse. Normally he wouldn't believe such things, but his monks have yet to steer him in the wrong direction.
He held his chin in thought as he stared at the Star. Now that he thought about it, life in the Wasteland had been (relatively) normal until it appeared. Nowadays, it was unsafe for citizens to wander outside the city, so he began providing gate passes and amulets for the worthy. The Marauders have become more antsy and desperate with their attacks and activities. The Hora Quan beasts were running rampant in the desert and the lands beyond. More and more people were being cast away from their home cities. The monks were praying much more than usual, more so after that living satellite crashed in the city and the absence of their brethren from their expedition in the Volcano. He could feel shifts in Spargus' eco supply as if the world itself were stirring.
And on top of it all, the arrival of the young man and his little friends from Haven City seemed rather…convenient. Almost too convenient.
All of these signs were too big to ignore.
Could it all really mean…?
Damas shook his head, frowning. He may not understand much of this, but right now there were more pressing and immediate situations to deal with. The last attack on the city had drained more resources than he would have liked and he had lost a few good warriors in the process. They needed to recuperate for the dangers that surely lied ahead. He had sent Kleiver, Jak and Daxter into the Wasteland to herd more Leapers, and the winds show that another big storm was coming. Hopefully the scouts he sent out will arrive soon with any artifacts or news they might find. Time was becoming more and more of the essence.
The elevator shaft of the room suddenly came alive as the pulleys activated. Damas turned around and made his way back to the front of his throne, curious as to who was visiting at this time and hoping it was someone with important news. The lift arrived at the top with a large man standing in the center, clad in armor that resembled the Hora Quan and carrying a large staff-like gun much like his own. The man stepped off the lift, approached the sand king and gave a polite bow.
"Damas." He said softly, rising back up.
The King nodded. "Sig. I wasn't expecting you back so soon."
"Yeah, well I couldn't wait to get out of that cesspool any longer. Haven has seriously gone straight to the gutter in the last year."
Damas stepped back and sat on his throne, already feeling uneasy. He leaned to the side and set his head in his hand, preparing himself for what was surely more bad news.
"So…have you found anything?" He asked.
Sig didn't answer. His head lowered and a saddened and regretful look spread across his face. Damas frowned, feeling the familiar ache in his heart mixed with a spark of anger. He sighed and looked to the side, shutting his eyes for a moment before turning back to the wastelander.
"I've looked everywhere…" Sig said hesitantly. "The forest, the mountains, what's left of the city, even in the sewers, but I can't find him anywhere. I'm sorry your lordship, but I can't help but shake the feeling –"
Damas snapped up to his feet, clenching his fists and trembling all over. Sig took a step back, watching the King breathe heavily. He took a deep breath and tried to steady himself before continuing.
"…Don't you dare tell that to me…ever."
He turned around, facing away from Sig and held his face in his hands. He did his best to remain calm, but whenever the thought crossed his mind in the slightest he felt himself breaking down and weakening. If any of his people were to ever see him in this way they would most likely lose hope themselves. But the people of Spargus were strong, stronger than any of the city dwellers could ever be, and he needed to remain so himself. Luckily no one but a select few knew about his personal predicament.
"He's out there somewhere, I just know it." Damas said softly. "I can feel it…"
An uncomfortable silence fell in the room. Sig stood still, waiting for the King's next words. He began pacing back and forth with his head toward the ground and his hands behind his back. He wanted to shout all sorts of things at Sig but he held it in for fear that he would say something dishonest. He then stopped and looked out the window, spotting the crescent shaped moon outside.
"Do you know what it's like, Sig?" Damas said calmly.
Sig remained quiet, unsure of what exactly he meant.
"Day after day I walk along the streets of Spargus, visiting with the people." He continued. "Every day I see families with their children, their smiles brighter than any star in the sky. Each time I witness their happiness and I remember the way things were back in the city years ago. Do you remember what it was like to have a family to come home to?"
Sig shrugged. "Hardly. My family was killed by Metal Heads when I was little. You know that."
Damas grunted. "Even when those creatures had broken through the old barrier, I still had hope, for I knew that I was fighting for my family and the people. But then Praxis showed his true face and pulled the unthinkable." His fists clenched tightly again. "I thought it was bad enough when I lost my beloved, but to lose my only son as well…"
He trailed off as his words caught in his mouth. Sig stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"I'll find him." He said. "Promise."
"Words are empty, Sig…" Damas muttered, shrugging off his hand. "But I would be grateful if you found even the smallest hint of his presence, some kind of sign. At this point, I just want to know the fate of my son."
Sig stepped back and bowed. "I'll head back to the city straight away. Even if I have to pick up the rubble or rip apart the Metal Heads' lair, I'll find him. No doubt the weaklings will need me to help clean up their mess, in any case. At least Praxis is six feet under so we don't have to worry about him. But I knew everything would go straight to hell the instant I heard that they banished Jak from the city. It's good to see my old home still in one peace, though."
Damas frowned and stared at Sig.
Sig smiled. "Yeah, the rookie cherry who saved the city. Heh, I practically taught him everything in terms of gunplay. I even taught him a few wastelander techniques. I'm sure he used them when he took out the big bad Metal Head leader. I wish you could have met him. You could really use someone like him. The boy's got some serious skills."
Damas listened carefully and felt his mind click as it immediately went to the recent newcomer who had been doing strangely well in his missions. He knew there was something familiar in his fighting technique when he watched his fights in the Arena.
"Jak, huh. How interesting…"
"Anyway, I should get going. I'll return when I have more news."
Sig turned around to leave, but Damas reached out and stopped him.
"Wait a moment, Sig. We could actually use your help out here at the moment."
Sig raised an eyebrow, and then he smiled. "I'm listening."
"There's a nest of Metal-Pedes in one of the caves out in the desert. They've been quite a nuisance to my scouts for the past week and my warriors have yet to push far enough into their nest. However, a newcomer to the city shows much promise. I'd like you to take him out there and destroy the nest."
Sig smirked. "Show a newbie how it's done, eh? All right, I'm game. Where's this kid?"
"He's currently taking care of a few errands with Kleiver at the moment. They've been out all night so far and it'll be a while before they return, considering how much they clearly dislike each other."
"Heh, guess Kleiver hasn't changed much, has he?"
Damas shook his head. "There's also an Arena match coming up soon. Perhaps you'd be eager to jump in like you used to be? The Marauders we got are a little tougher than the ones you remember."
Sig held his chin in thought. "Hmm…yeah. I could use a change from the usual Metal Head and KG Bot I've been fighting. I'm up for a challenge."
Damas smiled ever so slightly. "Good to hear. The next match is in two days. Best you prepare yourself in the meantime, and we'll see if you've still got it."
Sig bowed again. "Will do. I'll head for my old place and get reacquainted with the city."
He turned around and walked over to the lift. Damas watched him as he faced him and was about to flip the switch that would take him down, but he noticed Damas' stare.
"What?" He asked.
Damas blinked as all expression left his face. "Nothing. I'm just proud to have an ally such as yourself in these times."
Sig stared for a long moment before cracking a smile. He flipped the switch and the lift slowly took him down to the streets of the city, leaving the room quiet once more with only the gentle waterfalls as company. Damas turned around and stared out the windows again, the night sky now darker than it was. A light wind had begun to kick up the desert sand and it sailed and swirled through the air slowly like the water in the room. He then looked at the lift after Sig, watching it suddenly stop as it reached the streets below, and felt the same twinge of discomfort in his mind.
"I'm just proud to have an ally such as yourself…"
There's that word again…
Why did it bother him so much?
It was aimed toward Sig, his old friend and someone who deserved to be described in such a way. He frowned and held his head again, straining to uncover the reasoning of his thoughts. Memories of watching Sig fight in the Arena suddenly flashed in his eyes. He remembered how glad he had felt when he had chosen him to be his spy in the city he loathed with every ounce of his being. He was truly someone that he could trust with his terrible task and was confident that he would succeed. But the years flew by one by one and every day his scouts, spies and Sig would come back with nothing.
Visions of the Arena drew his mind now to the newcomer, Jak. It was very peculiar and interesting that Sig knew him well, assuming they were thinking of the same person. To think that this rash young warrior had once saved his city from their enemies seemed outlandish, and yet, possible. It was clear in his first trials and battles that he was very experienced, especially at his age. But if what Sig said was true, it would explain several of the mysteries surrounding the boy; the clothes he wore, the beacon he carried, and perhaps even the source of those dangerous powers of his, as his memories of Baron Praxis would tell him.
He raised an eyebrow at a sudden thought. With the next Arena battle around the corner and Sig's return, it would be a very interesting match to see Jak and Sig fight to the death. Though he would put his precursor orbs on Sig, Jak is certainly powerful in his own right. It would be well worth the watch to see teacher and student test their skills against one another, a match that he had been wanting to see for a long time. If Sig were to show no mercy like he never did for his enemies, and Jak were to take advantage of the dark eco running through his veins, it would be a match to remember. He hated the thought of losing either of them in battle as they both had proven their usefulness, though Jak still had much to prove. But that was the law of the Wasteland; warriors fighting for survival, and the strongest would always come out on top.
Damas blinked and found himself looking out the windows and holding the Seal of Mar he always wore but kept hidden. He looked down at the Seal in his hands and felt the gentle energy flow from it. The symbol of his lineage was always a mystery in itself, but even he, who had studied the House of Mar for a long time, felt that he knew very little about his ancestors.
Damas closed his eyes, and before him stood a beautiful woman with long light hair, smiling comfortingly at him. A small boy stood beside her dressed in blue, his favorite color. The boy also smiled back, staring at him with his blue eyes that were filled with an unwavering light. The Seal of Mar was hung around his neck; identical to the one he was holding, glowing slightly as if it sensed the boy's happiness and innocence. The boy suddenly vanished and in his place stood someone entirely different: the young warrior Jak. He had a steely, angry look in his eyes…blue eyes…just like the boy's…
Can he be…?
No…it's not possible…
His son was just a boy…and Jak was fully grown…clearly disturbed, but proud…
Damas eyes snapped open. Now he knew. The words he spoke that should have been meaningless and yet stung the heart and soul of a king.
They were words that were meant for someone else…
They were words that were meant for his son…
The son he couldn't be proud of because he was not here, lost to the cruel world…
His face twisted and his eyes squeezed shut. He tried to resist, he tried to fight back, he tried to remain strong, he tried so hard time and time again, but his heart would not yield. The tears managed to make their way through his eyelids and down his cheeks, eventually dripping down and splashing onto the surface of the Seal of Mar. The Seal glimmered dimly, sensing its master's grief as he clenched it tightly. The world around him watched silently, without care, without mercy, for that was just the way things were whether its people liked it or not.
And that was always the first thing one learned out in the unforgiving Wasteland.