Warnings: Eventual slash (at least one-sided), some messing with canon, doesn't actually contain much of the game, crossover, spoilers through the end of the game, contains viera males (they do exist, according to SquareEnix... and there are only a few mentioned here anyway), lots of narrative.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter novel, concepts, and characters belong to Joanne Kathleen Rowling and associates of whom I am not one. Final Fantasy XII game, concept, plot, characters, and locations belong to SquareEnix and various others who I really don't have the space to name, it suffices to say that I am not among them.
"Thank you for your business!" piped up the small creature – a "moogle" Lejn had learned. It was covered in pale fur with a cat-like face and had a strange ball of fluff connected to its head by an antenna, as well as bat-like wings sprouting out its back. Its clothing was similar in quality to that of the hume Balthier, though it looked rather ungainly clad as such. It had a companion, another moogle, but it had vanished that morning in search of "better merchandise". Lejn wasn't sure what that meant.
The hume nodded, unsure as to why the moogle was thanking him. He hadn't done anything worthy of thanks, just traded a few pelts he had collected in the Wood and a couple salves for the "gil" humes and other races used to trade for goods. The viera had little use for currency, and so the coins held no value to Lejn other than what they could do for him in dealing with these moogle creatures. Many of the metal discs were traded back to the moogle in return for hume attire – a shirt worn open, long trousers, and boots – for the sake of the trial Lejn knew was to come.
So the Wood had spoken, and so Lejn knew, he would leave with the same group of humes he had previously met when next they arrived. They had left the Wood only that morning, and though Lejn did not know when they would return, he knew that that time was not terribly far off. By that time he would need to become accustomed to wearing hume garments rather than his own. Vaan had complained oft enough in the few hours they had travelled together that Lejn could easily anticipate that they would once more have to endure the complaints and commentary, something that could easily be avoided. Lejn was a hume after all. It stood to reason that, when he was banished to the hume world, he should follow their customs as best he could. This, of course, included attire.
His torso found the shirt awkward and restricting, but he would grow accustomed to it. Technically it was some variety of armor, but he did not care for the extra protection, only that it hindered him. The trousers were likewise irksome, preventing him from moving it quite the same manner as he was accustomed. His only consolation was that he still wore his viera made garments beneath, preventing chafing if nothing else.
The worst, however, were the boots. He had returned to the moogles – for they were both present once more – to ask how precisely he was to wear such strange things on his feet. They had instructed him on the method of "lacing" for a small fee of a few more of his gil, and when he thought he had it right, he stood –
And promptly fell on his tail ornament, sending a shooting pain up his spine.
His feet ached terribly as he tried to place them flat, and he attempted once more to stand. His legs protested violently, and he winced.
"If you have been wearing those heels for so long," piped up the more adventurous of the moogles, "I don't think you can wear hume-boots. Your legs aren't muscled for walking in them, and you'd have to relearn how to walk."
"Yes, I…" Lejn grimaced and tore the contraptions off as quickly as he could, uncaring that they would now be useless. "I can see as much."
The moogles giggled at him, apparently amused at the atypical display of clumsiness, and Lejn donned his stilettos again. He was best off with his tall heels anyway; it was time to continue with his plan.
It was not uncommon for Salve-Makers to train with the Wood-Warders, though the fervor with which Lejn did so was unheard of. The roles of the viera were so easily set that the Salve-Makers never cared for combat more than to be able to venture into the less tame parts of the Wood and gather the ingredients they required. Lejn had perhaps been a bit more vigorous previously, showing that he yet contained the hume love for war and combat, though he claimed otherwise, but now the intent he put into his combat skills was unheard of in him.
At length, he ventured into the part of the Wood that was nearest the Feywood where the stronger fiends dwelled. When he was strong enough that even the diresaurs living there posed no threat, he ventured into the Feywood. At first, he could hardly fight one Mandragora before retreating to heal his wounds, but the combat experience stacked up, and he was able to travel through several sections of the Feywood.
The Wood did not mind this, endorsed it even, but Lejn still did not like the Feywood. The voice in it was sinister. The song was tainted; it was older than the Wood, it was the Wood's mother in a way, but it was madly rambling always. The thickness of the Mist drove it to lengths of lunacy, only having reason intermittently within its ranting. Telling Lejn to flee it. That what stood at the other end was not for him and he would be wise to keep away. That men could not pass it for the Great Fiend it held in its belly, so strong that even the Crystal of the Feywood could not keep it at bay.
Lejn knew after a month that the humes would be coming again soon. The Wood told him as much, passing the Word from many Lands away, telling Lejn to be prepared to meet them at the Entrance to the Feywood.
And he was prepared, to all lengths he could think. He had hume clothes, had sold more "loot" to the moogles so as to have gil to spend in the hume realms he would eventually come across, preserved and packed food, and he had created several mixtures he applied to his arrows for different effects rather than the simple sap effect he had instilled them with previously. Lejn had made a mixture for fire and ice, and gained aid from the other Salve-Makers in creating even arrows of Dark and Holy power, though they were difficult to craft and only worked half of the time that he wanted them to. He only hoped this would be enough in the trials to follow.
He would give everything for the Wood, even his own place there. Perhaps, Lejn pondered, the Wood had planned that. But he did not mind.
When the humes journeyed to the Feywood, he met them.
"Greetings," he nodded to them as they approached the entrance; all but Fran seemed surprised at his presence. Perhaps she could hear the whispers of the Wood, somewhat. Or maybe Jote had told her when they had stayed the night in the Wood. Larsa, he noted was absent, which was not a bad thing. Battle such as that was not suited to such young hume children. "The Wood has said I am to guide you through the Feywood."
"And after?" Balthier gave him a once over, obviously noting the change in attire. Lejn did not flinch under the gaze, though for reason unknown he felt a little proud when he saw Basch giving him a similar glance. Not the same, just similar.
"It is the Wood's wish that I should travel with you after, and leave her verdant path from today forth," Lejn did his best not to let his sadness at the Wood's decision leak into his tone, but it was difficult. "I have been fighting to become stronger since last we met, in the Feywood herself, that I would be of best use to you. I gather in your journeys to the North you have also become stronger, better able face whatever comes after the Feywood."
There was a moment of silence. "We make for Giruvegan," Ashelia, the princess of the hume world, stated finally, "to meet, and hopefully thwart, Doctor Cidolfus Bunansa. He aims to use the Nethicite as a weapon once more, and… and we cannot allow him to do so. The Empire needs no such weapon in their grasp when they already have the Midlight Shard and the Dusk Shard."
Giruvegan… Lejn's shoulders tensed ever so slightly. He knew that name, heard the Feywood whisper it over and over. That was perhaps the source of the Feywood's madness. But the Mist would be thick there, and he would be strong. The Wood surely knew everything, be it from the whispers of the other Lands or from some Other source, and she would not send him so easily to his death.
"So… hold on, why are you coming with us?" Vaan furrowed his brow. "Last time you didn't even want to talk, so what changed?"
"I already said, did I not? The Wood is done with me; it is my duty now to protect her from afar, and by her Word it is with you that this goal would be best accomplished," Lejn adjusted his posture slightly. "If I am to live among my own race, it is best I learn from those whom I have already met. If this is disagreeable to you, I will find another method by which I might fulfill my duty."
"The more the merrier, right Vaan?" Lejn thought he was starting to see the blonde girl's use. Penelo calmed the male quickly, and Lejn suspected that he was a force of some import in the group, though for what reason was unknown.
"Right," he looked vaguely put-out, but suddenly agreeable. What sway did that girl hold over him? "I guess you were pretty useful in the mines, and not getting lost for once on our way to Giruvegan would be nice. The more of us there are the easier it should be to defeat any fiends…"
"Shall we consider you a Guest then? You don't seem the type to take orders," Balthier seemed amused as he said this. "I doubt gambits are commonly used by your people, and we haven't the time to teach you just now."
"Guest?" Lejn tilted his head slightly. "If that is the wish of you and yours, so be it." He wondered what a gambit was, but decided that he would remain ignorant until he needed to know.
From there, they trekked through the Feywood. Lejn was able to ignore its call and led his companions through, giving warning when they were coming upon the Great Fiend that resided near the Crystal. He hoped they would fare well against it; he had never dared go past the Crystal. They perhaps had more trouble individually against fiends of the Feywood than Lejn did, but he had come to understand the precise methods of their dispatchment while the other humes and Fran were neophytes to the Feywood.
His coordination with the group, however, was clumsy. They all seemed to know where they were and who needed what done – indeed, when Lejn had taken a blow from the Great Fiend that nearly knocked him unconscious, a potion of some variety – for the Great Fiend manipulated the mist to take their magicks from them rather than add to them, leaving Lejn light-headed – was on him in moments from Penelo, who had at the time been beside Vaan, not even in line-of-sight. They all worked around him and though Lejn pulled his weight well enough, he wondered what warrior's sense it was that allowed them to do so.
It was after they defeated the Great Fiend – no simple task, but between the seven of them no great challenge either – that Lejn became not entirely certain of where to proceed. But the Feywood herself supplied the answer to his quandary. A great gust of mist billowed by him in a breeze and brought with it a fell scent that, Lejn knew, heralded from the deepest parts of the Feywood.
"We go this way," he said softly, training his ears to hear beyond the healing spells traded between his comrades. "The mist thickens and… darkens this way." He could think of no better single word for the mist than dark. Not in color, but in nature. If he were to cast a Dark spell here, he knew it would be stronger than had it been cast at the entrance of the Feywood, and stronger still the further to their goal that they should wander.
The fiends would only get stronger from here, he knew. Perhaps there would even be fiends of the diresaur's family. His greatest consolation was that the Feywood, mad though she was, never whispered to him of wyrms.
A wyrm fostered in the Feywood would surely be a fiend of immense power, on par with a Great Fiend.
After resting in the area made safe by the Feywood's Crystal, they moved on. Lejn took point, listening to the Feywood for signs of where to go, which bends to wind about, and what trouble lie ahead. With the mad rambling it was half incomprehensible, but the more he steeped himself in her madness, to more he could make sense of her.
While the rest of the party walked along behind, the eldest hume, Basch, strode forth to join him.
Lejn glanced over at him, eyes straying longer than he might normally. To see a male was still strange for him. The viera males lived so far separate, and he always took care to avoid humes who ventured into the Wood, so aside from himself he had rarely seen any. Compared to the curves of the female viera, a hume male was… interesting.
"You are a strong magician on your own, and a great archer," the blond man complimented, jarring Lejn from his inspection. "Your instincts do well by you. However, if you are to be friend to us henceforth, it would do you well to understand gambits. If you are not against learning?"
He hesitated for but a moment before replying, "Any skill I should be taught to aid in my defense of the Wood and her verdant path is one I should learn." Lejn threw his long hair, tied at the bottom with a vine to keep it clumped together, over his shoulder. It was still full of pieces of the Great Fiend, and he could groom himself while he learned of these "gambits".
Perhaps, in the future, he should cut his hair to match a hume style, or at least more the length of a male viera rather than the females. Of the hume males he had encountered, Basch's was the longest, and yet it was long short of Lejn's.
"Then I would beg you permit I teach you now. In its basic form, a gambit is a spell," Basch pulled out a small yellow square from his pocket. "A little yellow tag bearing the tiniest shard of magicite within, just as this one, is what a gambit is attached to, and many put together will form a set of priorities. The more in tune one can make his magic to these, the more priorities he can keep track of in battle. Everyone in our party has their highest priority on healing injured allies. The tags are also all connected, so that my tag can tell, by its communication with Balthier's tag, if he needs to be healed, and once someone else starts to respond, it will quiet.
"A gambit can also detect enchantments on a being or fiend. Mine can detect when the enchantment Bravery has worn off of me, alerting me that I should cast it again. Penelo's will tell her to cast dispel on a fiend with positive enchantments such as a hastening or faith spell upon it.
"Lastly, they can detect the state of a fiend. Because of the high mist in most fiends, there have been gambit enchantments developed that detect even if a fiend is going to target you, and it will tell you which fiend it is that has targeted you, and, if you set it right, it can even prioritize which ones to attack first based on strength or vitality."
"I… I see, so this is how you all fight as if with a single mind," Lejn pulled a final twig from his hair before tossing it back over his shoulder again. It was too tangled to pull more out until he found time to bathe. "Will you teach me to use them?"
"I cannot," admitted Basch. "Not because I would not be an able teacher, but because you must work them yourself to decide what you want your gambits to help you to do, and learn how to organize them. Experience is the only teacher. I can only lend you my archive of gambit enchantments and the spare gambit we keep for our guests. I acquired it from the princess for you after the defeat of the Rafflesia."
"I understand. You have my thanks, Basch."
Lejn looked at the man again. His face was so different from what Lejn was accustomed to. Vaan, at least, had a lean face and upturned nose like a viera, and Balthier's coloration was close to a feol's, of which the hume had met only one, and bore the same upturned nose. Their lean bodies made them less alien as well.
Basch, however, was entirely different from anyone Lejn had met. He was tall, roughly the same height as Lejn with his heels (though the hume did not fancy to discover his height without them, due to the pain), and broad of shoulder. The stomach Lejn could see through the man's clothes was tanned – despite what he had heard in introduction of the man being trapped in an underground prison for years – and his hair was a yellower shade than the youngest humes. The scar across his forehead reminded Lejn of the small white mark upon his own brow, but that was the only similarity.
Lejn could also see a little hair on the man's chest, which was fascinating. Lejn had some hairs upon his own chest, but they had grown in blonde and were very fine, falling out before they reached an inch long, while Basch's were darker than the hair upon his head and curled. The muscled arms also drew his eyes. Lejn's arms were strong from his bow, but he knew to swing the man's blade would tire him quickly, while Basch seemed capable of fighting for hours without rest.
It was only the sound of a branch being crushed around a bend that tore his gaze away, and Lejn was off with the party, stringing his bow and preparing to take down the beast that blocked their path.
The shoot of warmth in his body identifiable as lust, something the hume had experienced in only a vague sense, was curious. Then again, perhaps growing up surrounded by viera females – who were quite attractive by female standards, to both humes and viera – perhaps it was inevitable that he should look elsewhere.
He would think on it later.
They made camp in the first pavilion they found. They dared not wander the Feywood through the night, not knowing how far Giruvegan may be, armed with only the hint the pavilion gave them, whispered by the Feywood herself through the wind that even the humes could hear her.
Lejn shuddered under that fell breeze. What power did this ancient forest hold that she could make herself heard even by humes?
Whether it was better she was mad was uncertain.
Still, he was glad to have something above his head for the night. Though he could see little through the thick mists before him, it was too open; for all he could feel they remained in the Feywood, trees here would be scarce.
He would do this for the Wood though. It was unlikely humes had the open confinement of the Wood to base their cities upon. There would be open skies, and open lands, and no great trees in which to make his new home. If he was to live forevermore as a hume, there was naught for him to do but try to tolerate it, to lose his fear.
In the night, he and Vaan shared a shift at watch, the younger attempting to find common ground with him, but failed. Lejn saw a child in him, idealistic, but angry, and driven by his desire for vengeance. The boy said he fought for Dalmasca, but he was clouded by his rage over the death of his brother; Lejn heard the story, and understood why even months after he must have learned the truth, the boy had still hesitated to heal Basch during the battle with the Great Fiend of the Feywood.
Where Vaan saw a common spirit of sorts – Lejn was leaving hi home to defend it from afar, just as he – Lejn was only struck by the naiveté displayed by the young hume.
In the morning they set out, following the illusion spells as the Feywood demanded on them. She was more lucid now, the nearer they drew to their goal, and Lejn could hear her giving warning that there were fiends. Fiends and fiends and more fiends, large bipedal fiends like the ones Lejn had seen when he entered the Plains, covered in furs and stronger than the diresaurs of the Wood. Testing his new knowledge of gambits on these fiends – for he had set priorities to the one Basch bequeathed to him in the night – Lejn found a simple mix that he found best, hopeful that he would not have overmuch difficulty with them in the future.
It took the greater part of that morning before they found themselves before a great door. Fran read the inscription there aloud, and Lejn frowned. Gigas. What was Gigas? They Feywood whispered to him, whispered of betrayers and powers beyond the Lands, things called Gods, and war. War war war war war -
A sudden spike of mist centered on Ashelia broke Lejn from the Feywood's call, and fire bloomed in the sky. The great being that appeared from the dark plumes was some terrible mix of hume and fiend, bearing two head and four arms, decked in red furs with great curled horns upon the greater head and thick legs with strange hardened round feet, as if made of stone. The spear it bore glistened with flame.
The Gigas! Belias the Gigas, betrayer of the gods! Dark fire of the world, fueller of wars, guardian of powers beyond humes, Gigas! The Feywood was maddened beyond its previous state, but there was more sense to it as well. The Lands knew of this then, this creature of dark fire and burning hatred pouring from it.
The Gigas approached the gates and in a great effort of fire and mist they parted for it; the Gigas vanished from the effort, and with his disappearance the gates began to close. There was no time for thought, discussion, or preparation.
They ran in, all together, and the gate slammed shut behind them.
After taking the Way Stone into Giruvegan, Lejn began hearing things.
Giruvegan, though a distinct Land from the Feywood (for Lejn had lost the sound of her voice upon going through the gates), was quiet. Or so it had been above ground. There had been an obvious sense that there was a Something, but what that Something was Lejn could not place, and he had been on edge as they dined under the wide sky. The lack of mist had been equally suspicious, but there was nothing he could do but stay vigilant.
The beast they faced before taking the Way Stone, though strong, had been easily defeated. Giruvegan barely stirred at its defeat, only changing the flow of mists to allow the Way Stone to activate.
It was when they arrived at the Way Stone's other end that Lejn began to feel it. Giruvegan was an old land, abandoned and lonely, but still coherent. His way was slow, and Lejn's greatest hints to his way were simply how he felt the mists moving, for the mists beneath the grand city were thick, flowing out from what appeared to be a chunk of magicite bigger than the Wood herself.
The roiling mists renewed his strength as food had not, and he felt strangely tireless as they plowed through fiend after fiend, opening pathways throughout the underground city to reach the mist's source.
While the mists here were not so dense as the Feywood – for those were added to by the cold and natural fog – they were much more potent, and Lejn could feel himself grow stronger with every spell he cast. Seeing how the deserter acted, teetering dangerously in her heels and constantly overextending herself despite her title as Master of Weapons, Lejn was for the first time in his life glad to not be viera. His noble mission may be because of his hume status, but he did not envy Fran her sensitive senses.
He could only imagine how much worse it would be if her ears were not dulled by the humes, if she could hear the low, angering murmurs of Giruvegan.
During a short break – Lejn did not need one, for relying on his spells as he had was saving his strength greatly – Basch checked in with Lejn on his work with the gambits.
"You have a talent to fight," observed the man. "And more still with the mist, if you have so many priorities to your gambit. Fran told us you were one of the 'salve-makers' of the Eruyt Village, rather than the warriors. How did you come by your skill?"
"All of the village are taught the use of the bow," Lejn was short on it. "The dagger I learned from Dyjs, my teacher and the one who raised me from a babe upon my finding. She insisted that finesse with a dagger was important for all salve-makers, though Jote disagrees. I have finesse, but the skill to kill with it fails in me. And my magick is what made them take me, I think. The Wood told me that when I appeared I was better in tune with the mist and with her than even her last chosen emissary."
He took care to avoid looking at the viera at the last. That she would abandon the Wood when she wa being bestowed that honorable position… Jote may have done well to step in, but the Wood had ached for her departed Chosen.
"Appeared?" Penelo asked. She was seated with her feet dangling over the edge of the platform they sat on, her staff across her knees as she caught her breath.
"I, too, have wondered how you came to the Wood," the deserter intoned. Lejn supposed that he no longer had the right to call her that, though his exile was not self-imposed as hers was.
"There is little to tell. Dyjs told me that I appeared before her in a gust of mist when I was too young yet to walk under my own power," Lejn shook his head and took a seat as well, careful to sit in a way that his tail ornament did not harm him. "She was then only one-hundred and fourteen years old. She said she was already past her prime, though she was not, and took me because that was the Green Word. I grew among viera, knowing from early childhood that one day the Wood would send me away to defend her. I am her Champion. That is all there is to tell."
"'Only' a hundred and fourteen?" Vaan cringed. "You say that like it's so young! You're a hume, just like me!"
Lejn looked to the boy for a moment. "I am curious, Vaan. How old to you take me for?"
"Balthier's age, I suppose," replied the Dalmascan boy. His upturned nose crinkled. "You might be a year or two older than him, I guess, but that's it."
"Basch, save Fran you are the eldest here, yes?" Lejn already knew the answer, and when Basch confirmed by stating his age at thirty-six, he released a small exhale that, among the viera, passed for a chuckle. "Oh, I apologize, I had thought us the same age. Forgive me. I have been with the viera for forty years now, and I wondered how humes aged. Now I see Dyjs was correct in saying I do not age as humes do." With the rest stunned, Lejn drew his bow and slew a demonic fiend, not unlike the ones populating the Wood, and bid them continue.
They pressed onward, though this was not the last Lejn would hear on the matter of his age.
Giruvegan's voice remained a low rumble in the back of Lejn's thoughts. He kept keen attention to it, if only for mood, for the voice was too low and slow in his head to catch individual words. It didn't event spike when they fought a strange wyrm-like beast that Ashelia, who utilized the power of Libra, claimed was called Tyrant (though what sense was made by this when it was normally the diresaur-like beasts that bore the name was beyond Lejn), which was difficult only for its tenacity.
With the mist so sharp here, none of them had missed their inability to use technicks; the only one that would have helped was the "charge" ability that allowed them to suck in mist quickly, after all.
And then they were within the crystal, and Lejn discovered something new.
Giruvegan was not a land. It was the crystal, and the crystal did not like that humes dared tread within him. The low rumblings before had been warnings to keep out, but now they were in, he was attacking their party with every fiend he had and spawning more when he ran out. It was almost a relief when they found themselves in a strange chamber fighting another spirit that was, according to Fran, kin to Belias The Gigas. It was constantly changing what magick Lejn could cast on it, so rather than play its game he stayed back with Penelo to heal and bolster those whose skills could best it.
The crystal that erupted from the defeated "Esper" surprised Lejn, though it seemed the group had encountered several in the past. Basch, who struck the killing blow, caught the crystal when it flew it him, shattering in his hand to allow some strange arrangement of lines to burst forth and attach itself to him. They crawled up his arm and disappeared under his shirt; judging by the tiny pale blue lines he could see beneath Vaan's vest and the very faint red design he had only recently noticed upon Ashelia's breast, he thought that it would come to rest over Basch's heart.
It was when they reached the next Way Stone that Giruvegan made his true displeasure known. The others didn't even notice as Lejn fell to his knees while they disappeared in a flash at the Way Stone.
While they were away, learning of the Occuria and their designs for Ashelia, Lejn found himself linked deeper with Giruvegan than he had ever been with the Wood.
"You trespass, hume," the deep voice of the crystal was suddenly forming words - or, as Ljen realized, he could now understand those words he had been previously ignorant to. They were not the words of the Wood, which when he was young had simple seemed expressions of intent before he learned her language, nor was it the tongue used throughout the races of Ivalice, but something Other. Older. "You do not belong here."
"I am sent by the Wood to defend her verdant path from the defilers vying for power in our world, where I do and do not belong no longer matters," Lejn defended himself, his mind's tongue clumsy with the not-language it spoke.
"You do not belong to Ivalice, you do not belong to your Wood nor her verdant path, and you do not belong on my crystalline path hume," The voice echoed low in his head again. "You will protect us, and you shall trespass no longer. The evil you will face is one following on your heels, not the evil you seek. You will protect us."
Suddenly there was floor beneath him again, and Lejn trembled. The weight of that mind still hung upon him, watching him, and he had no... He could not...
He pulled himself into silence and waited for the others to return, unable to think.
Author's Note: Next chapter should end the game plotline (I think/hope), and after that is the Harry-oriented plot (which, to be fair, isn't very long either, only another chapter or two, maybe three depending on how long certain sections take to complete themselves). However, I recently moved, and apparently the old notebook I kept all my plots in ended up in the throw away pile. So I'm going off of memory and my chatlogs with Araceil.
Sorry you had to wait almost 2 years for this. Basic explanation is that I lost interest in this story, suddenly lost interest in all fanfic, then by the time I was back to normal life was flying around – I'm on my second boyfriend since then (9 months and happily counting, thanks), college is mad, and other basic things. So. Sorry I haven't been writing but that's now changing. Doesn't help that my sister lent out the PS2 a week after I posted chapter 2 and I STILL haven't got it back!