Two factors went into my choice of Ayn rather than Nial for the second-generation protagonist in my stories. On the one hand, as I discussed in the preface to the Rhys stories as well as the author's note for "Love Is Not a Dream," I was strongly inclined to want to marry Maia with Rhys. Then, once that actually happened and I played into the second generation, I encountered my favorite character of the entire cast: Sari. In the first generation, Lena was pretty much next to useless as an Orakian female. Not only did her stats stink, but she was limited to knives and needlers up to Ceram Needlers (yep, apparently Laser and Royal needlers are for the boys only) so she couldn't even use decent weapons to make up for her statistics. When her daughter Sari entered the party, I was expecting more of the same.

It didn't quite work out that way.

For those who don't know, Sari is the biggest badass character in the game. Although she cannot use techniques and is restricted to the standard crappy weapon choices for Orakian females, she has utterly massive statistics (which, incidentally, is a definite reversal of the usual trend, where an RPG character is a gamebreaker because they get to have ubergreat equipment). She has the highest HP in the party, the highest defense, the highest speed, and the highest attack power—basically, she makes two knife attacks each round and two enemies die, generally before anything else on either side has a chance to act.

Sari, truthfully, is the main protagonist of this generation of stories. The centerpiece of this generation is the "Power Topaz" pair of stories, "Steel and Stone" and "In Your Eyes I Find a Mirror." "Steel and Stone" is a four-parter. In addition, "Royal Gift" is a prequel to this generation which also features Sari. It'd be even worse—I had started a novella-to-novel-length fic which centered around the start of Lune's invasion and how the schemes by the Regent's Council in Landen led to Lena's death, the massive initial gains by Lune in the invasion, and Sari becoming the Queen of Landen (you do have to wonder, after all, how the daughter of the Princess of Satera got to be the Queen of Landen—particularly since she didn't marry into the Landen royal family), but never finished it and so never posted it.

I'd also like to stop and take the time to mention a friend of mine from way back in the day, Neilast. She wrote a number of PSIII fics, which are still available on Hugues Johnson's rather comprehensive PSIII site, including stories which spend considerable time on Ayn's other romantic option, Lyle's daughter Thea. They're well worth checking out if you haven't already.

~X X X~

GAME INFORMATION: If Rhys marries Maia, the King of Cille abdicates his throne to Rhys and the second generation centers on Ayn, the Prince of Cille. After years of peace, suddenly new, powerful cyborgs assail the land. Cille and Shusoran cannot hope to hold out, so Rhys sends Ayn with Mieu and Wren to find the legendary land of Satellite, said to be a peaceful paradise where the people of the two cities can find refuge. However, the quest has barely begun, Ayn having only gotten so far as Rysel, when he receives a message that Cille is falling. Rushing back home, he finds Shusoran and Cille destroyed, and is told that the survivors took shelter in Aridia.

Ayn, Mieu, and Wren find the survivors of Cille and Shusoran, including Rhys, Maia, and Lyle, in the cave where Rhys found Wren in the first generation. However, it turns out that Thea, Lyle's daughter, was kidnapped by cyborgs! Lyle gives Ayn the Dragon Tear, which unlocks the eastern world of Draconia so Ayn can save her. Arriving in Draconia, Ayn first finds the Orakian city of Lensol, whose castle is locked up tight. He continues on to Endora, where a man tells him that he has managed to get the gate open—and that a captured princess was taken into Lensol castle. Ayn returns to Lensol and rescues Thea, then takes her back to Lyle.

Rescuing Thea was not only a good thing to do, but also useful plot-wise, it turns out. Despite the fact that no one knows where Satellite actually is, legends do say that the Power Topaz is the key to it, said Power Topaz is in the possession of Lena's daughter (now Queen of Landen), and that Thea had the Twins' Ruby, which unlocks the passage between Aridia and Landen. ("But wait!" the player cries. "I can just go back to Aquatica and use the Sapphire to travel to Landen from there!" Except that won't work, because that passage has been blocked by the troops of someone named Lune...)

Ayn, Mieu, Wren, and Thea travel to Landen and meet Lena's daughter Sari, who as usual has to be fought in order to be made to see reason (she suspects that the Layan-heavy party are spies for the above-mentioned Lune). One suspects crappy equipment was the only reason Ayn and friends win this one, because while Sari is willing to let Ayn use the Power Topaz, she insists on coming along to guard the thing and as I mentioned above she inflicts massive damage on any monster stupid enough to get near her. The complete party then travels to Draconia, where their progress is halted until a dragon appears and ferries them across to an otherwise unreachable island. This dragon turns out to be Lyle! Apparently, his family has always had the ability to transform into dragons, hence their title of "Dragon Knights." Unfortunately, Lyle dies of the wounds received in his earlier battles.

Despite their grief, the party presses on and finds the town of Techna on the island, and in Techna the revelations come fast and furious. Most significantly is that Phantasy Star III takes place on board a giant spaceship, Alisa III, and that the seven "worlds" (of which the player has visited four at this point) are in fact domed habitable environments. Which explains why there are techno-themed passages between the domes as well as a weather control system. In addition, "Satellite" is just that, the artificial satellite which is the blue moon Azura. And far from being a place of peace, Azura is the source of the cyborg invasion plaguing the generation. Ayn, nonetheless, decides to press on, and on Azura comes face to face with the leader of that invasion, the cyborg Siren, who was apparently one of Orakio's generals during the Devastation War. A millenium ago, he was trapped on the moon when it was moved away from the Alisa III (out of shuttle range), but when Rhys moved the moons back in the first generation, he was freed and immediately unleashed his considerable wrath on any Layans he could reach. Ayn and friends handily teach Siren the value of teamwork and cooperation between races but apparently the befriending was insufficiently forceful because he rushes off, vowing revenge.

With Azura now in the hands of the heroes, the people of Cille and Shusoran move there. His quest complete, Ayn can choose to marry Sari or Thea. While if it were up to me, I'd pick Sari in a heartbeat (which I'm not saying just because she reminds me of my actual wife...well, that's not the only reason, at least), it makes for a better story if he picks Thea, so that's what will happen in my fanfiction.