Authoress' notes: Augh, sorry for taking so long! DX Holiday season started, so I'm sort of off and on busy. Not to mention a little stuck at certain points.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything except for Drake/Wolfe and any other OCs that I may have scattered in there. If a character isn't from a Final Fantasy game, chances are, it's an OC.
Chapter 14: Muninn
"Hound, come forth." Sabin flinched at the voice, as if he had been suddenly doused in ice-cold water. That wasn't how Drake had reacted, though. The archer's face was deathly pale, his grey eyes dark and glossy, as if he couldn't see a thing.
Before Sabin could get to his side, the archer had stood, moving as if he were a puppet on strings, and unbarred the door to walk out. The warrior of the mountains tripped over his own feet and crashed to the ground with a curse for the alcohol he'd ingested. There was only so much that battle-readiness could do. In the end, he still was truly quite drunk.
He did get to the doorway, though, pausing in his fear of the Wild Hunt for only a moment before he staggered through, careful to look at the ground for the most part as he looked for the archer to drag him back inside.
The slender man was kneeling in front of a man on a horse, his head bowed. Something about the horse made Sabin slightly curious, though. There was something about it that was...wrong. It took him several moments to realize that the horse had too many legs.
"Loyal hound...You've become quite the hunter. The Huntress herself has favored you. You have served her well. You have served me well." Sabin swallowed hard, unable to force himself forwards as he looked at the man- he dared not look at his face. He knew who had called Drake. Odin himself stood before the tiny lodge. The man didn't even seem to aknowledge Sabin's presence, his eyes on the slender archer. "You saved me from having to answer the call of a woman corrupted by greed. A woman not the Summoner whom I blessed. Were it not for your interference, I would have been forced to turn my blade on the Maiden." Sabin shivered slightly.
At least two of the Constellato were worshipped as gods. Cleyra was referred to as the Maiden. Maria of Lindblum was the Huntress, also called the Mother. Who the Crone could be, Sabin didn't know. Sabin truly didn't want to know, as the Crone usually signified death. To him, at least.
"For this service rendered, I have payment." The horse shifted slightly as a pair of wolves padded up to it. Two crows cawed suddenly as they swooped to land lightly on the backs of the wolves, and then fell silent.
"The coin of life spins, glints, falls.
As the coin drops, two sides meet."
Sabin frowned as Drake's body stiffened slightly. The monk kept his mouth shut, though, as he saw one of the wolves eyeing him as if he'd make a tasty treat. He knew the legends, and didn't want to chance anything he hadn't already.
"The two sides meet, a fire is born."
Drake cringed slightly, and Sabin could see even from where he was that the man's face was contorted in pain. Sabin clenched his hand into a fist to keep himself from running over to see what was wrong. The monk certainly couldn't see anything wrong with him.
"The fire forges, melds the two.
The hourglass falls, time is nothing.
Coin, and hourglass...The two become one."
Odin's words dropped with a certain amount of finality, and Drake crumpled, his hands gripping his head. The horse and wolves turned and left the village. Sabin gasped for breath, not aware he'd been holding it, and stumbled to Drake's side, turning him over. The man was unconscious, but definitely in pain. It was much worse than when Drake had collapsed earlier in the day.
Where was he? Who was he?
Images flashed in front of him through the darkness, voices called names. Fire, dancing bright before his eyes. Vivid greens, pinks, reds, purples, and blues, too vivid to be found in nature, zipped past him.
Drake? Wolfe? Kole? Which was he?
"The coin of life spins, glints, falls."
From the images came a mirror. Large, ornate gold created the frame. He stepped forwards, an image doing the same from the other side of the silvered glass. He lifted his hand and pressed it against the glass. The other did the same.
He studied the man. Tall and lean, without being gangly, he had tanned skin. His eyes were dark gray. Dark brown hair was in flux, now long, hanging on either side of his face and dripping, tied back, short and spiked, now combed back neatly before growing long again. Clothing was similarly changing constantly, too fast to register. For a moment, he glimpsed a strange sight, which became a ghostly overlay to the constant change.
Dark brown hair was braided back along the temples, holding a pair of ornate carved antlers, with wooden leaves attached to the horns by the most delicate of stems. The barest glimpse of twine proved the hair wasn't the only thing keeping the decoration on. Bare skin was painted with a dark blue, creating an eerie pattern that looked as though the shadows of a tree had frozen in place upon him. Lean muscles were accentuated by the lack of clothing; all that covered the man was a loincloth, leather and as ornate as the antlers.
"As the coin falls, two sides meet."
His eyes widened. His hand was sinking through the glass. It didn't hurt, though the shadow image didn't look too surprised, turning his head to consider his hand as it slowly slid into the thick glass.
"As the two sides meet, a fire is born."
Fire erupted around the two. He yelled now, the fire melting the glass. It was hot, melting, but...it didn't burn him. The Other stood free of the mirror, slowly becoming more opaque. The fire swept back away from the two, forming a circle around them.
"The fire forges, melds the two."
The fire now swept towards them. Each of them turned to face the fire, backing up away from it. He could see his own clothing now, as it singed off of him from the fire. Dark blue pants covered his legs, with a gray sleeveless top over top of it. Any shoes he may have been wearing were obscured by the smoke.
He was in pain. Not only could he feel the pain from his own body, but he could feel the Other's pain as well. His back was against the Other's, and he could feel the pain coming through from him as clearly as if it was his own. Or...was he both himself and the Other? Who was he? The voices called again, Kole, Wolfe, Drake.
"The hourglass falls, time is nothing."
The pain stopped. The fire stopped. He was in the dark again. There were no flashes of memories to pain him, no mirror, no lights. No voices to answer him when he asked who he was.
He could think. His thoughts were no longer drowned out by the memories, by the voices. There was no Other, just him. He couldn't move. He couldn't move, but he wasn't in pain. Was he dead? No, he couldn't be. The dead can't think.
"Coin, and hourglass..."
Who spoke? He couldn't speak, so whose voice was that?
"The two become one."
The images came back, but not the pain that he'd felt when he'd seen them. Image after image, nature and city, rushed past him, around him, and then into him, leaving him once more in the dark.
Zidane sat up with a slight gasp. His heart was racing. He couldn't remember what he'd been dreaming about, but he still somehow knew it had been something to do with Drake.
He'd been sleeping fitfully, worried about the archer. He was just about to give up on sleeping for the night. His mind was just too troubled by what he didn't know about what had happened to Drake. They all were. Even Vivi had had a hard time falling asleep.
The monkey-tailed thief got out of bed and walked over to the window, leaning on the sill as he looked up at the twin moons. The two moons were set differently in the sky here. The farther moon looked like it could be completely hidden behind the other if the time of year was right. He'd never seen the like on the Mist Continent.
"Zidane? What's wrong?"The theif flinched a little as he heard Dagger's voice. He turned to look at her, and smiled a little as he saw that she was still in bed.
"Nothing. I'm just having a hard time sleeping." Go back to sleep. You need the rest. Zidane wanted to say that to her, but he felt he'd be overstepping his bounds. He really did worry about her, seeing as she was a princess, and unused to such rigorous travel.
And the travel was indeed taking its toll on her. In the sunlight, he could see a few faint freckles on her face, though he felt that they gave her a certain amount of charm. No doubt any tender noble maiden of Treno would have a screaming fit if they developed such faint freckles, but if Dagger had noticed them, she hadn't kicked up a fit. Nor did she react to bugs as most girls did.
"You're worried about Drake." Zidane sighed a little, tapping his hands on the windowsill. He stiffened at a distant sound, and just about fell out the window as he leaned out, looking at the cliff on the side of the town they wanted to head towards. "Z-Zidane!" The thief was yanked back inside, well out of sight of the large group of...something that howled and screamed its way across the cliff.
A similar howl was kicked up from the dwarves, everywhere where they slept. Quina and Vivi woke up almost immediately, and Zidane shut the shutters, his eyes wide. The man was shaking as he locked the shutters and backed away, swallowing hard.
"Wh-what was that...?" The dwarven innkeeper burst in, and slouched with a sigh of relief as she saw that the shutters were closed.
"Ach, ah thought th' Wild 'Unt wouldae taken ye, seein' as ye dinnae ken th' legends." Dagger clasped her hands close to her chest, her eyes worried, and her face extra pale in the light of the candle the innkeeper had brought.
"Wild...Hunt...?" The dwarf nodded, her face grim. Zidane glanced to the shutters, suddenly feeling ill.
"Aye. Tae see th' Wild 'Unt is tae be cursed tae join't. We be blessed that none of oor kin be out o' Conde Petie." Zidane sat down hard, feeling much more ill. Dagger turned to look at him, also looking paler. She then turned back to the innkeeper.
"Thank you for explaining. I believe we all will try to get what rest we can. We'll be leaving in the morning." The innkeeper nodded to Dagger, and backed out of the room. Vivi whimpered on his bed, and Dagger stumbled to his side, hugging him to calm him down. They were all quiet, even Quina.
"...Drake's out there." Zidane, when he finally spoke, had a rough voice. He was also muffled, as though he had a hand over his mouth to keep from being ill. Dagger swallowed hard as well, the idea of Drake being swept up by that mass of screaming people making her feel ill to her stomach.
"He's...He'll be alright. His memories have been returning. He'll know how to react." She didn't sound too sure, but her words were what they all needed to hear, just to set their minds at ease.
Vivi was the first to return to sleep, and Dagger slipped into her own bed after she was sure he'd stay asleep. None of them slept deeply after the midnight screams.
Zidane sighed as he padded back to the store in the morning, looking a bit more haggard than he would have had he known where Drake was. He paused, rocking back on his heels as he saw another non-dwarf at the store. The grocer was addressing it with a friendly smile.
The black mage turned, and jumped as it saw Zidane before quickly gathering up the gil that the dwarf had paid it for the goods it had apparently sold. It then dashed out of the area, pushing past Vivi. The young black mage fell down, twisting to stare after the bigger black mage. Zidane also blinked, completely confused by what he'd seen.
Didn't the black mages...act like they had no mind? Yet this one had definitely acted like it had emotions. It had acted afraid to see Zidane. Maybe Vivi wasn't the only of his kind that learned to think!
The boy dashed out the door after the mage, and Zidane scrambled to his feet with a mental curse before following. His empty stomach was banished from his mind. The boy was faster than he thought, and Zidane soon lost him around a couple of corners.
"Zidane, what's going on?" The blonde turned to look at Dagger, who was looking heavily confused. Zidane growled a little under his breath, and turned to look at where he thought Vivi had gone.
"I have no idea, but we gotta catch up with Vivi!" He started to run again, and Dagger followed close by. They all had their packs on them, thankfully, So if the dash to find Vivi led them clear out of Conde Petie, they wouldn't have to worry about coming back to grab their bags.
They finally caught up with the boy all the way at the entrance to the settlement. Much to their surprise, Quina was there as well. The black mage, however, wasn't. Zidane took a few gulps of air before he judged his ability to talk returned. Conde Petie was such a dusty place, and the plants growing all over the rocks didn't help. In a distant part of his mind, he judged that one good earthquake, one that would actually affect the bridge, would send this whole place to the canyon below.
"Vivi, where's the black mage?" The boy shook his head, not even turning to look at Zidane. The monkey-tailed man turned to look at Dagger, seeing that she was in conversation with Quina.
"He ran away." Zidane sighed a little at Vivi's answer scratching the back of his head, as he looked past the boy's hat to the bridge to the plateau.
"Huh. Where the heck did he come from? Has Brahne found us?" A voice in the back of Zidane's head, one that sounded suspiciously like Drake, said that the queen thought the dolls incompetent, and would never trust them with getting supplies for her army. Zidane had to admit that the voice had a point.
"Do ye ken the Pyntie-Hets?" Zidane and Vivi both looked at the dwarf that had both greeted them and chased Drake off. Zidane had a frown on his face. As soon as they were out of Conde Petie, he wasn't planning on coming back to chat with any of the dwarves.
"Huh? Did you just say Pointy-Hats?!" A glance to Vivi showed that the boy had a gloved hand on his hat. The dwarf shook his thick head.
"Nay, Ah said Pyntie-Hets! They often come from the Sootheast Forest tae trade wi' us."
"They!? You mean there's lots of them? And...they live near here?" Zidane glanced to Dagger, and she nodded to him. A potential second settlement would be much easier for them to handle, even if it was full of black mages. Drake might have even made his way there.
"Aye! But ye gots tae go all the way aroon' yon cliff an' then go east tae find the Sootheast Forest! They live sae deep in the forest, that even owls dinnae live there!" Zidane tilted his head to the side, a puzzled look crossing his face. So deep in the forest that even owls don't live there?
"What's that supposed to mean?" The dwarf didn't answer Zidane, seeing as Vivi piped up then. The boy bounced on his feet to get Zidane's attention, his yellow eyes gleaming.
"Zidane, I want to go to the Southeast Forest and find them!" The thief turned to look at the boy, and nodded, a small smile on his face. With Vivi with them, the black mages likely would be a bit more trusting of them.
"Yeah, me too." He could only hope that Drake was there, but he hoped with all his might. A hand on his arm made Zidane turn, his eyebrows sliding up as he saw Dagger there.
"I think it's a good idea. We might find some clues, and Drake may be there as well." A grumble from the dwarf meant a glare was pointed towards him from the princess, and he shut up.
"If possible to try new food, anywhere fine." Zidane smiled a little at Quina's comment, and nodded. A glance around to make sure that everyone had everything, and he turned to look down at Vivi.
"Alright, let's head to the Southeast Forest." He'd only been heading to the store that last time to make sure he didn't forget to buy anything, so his pack was the heaviest. He'd managed to get a bit more food for the lot of them, so they'd last until they got to the forest.
He started to walk down the bridge to the plateau, sparing a single distasteful glance for the dwarves that had forced Drake to run and be on his own in the strange wilderness.
Zidane sighed as he looked up at the stars. He was laying on his back outside of the tent that the other three were in. He was supposed to be standing watch, but he couldn't see well in the dark, so he might as well just listen carefully. The cookfire was barely embers now, a faint glow under the ash.
The thief's eyes were on the stars high above. He didn't know any of the constellations, so he was just trying to make some up on his own. It wasn't as easy as he thought it'd be. He always figured that the ancients had just decided that a certain set of stars looked vaguely like something and made up a story about it, but he couldn't figure out what any given clump looked like.
Quina came out partway through the night, and Zidane nodded to him/her before going into the tent and falling asleep himself. Something Drake had done that made an awful lot of sense was setting shifts so that everyone got to sleep at least somewhat.
Zidane was still the first one up the next morning, and prodded the cookfire back into life before setting some of his trail rations to warm. Quina was up next, but didn't do any cooking. Zidane had somehow managed to explain to the Qu about eating only a small amount to make sure that what you carry lasts as long as possible. Then again, maybe the Qu figured that out on his/her own, on his/her way back from Cleyra.
Dagger and Vivi were up shortly, as soon as the sun started to peek into the tent, so Zidane collapsed the tent, which he'd had to buy in Conde Petie because Drake had had their original one, and put it in his pack. Vivi and Dagger ate quickly, and Zidane checked how much water they had. Unless they found a water source in the next couple of days, they were in deep trouble.
Somehow, they were actually able to make it all the way to the southeast forest before nightfall, though Zidane cheated a little by finding a path down from the cliffs into the dead forest. If Drake could do it on a nearly-vertical cliff face, they could do so with a steep switchback trail.
Zidane jumped as he heard an owl, and looked up to see the bird flying overhead. He stopped and sighed as he looked around, frowning at the dead, drought-damaged forest. The ground underneath was so dried that there were cracks spreading across the dirt in a pattern. The path he'd been leading the others down for the past half an hour split just ahead, and many sets of signposts, most of which were rotting or cracking from the heat.
He walked up to the newest set of signposts and leaned close to read the cracking, fading paint. Each of the two signs were arrow-shaped, pointing down each path. One said 'where there are owls', and the other said 'where there are no owls'. Zidane blinked and lifted his eyes before shrugging with a slight smile and waving to the others as he headed down the path that was marked with the sign 'where there are no owls'.
Ten minutes later, they were back at the exact same fork, and Zidane looked highly confused. He stood before the signs, his arms crossed and starting to look frustrated. Dagger was standing next to him, wiping sweat from her forehead.
"I know it said that there were no owls that way..." Vivi started to head down the path that the no owls sign pointed to, and Zidane sighed slightly before following. Quina was just plodding along like normal, as if they weren't totally uncertain of where they were going.
It was nearing nightfall when they finally got through the forest. They'd encountered dozens of huge round owls that Dagger said were called Zemzeletts. Zidane's face was looking a bit red from how long they'd apparently been going around in circles, And he'd taken his anger out on the monsters that tried to attack them. Even the flying mushrooms that had ambushed them were no match for the thief's anger.
Zidane grabbed Vivi and Dagger and hauled them behind a dead tree stump suddenly, and pointed at the black mage they'd been following since Conde Petie. As they watched, the mage lifted his hands in the middle of a sandy clearing. Dagger gasped as the air rippled, and then parted, changing the dead forest in front of the mage into a lush green one. Zidane let go of Vivi, who charged after the mage, and glanced back to make sure that Quina was still with them before chasing after the boy himself.
The thief paused only once at the edge of the green forest to look back. He did so in time to see the magic barrier re-form itself. That was why they'd spent so long getting through the forest! The black mages had created intricate spells to protect themselves! This was so far and away different from how he'd seen black mages act on the Mist Continent that he couldn't help but shiver.
As soon as he stepped into the forest, Zidane could feel a drastic difference in the temperature. He sighed with relief and rubbed the back of his glove over his forehead to wipe away sweat. He noticed Dagger doing the same, though Vivi didn't seem to notice any temperature change.
Screams from the black mages as they noticed the visitors made Zidane blink. Were they all really terrified of them? One of them tripped in his haste to get away, the pointed hat barely flopping on the mage's head.
"W-wait...!" Poor Vivi had tried to get their attention, but the mages simply weren't listening. Zidane sighed a little as he stepped forwards, cringing a little as he stepped into a patch of sunlight. A glance towards his arms told him that he was getting sunburnt. He'd have a hard time sleeping that night. The young black mage turned to look at Zidane, who had turned to stare at one of the houses. "Did you see them!?" The boy sounded extremely excited, like a child at a fireworks show.
"Y-yeah..." The thief was still a bit weirded out about how the mages were so different from the ones he'd seen. Now he was feeling bad about all the mages he'd killed in the war, back on the Mist Continent. If Drake felt this way about the mages back when he started to fight in Gizamaluke's Grotto, no wonder he went through battle shock. The mages weren't just puppets...they were people.
"They were talking! There ARE others like me!" Vivi seemed to be barely able to sit still. In fact, as Zidane watched, he dashed off to find one of the other black mages. Dagger, who had been looking at some of the plants, finally walked up the trail to where Zidane was.
"Why would anyone build a village in the middle of a dying forest...?" Zidane shrugged, looking over the houses again. The mages seemed to like circles, as each house was circular in design, with a wide walkway around each, each connected to its neighbor, and with broad roofs that shed plenty of shadows onto those who chose to walk on those walkways.
"Beats me..." And such strange windows...They looked like smiley faces. There was a stump with an axe embedded into it near the entrance, so someone had likely been chopping wood at some point. Mushrooms grew clear in the sunlight not too far from one of the houses, so Zidane figured that a tree had recently been cut down, which had shaded that spot.
"Where's Vivi?" Zidane automatically pointed, not noticing how worried Dagger was. She started to trot after Vivi before Zidane even got a chance to finish his sentence.
"He went that way, but I...hey!" Zidane groaned a little as he realized that the princess had run off. He planted his face in his palm as he heard Quina's announcement from behind him.
"A village! Village always have good food! I go find!" Zidane lifted his head to look at the Qu as s/he trotted in the opposite direction that Dagger took. The thief sighed and shook his head before glancing up at the sky.
"Geez, you people..." Zidane huffed a bit and started towards the nearest house, deciding to take a good look around for himself. As he'd thought, there was plenty of thought put into how the buildings were constructed, though some of them weren't as put together as well as the others. They looked a little older than the rest, too.
Drake sighed as he allowed the headwoman and her assistant to poke and prod him more, tapping his bare foot in patient aggravation. Edgar and Sabin were snickering at him. Since he'd woken at midday with a horrid headache, he'd been asked dozens of questions and poked in even more places and had incense waved around him. His nose twitched in a need to sneeze, but he'd managed to avoid doing so so far.
"Yes, I'm sure," he said, his tone that of forced politeness. The headwoman chuckled a little at his barely controlled exasperation. "My memory was blocked by something, which the Wanderer unblocked. How many times do I have to tell you things that only I would know, anyhow?!" Drake closed his eyes and bit the tip of his tongue, forcing himself to calm down. It was nearing nightfall, and neither woman could agree that he was truly well yet.
"Ach. 'E's been patient enough. Let 'im 'ave some food!" Drake sent a grateful look to Sabin, who had been nursing a mug of headache tea all day long. He'd given a mug of it to Drake as soon as he woke up, and it had gotten rid of the archer's headache as if it hadn't ever been there in the first place.
The headwoman, Wolfe's mother, turned to scowl at Sabin, who merely grinned impishly at her. Edgar covered a laugh, taking a moment from carving to rub at his nose with the back of his hand. Drake still saw the flash of his teeth, though. Sabin had a small smile that seemed to be permanent on his face, ever since he found out why Drake had collapsed the night before.
The young man was dressed in nothing but his trousers. He was missing his bracer and glove, of course, seeing as his glove was completely ruined. He held it in his hands as he'd been poked and prodded, trying to see if he could salvage it at all. His blood had ruined the leather completely.
"If'n ye're so sure've 'im, ye'll be'n charge o' him fer th' night!" Sabin snorted a little, and stood, downing the last of his tea. Drake suddenly noticed just how tall his friend was. Edgar and Sabin, for all they were siblings, couldn't be more different. Edgar was almost half a head shorter than his younger brother.
"Aye, Ah'll keep an eye on 'im. 'E's lookin' much better'n he did when Ed an' me found 'im on the trail." Drake tilted his head from side to side to crack his neck as he stood, grabbing the shirt that the headwoman had made him take off to examine his ouches.
"I'm feelin' much better, too. M'head's clearer than it's been in weeks." The archer rapped a knuckle on his temple, a crooked smile on his face. "I'm feelin' better, Ma, really." Drake spotted the shocked look on the headwoman's face as he tugged the shirt over his head, though it was gone by the time he'd gotten the garment settled. "If I weren't, I'd say's much."
"C'mon, Drake, I wager there's plenny' a pretty girls wantin' t'steal ya away from me'n Sabin for a reel or two." Drake chuckled a bit at Edgar's comment, and slid out of the lodge to take a deep breath of the mountain air. He could feel the difference in how thin the air was, though it didn't affect him nearly at all.
The bonfire was built in the same place it had been the night before, though there were more people that had arrived during the day. The colorful tents were pitched everywhere possible, leaving the village with a festive flair, and the lodges feeling a bit dingy in comparison. Sabin sniffed at the air like a great big dog, and waved for his brother and friend to follow as he wove through the throng of people.
Already there was music playing, drifting through the air. The scent of cooking meat reached Drake's nose, and he grinned, a bounce starting to appear in his step. The air of festivity was thick in the air, making smiles and laughter more contagious than ever.
Once they rounded a particularly large tent, Drake's eyes lit up. Under the twilight sky, young men and women were dancing in intricate patterns of linked hands. To the side of the dancing was a set of smaller fires, from which the scent of cooking meat was coming. Sabin led the hungry trio to the cookfires, and Drake joked a little with a few folks, glad to see that no one was treating him quite like an outsider.
Several men that looked like they were from other villages bore various weapons. Drake was glad to see that bows were rather predominant for men his age. For the most part, the bows looked as though they were made out of ash wood or oak, and fashioned in the longbow style. There were no expert bowyers in these mountains. Not to the level that Drake had expected, casting through his memories. That, more likely than not, was a sign of his changed view of the world. Many young men were gathered around the cookfire, waiting for the meat to be parceled out.
It was amongst these men that Edgar, Sabin, and Drake mingled. A few young men gave passing glances to Drake before turning back to their conversations. Drake eventually found a group of archers, and introduced himself. Several eyes flicked to the bright pink scar on his left forearm.
"Hoo, that's quite the mark. How'd y'get it?" The archer held up his left arm to let the nearest of the group to run his fingers over the smooth skin. The others leaned in, just as curious.
"M'bow broke as I drew it back. It was fair recent, just a couple o' weeks past." The archers around him all winced and whistled. "I was lucky to have a powerful healer nearby t'heal me up." He turned his hands palm up, showing the pink, healing skin there. "M' ma was able to heal these up after I wen' skiddin' down a cliff." Now there were hisses of sympathy.
"Y'didn' use a potion? Most trav'lers've got those on'm." Drake nodded, and carefully stretched his hands. The small amount of scar material on his hands, which he knew would fade eventually, stretched almost painfully. Dagger would be able to work wonders on his hands, he knew, once he saw her again. She'd fixed his arm up to the point where it barely hurt and the scar material was as supple as the skin around it.
"Aye, I did. Got rid o' all th' ill in m'hands afore Ma got a look at 'em. A'course, it were only t'day Ma got t' look o'er me an' make sure I'm healthy. Y'heard 'bout the Hunt come through?" The men all shivered and marked crescents on their arms, grim looks on their faces.
"Aye, we heard o' th' elders as were taken by th' Hunt, along wi' th' outsider they sheltered. Also heard tell sommun else was out." Drake nodded, and glanced at the cookfires as a piece of meat popped loudly.
"Aye. I was. Wanderer called me out an..." He frowned, a puzzled look on his face. "I can't remember exactly what 'e did. Whate'er it did, it brought m' memories back t'me." The others lifted their eyebrows at him, and he smiled lopsidedly. "M'memories were lost t'me fer bout two years. Changed m'name whilst I was gone." One of the men peered closer to him, and Drake grinned, turning to look at him. "Y'owe me a bit, by-the-by. There IS another place on t'other side o' that tunnel." The man groaned.
"Ach, Wolfe, ye changed 's little 's y've changed much. I clean forgot 'bout tha' bet. What'd ya find there?" Drake chuckled a bit at his cousin's reaction, and crossed his arms, spotting Sabin glance towards him and then Edgar, keeping track of where they were. A few moments later, and a movement of Edgar's head told Drake that the eldest of the three was doing the same thing.
"Ah, th' whole continent's full o' people! They got things there y'd have to see t'believe. Ships as fly in the air, buildings as big as a mountain..." Drake trailed off, grinning at the disbelieving looks he was getting from the others. "Y' don' believe me. I traveled back 'ere wi' four others, natives o' that land. Ed an' Sab've already said that they'll help me find 'em again. While my memories were gone, I followed 'em up t' th' daft ones as live in th' air o'er th' canyon. They chased me off without touchin' m' friends." The others scowled, dark looks on their faces.
"If y'want, we'll come with ye, an' teach 'em why they be right t'fear the mountain." Drake sighed a little and shook his head, rubbing his right hand over the scar on his left forearm.
"I've seen enough o' war on t'other continent, I want nothing less than t' bring tha' war back t'Caledonia." The others leaned forwards, but they were all startled out of their fascination by one of the men tending to the fire announcing that the meat was done.
The poor men would have been mugged by the crowd of hungry men, but for Sabin wading in and forcing everyone to back off. Drake didn't bother to get into the middle of the press. Edgar brought the archer a hunk of meat balanced on top of a loaf of bread that had been cut in half lengthwise. The other half of the loaf and another hunk of meat was in the man's other hand.
"Thanks. Almost forgot about the rush as happens when th' meat's done." Edgar chuckled, and waited for Sabin to show up. In his wake was Drake's cousin, the one that owed him because of a bet that the Chosen had won. Not that Drake's cousin knew he was related to a Chosen yet.
"Let's find a clear spot to sit an' eat in peace, least one'a th' hounds jumps an' gets sommat we'd rather they not." Drake laughed at that, eyeing the hunting hounds that wound their way through the crowds, people acting as if they weren't there.
"Aye. An' in th' meanwise, y'can tell me what m'cousin's been up to." Drake snorted a little as the group of them wove through the crowds to a group of logs set on end. A few girls sent flirtatious looks to them, and Drake rolled his eyes a little before perching on top of one of the logs.
"A great deal's 'appened. Y'really wan' me t' tell y' all o' it?" Drake's cousin nodded, his mouth full of meat. Drake popped a bit of bread into his mouth and chewed as his eyes followed an ember into the sky, trying to figure out where to start.
Zidane frowned a bit at bottom of the bunk above him. Vivi had left his cot, and Dagger was still walking around, too energetic still to lay down and try to sleep. Not that it was cool enough to sleep yet. It was still so warm that Zidane could understand why the ground was cracked. Though the forest around the black mage's village was much cooler than the one around that forest. A bit of prying had gotten Zidane the information that there was a spring that supported the forest and its inhabitants.
"Zidane...Vivi just walked out." Zidane's tail twitched a bit. Despite his worry, he pasted a silly smile on his face. He didn't look to Dagger, though. He was learning that she was very insightful. If she saw his eyes, she'd be able to tell his heart wasn't in the flirting.
"Maybe he's letting us have a little romantic time." Dagger took the flirt the entirely wrong way, scowling at him and propping her fists on her hips. She huffed at him a bit to emphasize her irritation at him.
"I'm serious!" Zidane sighed a little, his smile dropping a bit. His tail flicked again, and he tilted his head a little to look out the window.
"...I wouldn't worry too much." Dagger shifted a little, holding her hands away from her hips, like normal.
"But..." Zidane closed his eyes and rolled onto his side, away from Dagger. He stared out the window at the trees, a frown back on his face.
"He's trying to figure something out for himself." Zidane could understand why Vivi was being a bit distant. He was sure that Drake would as well. After all, hadn't Drake been distant while they were in Lindblum? Zidane knew that Drake had been trying to figure himself out. "Think about it. Vivi's never met black mages like himself before."
"But what if they're being mean to him, or saying nasty things?" Zidane shook his head, but didn't roll over to look at her. He'd spent plenty of time talking to the black mages. They were all as innocent and naïve as Vivi. He doubted that any of them had even considered being mean.
"Do you really think the people of this village gathered to do something like that?" Zidane's voice was quiet. Even though he was facing the wall, he knew that Dagger could still hear him.
Dagger remained silent, so Zidane kept talking. Dagger was a smart young woman, but she didn't understand people nearly as well as the thief did. He'd had to learn how, to survive as part of a troupe of thieves. Drake had joined after most of them had drifted away from stealing directly, so he hadn't been as pressured to learn the arts as Zidane had been.
"Maybe...Just maybe, he'll find what he's looking for." Dagger shifted, and Zidane could hear her climbing up into the top bunk.
"...Find what?" Zidane smiled sadly, glad that Dagger couldn't see him. He knew he'd seen the look on Drake's face more than once, when his friend had been allowed to think far too much.
"A place to call home." Zidane rolled onto his back as Dagger repeated the last word in his sentence. He linked his fingers behind his neck, cradling his head. "Yeah...A place where he belongs..."
They were quiet for a while, listening to the insects in the forest. Zidane couldn't shake the feeling that Drake could have told them about all the insects they could hear, and what they looked like. The archer had definitely known where he was going when he led them to the plateau. He hadn't wavered in his directions, and Zidane had gotten turned around more times than he could count.
"Hey Zidane...When you said home..." Zidane winced at Dagger's soft voice. She'd noticed how longingly he'd said the word. He needed to distract her from it.
"What's the matter? Can't fall asleep?" He forced his voice to stay light, as though he didn't have a single worry on his mind. "How about a bedtime story?" He didn't bother to wait for her answer, knowing that he was likely annoying her by treating her like a child. "Let's see...Once upon a time..."
"There you go again, teasing me..." Dagger sounded miffed, though Zidane could hear the slight smile in her voice. Zidane frowned a bit, and finally decided on which story he'd tell her.
"Once upon a time...there was a man. There was a man who didn't know where he came from..." Dagger shifted on the bunk above him, and whispered Zidane's name, sounding concerned. His voice had gone from teasing to serious, and almost a bit grim.
"This man had longed to find his birthplace ever since he was a small child. His birthplace. A place he only remembered in his dreams..."
"Why...?" Zidane smiled a little at Dagger's question. She was taking him seriously now, seeing that he wasn't teasing her anymore.
"He wanted to know more about himself, maybe. About his parents, and the house where he was born... One day, the man left the home of his adoptive father and went on a quest to find the answer." He could almost feel Dagger's excitement. She was expecting a rollicking tale full of daring deeds and high adventure. "His only clue was the blue light he saw in his dreams..."
"A blue light?" Dagger sounded confused. Zidane took a deep breath in, though he was careful not to do it so loudly she'd hear.
"Yeah. He thought it might be a memory of his birthplace. An ocean, maybe...?" Zidane thought about how Dagger was moving, and could imagine her popping her head over the edge to stare at him as he talked. He almost laughed at the mental image.
"Did he find it?" Now Zidane snorted with a bit of amusement.
"Hey, you're jumping ahead. A lot of things happened along the way. Alright, we can skip ahead...No, he never found it. How could he? His only clue was a colored light." Zidane's tail twitched, as if scolding him for dwelling on that failure. "So he went back to the home of his adoptive father...What do you think his father did when he came home?" Zidane winced a little at the memory of his reception, one of his hands leaving its spot behind his head to rub at his belly a little.
"...Welcomed him home?" She didn't sound too sure, but then again, she hadn't ever really talked to Baku. Drake would have known how Baku had reacted. The archer had done his best to stay on Baku's good side.
"No way! The father raised his fist and beat the son he had worked so hard to raise."
"I don't know." No, Zidane did know. He didn't know all of it, but he did know some of it. He knew because he worried about Vivi the same way that Baku worried about Zidane and Drake. "But you know what surprised him even more? The father smiled, after beating up his son!" Zidane couldn't help but smile at the memory. Baku was definitely the sort do invest in tough love, but he really did care about the boys that he raised. "Can you believe that? He just gave his son a beating. But this is what the man thought when he saw his father smile... This is my home. This is the place I call home."
Dagger shifted again, and Zidane was quiet for just a couple of moments. He had to blink his eyes a bit to keep from tearing up, missing Baku and the others. A place had no meaning for him, but the people in that place did.
"The man is still looking for his birthplace. But he already has a home. Maybe... ...It's the same for Vivi. He's looking for a place to call home." Zidane slid his gloved hand under his head again, linking his fingers together again.
"I wonder if Vivi will stay in this village?" Zidane sighed silently, his tail flicking against his pants leg. His boots lay on the floor next to his bed. The sheets were clean, and Dagger had fussed at him when he'd thought to lay on the bed with his boots on.
"Who knows...That's for him to decide..."
The two of them were silent for a while afterwards again, simply listening to the insects. As Zidane watched out the window, little lights flickered in an out of existence over the farm that the mages kept. They looped and spun like they were alive, floating here and there like flashing embers.
Eventually, both Zidane and Dagger fell asleep. By the time they woke up the next morning, Vivi was bundled in his cot under the blankets, sleeping away. Zidane arranged the boy's hat as he passed the cot, covering his face just a little more. He knew that Vivi was self-conscious about his appearance, hence why he covered himself up so completely.
Zidane wandered the village for a while, chatting with the mages and stretching his muscles. They had a long walk still. After about an hour of wandering, he heard a fuss being kicked up at the entrance to the village, and trotted to investigate. When he finally saw, he stopped suddenly, his eyes wide, before rushing forwards even faster.
"Drake!" The archer turned from the mages that were arguing in front of him, and grinned as he saw Zidane rushing towards him. The two blonde men that were with him were conversing with the mages, so they barely spared a glance.
"Zidane! I was wondering if you might be here! I described Vivi to my friends here, and they mentioned this village. We thought that maybe you'd have traveled here!" Drake took the punch to the shoulder that Zidane aimed at him without complaint, and got his monkey-tailed friend into a headlock, grinning widely. Zidane simply popped right out of it, though, and backed off to get a good look at his archer friend.
Drake wasn't dressed quite the same as he'd been when Zidane last saw him. He still had his armor, but the clothing under it was different. He wore a rough tunic with sleeves that looked like they'd been ripped off, leather pants that were laced up to the knee before hanging loose on him, rough leather gloves on both hands, along with the bracer that he kept on his left hand, and his traveling boots. His hair had a few twigs in it from the forest, but he looked clean, well fed, well rested, and happy.
"Where's Vivi and Dagger? Are they around?" Drake turned his head as if the two he asked about would jump out at random and run to greet him like Zidane had. The thief stared at Drake for a few more moments before he realized that his friend didn't look like he was in pain at all.
"Last I saw Vivi, he was asleep, and I'm not sure where Dagger went to. Who're your friends?" Drake turned his attention to the blond men, who had finally gotten the mages to agree on something. The thinner of the two was still talking much faster than the other, gesturing with his long-fingered hands.
"Sab and Ed. They're old friends of mine. Ed's the skinny one, and Sab's the buff one." Drake pointed at each of them, grinning as he noted that the brothers glanced to him when they heard their names. He blinked at Zidane as he noted the odd look he was getting.
"...Old friends? You remembered?" Drake nodded, propping his hands on his hips in an easy gesture. "So you are from this continent!" Drake chuckled a bit, his eyes roaming over what he could see again. It seemed to be a habit.
"Yeah, I remembered. My people have been feuding with the dwarves for generations. That's why they chased me off. We live on the mountains, where there's more water available." Zidane blinked at this information, especially when Drake gestured towards the mountains that Zidane had seen from the highest point in the village. "We should be able to get more information on our destination amongst my kin. We travel all over the continent."
Now Drake sounded like he was getting his Lindblum accent back, though maybe it was just because he was talking to Zidane. The mage that Edgar was talking to nodded finally, and waddled off to find something as the blond sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Well, tha' was a job an'a half. Wol-" He stopped himself mid-word, sighed, and started to talk again as Drake grinned. "Drake, wouldja introduce me t'yer friend now? Proper-like." Drake rolled his eyes at Edgar with a grin.
"Ach, y'jus' like rubbin' it inta people's faces. Zidane, this is Edgar, true king of the Desert Kingdom, Chosen of the Gemini Constellato. Sabin's his younger brother, an' Chosen of the Capricorn Constellato. Still dunno which cities they be Chosen of. Ed, Sab, this be Zidane, true friend an' brother in all but blood." A yell of glee made Drake turn his head to look, and he grinned. "Th' lass there be Dagger, exiled Princess Garnet til Alexandros th' se'enteenth." Edgar's eyebrows snapped upwards as he looked over Dagger. "Th' lad runnin' alongst-side 'er is Vivi, the black mage we been travelin' with."
Dagger panted a bit as she came to a stop, and greeted Drake with enthusiasm and worry, and then Drake had to introduce Edgar and Sabin to her and Vivi all over again. Dagger dithered a little when she found out that the slender blond she was looking at was a king, and bowed after a slight hesitation, seeing as she wasn't wearing skirts. Edgar took her hand and bowed over it, smiling charmingly at her.
"Tis a wond'rous thing t'meet a beauty s'far from civilization. But I'm no king yet. My crown was stole from me by a man as set siege to the castle when I was but a boy. Our father sent us to the mountains for safekeeping as he fought th' villain. We grew there, and 'tis only recent we've tried to regain our birthright." He gestured towards his younger brother, who was crouching to talk to Vivi with a smile.
Dagger was blushing, much to Drake's amusement and Zidane's irritation. She didn't look utterly charmed, thankfully for Zidane's ego. Drake tugged Zidane away a bit to chat with him, perching on a tree stump.
"I need to fill you in on a bit before Ed, Sab, and I lead you to our village." The information got Zidane's attention immediately, and Drake grinned lopsidedly. "For one, my ma's headwoman an' chief priestess. My da's chief, an' out on a long hunt. I'll be headin' out to join 'im and hunt with 'im once we get you to the village. He'll be headin' back within th' week anyhow.
"Ye're bound t'be asked t' stay for Samhain, which starts within a fortnight. Tis a holy festival o' th' harvest. Ye'll likely hear plenty of stories about the fires. I'm known as Wolfe t' most, as that's the name I had as a boy." Zidane frowned, and Drake held up his hand. "Th' name I remembered in Burmecia? It's a true name, an' not one t'be used on a regular basis. Names such's that hold power." Zidane closed his mouth again, nodding understanding. Even on the Mist Continent, there were legends about mages causing havoc by finding out a ruler's 'true' name and controlling them with it.
"So 'Drake' is your given name now? How did your family react to seeing you again? You've changed a lot since we first met." Drake grinned, nodding to the first question.
"Ach, most of 'em acted like they'd seen a ghost. It was only after I'd been there for a while that I started t' remember much. Y' likely heard the Wild Hunt go by. The Hunter, the Gray Wanderer...He stopped in the village, an' called me out." Zidane's eyes widened, and he went pale. "Y'remember when I shot sommat out of Brahne's hand, by Cleyra? It was him bein' summoned. 'E thanked me for it, seein' as he dinnae want t'be used t' slaughter innocents. 'E thanked me, an' unlocked sommat up here as was keepin' me from remembering." Drake tapped his temple with a gloved finger, grimacing a little. "It wasnae fun. I was unconscious for most of th' day after." Zidane nodded, seeing why Drake would have said that.
"So how did you get here so fast, if your village is on the mountains? Chocobos?" Drake grinned widely, and rubbed his nose with his thumb.
"Ah, you'll see soon enough. Y'may unnerstand my dislike o' chocobos soon enough." Zidane eyed Drake, and tried to get him to explain, but couldn't. Finally, he and Drake were simply chatting, with the thief linking his fingers behind his head.
"So the people here, your people. They have a name for this continent, right?" Drake grinned widely, and slipped off of his stump to stretch.
"Aye. Welcome to Caledonia, known t' the folks of the Mist Continent as the Outer Continent."
End Notes: So yeah...This chapter feels like filler to me, even with the group traveling to the Black Mage Village. I'm sorry I skimmed over Vivi's plot points in the village. I'm trying to get things wrapped up, promise! I'm just trying to get a certain chapter out at a certain point!