Final Fantasy VI: The Sands of Time
Book 2: The Goddess War
Chapter 12 - Havoc's Cry
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. If there is one thing I learned from my time in utter solitude, and one thing that has kept me alive through these frightful times, it is this basic truth of existence. Love will shine forth from even the blackest heart, the most lost soul, or the most jaded cynic. It is the power of humanity itself, and can never be extinguished, no matter how fervently some people may try. I have learned this the hardest way imaginable, as I am sure many others have in the timeless ages of this world.
Life is a cycle, and it is love that turns it. But love's dark side, the twisted reversal of fortune that accompanies any great loss or misfortune, is just as potent, and must be equally regarded and respected. Hate. The power of love creates and fuels the power of hate, for just as there can be no darkness without a light to define it, there can be no hate that was not first born from an equally powerful love betrayed. What tragedies has this balancing act of emotion caused throughout history? Even the great Collapse that ruined the world was caused by a hatred so deep, so profound, that one can only marvel at the almost unfathomable love that must have given birth to it.
-From A Return to Life, by Cid del Norte Marguez, 5 AF
Part 12.1 - The Dispossessed Know Wrath
They came from the West and the East. They walked, they rode, they ran, they wept. Their wrath was a quiet one, sleeping and waiting for its time and place. War had come again, and the innocent and helpless did the only thing left to them in such cruel times. They fled their homes amidst the harsh flames and even harsher winds of freezing cold. And the dust. Everywhere people trod, dust rose up in great gusts of despair, the eternal sign of the dispossessed.
But where did they go? Where could they go? The North was full of savages. The Horde of Zozo, stronger now than in even the oldest traveler's memories, hunted down and captured, or killed, all who crossed their paths. The East was burning under the wrathful flames of the Tyrant Wyrm's army. The West was freezing under that same inhuman force. The only salvation lay in the South, the affluent realm of the von Muirs. So it was that Manse von Muir saw the second greatest influx of human bodies the world had ever known. Hundreds of thousands of Jidorikans left their homes, their land, and their livelihoods for the hope of sanctuary in the verdant fields of the southern peninsula.
Manse von Muir. For nearly three centuries, the massive palatial manor had been home to a family rich even by the opulent standards of the Western nobility. So wealthy, in fact, that their estate was basically a country in its own right, and did not need to concern itself with the affairs of the northern nations. Wars raged on between East and West throughout the years, and the von Muirs cared not one gil for what happened beyond the southern border of the Medina. They were far too elite to bother with the riff-raff of the northern barbarians. For to them, all Jidorikans north of the Medina were lowborn riff-raff; the "people of dust" as Apollo von Muir, the great-grandfather of the current Prince had famously said, and later regretted.
Prince Chris von Muir was not like his great-grandfather, however. He knew the history of his people and his family, and knew something Apollo did not. The Order records were open to him, as a ninth-level acolyte, and he knew that the founder of the von Muir family fortune was a man who went by the name of Duster. Two hundred and eighty years ago, this man arrived, penniless and homeless, on the quiet shores where the Medina meets the great western ocean. With no past and no name, he trod the dust and encountered a kind and generous people. These were the Jidorikans who dwelt in the grey area between East and West, living off the lush bounty that the Medina River afforded them. They took this man, who could think of no better name than Duster to call himself, and treated him like family. And he soon grew to regard them as family as well.
Twenty years later, Duster had married the beautiful daughter of his saviors, Gilberta, and the von Muir family line was established. The only keepsake Duster had of his former life, which he either did not remember or refused to speak of, was a harp. A harp who's exquisite sound, unmatched craftsmanship, and ornate encrusting of jewels, gold, mythril, and countless other gems with no name, entranced all who saw or heard it. Through the power of this seemingly magical harp, Duster wooed his princess Gilberta, and later, all the people of the Medina. In time, he became a rich man, beloved by all and the unspoken leader of this tribe of Jidorikans that called themselves neither Easterner nor Westerner. The harp remained in the family line as a priceless heirloom, and still sits on the mantle behind the head of the table in the great hall of Manse von Muir, hypnotizing all who set their gaze on its supernatural beauty, untarnished through the centuries.
Before there was a Manse, though, there was a town, and before that, a people with no name, no nation to call their own. And so these people of no nation eventually moved south along a dusty road through the meandering peninsula that made up the land south of Jidorik, calling themselves the "people of Duster." Their settlement at the end of this long road was named after their benefactor and local legend, Duster, now long dead. The village of Duster grew, as did Duster's line, which had taken Gilberta's family name of von Muir and built an empire of free trade among all nations of that time. Gil became the new currency of anyone who mattered, and soon would become the currency of the world.
Time has a way of making people forget, as does power, and money. One hundred years after Duster had washed up on the Jidorik shores, his own people had forgotten their roots, and regarded themselves as better than the northern stock. No longer were northerners welcome in the halls of Manse von Muir, which had gradually been built around the entire town of Duster to keep foreigners out. This hamlet-sized building, more like a fortress than a house, was the pride of the von Muirs, precisely because it symbolized their separation from the rest of the world. There was no dust to be found on the carefully manicured lawns and immaculate cobblestone walkways inside Manse von Muir. If you were not a von Muir, you were nobody.
Apollo von Muir personified the height of the corruption, greed, and decadence that had befallen the once kind, generous name of von Muir. And he paid the price all princes who forget their people must pay. No amount of gil saved Apollo from the riots that followed the great civil war between East and West. The von Muirs had ignored the "people of dust" for too long, and when total war broke out in Jidorik for the first time, the Manse was caught unprepared for the smoldering wrath that came with a people forced to eat the very dust beneath their feet. War came to Jidorik, and Apollo ignored all the signs that surely would have been obvious to Duster and Gilberta.
The people came. First a few wary individuals, then clusters of panicked families, and then finally thousands of people, entire towns fleeing the horrors of war. And Apollo ignored them. The gates of Manse von Muir were shut, the strings of Apollo's famous family harp silent and slack.
And then the people of dust finally rose up and choked Apollo. The people knew the power of their wrath now, and with it, toppled the gates of Manse von Muir, drowning Apollo in his own fountain and washing away generations of sin. Manse von Muir became a home for wayward souls afterwards, with Gilbert II, Apollo's son, leaving the smashed gates the way the people had left them, open to all who sought comfort. Gilbert's daughter, Selene, followed her father's example, even marrying a high-ranking member of the Order of the Pearl and becoming a member of the peace-loving Order herself.
And Chris von Muir had not forgotten the sins of his forefathers, and would never forget the lessons of his generous mother and kind father. He was the last surviving von Muir, and would do justice to his family name, and the memory of the people of Duster. For he knew we are all people of the dust, and that the anger of those who have no power is the deepest anger of all. As he sat on the north balcony of his luxurious manor and looked at the sea of people arriving from the north, wave after wave in an endless parade of begrimed bodies, he felt the dust on him, and knew what he had to do. The family harp was in his hands, ready and waiting.
The gates were open, the beds and tents ready, warm meals cooking in a hundred ovens. The people of Duster were coming again, and this time, his harp would sing for all the world to hear. With carefully trained fingers, he played, and the ancient melody sang from the strings. It was a song of welcome, of family, friendship, and brotherhood. All who heard the song knew they would find shelter if they just followed the music. They did not know why they felt this way, only that it was the truth. The harp had the power to sing the song of one's heart, and the Prince's heart cried out for the people he loved to come to him and be safe from the madness of the north.
I am ready mother, father. Let them come. Let them all come to us. The Prince will shelter the powerless, and the Stradivari will smite those who think themselves powerful. Altimus, guide me in this great venture, for it is the gods themselves I must fight now. I trust in your love, and know you will not lead me astray.
The Nacre glinted from the desk behind him, the first rays of morning playing off the different-sized pearls in a multitude of colors. The rainbow vibrated in harmony with the vibrating strings of the harp, an ethereal interplay of light and sound. There was a great power here, the Prince knew, and it was the greatest power in the universe.