Part One: The Southern Sky

When the pillars of that life came crashing down

I did not stand and watch them fall

I turned, and walked away

I did not know that I would end up in The Southern Sky

Chapter One: A Beoulve in Bethla

Ramza trudged through biting wind and blinding snow, eyes dark and downcast. He could barely feel the cold, though he was hardly dressed for a trek through the barren, ice packed earth. All he could think of was the flame, consuming his entire life in mere moments. In the blink of an eye, he had lost everything.

Dusk was approaching, illuminated by the roaring fires of Fort Ziekden some miles behind him. After the explosion, Ramza simply walked away without looking back. Teta and Delita, as much family to him as his own blood, were dead, and he was partly responsible. Once again, as he stumbled through the snow, he cursed the Beoulve name. Zalbag, Dycedarg, they were liars. What honor they may have had once long since degraded into arrogance, their hearts turned cold to those they should have loved.

His brothers were not to be trusted, and as dead to him as Delita and his sister. With that realization came a sharper, more defined pain, so strong it brought Ramza to his knees. He may never see Alma again. His sister, the one who gave him hope when he felt so close to despair, may as well have died in that same explosion.

With time, he would come to see that he was being melodramatic, emotional, but at that moment all he could do was kneel in the cold landscape and mourn. The one person in the world he felt he could trust was gone, and he had nowhere to go. He couldn't go back to the Hokuten, not now.

"Father… what did I do wrong?"

Ramza's voice was a whisper lost in the freezing wind, eyes squeezed shut. He knew Balbanes would have no wisdom for him now as he had in life, he simply wished he had the same conviction, the same honor, his father had. Ramza pressed his fists into the ground, and forced himself to stand. Though it hurt to go on, he knew he must. Balbanes would have, and Ramza refused to do wrong by him.

Lying in bed, the ruckus from the bar filtering through the floor beneath him, Ramza failed to fall asleep. He had wandered without a purpose in the weeks since his escape from Ziekden, most likely assumed dead, finally arriving in Dorter. The trade town was a small comfort to him, though only very small, and put his mind to work. Unfortunately, only one thought repeated itself.

Where do I go from here?

He'd considered it only briefly during his time in Dorter, each time deciding he would just continue on and see where he ended up. Yet, he still hadn't left the city. The gil he'd carried as he left the Hokuten would run out eventually, and he couldn't live off of a craft. His only craft was combat, and he was no longer sure he'd be happy making a living off of that.

Which is why he hadn't given a definite answer to the Mercenary who had approached him just hours before. Ramza couldn't recall the man's name, but he'd been quite insistent on it. He had said that he would be leaving in the morning, with or without him. It was a promising offer, with good pay, and yet Ramza was reluctant for only one reason; He'd heard something else that had interested him.

In Dorter, gossip wasn't merely related to the events surrounding the city. Merchants came from across all of Ivalice, each with their own stories and news. One piece of news interested Ramza, and he'd listened intently. It was another two hours before sleep finally claimed him, but by then he'd made his decision.

The Impenetrable Fortress, Bethla Garrison. The daunting title matched its appearance, as the fortified structure loomed overhead. Moonlight danced off the outer walls of the fort, as Ramza in turn danced around them. He moved quietly and quickly through the shadows, grateful he had learned to be light on his feet during his time in the Northern Sky.

It didn't take the young Beoulve long to find an unguarded entrance to the fort, proving that it was only a name attached to Bethla, not a fact. During this time of peace, even with the extra compliment of reserves at the fort, security was light. He was unsure of the layout of the fort, but fundamentally it was surely the same as any other.

He entered through a small escape passage on the north side, slipping in when the wall patrols had passed. Ramza moved with stealth through dimly lit corridors, listening for sound before silently checking a few rooms. Eventually he found what he was looking for, and slipped inside. Though the lower catacombs of Bethla might be deserted, where he was going was sure to not be, and he couldn't simply walk past the Nanten guards dressed as he was.

A White Lion dressed as a Black, Ramza slipped back into the corridor. Disguised as one of the Nanten afforded him a little more protection from discovery, but it was hardly perfect. If he looked out of place, and given his unfamiliarity with the Garrison that was entirely possible, he was done for. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, the teenage Beoulve went up.

Thankfully, at this late hour, many of the soldiers had turned in for the night. The few that passed him simply nodded and went on their way, until another man, around his age, walked right up to him.

"Excuse me?" The boy asked, nervously tucking brown hair off of his face. "Do you know where the south watch is to report to?"

Ramza froze, panicking. Before he could even stammer out an explanation, the other boy laughed lightly.

"Right, you must be new to Bethla, as I am." The young man said, shaking his head. "I apologize. I'm sure I'll find it. Maybe I should start on the south side of the fort…"

The Nanten strode off, leaving Ramza with a stuttering heart and a sharp exhale. He'd been lucky, and decided not to press it. If Bethla was anything like any of the smaller forts in Gallione, he'd have to keep going up.

For almost a half an hour he had traipsed through the Garrison, still overwhelmed by its size. It was smaller than Igros, definitely, but not by a great deal. As it was, he found his destination by accident, as an officer slipped out of the door. Ramza hugged the corner, watching as the man left, before approaching.

Taking a deep, calming breath, he opened the door and slipped inside, instantly aware that he'd interrupted something. Three gazes leapt to him as the door settled shut, all of them making it clear he was not meant to be there. The two knights, closer to him than the older man, stood silent, waiting to see what their commander did.

"Leave us." The man ordered, eliciting confused glances from both of his Lieutenants. "Now."

The knights did as instructed, taking even more interest in Ramza than they had moments before. He watched them as they left, and it wasn't until the heavy door had closed that the General spoke.

"You, my boy, are definitely not one of my soldiers." He said quietly, cool gray eyes locked onto Ramza.

Ramza instantly dropped to one knee, pressing his fist to the floor and lowering his head. It had come down to this, and if he was wrong, he may well be paying for his mistake with his life.

"Count Orlandu, sir." He said respectfully. "My name is-"

"Oh, I'm well aware of who you are. I'd know that face anywhere. What I would really desire to know, young Beoulve, is what you are doing here."

"I have nowhere else to go, sir."

Orlandu stared at him for a long moment, before stepping forward to stand directly in front of Ramza.

"Stand." He ordered, and Ramza obeyed.

"I am impressed you made it this far, though that does not concern me as much as the why you have come to me."

"My… father spoke of you. He said you were the only man he ever trusted, his only true friend."

"That held true for Balbanes, but not for you young knight. You infiltrated a stronghold maintained by Duke Goltana. This could be construed as an act of war, you realize?"

"I no longer am a member of the Northern Sky, sir."

"Oh? So you came here as a traitor, is that it? You wish to defect without your brother's knowledge? Or perhaps Larg wishes a spy inside the Nanten, one that I would be less likely to dispose of."

"I come as none of those things, My Lord. I only know that I myself have no one else to trust. My brothers have no love save for our name, and no remorse for those who threaten it. They dishonor it without truly knowing they do so."

Orlandu stood silent, taking stock of the young man in front of him. The resemblance to Balbanes was plain, and the words spoken rang with the same tone. Cid was not quick to trust, but he could see no lie in Ramza's eyes, nor hear it in his voice.

"The Northern and Southern Sky have not fallen upon each other, and I have no desire to make war with my brothers. I do not wish to live under their command, either, sacrificing my father's honor for their own." Ramza said plainly, his gaze burning a hole in the floor of the man's study.

After a long moment, Cid walked silently to the window overlooking the Garrison. Ramza stood where had kneeled, hands clasped behind his back. Thus far, it looked as though he may live through the night, and that his father's trust had been well placed.

"Balbanes was the only man who was ever my equal on the battlefield, and I respected him more than any of the knights I have fought alongside in the Fifty Year War. If you are true to what you say, which I believe you are, I may be able to help you."

"Thank you sir."

Cid turned to him once more, arms crossed over his barrel chest. His eyes were like cold iron, gray and assessing, but there was a light there Ramza hadn't noticed before. A small smile touched the seasoned general's lips.

"You do look so much like him." He said with a small sigh. "Return that uniform where you found it, and I'll have room prepared for you. I suggest you not use your name lightly here, as it is rather recognizable."

Ramza nodded lightly, a wave of relief washing over him.

"Welcome to the Southern Sky, Ramza Beoulve."

Author's Note: I got to wondering how the story would have been different had Ramza not joined up with Gafgarion, which I saw as somewhat out of character for him. So I decided to write up a story where that one thing changed, and the effects it would have on everything after. It's going to be daunting, trying to match up key plot events when Ramza isn't following the same path, but that's the fun part.

I began this story with an outline, making it the first one that I wrote without simply… writing. However after I got halfway through the second chapter, I realized that an outline narrowed my thinking too much, and have discarded the idea. It's just not for me. I may be editing this opening chapter and revising it completely, as I'm not sure I'm happy with it. We'll see.

There may be some inconsistencies when it comes to names and/or places, since I tend to mix up the original PSX and PSP versions from playing both to death. So basically, if I liked the usage in the PSP version better, I included it, such as referring to Northern Sky soldiers as well as Hokuten.

If you noticed something is completely out of place, PLEASE let me know so I can fix it, preferably before its inclusion screws with later chapters. Reviews and inquiries welcome, as well as constructive criticism. It's been awhile since I've put words to paper, so I'm a little out of practice.