A/N: So I decided to try writing for something other than Pokemon for a change. It's a nice feeling, I tell ya. I went with FFTA2 because I've been playing it a lot lately and I just think it's a fantastic game. On top of that, it gives the same kind of freedom that Pokemon does in terms of bendable and exploitable canon, which is nice. So here goes!
It was meant to be a routine mission. They were supposed to be hunting stray baknamy trampling some farmers' crops.
Why did it go wrong?
The crops here were more than trampled; they were burned to a crisp, the sick, choking smell of smoke hanging in the air like a shroud. Small fires still burned wherever there was enough fuel for them. The earth had been torn from its regular furrows and resculpted into a bloody tableau of battle. Bodies littered the ground, crushed into the dirt among the smashed cabbages. Three dead baknamy – the hunted. Two bangaa, a nu mou and a hume – the hunters. All of them shared the same level of dignity in death, discarded and trampled indiscriminately.
Only three remained standing, but only barely. A young gria slumped against the fence, her eyes wide with horror as she looked upon the havoc wreaked upon her former clanmates. Her red hair was matted with dirt, and one of her draconic wings hung at a slight angle. Blood and soot stained her torn clothes, and her breath came in short, sharp gasps.
On the other side of the field was the source of all the chaos. A huge, hulking mass of scales and talons, its glittering hide dulled by tracks of mud and streaks of brownish blood. She wasn't even sure what it was, but it had taken them all by surprise. Two swords stuck out of its hide at strange angles, and one of its legs was crumpled beneath its body. Still it glared at her with blood-red eyes, flickers of crimson flame roiling around its half-open mouth.
The speaker was the only other party still alive, and the only one who stood upright without any sign of injury. Her deep purple garments were torn and stained like Debroye's own, but she stood proudly before the monster, her sword drawn defiantly.
"Lorade . . ." Debroye whispered, her voice shaking. "What . . . what do we do?"
"The only thing we can do in this situation is fight," the viera said, half-turning to look Debroye in the eye.
"W-we can still get away," Debroye said, doing her best to pull herself up off the fence. "It's injured. It can't chase us!"
Lorade's face was largely obscured by the half-mask she wore, but Debroye saw her eyes narrow. "You would leave your comrades?"
"I- but they're already-"
"Dead? Yes. Regardless, we have a duty. Both to their memory, and to the job we are supposed to be doing. Your honour means nothing if you flee now."
Debroye clenched her teeth. Was Lorade expecting her to throw her life away for her honour? "I-I can't," she said aloud, willing her voice to remain steady.
"Coward," Lorade said. There was no venom in her voice, but the single word stung all the worse for the calm tone in which it was delivered.
Debroye hoisted herself to her feet, hissing in pain as her injured wing twinged. "You know, I don't think I've ever heard you talk this much before."
"I speak when something important needs to be said. That is all."
"So this is important to you, is it?" Debroye asked, almost laughing through the fatigue. "This idea of 'honour'."
Lorade did not reply. She simply gave Debroye another flat stare, then turned back to face the monster, raising her sword in preparation.
Debroye sighed. I'm going to regret this, she thought as she crouched down to the ground, placing her palms flat upon the torn earth.
5th of Emberleaf
Today, I joined a clan. I don't really know what possessed me. I've never been much of a fighter, that's for sure. But I needed something to do now that . . . well, you know what I mean. And they seem nice. The leader of the clan is a hume called Simon, and he's . . . well, he's an interesting sort. Really enthusiastic about everything. He was eager to have me on board, though, so I figured I might as well.
The clan's called the Bisga Raiders, and they operate out of the Greenlands, which isn't too far from here. They're a pretty experienced clan too, so it seems I'm pretty lucky to be in it. At least, that's what Arte tells me. He's the clan's artillery specialist, by the way. He carries around this great big gun that's almost as big as I am! He's grumpy, but he's nice enough . . . I hope! It's difficult to tell.
Everything's so difficult here. I'm going to have to start doing new things I never thought I'd have to do. I'll probably have to start using that geomancy you taught me. I'm sorry, sis! I know you told me only to use it in self-defense, but it looks like it's going to be necessary.
. . . I hope you're not too mad at me for joining a clan. I know you always said it was the worst idea ever, but since
"Hey, new kid! What'cha writing in that book?"
Debroye straighened up abruptly, snapping the small, leather-bound volume shut and turning to glare at whoever had interrupted her. When she saw who it was, she kept right on turning.
"Hey, dragon kid. I'm talking to ya!" the bangaa grunted.
"Sorry, Arte," Debroye said, turning back to look at him. "It's just that the book . . . well, it's private."
Arte gave a vigorous snort of what she could only assume was laughter, causing his long yellow ears to flop madly around his head. "Whatever, kid. We's all got secrets, I guess. Just don't get too sneaky, else I'll start to think yer up to something."
"I'll remember that," Debroye said, smiling uncomfortably.
"Hey, Arte!" Simon yelled from the bar. "You're not bullying Debbie, are you?"
"Put a sock in it, you mongrel!" Arte roared back, slamming his mug on the table.
Debroye jumped, clutching the diary tightly to her chest. Sharing a table with the bangaa in a rowdy pub was bad enough, but did he really have to keep shouting across the room like that?
"I think I'll go up to bed," she said, standing up and edging out from behind the table with some difficulty. "Please excuse me."
"Suit yerself, kid."
Debroye made her way carefully across the room, dodging other patrons as she did so. The staircase beside the bar led her to the accomodation area, a narrow hallway with half a dozen doors on either side. She made her way to the door with the large brass 3 on it and pushed it open carefully. It was unlocked, but upon entering the room, she found a sharp steel blade glinting millimetres from her neck.
She flinched backwards with a squeak, but the blade had already been withdrawn and sheathed. Its owner stepped back, allowing Debroye to enter the room, which she did hesitantly. The one who had almost run her through was a viera, one of the reclusive 'ladies of the wood', as they were commonly known. She was much taller than Debroye, even without considering the long, leporine ears that stuck up out of her hat.
The lower half of the viera's face was covered by a cloth mask, the same deep purple colour as the rest of her clothes. She watched the gria silently, without moving a muscle. It took several seconds for Debroye to summon up enough courage to speak.
"You . . . were with the others before?" she said uncertainly, racking her brain. She seemed to have a vague recollection of this woman being present when she'd met Simon and the others, but she couldn't be entirely sure.
The viera nodded almost imperceptibly. "I am Lorade," she said simply. Her voice was soft and husky, and surprisingly soothing to the ears.
"I'm Debroye. You're a member of the Raiders?" Debroye asked.
Lorade nodded again, then turned and sat down on one of the two beds in the tiny room. She didn't appear to be in the mood for further conversation, so Debroye didn't push the matter. I guess we're sharing.
She lay down on the other bed, not even bothering to take her shoes off. She kept her diary clutched tightly to her chest. Oh, Laodina. What am I doing here?
She was asleep before too much longer, however. The day had seemed far longer than it should have been, and the confusion and stress of everything that had happened multiplied to weigh her eyelids down rapidly.
Tonight, she dreams of fire.
A/N: Short chapter because, well . . . the day was almost over. Each chapter will chronicle one day, but I started this one in the evening, so it's rather short. Apologies. I couldn't find a way to make it longer without compromising my desired format.