Duncan woke up, turned to the side, and threw up a large quantity of seawater. Twice. When he had caught his breath, he checked the floor around him for the book. It was still there… good.
Duncan turned to see a tall lady with bunny ears talking to him.
He promptly fainted again.
Duncan was not having a good day. He had found that weird book in the library- he had never seen it before, even though he could have sworn he'd read all the school library's books. He'd read it from start to finish, except it finished around halfway through. And then… he was ashamed to admit it, but he had written his name in the book. It was an urge that was impossible to resist- he barely remembered deciding to do it. And then… he was drowning. Drowning and looking for the book, which apparently he had found somewhere in the maelstrom of water.
And then he had woken up, thrown up, and hallucinated a bunny lady.
Except now there were two of them, and they were talking with a large bronze lizard.
"He was just floating there in the storm?" the lady from earlier asked the other two. She was dressed in many grey cloaks and on her back was a massive bow, easily as tall as her.
"Aye," the lizard said. He was covered in mismatched plate mail and carried a trident. "And I swear, if I live t' be four hundred, I'll never see another lad clutch a book so tight."
"Not to mention his odd clothes," the second lady said. Duncan was just wearing his school uniform, though- if anyone was wearing odd clothes, it was her in her half-robe around her lower legs and a strip of cloth preserving her modesty.
The lizard noticed Duncan's open eyes now. "Eh, rise 'n shine, beauty. Mind tellin' us what ye were doing out there?"
"You're… you're a…"
The lizard saw the boy's mouth move to form the next word. "I'm a damn Bangaa, and if ye have the stones or lack the brains t' call me a lizard, I'll end ye right here."
Duncan felt warmth near his thighs, and was glad he was already soaking wet. And he was hoping to every deity he'd ever read about that this really was a hallucination. "W-wait, a… a Bangaa?" He motioned towards the bunny ladies. "And why do you two… have… those ears? Could you be… Viera? But… impossible…"
The two ladies glanced at each other. "What land are you from, boy?" the first one asked.
"Land? Uh… Pennsylvania?"
Blank stares from the bunny ladies. "Sebastian? You're the ex-sailor, have you ever heard of… Pennsylvania?"
"Never in me life. But the lad looks like he's never laid eyes on a Bangaa or Viera, and with clothes like his…"
"What boat did you come in on?" It was the second, barely-clothed bunny lady- Viera, Duncan meant.
"I didn't come in on a boat. I… I wrote my name in this book, and... something happened."
Taking notice of the book, the Viera motioned for Duncan to hand it to her. Opening it up, she flipped through a few pages. "It's a recent history of Ivalice, with an appendix that lists information about Ivalice," she said. "But with immense magical power inside."
"History?" Duncan asked. "I thought it was a story!"
"Do I look like a story t' ye, lad?"
"It just stops here," the Viera holding the book said, ignoring Sebastian's outburst. "I assume you're Duncan, boy? After your name, it recounts falling from the sky, waking up, and passing out again. You've written in it since your name?"
"No," Duncan said, "not at all."
"A Grimoire, then. Ljra," she said, turning to the other Viera, "perhaps you could have this… appraised?"
Ljra shot a death glare at the other Viera. "No. Unless, Mral, you'd like to present it yourself." The other Viera shrugged and handed the Grimoire back to Duncan.
"So the lad fell from the sky? What're we supposed to do? I vote for selling him on the black market."
"Seconded," the Mral said, earning her and Sebastian both death glares from Ljra.
As Duncan attempted to stop hyperventilating and figure a way out of the mess he had landed in, Ljra scolded her fellows. "Stop that. He's alone in a land he thought didn't exist. We'd better take him back to the Clan base and have Valentine do a check-up on him- another Hume might get the boy to relax, and patch up anything we missed."
"Now wait," Duncan said, "why should I go with you guys?"
Ljra gave Duncan a stare like he was stupid. "Boy- Duncan. You're in a foreign land, in strange clothes, covered in your own vomit and piss, with no knowledge of the local area, customs, or inhabitants, you lack a way to defend yourself and you are most certainly not Adjudged. I'd give you an hour."
Duncan swallowed at her blunt explanation… and reddened at her observations. "Okay, I'll go with you guys."
The two Viera and Bangaa lead Duncan through a few back alleys of the port town and into a hole-in-the-wall pub called The Lionsmane. Inside there were only a few patrons, and most of them seemed to know Duncan's rescuers. Ljra stayed for a drink while Mral and Sebastian took Duncan upstairs into a corridor, and knocked on a door a few times.
"Valentine, lad, unless ye got a lady-friend in there, get yer ass out here right now. And if ye do have a lady-friend… stop spendin' our clan funds, damnit!"
The door swung open to reveal a boy Duncan's age dressed in only loose pants, which showed off his large collection of scars covering his upper body, including a small one running across his maniacal grin. "Marvelous, another test subject! I have the restraints over here, and-" Valentine stopped when Duncan fainted. "Oops. Didn't mean to freak him out that much. Sebastian, help me get him onto the bed over here. I'll get to work while you explain."
A short while later, Duncan woke up feeling the best he had in months. He stretched and sat up on the bed he found himself on. His clothes were gone, but a new set of clothing that fit in was on a neaby table, along with a note that said they were for him and his book. He slipped the clothes on, wishing he still had modern underwear, and opened the book. He still had trouble believing he was in Ivalice, but decided he needed to check through the appendix that had appeared since his arrival to prepare himself against other things he might see. Moogles, tiny, lagomorph-like creatures… Seeq, brutish pig-men… Nu Mou, dog-like scholars of magic… or 'magick', as it was written. There were also Aegyl, an avian race, and Gria, who were draconian. Other races were mentioned, but not elaborated on. It also contained a map of Ivalice.
Suddenly, the door squeaked open and the scarred boy- Valentine- walked in. "Up and breathing, I see! Good to know, sometimes when I'm healing I get things confused. I always get people's spleens and kidney mixed up… or are there three kidneys and one spleen?"
"I… really, really hope you're kidding," was all Duncan could think of to say.
"I am, don't worry," Valentine said, waving away Duncan's worries. "I'm the best Hume White Mage here in Grazton, and Clan Nemea's most steady source of income."
"If you're such a great healer, why are you covered in scars?"
"Blue Magick, my friend. What doesn't kill you, reverse engineer and send back at the bastard that didn't finish the job." Valentine traced a large scar diagonally across his chest. "Got too close to a cornered Shelling. Lucky I survived at all." He motioned to one that wrapped around his waist to his back. "Self-Destruct at point-blank." He noted another, messier stitch on his right forearm. "Quake. Nearly cut my arm clean off. Had to put it back on with my left arm… not as dexterous."
"And your lip?"
Valentine laughed. "Made out with a vampire girl. Long story." While Duncan gaped, Valentine grabbed a white robe adorned with red triangles and swung it around his shoulders, wearing it like a lab coat and prominently displaying his scars. "Anyway, you've met Ljra, Mral, and Sebastian, who along with me and our quiet little Moogle friend Kaye make up Clan Nemea of Grazton. Ljra is our leader and a crack shot, Sebastian's Number Two, Mral is our offensive Magick specialist, Kaye is our adorable little death machine, and I'm the one that keeps everyone else alive. This pub, The Lionsmane, is our base of operations. We're Adjudged. And we only accept payment in gold coin."
"I'm sorry if this is a stupid question, but… this book doesn't talk much about Clans or 'Adjudged'. What are they?"
"A Clan is a group of people, basically. Most carry out quests and do fights, stuff like that, but a few are just collections of people petitioning for something- Carm Mercantile protects endangered species, for example- or a business- Galmia Pepe and Brint Mea, the fashion designer clans. Being a Clan gives them a few benefits to that. 'Adjudged' means a Clan is protected by a Judge, a supernatural being that oversees engagements. They keep them from being too dangerous, but also impose laws on battles. The laws can be broken, but the results are that your Judge is gone for the rest of the battle, and so is his protection against that nasty little ailment called death."
"So, as long as you don't break the laws, you're immortal?"
"No," Valentine said, leaving the room and motioning for Duncan to follow him. "Some things even a Judge can't heal; however, it takes something spectacular to kill someone who's under a Judge's protection. I've even seen someone be beheaded, and the Judge just reattached it and after a short recovery, they were walking around like nothing was happening, though I wouldn't test that with a normal person. They also only protect you during engagements where you call upon them- otherwise you're just another bag of blood. And, finally, a Judge costs an assload of money to buy. As a small Clan, we're pretty damn lucky to have one."
"What do you guys do, as a Clan?" Duncan was still searching the appendix of the book for information.
"Anything that will pay, basically. Besides my medical business, we're often called upon to work with other small, cheap clans for bodyguard business. Since all five of us can hold our own against your average Hume, we usually get rented out individually for specific purposes- like I said, Ljra does excellent long-distance, Sebastian and Kaye can dominate close-quarters, and Mral and I are mages who dabble in physical combat. However, we'll do most anything legal for the right price."
Valentine and Duncan entered the main part of The Lionsmane and saw Mral behind the bar, serving a few customers alongside an older man who was just as quick with the drinks. Ljra and Sebastian were off to the side, talking at a table, and a few patrons sat around. "Oh, we also own The Lionsmane, or at least Sebastian does. It was his father's, and now it's his. Mral helps out as a bartender to Georg, who is a certified Clan Agent- he keeps his ear to the ground for work, and keeps the drinks coming. If you're around long enough, you'll also see the customers he brings in, both to spend money on drink and rent rooms. The way our little base is set up, everyone helps keep Clan Nemea alive- Ljra takes care of all the paperwork, Sebastian rents out the place, Mral… attracts customers who want to see a skimpily-dressed Viera hop around and serve drinks, and I get paid to fix people. Kaye tinkers with some things, but mainly just fixes up our equipment. And then," Valentine said, turning to Duncan, "there's you."
"Me?" Duncan asked, confused.
"Yes, you," Valentine said as he motioned to Ljra and Sebastian to come over. "What are we going to do with you? It's pretty obvious you're not from our world. You don't have any way of getting by on your own. Grazton is a dangerous town, too. Just throwing you out wouldn't do- we're civilized people. But we also don't have the money for a charity case."
"I… I guess I'll have to work for you guys, in the Clan?"
"Great, then!" Sebastian said. "Have ye ever swung a sword? Do ye know any magical incantations? Glyphs? Thought not. Do ye have any hand-to-hand combat training? No. Even with our Judge, at best ye'd be a distraction and get in our way. At worst, ye'd get us killed by breaking a Law at the wrong time."
"Then what do you want me to do?"
Ljra motioned towards Mral. "I think helping out at the bar is a good start. Mral will show you the basics. We'll swear you in tomorrow, so if a bar fight breaks out, you won't be in too much danger. I will keep tabs on anything pertaining to boys from another dimension falling from the sky. Other than that… you'll be trained. Another hand in combat would be useful for larger-scale jobs. Sebastian could work out your fighting style, get you set up with a good Job to compliment it. And maybe, eventually, we'll-"
The door to the pub burst open, wood chips flying everywhere. A group of red Bangaa rushed in, none wielding weapons. The oldest-looking one among them stepped forward, his voice loud and clear over the silence in the pub.
"Nemea! We are of the great Bangaa Brotherhood! You made the wrong decision on your last job, siding against one of our sub-clans! We are here to teach you a lesson!"
"Shit," Ljra said under her breath. Duncan saw her massive bow was behind the bar, next to Sebastian's trident. "Nemean Judge, we call upon thee!" She grabbed a card from the folds of her clothes and held it up. There was a flash of light, and a fully-armored man was floating above their heads.
"ENGAGEMENT CHALLENGE RECEIVED," it bellowed, and Duncan realized that the Bangaa were frozen, along with most of the pub patrons. "FORBIDDEN: BLACK MAGICK. BEGIN ENGAGEMENT?"
"No," Ljra said. "Retrieve equipment."
"RETRIEVING EQUIPMENT." The Judge motioned towards the weapons behind the bar, and they flew to Sebastian and Ljra. "BEGIN ENGAGEMENT?"
"No. We wish to swear in Duncan the Hume."
"REQUEST CONFIRMED. DUNCAN, DO YOU ACCEPT ADJUDGEMENT WITHIN CLAN NEMEA?"
"Uh… yes?" Duncan said, unsure of what was happening. The Judge held out his hand, and a large, metallic bow materialized in his hands. He quickly took aim at Duncan, and before he could react, drew the string and released. Though there was no arrow, a beam of light shot from the bow and engulfed Duncan, and he was temporarily blinded. When his sight returned, he realized he was in entirely different clothes- in addition to the new sword at his hip, he had a sash that carried his book and a few plates of metal for protection, and a leather vest.
"SWEARING IN COMPLETE. BEGIN ENGAGEMENT?"
Ljra nodded. "Yes."
Author's notes: Hello, everybody! If you've actually read this… thank you! I really hope you enjoyed it, and I'd love a review!
Anyway, a few things of import: Duncan managed to find his Grimoire in the raging Grazton seas because it's a magic book that's linked to him; it found him just as much as he found it, if not more. He had read all of the book, yes, but the appendix didn't appear until after he came to Ivalice, and the story in it wasn't a comprehensive guide to Ivalice, hence his initial confusion at bunny ladies and talking lizard Bangaa. Sebastian's accent may or may not disappear/be minimalized. It's annoying to write.
On Clan Nemea: you may ask, "If they have characters with such advanced jobs [to be revealed], why are they such a small clan?" Easy. Grazton is a big town, and a port town to boot. The Bangaa Brotherhood is based closeby, and they're one of the biggest Clans in Ivalice. Also, Khamja has a major presence in Grazton, and with the hundreds if not thousands of Clans that are in Grazton both long and short-term, business is tough. "What about Valentine? He's apparently the best White Mage around!" Hume White Mage. Nu Mou White Mages carry excellent reputations, and generally have more magical potential- and, as Duncan pointed out, are you willing to trust the medical equivalent of a skinny chef? Viera also have many White Mages and are more attuned to Mist, allowing a greater magickal potential. And "Why don't Ljra and Sebastian go get their weapons themselves/everybody surround the Bangaa while they're frozen?" A Judge's binding magick stops them from doing things like that to keep it fair. Think of it like a Stop on everybody except that Clan, who are just Immobilized.