And He Sat On The Edge Of Skies: Chapter 12
Some days later Selene politely suggested that mayhap I should obtain some new clothes, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was starting to look rather ragged in the one change of clothing I owned and whatever clothes my Arisen had in our home. I found myself mindlessly browsing the stalls at the small village market one morning, before my feet finally carried me to the lone fabric shop in the village.
"You look awful, child," said the old woman – Iola, I recalled – minding the small shop, which also doubled as her home. Such careless familiarity was the privilege of elders. "Missing the minnow?" she added in a softer tone meant for my ears alone.
"Is it that obvious?"
She laughed, but not unkindly. "Quina always worried that boy would one day go where she could not follow, but he's always managed to come home," she reassured me, patting my forearm. "Don't worry about him. The minnow will be back soon before we know it, ready to amuse us with his japes and acts of mischief."
"I certainly hope so," I replied, for I thought the few days of shared company we had were a mere pittance.
She must have had some inkling of my thoughts, judging by her reply. "'Tis not the amount of time you have that's important, but rather how you spend it. And I think the both of you spent your time together well enough," she said sagely. "Also, this old woman is certain that you'll see him again. Still, I don't see why I should not tell you more of him. What would you like to know?"
"Of him? Anything, and everything, I suppose. Did he have any family?"
"No, he was an orphaned foundling. Washed ashore as a babe, with naught known of his kith and kin. 'Twas a miracle he was not taken by the Brine. The whole village took him in and Adaro practically raised him, so you could say that we're all his family. Charming, but stubborn to boot – would go left just because you said to go right – and full of mischief as a little one, and naught has cured him of that all these years."
A foundling? So that explained his somewhat changeling appearance as compared to Cassardis' inhabitants, who were mostly darker of hair and eyes. And I finally had an answer as to why most of the villagers around his age referred to him affectionately as their cousin, or more often, 'cos'.
Iola's gaze softened. "Come, come," she said gently as she tugged me by the arm, "take a seat. I'll make you something to drink, and then I'll tell you all about your dear little minnow."
We spent more than a good hour talking, and some of her more amusing tales of my Arisen even had me in stitches. In return, I traded the few accounts I had of him. She was in the middle of telling me of one of his more disastrous pranks, which had left him stranded on the tall roof of the village chapel, when I thought I heard a sigh and again, caught that familiar scent of his, so akin to that of the summer shores.
"What is it, child?" Iola asked worriedly, when she realised that something else had my attention.
"Nothing," I said, but I was not quite convinced of my own words, "'twas nothing at all."
I left Iola's at noon, and as I walked home I felt a strong, unknown compulsion to go to the beach. 'Twas indeed an odd time to go there, for it was usually deserted then; the boats would have long left, the fish already set out to dry, and the villagers preferred to stay at home after their midday meal, for the sun was far too hot to do naught but rest.
Still not knowing why, I allowed myself of the strange coercion and altered my destination. As I approached the shore, I saw a prone form on the sands, and I could do naught else but hasten my pace. The undoubtedly male figure seemed to stir, before he suddenly sat upright with a muffled shout, but I heard enough of his voice to know that it was more than familiar to me.
I reached his side just as he turned around with a dazed look, one that sent me to my knees.
"Ju… Julien?" he whispered, as if he could not believe that I was in fact, sitting next to him.
And I laughed. Oh, how I laughed with great joy, and I would not be ashamed to admit that I felt my eyes water slightly in relief, for my beloved had returned.
"So, my dear Arisen," I said to him with the biggest smile I could muster, "where have you been?"
My beloved seemed wearied from whatever ordeal he had faced, and though I felt a burning curiosity to know the circumstances which resulted in him being washed ashore, his well-being still came first. Whatever questions I had – and there were plenty – would just have to wait.
His first few steps as we walked were steady, but soon he staggered and I found myself supporting him with one arm all the way back to our home. Once we were inside, I stripped him of his damp clothes and gear, then bundled him into bed with the warmest blankets I could find. He sleepily mumbled his thanks before he drifted off into the deep sleep of the exhausted.
Not quite sure of what to do, yet at the same time not quite willing to let him out my sight just yet, I sat on the edge of the bed and just watched him sleep. It must have been at least an hour before my cramped muscles cried in protest, and I moved, but only to retrieve a clean rag and a small basin of water. I moistened the piece of cloth and gently cleaned his face and hair, even teasing out some of the salt-crusted knots with my fingers. I deemed that he had warmed enough by then, so I carefully tugged the blankets away to check for wounds. The elegantly formed smooth chest and narrow flanks were just as I remembered, mayhap with a new scar or two; upon closer inspection he seemed unharmed, only exhausted.
There was only one remedy for such weariness, and that was sleep. He was still in slumber when Selene came back from some errand and stepped into the chamber, holding the damp clothes I had removed earlier. "Julien, what are these wet things – oh!" she began, but halted when she saw the bed's sole occupant. She cautiously approached closer, and then knelt beside the bed, one hand gingerly reaching out to brush away some hair away from the boy's forehead. "Both pawn and Master now," she whispered softly as if to herself, but I heard her all the same. Before I could ask her what she meant by her words, she smiled and said, "I should tell the others that he's returned. Do not worry, I will make sure that they do not disturb his rest." Then she left, the smile still on her lips.
So I remained where I was, more than content just to sit there silently for must have been hours, before he stirred slightly in his sleep and his hand reached out, as if seeking warmth and company. I was then more than happy to give him what he sought, and so I went to lie next to him, before I pulled him close and tucked his head under my chin. I closed my eyes; lulled by the sounds of his gentle breathing, I gladly followed him into deep slumber.
When I woke again it was morning, and I was alone. At first I thought I had dreamt it all, until I saw in the outer chamber that Selene had put away my beloved's equipment, and his clothes were hung out to dry.
I then found him at the pier, his bare feet dangling from where he sat at the pier's edge. He seemed lost in thought, and was idly tracing some unseen pattern on his right palm as he stared out into the sea. I sat next to him, and saw that though his eyes still looked a little tired, he was certainly much restored after a long rest.
"So," I began lightly, "aren't you going to tell me where you've been?"
"I… I don't know if I should."
His answer puzzled me dearly. "Why not?"
He turned to face me, and I saw that he had turned slightly pale. "I… I'm not who you think I am. At least, not wholly. I think. I'm unsure of it all myself."
Then I recalled little Selene's mysterious words when he returned, her hands full of his still-damp clothes. Both pawn and Master now, she said.
"…Lucas?" I whispered.
He nodded, then violently shook his head, and then wrung his hands in some kind of frustration. And before I could say a word, he regaled me with a fantastic tale of plunging into the Everfall, and how the Arisen had duelled for, and won, the very seat of godhood itself; a majestic throne to sit upon at the edge of skies. How the Arisen claimed the title of Seneschal, whose very will would shape the course of the world itself. And how the victory only brought him naught but misery; doomed to only guide and watch for eternity.
And I listened, remaining silent, stunned by his revelation.
"It pained him immensely, I'm sure of it," he explained, "of not being able to touch you. Only to observe."
"He was here?" I asked. My own voice sounded small, even to my own ears. I closed my eyes.
He nodded. "Always. None were able to see him, but he was here. The first thing he did as Seneschal was to look for you."
That explained the incident in the house, and mayhap that one time in the market. Those times when I had thought – no, had somehow known – that he was right near me, yet when I turned to look, there was naught of him to be seen.
"How long were you two... there?" The question was awkwardly put, but I hoped he would understand what I meant.
And he did, by that small, yet sad smile on his face.
"It is difficult to explain. Time there has no meaning; past, present and future were all together. It may have been days, months, or even a thousand ages. He… did not wish for you to be alone. He searched long for aught, yet he would not tell me what he was searching for. But I knew him too well." He paused for breath, and then looked at me before continuing, "He was looking for a way for us to return to you." Then he spoke of the Godsbane, and how the blade was the only way to end a Seneschal's existence, and described in pain how the newly ascended Seneschal had plunged it into his heart.
And I remained silent, listening.
"I know that I feel all these things for you," he then said softly, "but I do not know whether they are his feelings, or my own. Just as I am unsure if I am myself, or him. Mayhap… we are both."
I looked into his eyes. His body was of his Master's, his mannerisms were an odd mixture of both, but his eyes; the warmth they held in those sea-blue orbs, they were that of my dear Arisen.
And then I finally understood.
The pawn – no, man – in front of me was the last thing my beloved had given unto me, and in a way he had indeed returned, in the only way he could; as part of another that he also cared for deeply.
As for Lucas, the pawn wanted to protect his Master, to be with him always. At the same time, Lucas also wanted to be like him. What other greater gift can the Master bestow on his faithful companion, other than giving the pawn his own life, his very own soul and humanity?
'Twas then I realised that in the end, the boy simply wanted for the two that he loved the most to be happy. And the path he chose to achieve that end—misguided, foolish, self-sacrificing, wilful—whatever one wished to call it, he chose because he thought it would be best.
As I heard him once said, he made his own fate.
The stupid, stubborn boy. I smiled.
"Do you trust me?" I asked. He nodded, and with such trust in his eyes that I felt some loss when they closed as I gathered him in my arms and put my lips to his in a gentle kiss. It was returned hesitantly at first, before that hesitance was swiftly replaced with the same longing, ardour and love that I had felt only from him, and it was then I knew that somehow – and frankly, how mattered not – I was still embracing my dear Arisen; my beloved, stubborn minnow.
If he indeed had made his own fate, then should we not cherish what fate had seen to spare?
I drew back, and felt the corner of my lips turn up in a smile.
"Julien?" he said in shy confusion.
I laughed at his confusion – oh, and at that familiar quizzical tilt of his head – and to my own ears my laughter sounded just as on that moment I found him on the shore. A hearty laugh full of relief, and of great joy.
"It's all right, minnow," I said, and I meant every word as I laid my hand on his lips before he could say anything else. "Now, let's go home."
- The End -
I can only write happy endings, and this was the happiest I could give these two.
This fic was the result of a dare at some wee hour in the morning since someone thought it was amusing that a certain character in the game shared my first name. Part of the dare involved writing the fic in first person. And since I'm a hopeless idiot when it comes to dares, there you have it. I didn't want to write from the Arisen's point of view, nor the pawns, because that would likely take almost forever to write. So Julien's POV it was. Novelisations were out of the question as well, since I think there are already plenty of fics attempting that path.
I took some liberties with Julien's background, but most of the fic is heavily based on the various conversations with NPCs and events in the game. Julien's speech to the Arisen about making friends with Mercedes; the belief that the duke's army would fail against the wyrm and so would the Arisen, since he's only human; even Benita's pickled fish eyes – all of it is in the game. I even lifted off Inez's lines about love and fate, as well as the dragon's speech to the Arisen in the final battle, almost word for word.
The final chapter was based not on Julien's ending alone, but on a number of other endings as well. Actually, I rather liked the male LI's endings compared to that of the females. Compared to some of the other female LI endings, where they would make this little speech that made me react in a number of ways, from a 'fine…' to a 'I SHOULD'VE THROWN YOU OFF A CLIFF', most male LI endings would just show him smiling and laughing in that scene at the beach. It's more open to interpretation that way, and I like to think of it as:
i) they don't know it's not really you that just washed up on the beach; or
ii) they somehow know, but they don't care and will still love you anyway.
As you can see, I prefer the latter.
Hope you enjoyed this piece. Cheers.
P.S. A number of people asked if I had screencaps of the Arisen and his pawn in the fic. They're available on my Tumblr - the url is as listed in my profile page. :)