A/N: How to say this without telling you the plot, such as it is? While I don't think the events in this story are a *likely* outcome for these characters, I thought the idea was worth a look. And the narrator is, of all people, Edward.
The children are interested in the Paladin legend, still. They're young. They don't connect what happened then with what's happened now.
Civil war, one of the world's famous oxymorons. "Civil war." Like "alone together." Both of those had some role in what happened to Baron, now that I think of it. And I'll have to write the romances about it, sooner or later. Someone will, of course, and I can't have my friend's downfall recorded in inferior verse. I may not have been able to do anything else for him, but I can do this much.
You wouldn't think it of Rosa. When I knew her, which, granted, was not for long, she seemed the kindest, most loving woman in the world. She adored Cecil, and he was mad about her. It's depressing to think of it. If a couple like that can go wrong, what hope have the rest of us?
I suspect Kain had loved her for years. I saw him in the crystal chamber at Fabul, and again at the betrothal feast, and there was something in his eyes when he looked at her. That explains his half. And hers? I'm not privy to her thoughts. I suppose she just loved Kain more than she loved her husband or her morals. Who can say? Marriages go bad over time, and governing is not easy work. Cecil, I suppose, was busy, too busy. Kain was attentive and still fascinated with her. When the first bloom is off the rose, it's only natural.
No, it's not. Not for everyone. But I can't just vilify her. This is not the Crystal War, the Tale of the Paladin. This is just the entanglements of a group of people who loved each other.
Cecil must have realized. I think of our last meeting, at a memorial service for the summoners in Mist, and I remember how preoccupied he looked. Rosa was, if nothing else, a deeply moral woman; I recall her saying her prayers every night while we traveled together. Surely she could not have betrayed her marriage vows without guilt, and Cecil would surely notice. He must have known and chosen not to realize. He would hardly be the first. The say Asgrid the Fair cuckolded King Ulfric for twenty years, and on his deathbed he told her that he had known, and he named her son his heir.
Of course, it's a tale handed down by bards like myself, and updated from time to time. I'd been thinking of translating it into Modern Baronial myself. It can wait.
But Cecil behaved like a hero out of legend. He loved Rosa dearly, and Kain was a brother to him. He forgave the man for two other betrayals, so why not turn a blind eye to this? He could at least tell himself that this was done out of love, not hatred. And maybe that was Rosa's problem as well; loving both, not one or the other.
The first child, a girl, was clearly Cecil's, with the almost snow-white hair and the silver-blue eyes of a Lunarian, but with Rosa's darker complexion. Vivian. A striking girl. She'd be in her twenties now, I suppose. The second was a boy, the long-awaited heir, but his eyes were a darker blue and his hair truly blond. Cecil said nothing about it, and no more did Rosa. Kain departed to train in the mountains once more. The nursemaids may have talked, but Cecil loved the boy as his own, and I suppose the murmurs died down. The relationship between king and queen was as strong as ever. Kain stayed away for nearly five years, but then Baron got involved in the civil war in Eblan and Kain returned.
I don't know everything that passed between them. I can only guess at many things. Maybe Kain and Rosa had a single lapse, or a brief series. Maybe Matthew's coloring was an unfortunate twist of genetics and he was truly Cecil's son, though the outcome casts doubt on that. But Cecil was getting older, and he made his will. He confirmed that the succession would follow the law of the land, that the firstborn son would inherit when he was gone.
If Vivian had always had suspicions of her brother's parentage, I suppose her resentment was only natural. Queen Anne had ruled in her own name, a century before, so there was precedent to give her hope for the throne. And if gossip had spread, I suppose her ability to rally the citizens to her cause was only natural as well. You would expect a queen like Rosa to be popular, but they called her a whore when they desecrated her tomb.
I'm getting ahead of myself, I suppose. I can't leave out Vivian's public accusation of her mother, the trial, Rosa's suicide and Kain's public execution. Nothing dramatic about the trial, or even, really, the deaths. He didn't rescue her on horseback when she was about to be burned at the stake. There was really no thought of burning her, although there was precedent. She hanged herself. He was beheaded. When I next saw Cecil, he looked like an old man. There was a form of peace for a time, but then Cecil died – wasted away of grief, the reports say, and while that's good enough for poetry the medic in me rebels. The doctors declined to give specifics. Perhaps he killed himself as well, ready to join the two he'd most loved even in hell. At his funeral, Vivian threw down the gauntlet, quite literally, at her brother's feet. I was there, and while it will read dramatically, I can't help but remember how I felt, sad and sick and fiercely angry. Yang and Cid had to hold Edge back. Rydia had to hold me up.
We gathered in his old room for the wake, those who were left. Edge and Rydia shouted at each other, and she stormed out and he got drunk, even though they were both actually angry at Vivian for pursuing her grudge even at her father's grave. Yang was almost entirely silent. I simply sat, with tears leaking from my eyes. But that's not the stuff of poetry, is it? Poetry is the battles, the fields full of dead peasants who gave their blood that a selfish bitch could ascend the throne over the corpse of her bastard half-brother. Poetry is the two of them agreeing to single combat, dramatic to the last. And they killed each other. Poetic justice.
They left Baron kingless again. In legends, that's when the kingdom falls, but things seldom die with dignity in the real world. Baron's nobles elected another king, Sir Harris, once the captain of the guard. Baron always thought good soldiers made good kings. He was not a bad man, I don't believe, but he was hungry to prove himself. He landed troops outside Mist, but Bahamut was waiting for them. He continued to carry on his war, even with losses like that. We had to bomb Baron itself. Rydia had to summon Odin against the kingdom he'd once guarded.
The children still want to hear about the Paladin King, though. Heroes make for good stories. Tragedies make great ones, my teachers used to tell me, but I'm not sure I want to think of that right now.