FFV: Toki no Hourousha
(The Wanderer of Time)
Chapter 9: Missing Links
Stupid, stupid, stupid...
A fugitive burst through the bushes into
a clearing lit only by leaf-filtered sunlight which stank so strongly
of black chocobos that he hoped the stench would throw the dogs off
his trail. It was damn stupid of him to poison his victim with distilled
hiryuusou sap instead of something with a less distinctive scent; the
venom's acrid musk could be masked in something strong like whiskey,
but only for so long... and he had yet to drop the poison-ring in his
possession. To leave it behind would link the murder of his victim to
the very thing he was trying to protect, and she had not the slightest
idea of his current personal mission. Hell, she still didn't know it
was he that killed Geilin.
He came to Crescent intent on getting
rid of a man who bore a threat to the most important thing in his life,
and he succeeded as he had so many times in the past. Except this time
his victim had lackeys waiting to attack at a moment's notice, and they
were chasing him with the intent of revenge. A quick survey of the clearing
awarded no place to hide and no river or stream to toss the ring in
for later retrieval... the only option now was to press onwards.
After a moment of silence to discern how
far away his hunters were, the assassin carefully stepped through the
leaf-littered area. The stench of the local birds only grew worse as
he proceeded across the enclosure, bringing to his mind the rather unpleasant
conclusion that the area was a favored hatching ground. The forest floor
seemed to soften underfoot, causing the man to pause in confusion at
this new development, and he cursed himself when it crumbled underneath
When Benjiro returned to consciousness
the first thing on his mind was a vague memory of having hit his head
before, and half-expected one of his crewmen to come up into his field
of vision and rebuke him for his clumsiness on the topgallant yard.
Yet all he could see was faintly filtered sunlight streaming through
the hole he had fallen through so high above.
He lay still as he tried to grasp his
exact location and position. Thankfully, he could still feel all his
limbs save for a broken arm that could be mended with a little patch-work
and a visit from his favorite magelord... the surface he had landed
on bore all the traits of an all-too-familiar ship's deck... and after
a quick distance calculation he was impressed he survived the fall with
so little damage at all.
Pain laced through his body, but it was
a small price for success in both the assassination and shaking the
search party off his tail. And his goddess would be safe from the malice
of others once again for the time being. Ah, the extents one would go
through for an object of obsession.
Time found him after awhile searching
the ship on which he had landed for a reasonable clue of where he was
exactly and how to get out. A makeshift torch was formed of a torn strip
of his tunic tied on top of a piece of broken deck plank and lit with
a basic fire spell; and though it offered little actual lighting, it
served its purpose well enough. There was a plank that connected the
ship he fell on with an old ghost he never thought he would see again.
The Black Serpent loomed as ominously in the torchlight as it
did during any raid, yet the anchorlines that served as a makeshift
harness for Syldra lay slack and the lower decks were free of any occupation.
He gathered what he could from what was once his own cabin, and wasn't
too surprised when he found the captain's cabin empty of any of Faris's
personal possessions. Lenna kept a detailed journal of the quest against
ExDeath and occassionally allowed him to read it, and she did very well
in describing the old Lonkan airship hangar.
He wandered past the two ships and into
an old library where Cid and Mid spent the last days of their lives.
Books, globes, maps, and other such research paraphenalia lay scattered
as they had the final day Cid drew breath. It was a true shame none
of these books were ever taken to the Library of the Ancients wherein
they would have better protection against the ravages of time and the
local bug population.
It was a small stack of papers written
in a child's hand that drew his attention; and, after setting his broken
arm more comfortably in a makeshift sling, he allowed himself the time
to read through it.
A Study of the Life and Times of the Angra Mainyu
by Mid Previa
little is known of the era of Enuo's terror, and even less of those
that defeated him. This paper is a cumulation of countless years of
was born as Ahriman Highwind, son of Zurvan Akarana Highwind of Tycoon
and elder brother to Ormazd. Legend has it that after countless years
of wishing for and being unable to conceive a child (supposedly he
is said to have 'made the sacrifice of a thousand years'), a seed
of doubt formed in Zurvan's mind, and at that moment he conceived
the twins; Ormazd was the fulfillment of Zurvan's wishes, and Ahriman
was the personification of his doubt. The king, Zurvan, vowed that
he would name the firstborn his successor. Ormazd is said to have
informed his brother of this, after which Ahriman ripped open the
womb and presented himself as his brother. The father declared "My
son is light and good, but thou art dark and evil," and wept bitterly
at his plight. However, it is far more likely that the decision to
appoint Ahriman as the heir to the throne of Tycoon has its basis
in tradition, for even today it is always the firstborn who is named
a parent's successor.
There are no records of Ahriman's childhood
although there are written accounts of Zurvan's constant visits to
the Lonkan Republic and various centers for the sciences, and it can
be concluded from that evidence that Ahriman and his brother grew
up with very little contact with their father. One account states
that Zurvan accused Ahriman for the death of his wife in childbed,
and it was because of this that the king isolated himself from his
sons. This, combined with the rivalry with his brother he is said
to have had, could have attributed to Ahriman's decline. At the time
children were expected to be healthy, and given his own weak constitution
it is also likely that Ahriman was taunted mercilessly. When these
circumstances are added to the hypothesis that his very nature was
corrupted from birth, what would come was no surprise for anyone.
At the age of fifteen, Ahriman was appointed
king after the assassination of Zurvan, and for three years governed
as a cruel tyrant. Anyone who went against him was executed in the
most painful way he could find. Such horrors included several variations
of impalement, countless mutilations and tortures, interment of people
still alive, rape, and slavery. He was later dethroned by his brother
and exiled to a small colony in the Nazalea archipelago. One account
states that the night Ahriman was driven out, the skies split open
to unleash a storm so violent that it foretold what would happen at
his return. Accompanying Ahriman was Azhi Dahaka.
Dahaka is unique in that she is the
only one of Ahriman's followers who had been with him since before
the assassination of Zurvan, and it is often presumed that it was
she who killed Zurvan on the Black Moon; possibly using her former
status as a student and the illegitimate daughter of Cid Singh (Zurvan's
confidante and the prime technical force behind the Namtar Project)
to access her victim. From what little remains of the databases at
Gohn is an account of the woman's crimes up to the one that led to
her exile. She was an assassin first and foremost, often employed
by anyone who could afford her rates, although she had been known
to kill on a whim. After losing an eye in a failed murder attempt
she was taken to trial and, with her father's influences, exiled to
service in Tycoon instead of executed.
While the two were living out their
sentence at sea there was a shift of powers in the Republic of Lonka.
The political faction that commissioned the Namtar Project fell out
of favor and soon retreated to their artificial moon, and the Omega
Weapon Project was abandoned with its only successful model residing
in Ormazd's armory in Tycoon. Meanwhile, Ormazd began a slow revitalization
of Tycoon that continued until his self-sacrifice twenty years later.
He cleansed the fields of the blood spilt by his brother, purified
his lands of the stench of death, brought forth a golden age from
the ruins left behind, and it was during this time that he fathered
Atar, the Light Warrior of Fire.
Ahriman, who had then taken the name
Enuo (possibly derived from the word 'enu', supposedly the first word
the Lonkan creator goddess uttered to bring forth the Void in which
the elemental crystals and the world were to be placed, and the suffix
-ou, denoting a royal rank), had come across a woman who is said to
have stolen his heart during the period in which he turned his prison
into a base and slowly accumulated power.
This woman was Anahita Ardvisura, who
is described as being strong, beautiful, pure, noble, and intelligent...
which, at the time, was considered unusual among women (women were
expected to be docile and simple of mind, yet already in this study
we have come across two who had contradicted that stereotype). She
and Enuo became lovers and created a child between them (which is
mentioned once in only one essay). Yet when Enuo's all-consuming evil
began to infect his love for Anahita, she took her daughter and fled
to seek sanctuary in the remote kingdom of Regolix (in later years
a revolution would overthrow the king and split the kingdom into what
we know today as Regole and Lix). Hurt by his lover's escape and unable
to change his own nature, Enuo wrote the only song he would ever pen:
a masterpiece entitled 'Despair'. It was possibly the only thing he
ever created that was not touched by darkness, and only a few verses
exist that are still legible.
With Anahita gone, Azhi sought to regain
her master's favor by infiltrating Tycoon Castle, which was at the
time little more than a military fortress converted into a fortified
palace during Zurvan's short reign. She failed her attempt to murder
Ormazd, and her presense served to warn him of his brother's impeding
attack. The assassin was sent back to her master's base with a letter
of admonition towards Enuo. Furious, the darklord grabbed her by the
hair and dragged her into the deepest dungeons of his fortress, wherein
he had turned her into a great and dreadful dragon he had then named
When and how Omega fell into Enuo's
hands, no one knows. Presumably Azhi had it reprogrammed before she
was caught, but there is little more to go on than hearsay. Regardless,
with Omega and Shinryuu at his disposal, Enuo began his attack in
full force. Crescent was the first to fall because of its proximity,
then Walse and its protectorates. Tycoon with its Lonkan-engineered
defenses withstood the attacks led by Omega, and maintained its position
throughout the siege. During this time the daevas first appeared:
creatures mutated from hybrids of human and monster flesh named according
to the sins they represented. Aeshma Daeva, the demon of Fury and
Wrath, was the first among them, and following were: Saura (Anarchy),
Taoromaiti and Pairimaiti (Presumption and Crooked-mindedness), Endra
(Apostasy), and so on. Each headed a separate section of Enuo's armies.
During the siege of Tycoon, troops lead
by Shinryuu and Akah Manah (Discord) stormed the Bahl/Lonka region.
Lonka relied far too much on its technology and the docility of its
people, and fell easily under the chaotic violence of Enuo's idea
of warfare. The people of Bahl fled their captured castle through
a secret passage from the basement leading to the mountains outside,
and migrated to the tribelands of the Ishtari (a people who worshipped
the moon and would later settle down to name their country Istory).
With the entire southern hemisphere
now under Enuo's control save for the still-standing Tycoon, the queen
of Bahl sought advice from the Water Crystal kept in a shrine within
what is now known as Istory Falls. Whether or not she got a response,
no one knows, but within the month three parties of warriors were
brought together. The first party was to be called the Warriors of
the Dawn, the second were the Warriors of Light, and the final were
the Warriors of the Dusk. Each party consisted of four warriors corresponding
to each element, and given one unique weapon that could not be found
anywhere else (for example, Atar the Light Warrior of Fire was given
the Holy Lance, Haoma the Light Warrior of Earth was given the Earth
Bell, Vayu the Light Warrior of Wind was given the Excalibur, et cetera).
The Warriors of Dawn were the first to fall, their deaths marking
the liberation of Lonka, Bahl, and Luxor (later invaded by a warlord
and renamed Karnac). The Lonkans, frightened as they were by the war
already, began construction of a floating continent in hopes that
they could avoid another battle. The portion of the population that
could afford it retreated to the settlement on the Black Moon, and
those that couldn't stayed behind and prepared for war for the first
time in their history in three hundred years.
While the Light Warriors were heading
the military front, the Dusk Warriors attempted an infiltration into
Enuo's base of operations in hopes of a successful assassination.
They were captured, however, and subjected to Enuo's first experimentations
with his control over the Void. Their deaths left the Light Warriors
standing as the only ones capable of saving the world from oblivion.
The Void now at his disposal, Enuo is
said to have approached Tycoon under a false flag of truce with hands
spread to signify the absense of weapons. His brother emerged to greet
him, and was stabbed with a lance of white-hot magic energy. As the
protector of the castle fell, the skies above grew as dark and forboding
as if the bleak vaccum of deep space had eaten at the atmosphere and
threatened to suck away all of reality. This black rip in the sky
descended, swallowing the castle and everything nearby. Ormazd was
taken for dead, and with nothing more to delay Enuo's progress, the
darkmage resumed his campaign to the north.
When Walse and the Carwen area fell
to Enuo's forces the Light Warriors found their missing member, Anahita
of Water, and she joined them under an alias to protect her daughter.
It was their combined efforts with the Ishtari tribes, Regolix, and
what remained of Lonka and Bahl that kept at least Enuo's army at
bay. After long efforts to defeat the Daevas, the Light Warriors at
last found themselves in Enuo's fortress. After a long battle through
which Atar and Anahita died, the remaining Light Warriors paused in
their battle as a being of light entered the chamber and advanced
upon Enuo. This being was said to have the features of an angel, with
pale yellow eyes and red hair, looking for all the world like the
deceased Zurvan. They battled for what seemed to Vayu of Wind like
an eternity, until at last the angel broke away and left a vastly
weakened Enuo to their mercy. He was killed and his spirit escaped
into the Void which it created.
Without Enuo's guidance the Void had
no order, and driven by chaos it began consuming all that fell within
its path. Vayu of Wind and Haoma of Earth retreated to the Library
near Luxor to consult any scholar who could concieve an idea that
would be rid of the Void once and for all. It is there that they encountered
Ormazd, and together they realised that the only option there was
to be rid of the Void was to seal it in a rift in space... a rift
caused by the splitting of the Four Crystals. To do so a life would
have to be sacrificed, and as Ormazd was the only one still alive
who had power over all the crystals, he volunteered. As the Crystals
were split in two, so was the world... as the world was ripped in
two, so was Ormazd's body, for it was the taking of his own life that
kept the worlds from being destroyed completely in the process.
To honor their fallen comrades, Vayu
and Haoma gathered the twelve legendary weapons and enshrined them
at the dead castle of Koozer. Those countries that fell into the Void
were restored through Ormazd's sacrifice; and with no heir of Zurvan's
line left alive, a grandnephew of Zurvan was appointed Regent for
Enuo's toddler daughter Jehi. Jehi never conceived an heir, and the
descendants of Zurvan's sister ascended the throne. Shinryuu and Omega
were chased into the Cleft of Dimensions by Vayu and Haoma, and neither
monsters or heroes ever returned. Lonka's floating continent achieved
takeoff in the year 250 Anno Separaro, and contact lost with those
of the Black Moon colony circa 258 A.S. Aeshma was chased down and
sealed in the Underwater Research Laboratory of the Lonka Republic
However, even with the worlds more or
less restored, the trade-city of Mirage was forever sealed in the
Cleft of Dimensions with the Void and what became of its citizens
was unknown until recently (theory suggests that it was in Mirage
that Ormazd split the crystals, sacrificed himself, and therefore
sealed the city within the Cleft of Dimensions. As of 1091 A.S., interviews
with eyewitness citizens of Mirage are still pending). Further study
into the history of Mirage and its role must be taken up in later
Although peace reigned in the world
more or less for five hundred years, somewhere around 498 A.S. a dark
spirit escaped the Cleft of Dimensions, felling whatever strayed within
its path. The sage Ghido identified this as Enuo's restless soul,
and with the aid of several wizards and priests had it sealed in a
young oak in the Moore Forest. To protect the seal, seven pines were
grown in a circle around the oak, and a monster named Humbaba appointed
to guard it. Another four hundred years went by, and the seal then
broken by an unsuspecting king and his companion. This king was Gilgamesh,
and his companion the wildman Enkidu. They took the fallen trees and
Humbaba's head back to their homeland Uruk to boast of overcoming
the guardian of the Forest and fine timber to build with.
Enuo's soul festered within the fallen
oak, waiting for the moment it could seduce Gilgamesh to its bidding.
That opportunity came when Enkidu died of illness, and terror of death
struck Gilgamesh's very heart. Enuo's voice promised Gilgamesh the
revival of his friend and his own immortality if he would allow himself
into Enuo's service. The grief-stricken king consented and tied himself
permanently into Enuo's service, turning over all his lands in the
process. Enuo shaped a body out of the flesh of the tree he was sealed
in, and undertook the name ExceedingDeath (often shortened to ExDeath).
Uruk fell, and Castle ExDeath was built of the bodies of its citizens.
The Dawn Warriors were once again picked
out of the population of the Sister World, and they chased ExDeath
to another world, where he was sealed once again. The rest is, as
they say, history, and would be better explained through the diary
of the Light Warrior of Water, Lenna Charlotte Tycoon.
close this paper now with very special thanks to Red Halisyn at the
Library of the Ancients, without whom this essay would be considerably
incomplete. His works include the "Comprehensive Dictionary and Glossary
of the Lonkan Tongue", an interveiw with Gilgamesh titled "Requiem
for the Forgotten King", and many insights into times long past and
almost forgotten. Further thanks goes to Lenna Tycoon for her accounts
of the war with ExDeath, and Faris Scherwiz-Highwind and Krile Mayer
Baldesion for dredging up background family history that provides
invaluable links that would have remained hidden without their efforts.
Mid Previa; Duir 13, 1091 A.S.
stared at the essay in his hands for some time. Duir 13, what would
have been the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere, that was
the same day Mid was killed. He remembered faintly that Krile dropped
mention about Mid writing some essay or whatever it was and how proud
he was going to be when it was going to be published, some time shortly
after his death. Pity, the boy never got a chance to display this wonderful
piece of work...
And it was odd how much his own son knew
about a time most people forgot. Out of curiosity, the pirate captain
searched the area for the Lonkan dictionary cited in the essay, faintly
wondering why he was never told of Ridha's publications during the boy's
time in the Library of the Ancients. Sure, Red told his parents constantly
about his advances in the field of magic, but other than that...
The dictionary was a thick book bound
in green-dyed leather, its title embossed with silver ink, its spine
creased with constant usage. He set it upon the table and, with effort
hindered by his broken arm, flipped it open to the 'z' section.
[zurván], n., time
zrvan akarana, [zurván ákarana], p. pn., infinite time. The Lonkans believed that from the Void came a god of infinite time and space, who presided over the four elements, destiny, and darkness and light. A king of the country of Tycoon was named for this god (ruled ca. 58-39 Pre-Separation), and is said to have his namesake's powers.
that's strange, Benjiro thought as he closed the book and returned it
to its shelf. There was something fishy about it, something he couldn't
quite put a finger on...
There was a painting in Tycoon that was
faded with age, said to be over a thousand years old. He was absently
aware that Ridha stopped in front of it every now and then to gaze up
at it. A few months ago Ridha was looking at it with a puzzled expression,
and only recently that expression changed into something else. Something
more knowledgeable, more expectant. But why...?
He dug around the table for any other
clues to give light to his nebulous suspicions, frowning slightly at
the scattered mess of papers that offended his sense of aesthetic neatness.
You'd think a pair of scientists would have enough sense to clean up
Lying half-hidden under other papers and
pinned down by a notepad was a watercolor painting that caught his attention,
and he wrested it from its position. It was a passable reproduction
of the ancient portrait Ridha liked to look at every now and then, but
lacking the touch of a truly creative artist. Such was the origins of
similar reproductions. As he gazed upon the watercolor painting, he
dug a sketch of his own out of his inner vest pocket and set the two
separate pieces of art besides each other.
Save for the longer hair, a different
outfit, and a more mature face on the man in the watercolor portrait,
the two images were all too similar, and Benjiro felt a chill creep
over his spine. His powers were nowhere near the extent of Ridha's,
but he watched the tail-ends of his son's dreams when he couldn't sleep,
wondering what could have triggered them, subconsciously keeping a mental
ear on the boy's thoughts. Now it made all too much sense.
As much as Ridha knew, his knowledge was
limited to the few rotting books that spoke of a distant time. This
paper was the only reproduction of books that had rotted to dust long
ago, and the only thing that still retained their knowledge. The dreams
had only brought limited veiws of the past and nothing on this wide
No one should ever live knowing that their
existance was the sole cause of so much suffering and death. And with
that thought the pirate held up the papers with one hand, a simple glance
at the uppermost corner bringing forth flames to lick at the stack of
The sweet, lonely strains of a silver
flute drifted through the air, carried by the high winds of the mountains
of Tycoon. A lilting golden voice followed it soon after and the two
wove into a plaintive tune that betrayed their creators' feelings. They
were both alone in a world that would not accept them, and even those
close to them knew not their true thoughts and emotions.
The tune carried on, floating away with
the wind when the musicians' instruments faded into silence. The flutist
gazed upon her accompanist with soft, sad brown eyes half-veiled by
wavy green bangs. His own eyes were remote, looking into the distance.
"Something wrong, Ridha," she asked as
she set the instrument in her lap.
Ridha's gaze drifted to the clouds, watching
them race at a snail's pace across the sky, taking small comfort in
the winds that tousseled his hair. He inhaled deeply of the pine-scented
mountain air and closed his eyes before responding in his feather-light
voice. "Other than having been approached by yet another hormonal servant
intent on seducing me? No, not really."
"Poor little Red, victim to the very position
most other teenaged boys would love to be in. I do feel sorry for Mademoiselle
Baldesion, however, if you two ever decide to get over your collective
"There is nothing going on between Krile
and I, if that is what you are suggesting."
A phantom trace of a smile crept across
Yllesia's full lips. "I'm not blind, kiddo, though I do have to wonder
why your parents haven't even noticed yet. You've been paying a lot
more attention to Krile than you used to, and you haven't been too cautious
about it. Besides..." She stood and brushed dust from her dress with
a free hand. "...as much as you may deny it, we are the same, you and
With face as red as his hair, the magelord
turned away to hide his embarassment. His voice lost the self-assured,
somewhat arrogant air it always had in her presense. "Just because we
both have similar personalities, it does not mean anything-"
"And similar tastes, and the ability to
look into the future, et cetera."
"I would hardly consider reading tarot
cards a reliable way to foresee the future," Ridha almost snapped, angered
at himself that his mother's friend could get an emotional rise out
of him so easily. He had taken pride in his cool, collected outer shell
far too much. Much as she had in her own shell. They really were too
Silence fell between them, allowing time
for the magelord's brief anger to burn out. Yllesia just gave that ever-present
half-smile that usually doubled as a smirk, and stepped forward to lay
a hand on his shoulder. Funny, she thought, that the kid was almost
as short as herself and yet his parents were a good deal taller.
"Be that as it may, this little game is
not the reason I came out here with you," the Karnac queen stated bluntly.
"You need something only I can provide,
correct? What is it?"
Yllesia cocked her head, making a show
of thinking about the best way to phrase the request. "Hrm, let's see...
I miss having a baby to take care of. I don't suppose you could, say,
help me make one?"
The expression that appeared on Ridha's
face was one of absolute horror mixed with such a comical look of shock
that Yllesia nearly doubled over with laughter. Needling Butz was fun,
but this... this was priceless. Once she had regained her composure,
she muttered "checkmate" with the sinister, catty smile she was so well
"My my, I really got you there, didn't
I?" She only smirked more as he settled back into his usual aloof mood
and glared daggers at her. "However, I would much prefer it if we don't
do things as normal, straight people would do. No offense, but men in
heat are so disgusting. Why else do you think I went to you instead
of finding some stableboy to abuse?"
"Because I make a more delicious target,
I presume," the magelord asked dourly, unconsciously crossing his arms
tight before him. "Why fornicate with a stableboy when you can harass
"That, my boy, is not at all what I mean...
but you are so adorable when you make mistakes and know it. All
I ask is that you get an embryo from your parents, implant it in me,
and do what you can to make it female. The concept is quite simple,
really. It's the execution that's up to you. I know you're a brilliant
scientist as well as magician, and I'm certain you can do this."
Ridha's nose wrinkled slightly in a grimace.
"I hate digging around in my mother's body, especially in that
area. I have had more than my fair share of that in my youth, thank
Yllesia nodded solemnly. Ridha was only
five years of age when he witnessed his mother's rape and torture, he
was only a child when he had been forced into watching and then having
to heal her every time she was within the grasp of death after the man
who captured her decided it would be fun to stab her with any variety
of sharp objects. It was little wonder that the teenaged boy had no
sex drive to speak of, really, and that he always flinched when he was
too close to his parents' room while they were being far too affectionate
with each other. He was robbed of any innocence and childhood he had.
"Think of it as ensuring the survival
of the Highwind line. We both know you're never going to come up with
a heir once you've ascended the throne. This is probably the best way
to do it, right? Faris will have an heir capable of breeding, I'll have
a baby to take care of, there'll be no pressure on you to marry... I
think it'll all work out wonderfully!"
"Very well. You go tell Mother about this
little scheme of yours while I go to my room, curl up in a corner, and
suck my thumb," the magelord asked half in jest and half in disgust,
mentally kicking himself for the last comment that would be perfect
fodder for future mockery and needling from Yllesia.
Strangely enough there was no verbal sting
from her, just a thankful smile and a bow as she retreated gracefully
to the door that lead to the inner towers and back into the castle itself.
What she didn't mention to her friend's son was that she knew all too
well what the outcome of this venture would be. After all, in all the
thirty years she had them, the cards have never once lied.
As she followed a priest into a temple, the
queen of Tycoon allowed her thoughts to wander while the little man
babbled incessantly. Faris had always found it amusing that those who
thought they weren't telling her anything were the ones she had her
spies on. Oh, she loved her family dearly, but she couldn't trust any
of them to tell her anything. At least Butz had learned his lesson,
and it was from him that she learned of Benjiro's little activities
on shore-leave in Crescent.
It wasn't even the first time her lifemate
killed someone in his warped idea of protecting her, and it wouldn't
be the last time he would come back to her in sullen, guilty depression
and practically beg her to punish him for doing something he thought
she would never know about. Damn masochist. At least he had the grace
to avoid capture and spare her any tangles with the resulting political
She had disliked Amit, true, but not enough
to have him killed, and she didn't care enough to mourn his death. Just
another fat politician dead with who knew what kind of person to take
his place. And somehow she doubted that it was he that sent Aesma to
kill her. Who was responsible for Aesma, she still didn't know. That
lack of knowledge ate at her gut even now, as she stood within the inner
temple of some new cult that had sprouted up in Karnac and decided to
expand into Tycoon.
The head priest was a young man of somewhat
less than average height draped in a green wizard's robe, whose angelic
face crowned with brown hair masked the sly little mind she had no doubt
was there. While she had little problem with religions popping up every
now and then, this one had been brought to her attention by her chancellor,
who had previously tried to imprison that priest on charges of public
lewdness and some other bullshit excuse. Faris, ever a supporter for
the underdog, decided to investigate the cult's doings on her own.
At the moment this priest, Preston, was
showing her around the inner sanctum, babbling something or another
about sharing love and how all people were brothers. From what she gathered
so far, the cult was hardly a cult at all, it only allowed members who
were willing to learn the long-dead language of Lonka and could withstand
the vigorous discipline. This educational organization, Preston had
called it, allowed any member of any of the world's countless religions
to join so long as they were willing to accept each other's beliefs
and shed all prejudices. And of the so-called orgies the organization
was accused on, Preston had explained that only members of the Inner
Ring staged and participated in such things, because it was the organization's
collective belief that love should be shared, and the best way to share
was to make love.
Faris paused when he said that, and gave
him a wry smile. "You people should have caught me ten years ago. I'd
have gladly joined, if just for the polygamy aspect."
The priest blinked and looked at her with
wide light-brown eyes framed by thick glasses, "Why would you not be
willing to join now? As one of the daughters of the last true Lonkan
you would be more than welcome into the Inner Ring."
Siduri, Faris's and Lenna's mother, came
from a hamlet within the kingdom of Uruk on the Sister World. Uruk had
been the last bastion of pure Lonkan blood before its king Gilgamesh
betrayed his people and ExDeath razed the kingdom and turned all its
people into the building blocks of his castle. The seer Siduri managed
to escape this only by being absent within Ghido's shrine. When ExDeath
was sealed and Dorgan decided to stay behind in Lix, Siduri followed
in hopes to escape the memory of Uruk's fall. She had met Alexander
Highwind during her wanderings, and gave birth to the two princesses.
The sisters were never told of their mother's history, and the only
reason Faris suspected any of this was because Galuf had approached
her one night on the Sister World, commenting on how rare purple hair
was, especially since the last human to have such hair was Siduri, and
that hairtone ranging from lavender to imperial purple to rose pink
were unique to the people of Uruk. He told her of Siduri, who had been
as tall as Faris was, with long purple hair and sad green eyes, who
had disappeared into Faris's homeworld and not been heard from since.
Long afterwards, when the former pirate was given a chance she learned
everything she could from her father's journal. The fact that Faris
never really knew her mother was always a sore spot with her, and she
glared at the head priest for bringing up that subject.
He moved on to another subject, obviously
disappointed that the queen wasn't willing to endorse the organization
and that Lenna would balk at the idea of it. Politics, she had explained,
wouldn't allow for her to support any one belief. Better to have an
atheist on the throne than a fanatic, and Preston's organization was
still considered as a group of such people. But despite all, she did
rather like the idea behind the place, and assured the poor youth that
unless he did something illegal, she would make sure that his group
would not be harassed by Tycoon police again.
Once the priest had finished his tour,
he brought her to the outside of the temple and thanked her for her
patience and understanding. Before she left, he asked her to give his
regards to Ridha, and that she and her son were welcome into the organization
at any time. Before she could ask how the youth knew her son, he disappeared.
The queen of Tycoon tied her hair back
into a queue, and once that was done, she pulled a hooded cloak over
her body to hide her face under shadows and avoid being spotted. She
enjoyed being among the lower class far too much to wander about flaunting
The bar she visited so often was situated
in the less respectable outskirts of the city that flanked the fortress-turned-palace
of Tycoon Castle. Its sign was a simple design that displayed its name
for the illiterate, and the crude letters scrawled out underneath had
long been worn away by the tides of years. There were other taverns
out there that were in better shape. But it didn't matter, really, since
the barkeep of the Bottomless Tankard was probably the only man she'd
trust enough to keep her secret.
Hadwin Maddock presided over his bar with
all the poise of an old samurai and gave her an acknowledging nod as
he put away his cleaning rag.
"Ya want the usual, Prince," he asked
breezily as she settled onto a stool and gave the room a quick survey.
The usual band of ruffians and their whores occupied the place, as they
always had. She always did much prefer the harsh, dirty reality of a
bar than the perfumed masks and fantasies of the court.
"Nah. Be a mate and mix me a Blackflame,
The old man gave a grunt of surprise and
turned to pick half a dozen bottles off the shelves. "Single shot or
"Triple. I haven't been able to get anything
like that at home. Y'know how my sister is, complains every bloody time
she finds me with a bottle of anything stronger than wine."
He set the bottles down on the counter and added
the drinks to the shaker one at a time. Vodka, rum, brandy, several
others that went by so fast she didn't keep up. Once they had been mixed
he poured the liquor into a glass and handed it to her with the surface
of the liquid lit with a low blue flame.
She blew out the flame and knocked back
the heavily alcoholic drink in several gulps. As the liquid fire burned
through her body, she gave the barkeeper a small smile.
"Thanks for not blowing my cover."
"I've no reason to. Besides, I'm hoping
that when your liver does finally give out no one'll be pinning any
of the blame on me."
"Pleasant thought, old man. Hold on to
that," she responded as she finished off the drink and settled into
the nice happy haze of tipsiness. Always did feel better after a drink.
Faris would have been perfectly content
to drift off to sleep on the bar too, had a new conversation between
other patrons not arisen and interrupted her lazily alcohol-soaked train
of thought. And as much as she hated to admit to it, curiosity was one
of her worst vices.
The former pirate slipped as close to
the conversationalists as possible without bringing attention to herself.
She was always interested when discussion drifted to her royal persona,
it let her know what people really though and if she was doing anything
wrong. The way the conversation was going now, however...
When the hell did she ever have an accent
like the one they were mocking? The accent they were using was one that
only existed in very badly exaggerated stories and novels of piracy,
usually told by people who had never had first hand experience. Stereotypes,
Admittedly, she did use the flamboyantly
dressed dandy-esque stereotype of a pirate captain to her advantage,
but no one she knew ever used that hideous accent. Were she in
a better state of mind she would have ignored this completely. However...
Faris disappeared into the barkeep's room,
only to come out wearing a broad-shouldered overcoat of heavy black
velvet, large gold buttons, gold pippings, and her usual green vest,
knickers, and pitch-black boots. She had to borrow a cutlass and broad
belt that Hadwin kept from his days as a privateer, but they finished
off the effect she needed. He didn't seem to mind anyway, just gave
her a mildly surprised look and resumed polishing his shotglasses.
With a decidedly devillish grin she stepped
into their tiny circle, and half-growled a single word. "Arrr!"
They all started in surprise and stared
at her... and some even looked like they would bolt the moment she moved.
Her grin only widened as she stiffled her laughter at their reaction.
"Isn't talking behind someone's back rather
crude? Because last I heard that would be considered really bad etiquette,"
she stated in perfectly clear Common tongue.
No one answered her, even though several
made an attempt to and were choked off by their own nervousness. Faris
shrugged it off and waved to the barkeep as she stepped away from the
circle and towards the door.
"Hey Hadwin, I'll be sending a courier
with the money for the tab and everything once I'm back home."
And with that, still in full pirate captain
regalia, slightly tipsy, and still chuckling at the memory of the bar
patrons' faces, she walked the long way back to Tycoon castle.
~end chapter nine~
Please send all comments
to Ajora Fravashi
or to Chapter 10