Grazhir :: Final Fantasy :: Kaleidoscope :: 04 :: Schemes

Kaleidoscope :: 04 :: Schemes

Notes: I should point out two things right about now. First, Seymour did not murder his father in this version of the story. Second, Seymour does not understand Al Bhed, so y’all get to suffer through the actual code.

Edit: As per the latest stupid CSS tricks, you can hover (in Firefox and IE, at least) over the Al Bhed text to get a translation.


Macalania: Soon enough they emerged from the woods into a snow-covered landscape. Off to the side of the path was a frozen lake and the air around it shimmered with faint pastel colours. The scene was, in a word, breathtaking. Also nearby was another of Rin’s travel agencies, but Seymour was not in the mood, despite seeing the weary postures of the group, to stay in one. That being the case, he decided to speak up.

“We are very nearly there,” he said, ostensibly to Tidus, but with enough projection for everyone to hear him. “Macalania Temple is a bit farther on, past the lake and over a gorge. Were it not for some of the higher drifts, you would be able to see it.”

Yuna stopped walking and turned around. “That’s right! You’re the High Priest of Macalania Temple, aren’t you, Lord Seymour?”

Seymour inclined his head and said, “Indeed. While you and your guardians enter the Cloister of Trials, I can arrange for our lodging. That way you will not have far to go after your audience with the Fayth, rather than having to come back here to rest.”

Yuna glanced around the group, nodded, and said with renewed energy, “All right! Let’s go, everyone!”

They skirted along the edge of the lake, not entirely trusting the center, and continued on until they came to the gorge. The bridge was fairly narrow so they went in pairs, then regrouped on the other side before walking the last of the distance, a winding pathway that seemed almost to hover over nothing at all.

“I’d hate to have to do this if I was afraid of heights,” Tidus said to him quietly.

Seymour chuckled, having often thought the same thing in the past. “Can you imagine,” he replied as quietly, “a summoner’s journey ending here, with them too afraid to walk this particular path?”

His mate laughed; Wakka looked back curiously, and as a result lost his balance on the slippery slope. The blitzball player crashed down and slid into one of the snowbanks lining the path, causing a minor explosion of snow to erupt.

“Aw, man! That’s not cool, ya?” Wakka groused, then carefully found his footing again.

Lulu did not bother to hide her amusement. “I would say it’s very cool. It is snow, after all.”

“Lu!”

They traversed the remainder of the spiral to the accompaniment of laughter, and finally reached the level ground just in front of the temple itself. The guards there were a mixture of human and Guado, and they straightened up smartly on seeing Seymour and performed Yevon’s prayer.

It wasn’t until they started up the steps that one of the human guards narrowed his eyes and moved as if to deny entrance.

Seymour cleared his throat and shot the man a nasty glare. “Unless there is a fiend behind us. . . .”

The guard looked from Rikku to Seymour, then backed down quickly. He rushed over to the temple doors and opened them, meekly ushering everyone through.

Seymour hung back briefly. “You forget your place,” he said. “I am well aware of why you acted as you did, but you should have enough sense to realize that any person in my company, Al Bhed or otherwise, is not to be harassed or denied entrance. You had best learn that now before something unfortunate should happen to you.”

“Yes, Lord Seymour,” the guard whispered.

Seymour swept on past him and into the temple, pausing for a moment to appreciate the truly beautiful architecture, then approached the group. “I will arrange for our stay here, so if you are ready to enter the trials, please do. Refreshments will be available once you are done.”

*

The next morning Seymour was feeling mildly frustrated. There had been no opportunity for him to get Tidus alone and his mood as a result was less than pleasant. Breakfast passed with nothing more than sleepy, murmuring conversation, and they headed out fairly early. Fiend attacks along the way woke everyone up, though, so they were wide awake by the time they stepped onto the fringes of the frozen lake.

They had just begun to circumvent the center again when a small group of Guado skittered across the ice and came to stop just in front of the party. “Maester Seymour!”

Seymour glanced at them, then his companions. “Will you please excuse me for a minute?” he said, then stepped away for some privacy. “What news have you?”

“My lord,” said one in a low voice, “Maester Mika has sent warrior monks to the Al Bhed home in retaliation for the kidnappings. They have gone with the intent to retrieve any summoners being held captive there, to be brought back to Bevelle. Any and all Al Bhed who get in their way are to be killed.”

Seymour sighed. “How long ago?”

“Several days, Your Grace.”

“All right. Two of you head back to Guadosalam and inform Tromell, and tell him to come to Bevelle with all haste. My personal guard can accompany him to see to his safety. The rest of you will remain with me for the time being.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Two of them took off at a fast clip, leaving four behind.

Seymour sighed again and signaled to Tidus, who trotted over immediately. “Sir Tidus, would you do me the favor of requesting the presence of Lady Yuna and Miss Rikku? Discreetly, please.”

“Um, sure. Be right back, Lord Seymour.” Tidus hastened back over to the group and quickly returned with the two ladies.

“What is it, Lord Seymour?” Yuna asked.

“A very delicate situation, I’m afraid. I regret to inform you that Maester Mika has ordered an attack on the Al Bhed home on Bikanel Island in retaliation for—”

“What!?” Rikku screeched. “No!”

“Is everything okay over there?” Wakka yelled, then strode over.

“Eh heh.” Rikku laughed weakly and gave Wakka a sickly smile. “Oh, just fine, really. We’ll, um, be done in a minute?”

“Okay,” he said with a slight frown and wandered back over to stand next to Lulu.

“Yunie, what—oh, no, not now!”

“Al Bhed!” Wakka shouted in warning.

Seymour whipped around to see several Al Bhed on the ridge on the opposite side of the lake.

One of them shouted. “Rikku! Tuh’d ehdanvana un oui kad drec! Ouin bnaleuic magic yht Aeons yna caymat!Rikku! Don’t interfere or you get this! Your precious magic and Aeons are sealed!

“Oh, no!” Rikku repeated.

Tidus tapped her arm quickly and said, “Translation?”

“He’s gonna use an anti-magic field on us!”

Kad dras!Get them!

A huge, mobile machina weapon trundled into view over the ridge and down, coming to a halt in the center of the frozen lake. Seconds later it shot a device into the air, and Seymour could feel access to his magic being cut off. Rather like losing a limb, in a way, and he was definitely not amused.

There was a brief standstill, then Auron yanked Rikku, Tidus, and Wakka over and spoke to them rapidly in a low voice, then pushed them forward to begin the confrontation.

“Sir Auron?” Yuna questioned.

“Wakka and Rikku will take out that negator. Once that’s done, Lulu can swap in and use her magic while Tidus uses haste. That thing is vulnerable to lightning, like all machina. Tidus can also delay it, slow it down. If necessary, Yuna, you can summon.”

“Right!” Yuna exclaimed, then turned her full attention to the battle already being waged.

And it took quite a while, as the crawler had the capability of shooting up another negator given enough time, and many times the chosen fighters barely escaped being knocked out by some of the machina’s attacks. In the end, however, they were victorious.

That same Al Bhed from before rose up again on the ridge and shook his fist, then shouted, “Rikku! E femm damm vydran!Rikku! I will tell father!

Rikku stamped her foot and shouted right back, and in the same language. “E ys dra guardian uv Yuna, oui caa? Yuna ec cyva! Fa femm kiynt ran! Cra ec cyva!I am the guardian of Yuna, you see? Yuna is safe! We will guard her! She is safe!

Oui tu drec ymuha, cecdan!You do this alone, sister!” he responded, then ducked away out of sight.

Rikku sighed and toed the ground with one foot. “I told him I was a guardian. Well, guess I had to, really.”

“How come you speak Al Bhed? Why?” asked Wakka.

“Because I’m Al Bhed,” she said. “And that . . . was my brother.”

Wakka tore his gaze away from her and looked at each of the others. “You knew? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We knew you’d be upset,” Lulu said evenly.

“This is great. I can’t believe I’ve been traveling with an Al Bhed! A heathen!”

“You’re wrong!” Rikku retorted. “We have nothing against Yevon.”

Seymour nobly refrained from groaning, and instead unobtrusively pulled Tidus back a short distance, away from the verbal-only battle unfolding before them. Yuna also stepped back a bit.

“But you Al Bhed use the forbidden machina! You know what that means? Sin was born because people used machina!”

“You got proof? Show me proof!” Rikku insisted.

“It’s in Yevon’s teachings! Not that you’d know!”

“That’s not good enough! Yevon says this, Yevon says that. Can’t you think for yourself?”

“Well, then you tell me! Where did Sin come from, huh?”

“I. . . . I don’t know!” she admitted.

“You bad-mouth Yevon and that’s all you can come up with?”

“But . . . that doesn’t mean you should do whatever they say without thinking! Nothing will ever change that way!”

“Nothing has to change!” shouted Wakka.

“You want Sin to keep coming back? There might be a way to stop it, you know!”

“Sin will be gone once we atone for our past mistakes!”

“When? How?” Rikku persisted.

“If we keep faith in Yevon’s teachings it will be gone one day!”

“Why do I even bother?” Rikku turned away in temporary defeat, then gasped.

A troop of warrior monks was approaching at a brisk pace, moving down the gently sloping path with precisely coordinated movements. They came to a halt on the ice and saluted, forcing Seymour to perform Yevon’s prayer in response.

He had just asked, “Yes?” when a series of sharp reports sounded and all heads turned to toward the center of the lake, where most of Yuna’s guardians were still standing, not far from the defeated machina weapon. A split second later the ice shattered under the stress and weight.

Seymour found himself being hauled back abruptly before he had a chance to react, and was relieved to see that Tidus ended up next to him, as well as Lady Yuna. The others, however. . . .

Yuna screamed, “No!” just as Tidus whispered the same, and the Guado held her back as she struggled to get to the edge of the broken ice.

Seymour shook himself slightly and fired off an order at the monks. “Don’t just stand there. Check to see if they’re all right!”

The troop hastily formed a chain and advanced out to the jagged edge in a line. The end man got down on his hands and knees (his buddy crouching and holding his ankle instead) so he could peer into the depths. A long minute passed before he pulled back, and the line slowly retracted back to the safety of the perimeter.

“Maester Seymour! They appear to be alive, but it’s difficult to be sure.”

“And a rescue attempt?”

The monk shook his head. “Not unless you know of a way to the bottom of the lake, Your Grace.”

Seymour scowled and tried to think. At that point time seemed to stop for a moment; he suddenly became aware that he could no longer hear the Hymn of the Fayth, so much a part of the area that its lack was a shock to his system.

“What—?” came Yuna’s voice, then an odd sort of sigh.

Seymour looked over his shoulder to see that she had fainted. “Get her up to Rin’s immediately. Guard her with your lives,” he ordered his Guado, then turned back to the monks. “There is a way, but—”

Cracking sounds came again from the lake, causing everyone to quickly move up along the path. Then one of the monks shouted, “Sin!” A mass retreat ensued, with everyone gathering next to the agency, and Seymour had an excellent view as Sin appeared beneath the ice, not far from the bottom of the temple, which could clearly be seen through the shattered surface of the lake.

*

They spent the night at the agency. After Sin retreated Seymour charged half the troop of monks with the task of climbing to the bottom of the lake to see if there was anyone to be brought back. They had returned hours later, almost at sunset, with news that there was no one down there, alive or dead.

Yuna was nearly inconsolable with grief and had locked herself in one of the agency’s bedrooms, so Seymour set guards both outside her door and outside the agency, to swap out in rotation so that there were always people alert and on watch in case she should try to do something foolish.

He had a quiet dinner with Tidus and then retreated to a room with his mate, drawing in one of his Guado as well. “Is there anything else you need to tell me?” he asked wearily.

“My Lord, Maester Mika expects that when you and Lady Yuna arrive in Bevelle there will be a wedding.”

Tidus blinked in shock, but thankfully held his tongue.

“I see. Anything else?”

“Only that we know from overhearing them talk that the monks are here to escort you to Bevelle. They had hoped to arrive in time to prevent any more kidnapping attempts by the Al Bhed.”

Seymour snorted inelegantly. “Yes, and they managed that beautifully, didn’t they. Very well, join the watch rotation.”

The Guado bowed and slipped out.

“Um, Seymour?”

He turned to gaze at his mate. “It seems we will have to warn Lady Yuna of this very unwelcome development, and see how much we can delay.”

Tidus nodded slowly and said, “I could feel him this time. I know he came because of me. Do you . . . think the others are all right?”

Seymour eyed his mate for a moment, then smiled. “I think . . . Jecht is trying to tell you something, my sweet. I would not be surprised if he comes to you for a very good reason. It may be that he wishes, out of anyone, that it be you who has a hand in defeating him as he is now, to release him from what he has become.

“Given that, I tend to think that your friends are most likely all right, though perhaps a little battered and shaken up. After all, he has come to you several times now, has he not? And you have all always been okay. It is more of a question of where your friends ended up, correct? He must know that you will need them.”

Tidus looked away. “I don’t. . . . I don’t understand. How can he be Sin? How is that possible? He was Braska’s guardian, and Auron is okay.”

Seymour sighed; he really did not want to do what he was about to do. “Come sit with me,” he said, and waited until Tidus was seated next to him. “I get the feeling that you do not understand what happens once a summoner obtains the Final Aeon.”

“They defeat Sin.”

“Yes, they do. But tell me . . . where is Lord Braska?”

“I . . . don’t know. He’s dead?”

Seymour nodded. “The price for defeating Sin, Tidus, is the summoner’s life.”

“Yuna is going to die!?”

“That is how it’s been since Lady Yunalesca first defeated Sin a thousand years ago. But there may be a way.”

“Tell me!”

He sighed again. “Unfortunately, I made a promise to Sir Auron, so I cannot answer your questions at this time. I am sorry.”

“But—”

“Please, Tidus, do not make me break my promise. You will know in time, you have my word, before it is too late. I will not let you suffer in ignorance any longer than necessary. Any of you, really.”

“Why didn’t they tell me?” Tidus questioned miserably.

“It is a difficult thing to discuss. Lady Yuna has probably been quite heartened by your cheer so far, and loathe to upset you.”

“She says . . . she wants her journey to be filled with laughter.”

“Then focus on that for now. She is a very strong young woman. And that brings us back to Maester Mika’s expectations. Sweet as she is, I cannot marry Lady Yuna.” He graced Tidus with a seductive smile. “To do that would be to dishonor you, for one thing.”

Tidus frowned and kicked the leg of the bed with his heel. “She would, you know, if it meant the people of Spira were made happy by it. Yuna would probably consider it a duty, like defeating Sin. Sometimes she’s so selfless it makes my head hurt.”

“Well, let it not come to that. Unless you have changed your mind I have every intention of pledging myself only to you, my sweet.”

At that the blond’s brow furrowed. “I haven’t, but . . . just how long is this courtship thing, anyway? I mean, this is crazy. Every time I’m near you I feel. . . .” He trailed off and rolled his eyes. “Ah, man, I can barely think straight at times around you. I must sound like a silly young girl or something to you.”

Seymour chuckled and shook his head. “Believe me, my sweet, it is mutual. I have never been so frustrated in my life as I have been recently. As for the length of courtship, that depends. Courtship ends when you either agree to marry me, or decide to deny me.”

“Oh. Um, but, what about. . . . I mean, are you sure about this? It’s not like two men can have children. I saw those pictures at your manor. Your line goes back so far! If you’re stuck with me, it ends.”

He shrugged and reached out to stroke the back of Tidus’s neck briefly, and dare he think it, affectionately. “It matters not. This, to me, is fate, and I am happy to be guided so. If necessary, I will find an intelligent young Guado male to train up at the appropriate time with an eye toward them taking over my position as leader of my race. Pride in one’s family is all very well, but to sacrifice happiness simply for that. . . .”

His mate’s anxious expression relaxed into a slightly shy but cheerful smile. “So, uh, if I were to say yes, like, before Bevelle?”

“Well, I could not very well get married a second time, now could I? If you were to say yes, I would make sure that my Guado intercepted Tromell before he made the turn-off to Bevelle. It would be a very quick decision, though, and I would not want you to feel unduly pressured. We may be able to delay considerably with Lady Yuna’s help.”

“Do you think she might be ready to talk to us? She’s been in there, alone, all day. I’m worried about her. Can we go see?”

“Of course we can. It may well be that she is willing to help us plot and scheme.”

That obviously helped his mate to regain some of his good humor, for Tidus chortled and nodded, and they had barely managed to stand up when a knock sounded at the door, and the lady in question slipped inside without waiting for an invitation.

“Yuna!” Tidus rushed over and grabbed her hands as someone outside shut the door. “Are you okay? I was so worried about you. Have you even eaten anything?”

She laughed weakly. “Tidus, please! I’m . . . okay.”

“Have you eaten?” he repeated, almost accusingly.

“Um, no,” she admitted. “I didn’t have much of an appetite.”

Tidus led her over to a chair and stared at her until she sat down, then went over and opened the door, murmuring to one of the guards before coming back to resume his seat.

Yuna sighed and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m just . . . so worried. Wakka and Lulu are like siblings to me, and Rikku is my cousin. And Kimahri, well, he’s been with me since I was seven. And Auron. . . .”

“I know.”

“Lord Seymour, I’m sorry, but. . . .”

“Please, no formalities in here. I would like to think we are friends.”

“All right, thank you. I . . . overheard you two talking, through the wall. I’m sorry, I know it’s horribly rude.”

Seymour waved a hand in negation. It was just as well, as it meant so much less to repeat. “I hope you are not offended that I am not overjoyed at the idea of Mika’s wish for our marriage.”

She smiled faintly, almost ruefully. “You’re right, Tidus. I would have if it would make the people happy for a time. But I couldn’t do that to you.”

A knock sounded again, so Seymour called out, “Enter!”

A Guado slipped in and deposited a tray on the low table, then bowed and slipped back out.

“Eat,” Tidus said. “Please?”

Yuna reached out to take a fruit and had a bite. A few seconds later she said, “So what do we do?”

Tidus cleared his throat rather nervously, blushed, then said, “My answer is yes.”

Seymour purred in pleasure and got to his feet. A short conversation with the guards at the door produced a muted flurry of action, and he was back in his seat a minute later. “If possible, we should start by delaying until Tromell can arrive.”

Yuna inspected her piece of fruit. “I could pretend to be ill. But, we made it across the Thunder Plains and all the way to the temple in a day because we pushed so hard. You sent men to Guadosalam early this morning, right?”

“Yes, true. Tromell may arrive here by morning, especially if mounted.”

“Even so, even if you and Tidus are joined before we reach Bevelle, the people of Spira are going to be very upset if we are forced into a ceremony and they find out it was all a sham,” she pointed out, then had another bite.

“Also true, which is where more delaying tactics come in. Our primary goals in Bevelle would be for you to visit the temple, and us to get out of the city while avoiding that very situation.”

“And what about my friends? They could be anywhere. And an attack on Bikanel Island?”

“Hey!” Tidus said suddenly. “Remember when Rikku found me? They made me work for food, helping them salvage. They found an airship down there! The Al Bhed may have had enough time to bring that up and get it working. Maybe it’s on Bikanel Island now. Maybe they can. . . .” He trailed off in uncertainty. “I guess that doesn’t really help those of us who are missing, does it.”

“Well,” Yuna said slowly, “Uncle Cid is the leader of the Al Bhed. If they’re being attacked, and they do have that airship, they could use it to escape if necessary. I’m sure he would go looking for Rikku. She is his daughter, after all. And she would come looking for us, right?”

“Yeah!”

Seymour was privately amused at how quickly his mate could be cheered up.

“And if that happened, so long as they came before, uh, you know, then you wouldn’t have to go through with it.”

Yuna finished off her piece of fruit and looked with a bit more enthusiasm on the bowl of soup awaiting her. She picked up a spoon and started in, her colour, which had been lacking, finally starting to become more healthy in appearance.

“Should it come to it,” Seymour said musingly, “we can delay a day here, and then again for quite a few in Bevelle with supposed preparations for a ceremony. I am sure that you can be quite fussy, Yuna, given the proper motivation.”

She looked up from her soup with a slight conspiratorial grin.

“And I realize that you are, regrettably, lacking most of your guardians, but that will not bar your entrance to the Cloister of Trials. I and Tidus could accompany you, he as a guardian, and I as a maester. And then, if possible, we slip out of the city in the dead of night and head either for the Calm Lands, or back to Guadosalam. It would depend a great deal on news of the whereabouts of your missing guardians.”

Yuna paused and furrowed her brow. “And what of Maester Mika? Your own reputation and position? You could be excommunicated.”

“That is a chance I am willing to take,” he said seriously, then moved on to far less serious topics of conversation until it was time for bed.

Tromell arrived bright and early, looking a bit worse for wear after having bounced along astride a chocobo for hours on end. He was ushered into Seymour’s room right away and handed into a seat that wasn’t moving. In point of fact, he looked extremely relieved to be stationary.

Seymour waited until his adviser had had something to eat before springing any surprises on the poor man. Yuna was in the next room with Tidus keeping an eye on her. The warrior monks were very restless, wanting to discharge their duty and escort the greatly reduced party to Bevelle, but had been put off by the summoner’s grief and alleged illness.

“I will let you rest shortly, old friend, but before that there are some things we need to discuss,” Seymour said once Tromell had sat back in replete satisfaction.

“How may I be of service, Lord Seymour?”