[01.09.02] » by Graham Johnson
Two richly dressed men stood waiting
outside an ornate door. The door was gilded in gold and gems, and smelled of
exotic perfumes. Two guards stood outside the door, dressed with polished
silver armor and scabbards that held steel swords. The guards saw all manner of
guests coming to see the governor, but they had not seen guests such as these
before: dressed in iridescent robes that made no sound when they moved, hoods
that did not show their owner's faces, and staves that seemed to writhe and
twist when the eye turned away. And wreathed about the men like an aura was the
unmistakable scent of incense from the southeastern desert, near the waste. It
was rumored that such incense contained some of the poisons of the waste, and
either killed or granted immortality to those imbued too deeply with it. It was
a holy scent.
The door opened with a groan, and a nervous-looking messenger came out.
"The Governor of Zeltennia will see you now," he said, bowing lowly.
The two men stood impassively as the guards stepped aside, and walked through
the door without a glance at the finery surrounding them.
"We should not have come here," muttered one of the men as
"We have no choice. We must greet the local ruler or risk attack as
we travel. You know Yudoran policy regarding its airspace," replied the
"I still feel it was too much of a risk coming openly like this. This too important a matter to take such risks."
"Risks cannot be avoided. We have discussed this before, and this
is the safest path."
The two men came before a man sitting in an ornate chair. He was in the
process of examining a stack of papers and talking to an attendant when he
noticed the two men. He bade his attendants to leave, and watched with interest
as the two men knelt before him.
"You may rise," he said, "Such demonstrations are not
required of non-citizens."
"We but desire to show to you respect, Governor," said one of
the men as they rose. He spoke the language well, but slowly and with a strong
inflection. "As visitors are we, should we not pay homage to the ruler of
the traveled land? This was our intention, and I hope we not have offended
"You have not," said the Governor with a smile, "Indeed,
it is a pleasure to receive guests such as yourselves. A pleasure that is all
too rare these days. May I take it from your clothing and airship that you are
"You may, Governor."
"Wonderful!" said the Governor, "It has been many years
since Zeltennia has had the chance to welcome a Kildean, much less two of such
obvious high standing as yourselves! We shall, should
it please you, hold a feast in your honor tonight!"
"It would please us," said one of the men. He raised a finger
and continued, "however, we cannot stay here so
long. I fear we have business to which must we attend."
"I see," said the Governor, "So I may take it then you do
not come to Zeltennia solely for pleasure?"
"Pleasure we have at coming here," said the man, "but
business we also have. About such business we wish to speak."
"Well, although I am loath to speak of business without a show of
hospitality, your wish is my pleasure. What is this business you wish to talk
The two men looked at each other. They nodded and one stepped forward.
"One and one-half years ago, a girl from our capitol disappeared. We
believe she left our kingdom. Normally, such things cause no concern to us.
This girl causes us concern. A slave-girl was she, but also very trusted by our
royal family. One of their private servants was she. We can think of one reason
only she would leave: with child was she."
"A royal bastard, I see," said the Governor, nodding as he
spoke. "But what cause would that be for the girl to leave? Certainly such
things cannot be too uncommon."
"In Kildea, very uncommon are they," said the man, "I know
not your laws regarding children of royal blood, but in Kildea we have many
rules regarding royal blood. The rules say such birth is not bad always, but
uncertain. Upon nature of the child it is depending. We believe the girl
sneaked out of Kildea and into the Yudora Empire. We believe she is in the city
"And you wish to take the girl and her child back to Kildea?"
asked the Governor.
"No," said the man, "The child was not born of Kildea, so
it is not ours to take. We are not certain the child remains alive even. We
wish to find the child and inspect it. If it has noble blood, then certain
rites perform we must. The child is not Kildean, but if it has enough noble
blood then it is not not Kildean either."
"Are you saying it may still be accounted as royalty of
Kildea?" asked the Governor with interest.
The two men looked at each other. "Kildean blood-rules say many
things. We must look at the child to determine its status."
"I see, I see. But there is a possibility?"
"Possibility, yes. The child could never
serve on the Council of Twelve, but high-ranking could still be it," said
the man uncomfortably.
"Fascinating," said the Governor, "I have not had the
opportunity to learn much of the royal family of Kildea, but I can immediately
see its laws of succession and inheritance are quite different from ours. I
don't suppose you'd mind telling me a little about the royal hierarchy--is this
Council of Twelve important?"
"Any other time, we would be very pleased to explain our
government, but I am very afraid we have not the time. Imperative we find the
girl quickly is it."
"That is a pity. Am I to take it that you desire to continue your
journey as soon as possible then?"
"That is our desire, yes," said one of the men.
"Then I grant you free passage throughout Zeltennia, and wish you
much luck on your search," said the smiling Governor,
" However, I must make one request of you gentlemen."
The two men glanced at each other. "If within our power and
authority is it, we shall grant it," said one of the men.
"I ask that you bring the child to me, so that I might know it and
honor it," said the Governor, "and by extension honor Kildea as
"We will gladly do this," they said.
* * *
The two men walked along the paved path to the airfield. As they walked,
a carriage pulled by twin steeds came up behind them, ringing its bell as it
came. The two men walked off the path and stood still as the cart raced by. As
it passed, both the animals pulling it swerved off the other side of the path,
going so far that one wheel ran in the grass. The coachman cursed loudly as he
yanked at the reins, trying to keep the cart and the animals under control.
"We should not stand so near the path," one of the men said as
they resumed walking on the path.
"It doesn't matter anymore," said the other, "we shall
not ever return here in any case."
"Do you think he believed us?" asked the first man.
"He believed us enough to leave us be for a few days," said
the other, "but I did not like his interest in the child. Was it really
necessary to go into that much detail? I fear you've awakened his greed."
"'The best lies do not stray far from the truth.' You know I have
no great skill in deception and require strategies to succeed."
"But now he will certainly keep his eyes on the child, and what if
he notices what he should not? We should not have spoken with him to begin with."
"That cannot be helped now. Our fears might be premature in any
case; we don't know if this child is the one or not."
"No, we don't. But I doubt that woman would have fled if she hadn't
thought it was the one, damn her. She might have even altered it--I put nothing
"It will not avail her. If we find the child, all will be well. If
we do not, then we simply start again."
The two men heard another bell approach along with the rhythmic
thump-click of clawed feet running on stone. They turned off the path and
walked a short distance before stopping. Squinting as the wind blew into their faces, they watched another carriage go past. It ran by
quickly, without hesitating or faltering.
"See?" said one of the men.
"It has nothing to do with that. The wind was in our favor this
time, that's all," said the other.
"Perhaps," said the first as they walked towards the path.
"What of the governor and his interest in the child? We must do
"I think I have an idea. But first we must see if the child
generates a response or not. We cannot get ahead of ourselves."
"If this child isn't the one, or if that woman
has broken it or sealed it, I will find her and visit the torments of the Third
Hell upon her myself."
"I wish you luck, though I
doubt very much that she still walks on this world."
"Then I will wait for her to surface and consume her when she does.
She cannot escape us forever."
* * *
The two men walked along a dirty street on the outskirts of Bervenia.
The locals did not bother to conceal their stares as the two walked and spoke
in a foreign tongue. More than once a poor man begged them for alms, more than
once a religious man begged them for salvation, and more than once an enterprising
man asked them where he could obtain clothes such as theirs, that shimmered in
the light and remained clean though they walked in the dust. The two men gave a
few coins to the beggars and ignored the others.
"This is far too risky a plan," said one.
"It will work," said the other, "and it solves very
neatly the problem of our curious Governor."
"But what guarantee do we have that they will use the protective
agents we gave them?" asked the first.
"The look in their eyes as they knelt before use was guarantee
enough for me."
"I still don't like it. The others will hear of this when we
return. ...to just let him go, after you saw the response! There can be no
doubt it is he."
"There is no doubt. That is why I left him. He must be hidden, and
the best way to hide something is to lose it. And he will be lost,
both to us and any who would find him through us. But he will not be lost
forever. We'll know when he makes contact, and then we will find him and join
The other man remained silent as they walked. They came to an open
square and stopped. "There," said one as he pointed, "let us be
done with this and leave here."
"Eager to get back to the airship, are you?" asked the other
as they walked towards the well.
"Eager to be rid of your foolish plans, I am. This smells of
disaster, I tell you."
"That is a risk we took in the beginning. But it is a risk we must
take if we wish to bring about our Kingdom of God."
"Hrmmph. You take your little role too
One of the men threw a bucket down into the well and let it fill with
water. Once it was full he began to pull it back up.
"There is nothing wrong with that. Relax, brother. I know what I am
as well as you do. Don't believe my pretensions go more than skin deep."
The bucket nearly at the top of the well, the man bent over and reached
into the well to grab the bucket. As he did, he emptied a small vial into the
bottom of the well. He pulled the bucket up and set it on the stone lip of the
well. Producing a small cup, he took a drink of the water.
"Was that all of it?" asked one of the men as he accepted the
cup from the other.
"Yes," said the other, "It should reach maximum activity
in about four days--long enough for our gift to impart them a resistance."
"And how far will it spread?" asked the first.
"That depends on how the ground-water flows. I expect it to affect
no more than a one league radius. The city should survive."
The man holding the cup gave a long look at the other. "I hope you
know what you are doing, for your sake," he said.
"For all of our sakes," replied the other somberly.
Inside a small house a few blocks away, a young man and woman watched
their child sleep. A single dish containing incense smoked, filling the room
with a scent that was at once both suffocating and refreshing. Large clumps of
incense lay scattered on the table along with a pile of gold and a blue gem.
"So much!" exclaimed the woman, "I do not think that even
the town cathedral has so much incense! And smell it! Is it not different from
the cathedral's? It must be very holy."
"...aye, it must," said the young man slowly, "Holy
enough for a Child of God."
"The Magi told us we must keep the incense burning until it runs
out, did they not?" asked the young woman.
"...a Child of God." repeated the young man.
"Arjos, are you listening to me?"
asked the woman.
The young man blinked. "I am sorry, Maki. I was not. I was just
thinking about what the Magi said. I cannot believe our Ajora is truly a Child
"But he is," said Maki, "and you must believe it. We
found him in our own barn wrapped in a strange cloth, and he has not the
features of any person I have ever seen--his are much more
noble. Do you not remember? We joked even then that an angel had dropped
him. And then two Magi come and tell us he is destined to bring the Kingdom of God to our earth, give us gifts
honoring his birth. This child was born in Heaven,
there can be no other explanation!" She walked over to the sleeping child
and knelt by his bed. "I knew you were special the moment I saw you,"
she murmured as she touched his cheek with her finger.
Arjos walked up behind his wife. "Yes, he truly is a Child of
God," he said as he watched the child sleep peacefully. He stood there,
his hand on Maki's shoulder, and watched the child for a few minutes. Then he
walked back to the table and looked again at the gifts the Magi had brought:
incense, a stone, and gold. The incense was to celebrate this holy occasion,
and they were to keep it burning until it was completely gone. The stone they
had only described as the child's birthright, and said that Maki and Arjos were
not to touch it unless absolutely necessary. And they had also brought gold,
more gold than Arjos had expected to see in his entire life. But with the gold
came a prophecy: they would have to leave Bervenia soon. There would be a
sign--the Magi did not say what--and upon that sign Maki and Arjos would take
young Ajora and leave Bervenia, leave Zeltennia. The Magi said that they should
go far away, and remain hidden until the boy was gr! own.
The gold was for that journey.
Arjos fingered the gold. He did not want to leave Bervenia, but he would
sooner die than disobey the word of God. He only hoped that the sign would be a
long time coming.
He looked again at the stone. It was a brilliant blue color,
tear-shaped, and though small it gave an impression of size and depth. And the
way it shone in the light! Arjos knew it was a worthy birthright of a Child of
God. As he looked at it, it flashed refulgently in the light. Arjos looked
closer. It seemed as though the light came from within the stone. But perhaps
not; Arjos knew little of gems and their properties. Still, the closer he
looked the more he seemed to think the stone shimmered and shone with its own
light. There! There was no mistaking that, that could
not have been a simple reflecti-
"Arjos," called Maki, "Ajora is awake again, and I think
he is hungry."
Arjos looked up and had to blink twice before the room would come into
focus. He shook his head and concentrated on what his wife had just said.
"Shall I begin fixing his food?" he asked.
"No, do not trouble yourself with that; I will attend to it. But
could you go to the market for us? With the Magi's gold, I'm sure we can
provide better food for little Ajora."
"Of course," said Arjos. He looked at the pile of gold on the
table and took a piece. And then, grabbing his sack and walking stick, he
walked out of the door and towards the market. He hadn't gone a block when a
shadow passed over him. He looked up and saw an airship heading east. As he
watched it disappear on the horizon, he realized it was probably the Magi
returning to their far-away home.
With thanks to the regulars and
newbies of the GameFAQs FFT board. Especially AnimeMaster411,
Sword Seraph, and the numerous others who share my interest in FFT's story.