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Marishi Ten

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About Marishi Ten

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  • Birthday February 21

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    Clothcrafting, smoking, exploring new areas, reading new books or uncovering something unknown
  • Occupation
    Adventurer/Sell Sword

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    Marishi Ten#8297

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  1. Mariah stood trembling, pale, frightened as Rae spoke with the dragons. Not understanding what was spoken even though they spoke the common tongue. As Rae parried blows and dispatched their tormentors, her eyes, once a deep hue or red had drained of color and appeared a sickly shade of pink. She could do nothing but watch in stark terror, fear pervading her senses with the thoughts that she would never make it to her home, see her husband, create the gift for her friend, or bring the child she so loved into the world. The air was crisp, but Mariah began to sweat and hyperventilate. Her body trembled. It was all she could do to not scream and cry hysterically. The blood of the dragon sprayed onto the ground and splashed droplets onto her petticoats and face. As Rae drove the rest of the brood off and slumped to the ground, Mariah began to cough and choke uncontrollably. She was able to force out hoarse words as Rae’s voice pierced her terror. “I’m … fine … I think …” She took two small steps towards Rae, concerned for her even with her throat constricting. “Are … You …. “was all she could force out as her legs gave way and fell to the ground. “Not … now” she whispered as she fought against the black fog that threatened to overtake her mind and reason. Mariah’s skin was a deathly shade of white, beads of sweat on her forehead from the overexertion and fear. She fell into a broken fever dream, her frail body feebly fighting to repair the strain placed upon it. Mariah dreamt. She dreamt of sparkling spires scraping the heavens, she dreamt of magnificent cathedrals with kaleidoscope stained glass windows, she dreamt of gleaming stone and brilliant gilded metals. The steps were paved in blood. Never to dry. The trails of blood stretched into the cathedral through the black of the doors. A dark welcoming. She could not help herself but walk in. She was being guided. As she walked in the doors, she found herself in a vast chamber. Steam and gears pushing and pulling. Pistons firing in their brass housing. The center held a large pulsating blue core that blinded with its brilliance. The light was overpowering, but through the pulses, she could see a slender and small figure, almost conversing with the orb. The blue orb suddenly faded, leaving the room in black as a voice resounded in all around her, pounding her ears, causing her to clutch her head. “WHY ARE …. YOU …. HERE?” Mariah sunk to her knees and shut her eyes. As quickly as she was in the metal and gilded halls, as quickly as she was upon a field of battle. The sky bathed in a sickly red matching the pools of blood and mangled bodies on the ground. Men and women trampled and contorted in the throes of death and war. The smell of decay filled her senses, causing her to feel the urge to wretch. The sky was falling down above men slaughtering eachother. Mariah recognized the colors and insignia of the combatants. Gridania, Ul’Dah, Limsa Lominsa locked in battle with Garlemald. In the midst of the horrors she spotted the same slender figure, clothed in white and weaving barriers around her comrades. As the figure turned, her eyes locked with Mariah’s. They were Mariah’s eyes that looked back at her. Confused, Mariah blinked and the world shifted like oil upon water. No longer was the woman in white standing and staring at her. Another figure in black loomed over her, a long-curved sword in her hand as the woman in white lay on the ground, her robes stained brown from the muck and her own blood. The eyes that stared at Mariah were like her own, but not her own. The world began to dim as she heard a voice, cold and metallic “You should not be here …” “She is very sick. She has always been prone to illness. Did any of them lay talons on her? I’ll kill them all if they so much as scratched her. As for you, you would rather indulge in your bloodlust than to help my wife and baby?! She went to the markets for YOU! She wanted to make you a cloak to protect you against the cold! And this is how she’s repayed!?” Mariah drifted in and out fitful fever dreams. She found herself on a stone pier, the sea rolling and splashing, spraying cool water into the air. She turned and was overcome with wonder at the sight she beheld. She was in a city. One that easily rivaled Ishgard in size, but one that was completely alien to her. Red and black lacquer adorned the wood of the homes and stalls. The arches of the wood perfect and blending seamless with the buildings. The windows circular with thin wood creating reliefs of birds, serpents, and woodland animals. People were traveling to and fro between stalls and buildings, each wearing long robes that were intricate in design and vibrant colors. As Mariah walked the streets, she couldn’t help but feel she was being guided to a specific place. She was meant to see something. As the realization dawned upon her, the thoughts interrupted by her foot crunching on fine white stone. She was in a pavilion where there were men sparring with curved wooden sticks. Their blows and parries calculated and elegant. In the midst of the sparring stood the same small outline of the woman she had seen twice before. She was kneeling down with her own wooden sword on the ground with a man twice her own size dominating over her. As Mariah stepped closer, she could see the woman had been battered and beaten, blood flowing from her nose and the look of pain and anger on her face. She looked so familiar, yet she knew she never knew her. The man was laughing and jeering to his comrades, mocking the woman on the ground. In a flash, she rose up, gripping the wooden sword in her hands, bearing down upon the man who struck her down. It was then she caught the glimpse of her eyes. They were Mariah’s eyes. They arrested her and brought feelings of fear, pity, and love for the woman. She found herself in a city, though unlike the last. The Sun was bright in the sky that reflected off the tan sandstone and mosaic of the pavement. It was unbearably hot with throngs of people going about their business. In the crowd she spotted the same woman. Always the same woman. The woman with her eyes passing the large boardwalk. She abruptly stopped and look transfixed as if she was struck harder than the wooden sword ever could. As Mariah turned to look at what had caused the woman to stop and stare in wonder, her eyes widened at the sight. It was another woman. One with emerald green eyes that Mariah recognized. Before she could piece together what she had witnessed, she found herself inside a building with familiar design and items. The building was certainly of Ala Mhigo décor with shelves of glass vials and metal instruments on the tables and walls. In the middle of the room, there were makeshift tents and beds. The sounds of soft moaning could be heard from them. All save one. One bed was surrounded by a flurry of men and women. White cloth being fetched and stained cloth being taken away. The color of red and brown. A high-pitched scream of pain resounded from the bed as the people hovering around it held down the person upon it. As Mariah drew close, her heart sunk and tears welled in her eyes as she witnessed. The same slender woman was upon the bed, though it was difficult to determine. Her face was swollen and bloody. Her arm hung in an unnatural position. The words she tried to utter came out as broken and incoherent. Her eyes were shut tight in pain and suffering. Doctors and nurses were attempting to ease her pain and see to her wounds while muttering that she wouldn’t last the hour with the level of abuse she had suffered. As Mariah reached out her hand to stroke her face, another sound rang out that ripped through the air. The sound wasn’t human. It sounded more like an animal, pain echoing though. Rage and shame mixed together. Mariah looked up to the sound. The woman with emerald eyes and red hair. She could barely recognize her with the mask of fear and pain on her face. She was struggling to pass the men holding her away from the bed. Her eyes red with tears, her voice hoarse with screaming. Mariah looked back down at the woman on the bed. Her eyes were open. Her eyes, but not her eyes. One red, the other black. “… We’ve done all we can. All we can do now is wait and pray. I know you’ve never been a religious man Jonathan, but The Fury is with her and your child.” The aged voice of man called out softly. “Thank you, Deacon. Thank you for coming all the way here from The Vault. I can’t pay you …” Jonathan’s voice broke. “We’ll figure something out, my boy. For now, you and your friend watch over your wife. Her fever has broken and she will rest for some time yet. Pray to The Fury. The rest is in her hands.” The Deacon called out. The soft hand of a woman softly held Mariah’s own as fell back to slumber. Mariah found herself in a familiar room. Gilded metal of brass and silver adorned the floor with cogs turning and clicking into position. The walls were made of crystalline glass. Where once was a bright blue orb, now sat a chair with the same brass and silver gilding. In the room were three figures, locked in combat. Two she recognized, the third was hidden in fog and steam. The emerald eyed woman and the one with red and black eyes battled against the mist, though the mist was focused on the dark-haired woman and ignored the red head. The mist shrouded figured overpowered the dark-haired girl and pierced her flesh with it’s sword, causing her body to stiffen and then limp. Mariah let out a scream of panic as she watched the mist dispatch the girl. The woman looked at Mariah as the light left her disfigured eyes. Mariah couldn’t look away. They were her eyes. The world shifted again and Mariah found herself in the land that mirrored Ala Mhigo. The night moon was bright in the sky, bathing the land in blue light. There, she saw the red eyed woman and the emerald green locked into combat. The emerald woman looked disfigured, purple veins flowing from her eyes that had changed to a golden hue. She was vicious in her movements. Her sword violently attempting to land a blow on her opponent. The dark-haired girl moving with precision, like a ticking clock. The dark-haired woman landed a blow that sliced into the red heads arm, nearly severing it from her body. She never felt the pain. She slid the blade deeper into her own body and like a feral animal, she bit into her opponents’ neck, blood erupting from the wound and the girl’s mouth. Mariah could take no more of the nightmare and began to scream. She screamed at the hate, the pain, the violence, the death, the broken, the wounded. She clenched her eyes and kept screaming. Mariah’s eyes slowly opened to a view of her small home, the fear and horror beginning to recede from her mind. She felt the hand in her own and turned to Rae, seated in a small chair next to her. “… I know you.” She whispered. “I saw you. I saw you and the other woman. I watched you kill her. I watched her die over and over again. Why would she be forced to such a fate? What did she do to you? Why does she have the same …”? Her voice trailed off holding back tears. “You can’t let her go, can you? I don’t know who you are, but I KNOW you, somehow. Tell me about her.” Jonathan placed a cool towel on Mariah’s forehead and brushed her cheek gently with his hand. “You were dreaming. It’s okay, it’s over now. You don’t have to worry. You were just having a nightmare. Please, don’t exert yourself. You’re still weak. Everything will be okay.” He said to her gently, like they were the only two people in the world. She was his life, his purpose. There was nothing in the world he wouldn’t do for his wife. “What about the baby? Is she okay?” Mariah said, fear creeping back into her voice. “Shh. Yes, the baby is fine. But you’re still recovering. We thought we lost you for a moment there.” Tears welled in his eyes as he smiled. “Try to rest. I love you.” Mariah sat weakly up in her bed and turned to Rae. “Who was she to you? Who is she to me? Why did you kill her?”
  2. “It won’t be long now.” Mariah gazed down with a smile and gently stroked her stomach. She wore the same simple dress she had the days before with a simple white apron over it. “We have been trying for so long now, but what with the war, the move, the brigands, and my frailty, it didn’t look like we would be able to have a child. Then the Gods granted our prayer and delivered our little one to us.” She patted her belly gently and shook her head, a smile still on her lips, her sanguine eyes shining brightly. “I hope that I never fail her or lead her astray. I hope that I’m there every step of the way. Guiding her, listening to her, helping and defending her. I’m so excited to teach her all the wonderous things that there are to learn in the world.” Mariah wiped her hands on her apron and wiped her brow with the back of her hand. She picked up a wicker basket nearby and walked over to Rae, her hand extended to assist her new friend to her feet. “Would you mind coming with me to the market nearby? Jonathan doesn’t like when I travel alone. There are unsavory men that have turned to robbery and assault in wake of the war.” Mariah was no longer smiling, but held a look of sadness and pity. “We’ve fared better than most have with the return of Nidhogg, but his horde has leveled entire villages and forced many from their homes. They turn to stealing and killing as the only way to feed themselves and their family as the Holy See can’t be lowered to open their coffers for those in need. They won’t even open their gates for us.” A tinge of anger was in her voice as she spoke of Ishgard and the growing xenophobia. Her face lightened up immediately after. “Would you accompany me as my loyal shieldmaiden?” She asked with a chuckle. The two arrived in the markets of the nearby hamlet. The Sun was high in the sky and shining brightly, reflecting off the snow that lay on the ground. Small fires burned and furnaces roared with blacksmiths offering forging and repairs while grocers lined their winter produce neatly on their counters to entice the weary and famished. Mariah noticed Rae’s look of confusion. “There used to be many more people that would trade here,” she said. “until the dragons began their siege of the city. Many are afraid to congregate in large masses and more met their end that very way.” Mariah walked over to a stall that had bolts of cloth and yarn on display and began speaking to the grizzled Elezen, haggling over price. The makeshift battlements of the settlement were lines with the Order of The Rose. A noble family of Ishgard charged as the protectorates of the cities surrounding lands. The knights were adorned in chainmail from head to toe and armed with spears gleaming in the sunlight. Among their ranks could be seen armored figures, clad in mirror armor the shade of purple. The armor pointed and sharp, their visors covering their face. On their backs they wore long lances with a pair of wings on the shaft. They were all tall and thin, commanding an air of respect from the other knights. They wore no family crest of insignia. They spoke with no one and their eyes never left the sky. “Dragoons.” Mariah said to Rae with an assortment of cloth in her basket. “The elite dragon killers from Ishgard. Their sole purpose is the slaying of the dragon kin. They are a rare sight. I wonder why they’re here.” She had noticed Rae transfixed upon, unsure if Rae knew the order and their function. “Well, I have what I need. Care to walk me back?” She said cheerfully. They trod through the snow on a well-worn path that saw little use. As they chatted happily, shadows skimmed slowly across the ground, circling lazily above the tree line of scraggly pine trees. As the two broke the tree line into a small glade, the shadows became larger and the guttural screams of several Wyvern’s and a small dragon tore through the air, causing Mariah to drop her basket in fear. “Oh no …” She whispered in terror as the dragons slammed onto the ground, fangs shimmering in the light, bloodlust in their eyes.
  3. “I would strike that your wounds are more than physical.” Mariah said sadly, though the sweet smile she held never left her lips. “The wound on your arm will heal, though it will leave your skin marred. I’m sorry. Only you can allow the wounds in your heart to heal. But never mind my silly mothering over you, though it’s good practice!” She added with a small laugh. “Was your father in the war? You mentioned he defected. Did he defect to Ala Mhigo?” Jonathan asked. His expression going dark and a small scowl forming above his brow. “You know how the tribes are Jonathan and I think we’ve pressed her enough for answers.” Mariah replied to her husband. “And we received very little in exchange.” He stated shortly. “Who’s to say that whatever assaulted her doesn’t come for us. You forget that it’s not just us anymore.” It was Mariah’s turn to flash a familiar glace at her husband. “Oh, hush. You are far too protective of us. Besides, she doesn’t seem like one to invite catastrophe to her new friends.” She looked back at Rae and winked before turning the same scowl back at Jonathan. “I’ll prepare a meal before bed.” Mariah stood up and patted Rae on the head with a smile on her face and compassion in her eyes, her whole being at peace. She moved to the small fireplace and began to prepare the light meal of stew and loaf of bread. A basic recipe, with care and love sprinkled in like spices. Jonathan grunted and went about setting up the small table in the middle of the room. The home was small, but well cared for and maintained. The sparse silverware old, worn, but polished and clean. As she made the meal, Mariah made small talk with Rae attempting to keep her company and keep the wounded Miquot’e awake. Never allowing the conversation to lull into silence. She told stories of her own adventures of youth and budding loves. She moved with grace and purpose, small grunts and sighs escaping her lips from her encumbered body. She wore a simple dress that was clearly altered to fit her frame. Mariah smiled slightly as she noticed Rae looking at her. “I altered it myself. I have some skill with a needle.” She said with a slight blush on her face as she handed Rae a worn wooden bowl and silver spoon. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not much.” Shame rippled across her features at their lack of possessions and offerings. “Not that we’ve ever wanted much.” Her voice dropped to a low tone as she shot a glance at her husband. “We’re simple in the way of life. My husband is an amazing carpenter, but since he’s not among even the residents of the Broom, no one commissions him. He’s had to take work cutting lumber instead of shaping it. And what with Ishgard closing it’s doors and the recent dragon sightings …” Mariah shook her head. “There has been talk of Dragoon’s being assembled to protect the city and it’s hamlets, but we’re remote even then, and they would be loathe to help displaced Miquot’e. They wouldn’t even grant us asylum.” She sighed once more to clear the dark thoughts and began to eat her own bowl, all the while sitting next to Rae, keeping her company. Once dinner had been eaten and their meager items had been washed and clean with cold, crisp water in a small basin, Mariah excused herself to prepare for bed. Jonathan had already retired for the evening and was sound asleep, softly snoring. “I hope I’m not imposing upon you.” Mariah said quietly to Rae, dressed in a long nightgown, her hair pulled into a loose bun. “It’s not everyday that we have company, and not one so mysterious as yourself. It’s odd that you travel alone. I would suspect you to have many suitors across Eorzea. You must have a husband waiting for you somewhere, yes? He must be worried sick about you. Jonathan rarely lets me out of his sight some days. Constantly worried that I’ll fall or take ill.” She absently smoothed back her tucked hair as she spoke. “I’ve never been in the best of health and I’m not the heartiest of our people. A wound like yours would have killed me.” Her hand moved to clasp over her abdomen as tears welled in her eyes. “I hope she’s not like me. I hope she’s strong like her father. I hope we can give her everything she needs and wants. I don’t even know her name, but I know I love her. It was love that made her. I hope I can always be there for her when she needs me. I just want her to be healthy and strong. I wonder if she will take after her father?” Mariah wiped the tears from her eyes and struggled to stand up, her hand against the small of her back. “Goodnight, Rae. I hope you sleep well. Please, if you’re in pain or need anything, let us know. Perhaps you can come with me to the markets tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it?” Her eyes were bright and hopeful. Love for her husband, her guest, her child blanketing the home and wrapping over, comforting sleep and driving away the darkness of mind and of night.
  4. Tell me about her. Who? Our Mother. I don’t remember anything about her. How long will you continue to delude yourself? Why do you want to know about someone who no longer matters? It is important to remember where we come from, is it not? Tell me about her. She was a frail and sickly woman who spent the last of her life struggling to bring me into the world. A gullible fool who believed that the world could be a just and fine place. You blame yourself for her passing? I am the cause of it, yes. If she never had me, she could have lived a long and full life. The world could have been a better place. She placed her bets on the wrong horse. I killed her. She was my first casualty, though she wouldn’t be my last. When she died, my father died too. Not in body, but in spirit. He was my second. My own selfishness to be brought into a world I’d come to despise killed them both. I could see it in his eyes when he’d look at me. That look of sadness. Of contempt. It’s little wonder why he would give me away to the church. I bring nothing but pain and misery. To those that are deserving of neither. What kind of person was she? I don’t know. I never met her. She died in childbirth. You have heard stories about her from our father. What kind of person was she? What do you care? Why must we have these conversations? Why are you so focused upon forcing me to remember things I don’t want to remember? What kind of person was she? She was kind and loving. She believed that there was good in everyone. A misguided thought from a bygone age. I never understood how someone who was witness to the brutality of war could believe there was good in anything. She was part of a tribe of Sun Seekers in The Fringes when the Autumn War began. Most of that tribe did not answer the call to arms when Ala Mhigo annexed the region. Some fought against Ala Mhigo, for little more than death. Gridania has never had much love for Miquot’e, though they were more than happy to send them to the front lines to shield their own. She had some skill in in nursing wounds and volunteered to aid the wounded and dying. After the war, she met my father and relocated to the highlands of Coerthas where they thought they would be removed from the pall of death. She rarely complained and never held contempt for others. Her ultimate doom was that she cared. She cared about life, love, happiness, and peace. I’m told she was insatiably curious about everything and looked at things with wonder and excitement. She always had a smile on her face. What did she look like? I was told that I had her eyes. You wouldn’t know it now, but once, long ago. She was very beautiful. She would grace a room and just her being there, it all felt more vibrant and alive. She was small, even for our kind and always bordered on sickly thin and frail. She was always pale and prone to sickness herself. Small colds would force her to her bed for days. Cuts and wounds would flow and flow without stopping. Her hair was black and always well kept. Never a strand out of place. She wore her hair as I once wore my own. Why? To pay respects, maybe. She was very antiquated with her style and her dress. Even in those days. The clasp I had in my own hair once belonged to her. And her mother before her. The only heirloom I’ve ever had. Thinking about it makes me realize how old I truly am. And? I’ve lived far too long. Far past what I should have. I’ve seen 90 years, but I’ll never look beyond 30. I feel old and worn. Like I’ve been stretched too thin and frayed. Memories bring me pain knowing that they will never come again. I don’t want to remember the past and live in the present. What do you want? To dream of better days and never awake. To forget the awful monster I’ve become and the heinous things I’ve done. The things I’m doing. What I’ve yet to do. We shepherd them so they may never know the pain of what is to be. It is the kindness we proffer the world. And you say that I’m a terrible liar. You refuse to accept the truth. There is no hope for them. They will burn, they will suffer, they will fail. Is it not better for them to never experience war, famine, disease, death? It cannot be defied, yet some would in vain. It is they who must be found and stopped. You understand, yet you shield her. You hide her from me. You wish to stop fighting, yet you continue, for nothing. You fight for nothing. Who am I? I am no one. I am nothing. Soon, you will be.
  5. “Oh! You’re awake! Thank the Gods. We were worried that you wouldn’t wake up. How are you feeling? Can you sit up? What happened to you?” The dying light of day streamed through the open door and silhouetted the figure standing in the frame, masking any distinguishing features. The voice was decidedly female. Care and worry chiming through the husky and low voice. “Where are my manners? I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to barrage you with questions and you must be cold what with me leaving the door open wide.” The figure turned, closing the flimsy and thin wooden door showing her extended stomach. The small, thin frame heavy with child. The room was plunged into darkness with the closing of the door, the woman’s features impossible to see. The woman set the small items in her hands down on the nightstand beside Rae and quietly pulled up a simple chair next to her bed. “You were hurt terribly. I’ve never seen any wounds quite like yours. Not even on soldiers who came back from the Autumn War.” Her voice twinged with sadness. “Your garb is unlike anything I’ve seen either. From whence do you hail? What tribe do you belong? Can you understand me?” The woman chuckled lightly. “Perhaps you would care for light?” The woman rose slowly up and waddled slightly to the dim fire burning in the fireplace, taking a small piece of wood, igniting it and lighting the small candle on the nightstand as she sat back down with a small grunt. “I’m sorry. I don’t get around as well as I used to.” The light illuminating her face and frame. Her appearance so familiar, yet strange. Her eyes the color of blood, full of compassion and care. The woman slowly extended out her hand and rested it on Rae’s forehead, checking for signs of fever as she spoke. “There’s no telling how long you were out there. It’s easy to get sick this time of year. The snow is uncommonly heavy this year on top of that. You are a Seeker of The Sun, like us.” She said quietly motioning her hand to the sleeping figure in the other bed. “Is this your first time seeing snow? Are you from the K Tribe?” The woman appeared to be in her 30’s with faint lines appearing around her mouth and eyes. Clear she smiled and laughed. Her skin was pale and she was thin, even heavy with child. Her hair dark with the top portion pulled back and clasped back with a familiar silver brooch. She was pretty if frail. “Give her a moment, Mariah. The poor thing looks like she has been through quite a bit. Poor thing looks like a doe in shock and with the wounds she received, I don’t blame her. Right lucky she is that I came across her when I did. The scouts from the city would have left her to die.” A deep and baritone voice called softly behind the woman. The man having risen from his slumber to stand behind her, gazing curiously at Rae, his grey eyes flickering in the small light. “Oh! I’m sorry! How rude of me.” Mariah said, face flushing with embarrassment, her gaze falling to her slender hands in her lap. “I didn’t mean to pry or cause further strain. Perhaps we can start over?” her voice filled with apology. “My name is Mariah. This is my husband, Jonathan. He found you collapsed near a logging trail in the forest, hurt badly. He brought you to our home where he tended your wounds. That was three days ago. We mean you no harm. What is your name? What happened to you?” Her low voice melodic with the small noises of the room as she stared with excitement and curiosity at Rae.
  6. I was so vain back then. I would take such pains to look perfect and full of life. My hair, my body. Not a single strand out of place. I could have any man I wanted and I took any man I wanted. So full of empty hope and promise. I thought I could change the world alone. That I could heal the wounds that we inflicted. I never came to the realization that in doing so, I was infecting the wounds. Now, look at me. My hair blood matted and drying. My eyes unfocused and half closed, looking at nothing. My clothing, once white, now dingy and brown. Stained with my own blood. My fingernails cracked and dirty. Fingers twitching in death throes. Blood pooling and coagulating under my severed throat. I’m already dead, my heart no longer beating. How pathetic I look. A fitting end for a murderer and a fraud. I can’t help but feel disdain and disgust for myself. Dead at my own hands on this soaked battlefield, my own gurgling mixing with the fading screams of pain and anguish around me. I just want it to end. I want it to be over. I want the dark waves to wash back over me so I can close my eyes. Perhaps I won’t resurface. I’m getting tired again. The world fading before me. Actions and movements slowing to a crawl as the world begins to fall away. I’ve led a selfish existence. Always in service to myself and my desires. Why are we like this? Do we exist to hurt one another? Is this my punishment? Have you not punished yourself enough? You sound just like her. She wanted to save me so badly, that she never saw that I was draining her to sustain myself. Where has she gone? How should I know? She’s gone, only living in my memories. Where, one day, will fade away. We will find her. It is the only kindness we can extend to her. She, above all, should not be forced to exist forever in a lifeless and devoid world. Adrift in time and space. Yes. That is our fate. I cannot keep my eyes open anymore. I am so tired. Tired of living, dying. I’m tired of all the fighting and struggling. Sleep I dream. Funny, in life, I never dream. But now, I relive memories of life. I dream of the sun and the rays breaking through the leaves of the trees. I dream of the white cherry blossom trees in my front yard and the petals slowly falling to the ground. The air brisk, but not cold. The small stable that houses that annoying horse bird that was our wedding gift. I always said I hated that thing, but truth be told, I loved her. The burgundy colored front door that gives way to our home. I feel content. A rare feeling. I dream the memories of us together, in our home. It’s so full of life and happiness. The colors of the walls so vibrant. Deep red. I can still remember painting them with her. I’m in the kitchen. Being playfully scolded. Typical of me to shirk helping with dinner. Her tone is firm, but her smile envelopes her chiding. I can hear water boiling softly in a pot and the soft crackle of wood burning. The faint smell of autumn spices mixed with her scent. I want to stay in this moment forever. Please, don’t let me forget this. Please don’t take this away from me. It’s all I have. I’m in our bedroom. I can feel the needle in my hand as I work a thin, silver thread to close seams on a dress. Am I repairing it? Was I commissioned? The daylight is long since spent. I can hear soft music drifting into the room from downstairs. The notes are low, but full of joy and love. She was always truly gifted at playing the piano. I finish my stitching and place the gown onto it’s mannequin. The notes change and grow louder and louder. The harmony is now gone and the tempo is erratic and off key. Something is wrong. I can feel the dread and anxiety build within me as I begin to panic. I am in our sitting room. Never has there been a time where our home was unclean or unkempt, but there is thick dust that covers everything. The polished and pristine wood is sickly scorched. Black soot covers the walls and hangs heavy in the musty air. It’s hard to breathe. Cloth from the seats hang in tatters and the patterns are faded. The floor creaks and bows. Rotted and cracked. I cannot find her. The piano is broken and its strings spindled in chaos. The kitchen is cold and empty, contents strewn around and untouched. I have to find her. I have to leave. I can’t stay here. I touch the door and everything goes black. Ah. This place. What happened here? You would know better than I would. … It’s self-explanatory. I was attacked, beaten, raped, and disfigured in this bar. A disgusting man thought to teach me a lesson on manners and a woman’s place. He taught me a lesson; it just wasn’t the one he set out to. What was it? He taught me that anger and hate could be a tool. He taught me that no matter anyone’s intentions, they will try and take from you. So, take first. What about her? She wasn’t supposed to be here. I was. Alone. I don’t remember her being in the bar, but I only remember this place in my nightmares. It’s better that we end it. Before I wake and realize what’s happened. What must be done. Where would she go? I don’t know. You are a terrible liar. I am weary. Let me rest.
  7. The field of battle was chaos. Artillery blew holes in the landscape, concussing all those around and rupturing their internal organs. Reapers launched ceruleum infused shells with deadly accuracy, cutting down all those in its path. Men screamed in pain and terror at the sight of their mangled friends. Bodies burnt and smoking, men wandering aimlessly looking to recover their lost limbs. Men screaming on the ground with their insides pouring onto the rock, screaming and begging for someone to help. Others said nothing at all. Their glassy eyes fixed on the smoke filled and red hued sky or staring at nothing with expressions of terror and surprise on their faces. Hand to hand combat was initiated with soldiers on either side spilling their blood with cries of rage or screams of pain. Shrapnel from spent shells raining death down upon enemy and ally alike. Pieces of the moon began to fall away slamming into the flats sending shockwaves that caused the earth to buckle and heave. Blood seeping into the dry craters forming small pools attesting to the death and destruction that war could bring. Marishi remained mounted, channeling Aether from the land and herself into shields that protected her men and gave vigor to their flagging strength. The enemy had noticed her and cut their way to where she sat upon her mount. Marishi was cut off from her comrades and no help could be mustered as the small group tore her from her Chocobo, slaughtered it, and threw her to the ground. Marishi countered by creating a crystalline shield around herself to throw them back and sear them with blinding and holy light. The barrier should have killed all those that attempted to touch it. It was all she could do to protect herself. She felt the land bleed dry, and with it, her own channeling. There was no more Aether left to coax. The flats now a withered husk. Cracked and dry, riddled with craters. She dropped her stave and pulled a small double-edged dagger she kept secured to her thigh garter. Time seemed to slow and Marishi looked around. Her men screaming, falling, maiming, and broken. The interference from the red moon made it impossible to contact command and request reinforcements. She could see clearly how this would all end. All dead upon the battlefield, the land drinking their blood to retake what they had stolen from it. The Imperials would march upon their cities uncontested. Their friends, family, and lovers slaughtered and enslaved. Each wearing the same expression as her Sergeant wore when she arrived at his body the night before. She saw some sunk to their knees, crying in despair and desperation. Their youth and happiness forever robbed from them, soon to be their lives. Marishi’s eyes fell upon the hidden archer, arrow nocked and pull drawn, aimed at Rae. The last person she trusted and the last she should care about. She remembered one of the last things she had spoken to Rae. She would be at her side and that she would protect her. Even at the cost of everything she had. Marishi focused her concentration and blew her shell outward, knocking the small group back and shattering the bubble. She began to run to Rae’s aid before the arrow let fly, hacking at the few men that attempted to stop her. Gouging with her dagger, clawing with her nails. Marishi crossed into Rae as the arrow fired with it’s high pitched wail. There was only way to stop the missile from hitting it’s intended target. To block it. Marishi ran behind Rae as the arrow found a mark. Instead of striking Rae as was the intended target, the arrow sunk deep into Marishi’s back. Between her shoulder blades where the soft skin and unprotected organs were shredded as the head of the arrow poked itself out of the front of her chest. Marishi staggered as she gripped Rae’s collar and drug her down even as she fell. The two hit the ground in the middle of the battlefield. Marishi on her side, gasping for air as the blood began to fill her lungs. Then, the moon fell broke away releasing debris to the four corners of the continent. What came out was something no one imagined and no one could stop. The Dreadwyrm Bahamut. The battle stopped dead in its tracks as all turned eyes to the floating Wyrm filled to the brim with unbridled rage and hate. All except Marishi, Rae, and the figure that was fixed upon the two. Marishi couldn’t speak, blood spraying out of her mouth as she attempted. She lifted her hand to gently stroke Rae’s cheek as her eyes began to darken with tears and death. The figure strode silently up to the two and with one fluid movement, took it’s Far Eastern blade and buried it Marishi’s throat, ending her life, her hand falling away from Rae’s face and slamming down on blood damp ground, her vacant eyes fixed upon Rae. The blade was freed from the corpses throat, still wet with red blood and leveled against Rae. “How you have bent the power of time under thy control, we do not know. But this loop is forbidden and should not be. We shall end thee and close the loop. There is only one that can be allowed to exist.” Alexander in the body of Marishi said coldly. There was hesitation in his voice and his hand began to tremble, fighting with himself to take Rae’s life. “Thou shalt not defy. We will correct the anomaly. We are the Arbiter. Thine will must be done.” Alexander spoke to himself. Spoke to Marishi, still inside, somewhere deep, using all of her will to stop Alexander from killing Rae. It was a losing struggle as Alexander began to take control of all of her extremities.
  8. Marishi let out a short laugh upon hearing Rae explain she was not of this time and that Marishi was to wed her years from now. She hadn’t heard quite a unique pickup line before. Marishi would give Rae that. Her eyes narrowed upon mention of Alexander and a frown creased her lips. Her eyes darkened with suspicion. She chose her words carefully. “… You do not know me. I do not know you. The things you speak of are bordering on insane.” She took a step back away from Rae. She was too close to her for her own comfort. “You are mistaken about any kind of association I have with Alexander. And, as you can see, I’ve suffered no malady and I can see fine, so your claims of my sight leaving me are not quite as accurate as what you remember them to be, or, what you think will happen.” Marishi was lying. There were very few that knew of her connection with Alexander and none of them were this woman. She didn’t understand most of what Rae said to her. She had no intention of leaving the army. They were her family. She had no interest in becoming a fabled Samurai. Her way was not of destruction, but of restoration. Her vision was fine and she suffered no problems. “That’s far enough.” Marishi said quietly as Rae took a step towards her. She thought a moment over the tale she was told. It was clear that the woman was addled, but Marishi didn’t sense ill intent from her. “You’re not a Garlean spy or assassin. You would have finished your work before now and slipped away … let us assume for a moment that you’re telling the truth and against all logic and reason I believe you. How do you plan on – “ Marishi was interrupted by a clamor and men yelling for assistance. There was a pit in her stomach and dread that crashed over her. She didn’t need to be told what the commotion was about. “Stay here.” She whispered to Rae. She was pale as she turned to the meet the shouting. She walked over to two of the men in her company and gave orders in a low tone, motioning to Rae. The soldier nodded, confused, and loosened the swords in their scabbards they wore at their hips. They walked to Rae one on either side and one spoke in a soft voice. “Come with us, Ma’am. You’re to be protected while the Captain is preoccupied. Please, hand over your arms and come with us.” He didn’t mention that Marishi had given orders to have Rae executed if she attempted to flee. Marishi strode quickly through the camp to a small white tent where the source of the shouting was coming. She opened the flap only to confirm what she had dreaded. “Rand …” she said brokenly as she stared in horror at the Sergeants hacked body. She removed her gloves and attempted to staunch the wounds on his chest and abdomen. The infirmaries doctor lightly touched her shoulder. “He’s already gone, Captain. I’m sorry.” Tears began to well in her eyes as guilt settled in her heart. She had sent him to his death on a silly errand to check on body whose soul had been long gone. She killed him to check upon a grave. Her actions killed her friend. “… No, we have to try to call him back. I can save him.” Marishi tried to concentrate on the strands of his soul to call him back from crossing, but she couldn’t feel it. She sunk to ground, sobbing, her hands covered in dark red blood. “What happened? He was only to scout …” She said brokenly. “A Ranger in my forward team found him wounded near the quake site.” A tall Elezen said, looking down at Marishi. The two fought valiantly against the Imperial strike team. My man was able to carry him back, though he isn’t expected to survive the night.” He said grimly as he glanced over at the cot next to the corpse of the Sergeant. “On your feet, Captain. Now is not the time to break. This is a time of war. Men die. All the living can do is protect those that still live and look to us.” Marishi forced herself to stop sobbing and drew a ragged breath. “Yes, Admiral. I thank you and your brave men for assisting. Please, allow me to care for your Ranger. It is the least I can do.” The Admiral looked at Marishi sadly, seeing the same blank mask that he wore the first time he lost his friends and family to senseless violence. “Permission granted. Appraise me if his condition worsens or improves.” He placed his hand on her frail and tense shoulder as he left the tent, lost with pity and concern for his junior officer. Marishi tended the Ranger’s wounds and eased his suffering. He did not regain consciousness though she was able to stabilize him. She then found a grey felt blanket and covered Rand with it. His battlefield burial shroud. She performed these tasks robotically without emotion, or thought. Her limbs moving their own. As she left the tent, the Sun was beginning to rise over the mountains, the silver spires of Ishgard sparkling, heralding the morning. She walked back to where the soldiers had escorted Rae and dismissed them, each with a look of concern and shock upon their faces. The wet blood still upon their hands told them what had happened. “What happens at the battle? How many more men die? How can I save them? You’re not an Imperial, you would have knifed your target and been long gone before now.” She paused a moment holding her blood-stained hand up commanding Rae to stay silent. “Your story doesn’t make any sense. You claim to be my wife, though the prospect of marriage has never interested me, that my vision deteriorates, that I’m killed by Alexander. You know of him, which is not common knowledge. Even less so my connection …” she trailed off, not knowing why she was giving Rae this information. Information less than a handful had privy to. She shook her head. “Your conviction isn’t faked and I can feel the Aether you exude, as strange as it is. My mind screams false at your claims, yet my heart tells me …” She cut herself off abruptly. “Your weapon will be returned to you, for the time being. You are hereby field commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Gridanian Army as my personal Aide. I will give my report upon returning to the city and request a Tribunal on your behalf.” Marishi thought she was going as crazy as Rae. Bestowing rank she didn’t have the authorization to grant to a stranger she met on the side of the road claiming to be her future wife sent back in time to save her from being killed by Alexander. “Never mind the questions. It has been a long night.” Marishi’s composure was back in place, but not her smile. “Attend the meals and mounts. I would be alone. Leave me.” She looked out to the rising Sun, absently rubbing her bloodstained hands together, trying not to give into her grief. Midday arrived and the orders had been given to move toward the flats. The red moon in full view. It was impossible to tell the time as the skies clouded by the fall of the Dalamud. A dull roar was distinct upon the winds that did not fade. It was present at all times. Marishi rode at the head of her company, Rae at her side and the standard bearer several feet back. She looked forward and held her expression flat. Previously, she would have jested with Rae and poked her with questions and flirtations. But not after the night previous. Not with evening in front of them. They rode onto the barren flats to view their enemy. Countless warmachina lay in formation. Magitek Reapers, Conjurers, Lancers, Archers, Marauders, Gladiators all waiting for the Eorzean Alliance to engage. The Army whispered in despair upon seeing the full might of the VIIth legion unfurled. Command tents were hastily set up and a final officers meeting was held. Marishi’s unit was to make up part of the flank and act as support to the main arm of the offensive. She received her instructions with silent nodding and a salute to her superiors. Stiffly bowing when wished Godspeed and safe return. As she approached her men, they rose to their feet and saluted. Moved by the dedication of her comrades, she spoke through tears. “My friends, my brothers. Here we stand, upon the hour of our doom. Countless enemies lie before us with the moon falling around us. We are facing insurmountable odds and given impossible tasks. Each and every one of you feels afraid. I feel afraid. But, still,” She continued as she raised her head to the group, “There is no other place I would rather be. With all of you. I will be by your side. Always at your side. For you are more important than any glory or honor that can ever be won. When you are weary, I will be at your side to provide your succor. When you are scared, I will be by your side with courage. When you are besieged, I will be by your side as your shield.” She mounted her Chocobo and gripped her stave. “For those who are lost …” She began to choke in tears, loss still too near to her. She looked out and saw the eyes of her men. Locked to hers, giving her the courage she needed and taking heart. “… And for those we can save.” She said the last quietly. Her standard bearer unfurled the banner of her company and yelled a cheer echoed by the rest. Ready to defend their lands, homes, and ladies. “I pray your predictions of the future are able to keep you safe and save the lives of our countrymen, Lieutenant. For what it’s worth, I can see myself falling for you.” She flashed a smile to Rae as her red eyes locked with emerald. “In another life, perhaps. I look at you and I see the gentle Summer Sun. Easing my burden and warming my cold. Perhaps if we live … no. I keep no hope for myself. I will be by your side. Never shall I leave.” She nudged her Chocobo forward, slowly at first, until breaking into a full gallop when the flares fired signaling the army to advance and engage their oppressors, lightning blasting craters on the flats with deafening blows as her company banner flashed white in the dim light. The air charged with static at blinding lightning blast, from the crater a lithe silhouette could be seen carrying a glowing and white Far Eastern blade.
  9. Marishi stared at Rae with a gaze of pity. “I am truly sorry for your loss. Many good men have fallen during these dark times. My name is Marishi Ten. Captain in the Gridanian Army and company White Mage. Come to enlist have you?” Marishi asked. “You’ll find the recruiting offices in the city proper, but I’m afraid that by the time you graduate the academy, the war will be far over.” Marishi winked and smiled as she gracefully and slowly remounted her issued Chocobo, lingering long enough to show the shape of her legs in her white riding boots. “It’s a shame I can’t take you with me. Hmm. I seem to recall something about field promotions in times of war …” As she was looking down and smiling charmingly, the sound of another mounted rider could be heard from behind. “My Lady! You are out of formation. Has this vagabond accosted you?” The voice of a middle-aged man rang out as he rode up to stop beside Marishi, also looking at Rae, albeit with a scrutinizing gaze. “She has done nothing of the sort, Sergeant. Do I appear as a maiden in distress?” The man quickly changed his tone. “No, Captain, of course not. The entire company knows of your feats and abilities. But you are also an asset that must be protected.” He dropped the formal tone and said quietly. “It’s not like we have swaths of White Mages at our beck and call. If something happened – “Marishi turned her full attention to the man and smiled. “I know, Rand. Thank you for looking out for me, but I should be looking out for you. There’s no need to scrutinize this woman. She’s my newly appointed Aide. Just graduated from the Academy. Second Lieutenant.” Marishi nodded in Rae’s direction. “I haven’t heard of any additions from command.” Rand stammered. Marishi quickly interjected. “Orders came in this morning. Likely, the missives are still be drafted and will be available when we arrive at Carteneau. You will treat her with the same respect as you give me, Sergeant. That’s an order.” Her tone changed from playful to stern and sharp. “Ma’am.” Sergeant Rand saluted. “We will be rejoining the main host shortly. Fetch her a fresh Chocobo and we’ll be off.” The Sergeant grunted, frowning. He would never go against a superior’s orders, but it was clear that Marishi was lying. If she had requested an aide, it would have been the sickly and pale looking man she bed with, not some random stranger that didn’t even wear a uniform. Nevertheless, he trotted back to the supply caravans and went about his orders. “Well, Lieutenant. It seems you’ve been conscripted. Now you can tell me all about the things that you mysteriously haven’t said. That is, of course, if you’d be interested in coming along. Not everyone is jumping at the chance to go to war, and I’m sure you’ve your own suitors and companions. You can find me with the main host, just accept the steed that my overbearing Sergeant offers, or don’t be here when he arrives. The choice is yours!” Marishi called over her shoulder as she began to gallop to her spot in the columns. The army rode through the Black Shroud and converged with the other two arms of Alliance in Coerthas. Marishi’s place of birth. Though the marches were filled with laughter and singing, a sense of dread began to fall upon the army. Whispers from the soldiers of Ul’Dah spoke of The White Raven invading the city of gold, slaughtering its citizens. The soldiers of the desert were much more somber and grim. Their own home had been besieged and saw first hand the horrors of war. They didn’t share in the optimism of Limsa or Gridania. During the twilight hours, Marishi would sit around the campfire and laugh and tell stories. She was light hearted and jested with her men, keeping their spirits up as they began to flag at the sight of the falling moon looming closer and closer. The light took upon a red hue even in the day. Several days marching into Coerthas, the ground shook and the very roots of the mountains groaned in pain. The army was ordered to halt its march while the Alliance sent out scouts and called an emergency officers meeting. Marishi was summoned to the command tent. As the Alliance rested and command met and waited for scouts to deliver their reports, there was a sense of unease among the men. Around early evening, the officers cleared out of the command tent. All tense and unhappy. Marishi approached her men a frown upon her face, but seeing them look to her, she changed to smiling. “We’re going to camp here for tonight. Nothing to fear! Just an earthquake is all. We hoped to convince Ishgard to lend a Dragoon or two, but they’re too busy with their head in the clouds.” She laughed, putting them more at ease. “Sergeant, if I may speak with you? In private.” Rand replied immediately. “Yes, Ma’am.” The two walked slightly out of earshot, but the men watched the two intently. The two spoke in low tones, Marishi no longer smiling. Rand never smiled. He watched Marishi, his gaze on her absorbing her orders. She made a slashing motion with her left hand downward with Rand nodding. The two walked to the Chocobo’s being watered where she placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled sadly. Rand took her hand into his own and squeezed. Marishi helped him into his saddle and as he rode away, she called out “Be back by sundown tomorrow! No longer!” She watched him as he rode away from the flats into the mountain passes of Coerthas and sighed. “It’s cold! Let’s get the fires going! I’m starving!” She called out as she walked back into the semi-circle. The men were no longer smiling. They were tense and shifting. One asked where the Sergeant had gone. “He will be back soon. Rand is just running a small errand for me. Don’t worry, I don’t think he is apt to keel over from a bit of cold weather!” Marishi said. Another soldier said “But he isn’t impervious to a knife from an Imperial assassin.” Marishi’s smile slipped showing the weight she was carrying. These men were in her care and she may have just sent one of the men that she had known for years to his death. All upon her whim. The same soldier stammered, “I-I’m sorry Ma’am, I didn’t mean – “Marishi interjected, “No, you’re absolutely right. Here we are, marching to war that we very well may lose. The red moon grows larger by the hour over our heads. Tremors rock the land. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m scared. I’m scared of dying. I’m scared of losing anyone. I’m scared of being a coward.” She looked around with tears into her eyes. “I cannot tell the future,” She looked at Rae and smiled through her own tears. “But I swear to each and every one of you that I will gladly lay down my own life for each and every single one you. You are my family. Though I was born on the soil we now stand, I am a daughter of Gridania and if it’s within my power, our lands will remain free.” Murmurs of approval and reverence rippled through the crowd. “Unfurl the company standard. All standards fly this night.” The flag of their company was brought from a storage trunk and held high on a pike dug into the ground, the cloth rippling in the mountain wind. Sentries were stationed during the night and missives were sent between the armies and leaders. During the evening, Marishi had been called back into the command tents, but only for a fraction of the time. In the dying firelight, Marishi spoke to her company. “The VIIth legion is confirmed to be on the flats. The Alliance is ordered to engage the imperials tomorrow night. Our company orders are to make up the left mounted wing and prevent counter and pincer attacks. Conjurers are to provide support and Bards are to act as mounted archers. U’lDah shall dispatch a small contingent of Black Mages to provide cover and ranged maneuvers. Don’t worry,” Marishi laughed, “Ours is the only wing with a real, flesh and blood White Mage. I’ll be there the entire time to pull us out of the fire. Sleep tonight. Do not let worry trouble your sleep. I will stand watch this night.” She stood and walked to the edge of the firelight. She stood staring out into the darkness and without turning asked the form that came to stand next to her. “What brings you to my side, Lieutenant? So enamored to me already that you cannot bear to leave my side?” She flashed her charming smile. “I can put on a good show when I need to, I suppose.” Marishi said. “To be honest, we’re facing insurmountable odds. Command has received reports of Nael clones showing up in the streets of Ul’Dah. Killing citizens. Aetherytes are destabilizing and becoming impossible to attune to. Some monstrosity called ‘Atomos’ drains the Aether from them, spews forth voidscent, eradicates the hamlet, then leaves. We don’t know why.” She sighed in frustration. “That’s not worst of it.” Her expression grew grim. “The earthquake earlier today? That earthquake was something ripping the very land up and raising it to the clouds. They call it ‘Rivenroad’. Command believes it linked to the red moon. Which is the worst of all. It continues to fall. Look,” She waved her hand in the sky at the giant red orb. “It’s entered the atmosphere. And our battleground? The impact point. Ishgard won’t allow us to use their telescopes to actually look at the surface so we have no idea what is going to happen.” She grew quiet. “The land heaves and screams. It’s become harder to bend the lands Aether to my will. It’s like there’s just not enough. It’s just barren in places. And it’s becoming more and more common.” Marishi’s small company had bedded down for the night and were sleeping. Dreams of heroic feats upon their minds. “Rand is not back yet. I should not have sent him on such a selfish request. I may have sent him to his death.” Pain and remorse rippled over her face. Her mask of confidence fell and it was plain to see the weight of leading and ordering men to their deaths was hard upon her. She cared for each and every single man and woman under her. Young, old, new recruits, hardened veterans. Her doubt was laid bare. “The lands that were torn up were near where I was raised. My father raised me. I never knew my mother. Through luck, I was taken in by the Holy See and received a good education. That’s all I received from the spires in the clouds. My father stayed behind to pay my tuition. A year before I was to be anointed as a Nun for the church, my father grew frail and sick. I was there when he passed.” Marishi seemed lost in her thoughts for long moments. Suddenly, she shook her head and smiled sadly. “Anyway, I buried him in the land he loved and worked. I didn’t mark the grave. I was angry at the world. The land I buried him is close to the reports of the lands being ripped into the sky. I ordered Rand to scout the area and check if my father’s grave was still there or if it had been defiled.” Marishi said. “There are imperial scouting squads everywhere. Though it appears empty, the forests have assassins and scouts. I pray he returns to us safely. The lights overhead are imperial recon sloops with a few frigates from time to time. The Garleans have control of the sky. The only place we can take away that advantage is at the impact site of the moon. We are to engage the enemy this time tomorrow.” Marishi turned to Rae. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why are you here? Why are you really here? It’s not to join the army. Who are you really, Rae?”
  10. The wisps of cloud hung heavy in the air, despite the ruined observatory coalescing once again as if the chaos of what had just transpired meant nothing. Alexander’s form peered down upon the crumpled body that lay on the floor. Marishi was in her final death throes, hyperventilating and staring canopy of the sky. Her blood pooling and matting her hair. The colors blending together making it impossible to discern the two. The only sound was Marishi’s rattled breathing, wet and labored. Alexander spoke in a low voice. “A trespasser has defied thine will. She is a threat. Together, as Arbiter, we shalt remove the disease that has infected the blood.” The mist broke form and swirled around Marishi. Her vision darkening as her heart slowed. She was dying. Her eyes welling with tears for her own wasted and squandered life and the path she set Rae down upon. It was because of her that Rae had come at all. She knew she would never see Rae across the great river. It was a journey that Marishi was never to take. She turned her head to the side and drew a sharp ragged breath and grew still. The fog enveloped the body and sped in a circular motion until the cadaver was enclosed in a cyclone of mist. Then, the mist settled over the body and dispersed. All was silent in the destroyed room. Nothing moved. Nothing shone. Marishi’s single red eye’s pupil contracted to almost a small black line scrawled on paper and she drew breath once more. She rose from the ground, black blood dripping off her clothing as she slowly walked to the gilded throne in the center of the room. She drew her Gordian Katana from its housing, the blade flashing blindingly white and sat in the chair, her right leg crossed over her left, her right hand gripping the weapon, the blade’s tip dug into the ground. She closed her eyes in concentration as the clocks begin to slow, stop, and begin to rewind. The Arbiter would deal with interloper by any means necessary and then finish what he began. The Black Shroud was as verdant as she remembered it was. So long she had been away from her home. Marishi breathed a sigh of relief as she was recalled from her post in the backwater camp in Mor Dhona. She hated it there. She hated that everything was always still. No birds sang, no wolves howled. But the wind always blew. A song between the howling rocks. The song was ominous and threatening. She was more than happy to furlough under the boughs. She spent her first days in the arms of a junior officer. A simple and unassuming man smitten with Marishi. She enjoyed the attention and doting. He would wear a mask of disappointment and hurt every time she rose from his bed in the small hours of the night to dress herself and leave. Marishi would always playfully tell him it was against military code for officers to be involved with each other romantically and how it would be a shame if either of them were to be reprimanded for this tryst. She would sneak under the cover of darkness to her own small home and sleep well into the morning. Her days spent speaking to the Hearers and teaching at the Stillglade Fane, imparting her wisdom from the days prior to the Magi Wars, when White Magic and Black were in vogue. Her stay was far too short in her city. The call to arms had been made and all members of the newly forged Eorzean Alliance were to report back to duty. Reports filtered in of the Garlean VIIth legion amassing in the flatlands of Carteneau. Whispers of the Legatus that could call down the very stars rippled in the leaves of the trees. Nael Van Darnus had ordered his legion to the flatlands for their attack that would break the Alliance and open the way for a Garlean controlled Eorzea. Marishi wasn’t scared. She was eager and excited. She could finally aid those in need and fight for what she had begun to believe in. She would fight for her hearth and her home. The morning came where all active duty assembled in the plaza of the great Gridanian Aetheryte. Commanders and Generals at the front, officers forming the body, and ground troops making the vanguard. Civilians and children lined the grassy avenue as the soldiers mounted their Chocobo’s and began their slow trot out of the city, many throwing flowers, cheering, and older men and women shielding their eyes from the procession, knowing all too well that many wouldn’t return. Marishi bade her lover goodbye the previous evening, his assignment to the administration of the newly founded Free Company initiative. He would not be taking up arms. She promised to return, triumphant. He was among the crowd to watch the soldiers march out of the Blue Badger Gates. Marishi was in high spirits. She had the love and adoration of man, she was relied upon as a fountain of bursting skill and knowledge. She would never directly take the front lines as a White Mage, but she would assist her comrades and protect them from harm, restoring their flagging strength and tending their wounds. Very few Conjurers had been chosen to be permitted the use of White Magic, the Elementals weary of man’s tendency to abuse the gifts given to them. Marishi was one of the very few. She rode into the Sun as she cleared the gates, head high. The white staff upon her back marking her as one of the Mages of White. Her deep red hair combed to each side with the center pulled back into a flat pony tail and clasped with a silver brooch. Her sanguine eyes flashed with pride and playfulness. She sat side in the saddle customary for a female. Especially one in the white and pink gowns gifted unto her. The other officers, commissioned and non, chatted and laughed in the warm morning Sun. Recalling days of their glory and the dreams of their future. On the side of the well-trodden road leading out of the city, adventurers walked to and fro from the city proper. As she rode, smiling, content with the love and conviction of her friends and gift to freely manipulate her aether and others, Marishi spotted a lone figure watching as the army passed. Upon gazing at her, Marishi’s heart skipped. Never in waking life had she seen anything quite as lovely. The figure was a woman of slender build with fire red hair and emerald green eyes. She was lithe and curved, her own attire form fitting. She wore two tucks at her hips. One on either side. The woman hadn’t noticed Marishi as she came within range of her. “A bit far from your tribe aren't you Adventurer?” Marishi called to the woman sliding off her mount gracefully and holding the reins gently in her hand and she stood to face her. "sorry," she paused while shrugging. "Your markings are a dead give away." She smiled. “I would swear from the look on your face, you’ve just come from a funeral! There is no need to be so dour! Just look, the Sun shines upon us and the weather is almost as beautiful as yourself. Take heart, my lady. There is nothing here that can do you harm. At least, not with me around.” Her voice was young and singing. Melodic and full of life. She gracefully smiled at the woman and bowed. “Are you in need of aid or direction? You stand in front of the Blue Badger Gates of the great woodland capital, Gridania. If I may be so bold as to ask your name?” Marishi’s eyes remained transfixed upon the Emerald Green that outshone even the trees of The Black Shroud.
  11. Marishi followed Rae’s lead, her head down with a blood crusted once white cloth in her hand. Her nose began to bleed in full force when they entered and it had not stopped. Blood droplets could be seen on the highly polished brass and brushed stainless steel flooring. Traces she had been there. The walls moving and doors opening and closing by an unseen hand. Marishi knew it wasn’t Sharlayn ingenuity. It was Alexander. They didn’t need a map or a book to tell them where to go. He was leading them to where he wanted them to go. Once inside his belly, they were his. At least, Marishi was. Rae had no allegiance or loyalty to the Primal who resided over the past and future. He didn’t want Rae. He wanted Marishi. It had been years since she had walked these halls, but they still felt familiar. Years past, Alexander had summoned her to remind her of the oath she had taken to him and to bestow upon her the gift of a blade unlike any other. His summons were much more urgent this time. Like the whip cracking at the back of slaves. Slaves to a God brought forth into the world not by divine intervention, but by belief and prayer. Marishi thought about Alexander as they walked. She envisioned him bound by shackles and chains himself. Unable to free himself from the hands of fate. Enslaved by the very thing he could control. The thing that equalized all life in the world. The raw forces of nature could not even bend time to it’s will completely. As they came closer to the intersection, Marishi could see distortions and mirages dancing off the polished walls. The heat of the steam and water creating a haze. In the haze she thought she could see dark figures moving, laughing, crying, loving. Young, old. As if she could see events of the past playing on a static induced screen. The voices in her head seemed to attune to these mirages, though they were garbled and couldn’t be understood, their emotions rang through clearly. Marishi clutched the cloth to her nose as she could taste nothing but hot iron on her through and tongue. “… I don’t think we’re meant to rest. He is calling. Each summon louder and urgent. He wants me. He doesn’t want you. I don’t think he’s all that fond of you.” Marishi said to Rae through the cloth, her voice stuffy as she gazed at Rae clutching her tail from the blast of steam. She wasn’t amused or angry. She was strangely devoid of any emotion. “We go up. Up and up. He sits upon his gilded throne waiting, and his patience is beginning to wane.” Her tone wasn’t harsh with Rae as it was more a statement. She felt her emotions drained from her. Her purpose and the voices filling the void. “I need you to lead the way. I’m beginning to become light headed. This blood letting is getting to be a little much.” Marishi half smiled to Rae in reassurance that she was wasn’t in danger of falling dead or robbed of her faculties completely. Marishi climbed the stairs along with Rae. Winded at the top, she kept her expression as stoic as possible. She knew Rae was fretting over her already. It wouldn’t help matters if she collapsed on the floor and began to have seizures. The door was intricate. Gold, brass, copper, brushed stainless steel all forming cogs and gears and cranks. All in impossibly intricate alignments. No human hand could have worked the metal for the designs of the door. As Rae poked and pondered, Marishi remained quiet. Her ears cocked high and twitching. She was listening to something. Something Rae couldn’t hear. Suddenly, the voices stopped all at once. The hallway was silent. The lack of sound frightened Marishi and deafened her. On silent hinges, the door began to unlock and move, the cogs, shafts, and gears moving silently. The well-oiled machine performing its purpose. Marishi could feel the presence of Alexander. The feeling was overwhelming and threatened to cause her to black out. His will so great it pushed the air out of her lungs and she struggled to breathe. The heat of her own sword emanated from it’s sheathe as it burnt the skin on her hip. Light poured into the observatory blinding Marishi momentarily as her eye adjusted to compensate. They found themselves in an observatory. Great crystalline windows overlooking the basins of the Thaliak River, the huge canopy of rock and earth that shielded the caves below them from the harsh light, the scraggly pine trees that clung to the jutting mountain rocks. In the distance could be seen the Great Gubal Library, carved out of the very mountain itself. Its own modern wonder to behold. The obelisk of Idyllshire stood high with the Sharlayn letters scrawled upon it for all to be inspired. The greatest of city states evacuated overnight. Their inventions, findings, experiments, and failures left to their own devices. Including the bastion Marishi and Rae found themselves in. In the center of the room sat a throne. Gilded in the same metal as the walls and floors with the same impossibly intricate clockwork design. Marishi’s gaze was fixed upon the seat as Rae spoke to her. Without looking away from the throne, Marishi said quietly, “He’s here.” Steam from the pipes and whistles began to pour into the room, obstructing the two from seeing clearly. The fog grew so heavy that Marishi clutched Rae’s hand in her own. Out of awe, fear, and protection. The fog focalized on the throne and from the fog, male and female voices called in unison. “Welcome, Arbiter. Though it hath been many years thou hast spoken with me, it has been but a blink of an eye. I hath seen all thy struggles and accomplishments. Thou are worthy indeed.” Marishi felt small and insignificant. She could barely lift her head to look at seat she was transfixed to but a moment ago. “Alexander.” She announced. “Thou know thy Lord. This is grand tidings. I hath summoned thee here for thy time and place for thee to ascend has come.” The heavy fog resembled the figure of a human, though it was impossible to tell its age or it’s gender. Marishi’s breath came in short quick bursts. “Ascend? I don’t understand. What do you want? Why are you tormenting me?” Alexander’s voice rippled in laughter. “Yes, ascend. This is thy purpose. This is why the covenant was forged.” His voice turned grim. “Thine future is hopeless. Even now, the world prepares for war. One that will cause untold death and pain. It is in thy design. Since time beginning, thy kin have laid waste to one another and the land. Time and time again. Never ending. Never ceasing. But there is hope,” His voice monotone and metallic. “Erase the suffering of the past and stop the suffering there will be. We will ease the pain, stop the hate and destruction by removing thy kin from their own mongering. Thou will act as my vessel and arbiter of this task.” “I-I don’t … understand … what you’re saying. You … make no sense.” Marishi stammered, though the idea rang clear in her head. The instinct to run and claw her way out of the prison she was being locked in began to overwhelm her. “The covenant has been made.” Alexander replied simply as if reading her thoughts. There was no escaping. There was no where she could go. “Thou will become mine arbiter, and together, we will release the tortured souls trapped upon this realm. We will remain until time is no more. The time hath come to rise as Arbiter.” Marishi was stupefied as Alexanders plan became clear. Exterminate every living thing upon the earth to spare them and others not yet born from the pain and conflict of life. “There is no other recourse. Man must be protected from itself, Arbiter. Now, the time is at hand.” Marishi couldn’t react. She knew that she did this to herself. Her fear of death and her boon of life turned against her. She would be the reaper of souls, yet be unable to be free. She moved her hand slowly to her katana. Her body not willing to obey her orders, she moved as if she was weighted down. As she gripped the weapon, she could feel the heat intensify. It seared the skin off her palms and fingers. She released her grip, the smell of burnt flesh filling the room. “Thou would raise arms against its creator? Thy path is set and cannot be changed. The pact is forged and thy oath called to be fulfilled.” The voice boomed loudly. Marishi looked at Rae alarmed as she broke her contact with her wife, knocked to the ground by a force unseen. She was dragged to the front of the throne in front of the Primal. Marishi struggled to free herself as she was lifted off her feet several feet into the air. “Cease thy struggle. What will happen must happen. Thou shalt be made witness to the salvation of all.” Spears of gold and light materialized from the throne and forced themselves through Marishi’s body. Her hands, shoulders, legs, and feet impaled. “Now, Arbiter, we shall be as one.” Marishi hovered in the air, her body impaled and red blood dripping on the polished floor, her head down and unmoving. The fog began to disperse and envelop her body. The Covenant invoked.
  12. Marishi trudged along with Rae through the verdant ruins, but her eye was turned inwards. The voices had been whispering in her mind for months. They started as whispers and, over time, became desperate screams without end. The voices were so loud that at times, it was all she could hear. The voices were like a knife driving into her head causing migraines that would disable her ability to think clearly or even move, the sensitivity to light in her right eye compounding the pain. She did well hiding it from Rae at first, feigning overexertion or headaches. Then, the nose bleeds came. They would come without warning and they would last for hours causing her to become physically weak anemic. The bed sheets would be white at night. Come morning, they would be blotched with dark blood. Marishi had told Rae about her venture inside the citadel and her ‘gift’ of eternal youth. Marishi did not speak of the covenant made, because it didn’t make sense to her. She didn’t speak of Alexander calling her back after the red moon fell reminding her of her duty and that she would do well to not forget. But, the flow of time speeding along, Marishi forgot. Until the metallic voices crowded her mind. She couldn’t understand what was said, but the intent was clear. Alexander has summoned you. Uncharacteristic of Marishi, she told Rae of her headaches and the things she heard. Rae was adamant about Marishi visiting a specialist in Mor Dhona and the trek to the crystal blasted land was quick. However, none could find anything physically wrong with Marishi. For all intents, she was in absolute perfect health physically. Her Aetheric signature was certainly different from others, but was not so far out of sync that would cause her to become physically debilitated. With less answers they had before they left, they returned. The headaches, nose bleeds, and voices became worse. They wouldn’t happen unceasingly. They would come in waves, each stronger than the last. During the lulls in pain, Marishi could recover and speak coherently. Finally, she spoke of having similar symptoms before, albeit not nearly as strong after the fall of Dalamud. It was Alexander summoning her to give her instruction. Abandon the healing arts and take up the Far Eastern blade. He even gifted her the weapon she would carry at all times. The Gordian Katana. Rae without prompting began to charter ferries and coachmen that would ferry the two for the Hinterlands. She was more driven than Marishi was. She was scared to go. She felt something truly horrible was to happen. She had no logical reason to feel this way, but she felt it. From the pit of her stomach, she felt a storm of unparalleled magnitude was on the horizon. Marishi, despite these feelings of dread and anxiety, agreed to go. The pain and confusion was beginning to become constant and anything to reduce the pain in her head, despite the dread in her heart. Marishi could see Rae taking in the ruins abandoned so many years ago with wide eyed wonder. Inwardly, she would have been amused and even have spoked of what she knew of them, save the chisel being hammered in her brain. Marishi was pale. More pale than normal and sweating even in the cool mountain air. She was lithe and small. Her figure slender with accents of her figure. Her curves small fitting her frame. She wore her cosmetics the old and the archaic way. Smoky shadow blended from her eyebrows to her temples. Dark and smudged. Long and dark eyelashes matching the color of her brows. Her hair a deep rust red, similar to old blood let from a liver. She wore it in a simple and single braid that fell over her left shoulder. The hair full and healthy. What was most contrasting about the way she looked was her eyes. Her eyes were startling. Her left eye the color bright red with the vertical pupil of the Miquot’e. Her right eye did not match the right. Her right eye was black. No pigment other than black. Her pupil perpetually dilated to full never to contract or respond to light. Her left eye no longer functioned. She could not see out of it and would cause her right eye vision to blur in bright, white lights. She was awarded this disability after she was assaulted, beaten, raped, and left for dead by a group of soldiers. Each finding their own end shortly after their crimes. An act of vengeance from a spouse consumed with rage, hate, and disgust. Marishi wore the garb of the Far East. She didn’t wear the flowing hakama or Gi’s of her peer Samurai, but instead opted to wear form and lithe fitting Osode, black in color. Her Haidate she wore could be better described as tights. They were form fitting and accented her legs. The fabric itself tooled and woven to allow for mobility and breathing. The inside of the lower thighs woven in a fishnet style with sheer dark colored hose to protect against open skin. Her boots were leather and calf high with pointed toes and a small heel. Similar to riding boots, but lined for comfort and protection. Her Tekko matched the color of her Osode, tooled and fitted in black leather. Her fingers open to allow for free movement and dexterity. She wore nothing to protect her head due to her already decreased vision and depth of field. And covering for her head would interfere with her ability to see more so than it already was. She wore three weapons. The small tanto on the small of her back. The wakizashi short sword she wore at her hip, and finally, the intricate Odachi she wore above her wakizashi. The Gordian Katana. Wrapped in white cloth, the blade would pulse with soft, white light, the weapon imbued with a fragment of a God. The two entered the silent, copper halls of the citadel. The doors opened by themselves, seemingly aware of their arrival. As they walked through the empty halls, the cogs and gears fired to life with pistons turning and steam blowing. Floor and flood lights illuminating slightly ahead of them, guiding their way. Beckoning them and leading them on a path mapped for them. Marishi entered Alexander and the voices suddenly stopped. The chanting instead reverberating from the hum of the machine coming to life and the frequency of the electricity charging the circuits. The feeling of despair taking the place of pain in her head. Marishi knew she couldn’t run. Alexander wouldn’t let her. What was to happen, was to happen. The hand of fate silently pushing the two to the central core.
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