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Marishi Ten

The Embrace of Nymeia [Final Fantasy] [Act III - Final]

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The wooden slats creaked and moaned as the airship made it's way from Ala Mhigo to the legendary forbidden land of the Allagan. Azys Lla.

Marishi’s head wound had been closed up by the best efforts of Rae, though there was only so much she could do with her hand bound behind her back. They sat in the belly of the airship. The cargo area, waiting for the future and what it’s potent would be.

The two had been subdued after allowing heavenly deities to occupy their mortal frames to snuff the Aether of a foe that was far beyond the two Miquot’e. The task is done, the Gods could no longer sustain themselves in corporeal bodies and returned to the heavens, draining almost all of the Aether from Marishi and Rae. This was when their Ishgardian enemies struck at them, incapacitated them, and kidnapped them.

They were flying to a place only described in dusty tomes found in the back of shelves in the Great Gubal Library. It was a place of legend, of fantasy. It certainly wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. Azys Lla was said to contain the secrets of the Ancients. How to bend Eikons to the will of mortals, how to create wind up automatons to serve as soldiers in an army that doesn’t feel pain or morality. How to create an exact replacement for a living being. How to meld animals with one another to create pitiful and angry monstrosities. How to destroy the world.

It was told that the knowledge to perform all of these acts and more lie far above the earth in the forbidden land of Azys Lla.

Of course, Marishi didn’t believe it was real. The Allagans were most certainly met their own demise 5,000 years ago when they stretched too far and claimed themselves to be Gods. Their conquest of Eorzea, Islabard, Hingashi, Doma, Thavnavir, The Old World, The Isle of Val, Dravania was complete. The only land left contested was the continent of Meracydia, located in the southern seas of Eorzea. There, the Allagans had their taste of defeat. There, the domination of their Empire ground to a halt.

The citizens and denizens of Meracydia could not withstand the might of the Allagan Empire. So they turned their desperation into a weapon of prayer. Summoning an Eikon that laid waste to legions of Allagan constructs and soldiers. Rather than be fearful, the Allagans wanted to harness this great power of belief to bend to their wills. And after the entire land was ravaged by fire, war, and blood, did they find the means how.

Dragons. Dragons had long called Meracydia home. Long had they lived in peace. With the arrival of the Allagan Empire, they had no choice but to defend their kin. Among them two great Wyrms. Direct decedents of Midargsomyr himself. Tiamat with her pitch black and sleek frame, and the most powerful of the elder Wyrms and her consort, Bahamut.

Thousands they had killed, and thousands more. The toll on both sides high. The Empire could not win a war of attrition against this first brood, nor did they want to slay them. They wanted to use them. To study them. In a pitched battle that altered the course of the war, the Allagan Empire was successful in killing Tiamats love, Bahamut. They killed him in cold blood while she was lured away. Upon hearing that her husband of millennia was no longer on this Star, she wept and gave into her despair. By chance or by fate, Tiamat was taught the art of summoning an Eikon. Of raising a lover from the realm of the dead. Thus did she and her brood pray. They prayed for the resurrection of the king of Dragons, Bahamut. And thus did he rise again, though a mockery of what he once was and what he once stood for. He cared not for the love of Tiamat or the safety of his brethren. He cared only for revenge upon those who had laid bare his life and the lives of his brood. He was no longer The King of Dragons. He was the Great Dreadwyrm Bahamut.

In his anger, he pushed the Empire to the brink of the Meracidian shores. Near collapse. But from the floating land of Azys Lla came a breakthrough. The ability to not slay an Eikon, but to suspend it. To imprison it and use it as they deemed fit. The field trial was a success, with the entrapment of the Dreadwyrm and his faithful. They sealed him in a sphere and at the great dock of Azys Lla, three Ragnarok class cruisers launched the globe into the heavens to take its place by Nymeia’s side. Her loyal hound. Dalamud.

Appalled by what she had done and witnessed, Tiamat despaired. She was broken in spirit. When the Allagan Empire came for her, she put up no resistance. It is said that she now resides on Azys Lla to serve as a reminder and living trophy of the glory of the Allagan Empire.

The Empire did not stop with Bahamut. They also imprisoned what they dubbed as the “Warring Triad” and used these Eikons as perpetual power sources. To what end, the old and crumbling tomes did not say.

All of this being a fairy tale to Marishi. The doctrine that couldn’t be relied upon. The same tomes told of Ratokaskyr being devoured by the founding knights of Ishgard. Fairy tales.

How long they had been flying, Marishi couldn’t tell. All she knew was their bearing was constantly up. Rae was unusually quiet and said next to nothing. Just staring at the planks under her feet lost in memory or concentration. It began to get cold and Marishi could see her breath as she inhaled. She also was having a harder time breathing due to the air becoming thin. Their bodies would adjust eventually, but Marishi knew they were high above the world and the airship evened out its ascent.

Marishi tried to loosen the ropes tied around her wrists, but the knots held fast. She didn’t know where their weapons were, though she knew they were near. She could feel her Katana calling to its master. Rae must be feeling the same pull, though her binding with the Dreadwyrm was much more intimate and much more ingrained than Marishi could imagine. It must pain her to be relieved of it.

There was no porthole or window in the cargo area and the only light came from a few dimly lit candles. After what seemed like days, the knight, Honfraint, stepped below deck and summoned them. “Oh, good! You’re finally awake. I almost thought that my blow to your head would have addled your brain. That is if you had any! Ha!” He mocked. “Poor birds! Wings clipped and caged with no view of the world they relished in! How dreadful. It is fortunate for you that myself and my esteemed colleague Tarresson have taken pity upon you. We invite you to the upper decks to view with your own eyes the fruits of our labors. The fruits of your labors. Did you really think being sent to an Allagan Monolith and retrieving a scale from the most powerful Dragon this world has seen as chance? Ah, but it is neither the time nor place to discuss your destiny, is it Marishi?” Honfraint said. “What? Are you insane? I’ve no destiny with you or your leeching crutch of a mage friend. Where is he? Bedridden at the sight of a foe that made him look pathetic and small? For that’s what he is ‘knight’. Pathetic and small. I’d as soon choke the life from his diseased frame than associate any kind of ‘destiny’ with him. Or you.” Marishi snapped with vitriol in her voice. After a moment Honfraint said thoughtfully “I have no doubt that the moment we turn our backs on you that you would bury a dagger in them. I must admit, I find your anger … intimidating. And I respect you for that Marishi Ten. However, in the event that you conjure up any mischief, it’d not be you who would pay the price, but your pretty, pretty wife. Rae Ten.” He looked over Rae with hunger in his eyes. “And what a pretty thing she is. It’d be a shame to have to resort to ravaging her then flaying the marred skin from her bones. Believe me when I tell you this Marishi. And you, Rae. Though we are highborn, we are not above torture. The Heavensward taught us well.” He said proudly. “A heretical sect bereft of its steward because his own stupidity drove him to the very place we are headed to see his shriveled and shameful life cut down. Not before he sacrificed your bothers to his own selfish cause though. Your ‘Heavensward’ has no honor and you’re no better than rats of The Brume.” Marishi retorted. “Your mouth will be the undoing of your companion! You’ll not speak that way of the order. You know nothing outsider!” Honfraint walked to Rae, lifted her up to her feet and with a mailed glove backhanded her across her face. Spattering blood from her mouth on the deck. “On your feet unbeliever. Soon, you will see just how wrong you are and then you will beg us to spare you and your whore.”

Honfraint grabbed Rae by her collar and shoved her up the stairs. Marishi followed behind the knight staring at him with pure hate from her red and black eyes. He opened the hatch and instead of a bright pouring of unobstructed sunlight pouring over the deck, the Sun was muffled. Strangled by what appeared to be unnatural yellow storm clouds that shifted in color the same way oil shimmers on water. Tarresson was at the helm guiding the Airship to its location. He glanced over the two quickly before facing forward. “Looks like someone said something they ought not to have. Fork your tongues behind your heads or find that you’ll be missing them. You have been brought up here out of our mercy. To give you each a view of history in the making. We are close now.” Tarresson said. Honfraint shoved Marishi forward to stand next to Rae. She scanned Rae and whispered “Are you alright, love? I’m sorry…” Honfraint kicked the back of Marishi’s knees bringing her down with a yelp of pain “My colleague gave you instruction to keep your mouth shut, heathen. This is your only warning.” Marishi stood up and looked again at Rae. She didn’t even notice the altercation that occurred. Her head was tilted and her ears high up listening to something. Her tail twitching back and forth in extreme focus. She wasn’t aware of what was happening around her. She seemed to be listening to another for instruction.

Marishi looked around the deck. Nearby, she spotted her Katana and Rae’s Rapier in the wooden barrel, unharmed. She quickly darted her eyes away from it so it wouldn’t be noticed. The air was thin, but there were an unnatural heat and moisture to it. It stuck to the skin like a thin film of oil and left the taste of rust and chemical in the mouth. The smell was heavy with sulfur and metal, and something else she could not identify. The clouds ahead shimmered like a mirage as they entered them the sickly condensation sticking to everything. “Aetherically charged weather. Truly impressive. The Ancients even had control over the weather.” Tarresson said with awe. “There, we are breaking through now. This should be it.” He called.

The clouds became lighter and in the distance could be seen as unnatural lights Red, Blue, Green. All in a fractal configuration. Marishi had seen arrangements like this before. Underneath the monolith in the Boulder Downs. Her eyes began to well up in despair and awe. Azys Lla was real and it lay before them.

Floating land masses dotted with Allagan installations connected by massive chains with pulsing green power conduits attached to them drilled into the islands. In the middle was the battery that kept all the islands afloat and operational. A horrifically large installation that radiated heat and energy. Marishi could feel it malms away. It was nauseating. This mass was completely man-made, but it was unlike the other designs of the Allagan buildings. It wasn’t fractal. It was flowing, looping, it’s conduits lit bright green pulsing energy to and fro. It was Allagan and yet, not Allagan. “They call that the ‘Flagship’. It houses the souls of the Eikons the Ancients trapped. They power the facility. Welcome to Azys Lla. The Allagan Empire’s lead research and development installation specializing in Aetherobinding and weaponizing research.” Tarresson said.

The close they were to the land the more clear it was that the earth itself was twisted and was ripped right from the ground. Everything had a decaying smell and sight to it. Everything that was somewhat organic. They were headed to a large structure that looked like a giant hollow egg with rings floating on it’s inside. “We make for the Dock. They call it ‘Helix’. It’s said that this dock was able to hold a Ragnarok class ship, though most of the docking rings look to have long since fallen away.” Tarresson said triumphantly as if he had made a monumental discovery. There was a sudden rock and sway of the airship. “The Hells? There’s no crosswind! What was that?!” Honfraint exclaimed to his companion. Rae seemed to rejoin herself on the airship and looked at Marishi concerningly. Marishi looked back at her and smiled. It was all she could do. She nodded in the direction of the barrel where Rae tilted her head slightly to see. Marishi nodded. The unsaid coming across to each other clearly. Take advantage of the chaos and seize our weapons and get the hell off this airship. Another jolt caused the airship mast and wings to creak under pressure as Tarresson struggled with control of the ship. “It’s some kind of aetheric discharge or disturbance! If it hits the Ceruleum engine, we’re going to have a real problem!” Tarresson exclaimed. Another blast, followed by another blast. The Aether storm was pushing them to Helix it seemed. Finally, an aetherically charged bolt of lightning struck the airship with a thunderous clap, and then, nothing. No sound. Not from the wind, nor from the engine. “Hells! Brace for impact! I’m putting it down on Helix! This isn’t going to be smooth!” Tarresson yelled. Honfraint moved away from Marishi and Rae and gripped on the main mast to not be thrown off the airship into the abyss below. Marishi and Rae darted to the barrel with their weapons and Rae pulled Marishi’s katana slightly free of its sheath where Marishi cut the bindings from her wrists. Once free she did the same for Rae. Honfraint was yelling something in their direction. There was no time to decipher what he was shrieking. She belted her Katana as Rae hooked her Rapier to her hip and both crouched down under the wood railing. The ship would be meeting the dock any moment which could very well be the end of them. “Rae!” Marishi yelled her heart pumping in her ears. “Hold fast to me! I love you!”

The metallic dock met with the inert airship causing wood to be blown to splinters and grounding the damaged vessel to a screeching halt. All was quiet. There was no movement from the downed bird. The docking rings continued their perpetual spin waiting for a starship that would never arrive.

 

 

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'My child.'

'Child...?'

'Dearest child, wanderer of my fold. What brings thee to this corner of the world?'

'You're... you're no mother of mine. Who are you?'

Her presence faded before Rae could get an answer, but never completely left. There was a part of her that reacted. A part of her that built itself up. A part of her that she had felt dormant. A rage boiled within her belly. A rage that was not her own.

Voices. Around her were voices that she half paid attention to. They seemed foreign to her, like the words they spoke were not words at all, but she knew them. One voice rang familiar to her, but she couldn't quite put a finger on it. She glanced around and found  them talking. The Elezen and her. Her wife... Her name... how could she forget her own wife's name? Tiamat...

"No." She murmured as the man walked to her, grasping her chin roughly and turning her face to him, then slapping his chain-mail-covered hand across her face. Though her blood splattered, no pain afflicted her.

'Bearer of my Beloved, come to me!'

'Who are you!?'

'Look around thee, my child. Doth thou see mine blood?'

Rae's ears perked up and she glanced around until her eyes settled upon a faint, gentle glow of purple to the east. She stared, eyes wide and pupils dilated. The rage within her bubbled threatening to overwhelm her. Her throat burned and her mouth felt scorched. She tasted sulphur on her tongue. Who's anger was this that resided within her now? It was not her own. This anger was at everything. The world. She hated it all and wished it to end. That this ship would destroy the world if she crashed it, Rae would take the helm and bring her down. Her world would end, however. She gazed to the robed one guiding the ship. His neck was exposed, vulnerable. She could bite into it and rip his throat out, then spin the wheel and destroy them in a fiery blaze.

'Be still, young one.' The voice. The voice was soft, soothing. Yet sad. Was she sad at her thoughts? Did she bring about her sadness? Shame and remorse welled up within her as she attempted to shy from the voice. She upset her! The only one who ever loved her so faithfully throughout the years! After all that she had done! 'His memories bleed into thine own, dear child. What thou feel is not thy feelings. Come to me, my child. Let my will aid thy own. Come to where my blood shall encompass thee.'

Her thoughts were brought back from the suspension of the conversation. Rae glanced around before spotting Marishi's eyes. She followed her gaze, but spoke nothing more. They'd break free. She rushed to Marishi's side and lifted her Katana from its sheath, helping to cut Marishi's binds. Soon, she was freed as well and armed. Upon touching her weapon, she felt a rush of emotions. Love, hatred, pain, pity, sorrow. Oh! The sorrow! Rae's eyes filled with tears as she ran to Marishi's side, wrapping her arms around her and readied for the impact.

Once the ship struck, a terrible sound was made.  Wood splintering under the stress of the crash, jagged metal from the inner machinations of the airship dug into the solid platform, grinding the gears to a halt and rendering the airship utterly useless now. The two were flung from the railing and onto the platform below. They tumbled to a stop and Rae was the first to her feet, tears still rolling down her face. "Stop them! Kill Rae if you must!" The male voice from the ship rang out clearly, and that seemed to trigger the following events.

From the east came a noise. It was familiar, but no less horrifying. A screeching roar that half resembled that of Shinryu's echoed throughout the yellow-black realm of Azys Lla. A chorus of roars followed as well as shadows rising from the isle the noise hailed from. A sad pride rose up within Rae as she saw the shadows draw nearer, but the urgency to move overpowered all else. Still crying, Rae grabbed Marishi's hand and dragged her forward. "Guide me! Please!" She called out, abandoning her speech through thought.

'There is a safe place from thine enemies that my brood may fetch thee,' she instructed. 'Go there and they will bring thee and thy own to me. Fear not the Allagan technology, for it hath been dead for so long. You will be safe there for a time until my children fetch thee.'

Rae scrambled up a ramp and across the way, but skidded to a stop. Monsters. Monsters she has never seen before, nor read of. Her heart pounded as the lazily floating creature drifted along. It didn't seem to have noticed her, but with the one came two and three more, and each one brought another one with it. They appeared to be as lamps, but alive. Allagans made these things. Rae stepped backwards, returning to the large dome that they had fled from. Behind them, shouting was heard as well as angry screeching. Dragons fought with the Elezen. They snapped and dove at them with reckless abandon. The Knights of Ishgard dealt with the dragons with deft aptitude. They had been raised to kill dragons, and they would not be taken down by a mere handful that moved as if they had not attacked man in centuries.

Beside her, a terminal began to glow. A soft humming sound rose from the machine as it whirred to life. Lights flickered on across the table top and a screen appeared. A map of the area was displayed with five glowing lights upon it. Words flickered in and out of visibility on the old, unkempt screen, but Rae could make out what few letters she recognized. It was in Allagan, but thanks to her studies on the Isle of Sharlaya, she could discern some words. "Marishi, we need to get out of here!" Rae cried out, then pressed her finger against the glowing orb to the east, but it changed from blue to red. A diagnostic was quickly run, and all but one light changed colour to red. It was clear across the map from where she wanted to go, but they had no choice. Rae pressed the light, and suddenly the two faded, their vision became a swirling blend of all the colours around them.

When their vision returned, they were in another area altogether. Rae swayed before falling to her hands and knees and vomiting. 'Strange... t'would seem the Allagan technology reacted to thy companion, but now are faced with a dilemma. Thou art farther than when thee first came here. Seek out the other terminals. My children cannot reach thee at such a distance, nor do they wish to leave my presence now that dragon-killers are around.'

"Who are you?" Rae asked, her eyes stared through the Flagship and to the island where the voice called to her.

'I am the mother in Meracydia. Daughter of Midgardsormr. Mate of Bahamut. I am Tiamat.'

Rae exhaled, everything suddenly making sense. Wiping her mouth, she moved back, then sat down on her feet. Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she turned her gaze to Marishi. "My love," she murmured. Calling Marishi her love felt almost alien to her. A growing part of her did not recognize Marishi as her love, but the owner of the voice that resounded within her head as her love. She struggled to keep herself as herself and subdue the part of her that was bound with Bahamut's essence. "Marishi, we need to get to the other island. Being here isn't safe. There's... there's something here. Something that can protect us." Her brows furrowed as she struggled to find how to explain this to Marishi, but no explanation came.

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“What has gotten into you, Rae? We aren’t just going to run off in some random direction only to find ourselves surrounded by some hideous monstrosities that will draw and quarter us.” Marishi pulled her hand away from Rae. She didn’t like how she was speaking. Almost feverishly. Unable to stand still, being drawn to something In this long forsaken, tortured land.

Marishi didn’t notice as everything happened so fast, but there was a sharp pain in her right leg. She looked down and found it causes. She reached down, grabbed the wooden shrapnel that had pierced her armor and pulled it out with a small yelp. It wasn’t deep or life-threatening. It was just another chunk out of her that had been seared away by those that, at this very moment, were in pursuit. Marishi smirked to herself at the irony. The hunters become the hunted.

Rae was eager to be off. Wringing her hands at the delay. Marishi cast her a worried and irritated glance and turned toward the terminal. “I can read this terminal in the Allagan language. I don’t know how, but I can. I think I might be able to operate it. It’s a kiosk of sorts. It contains information as well as limited Administrative control over the facilities.” Marishi said. She never learned the Allagan language. None fully knew or understood it. Marishi was perplexed as to how she could not only read it, but interact with it. A few swipes of the monitors brought up what appeared to be a debug menu of some kind. The terminal blipped at her “Authorizing. Authorizing. DNA sequencing complete. Welcome back $###$@@!. Please specify the parameters of execution.” Marishi stood a moment, then began to work the terminal flipping the console screens rapidly, looking for something. Finally, she found what she was looking for. The machine requested confirmation. “Confirmation required. Are you sure you want to remove Aetheric links between Alpha and Beta Quadrants?” “Request confirmed. Execute parameters specified.” Marishi spoke to the terminal. “One moment. One moment. Apologies for the delay. Please wait. Program complete. Aetheric link between the Alpha and Beta Quadrants is no longer functional. What else would you like to do Administrator?” The monitor responded. “A map of this Quadrant and points of interest. Search database tables for all information under Beta Quadrant and return relevant results.” Marishi commanded. The terminal flickered and pulled a map of Azys Lla for display. They were on the island west in a chain of islands tethered to the machine hovering in the middle. They came from the Alpha Quadrant and arrived at what she translated as the bio combination sector of the area. “Specify. Return values of the Beta Quadrant including historical notations.” Marishi said. “The Beta Quadrant is the Empires bio-weapon proving grounds. Here, different organisms are fused together at the atomic level which results in new species. ADVISORY: biological combined species are confirmed hostile. Caution is advised. The Beta Quadrant houses the Recombination Labs where project “Lamia” is underway. Melding humanoid women with that of reptilian snakes. The Biomass Incubation Complex is used to speed production of all bioengineered species including the Empires greatest splicing. The “Chimera”. Mutagenesis is the flora and fauna research area where gene splicing is regularly performed to create new strains of flowers and plantoids. End of query string.”

Disgusted and horrified, the area’s function began to dawn on her. They were splicing different parts of different animals together in the attempt to create a monster they could weaponize. One they could grow in vats for mass production. These things were on this island right now, shuffling around, being forced into eternal slavery. “Terminal, what was the year this Quadrant came online?” Marishi asked. “Data partially corrupted. Unable to fully return query string. Year of origin unknown. This facility has been online for 5,432 years, 245 days, 16 hours, 24 minutes, and 10 seconds.” The machine returned. “five thousand years of torture being forced to undergo splicing, turning what sentience they had to rage and aggression. We cannot stay here. I’ve severed the link of the Islands, but I fear that will only slow them down. They will arrive eventually. I don’t know what they want. With me. They won’t get it I can say that.” Marishi said to Rae, who appeared to not be listening. Marishi was worried. She was being overcome with something. Marishi knew all too well the symptoms and sings having been subject to the same malady. Sighing, she turned to the terminal one last time. “Plot and display the shortest and most safe route from current location to next waypoint.” “Please wait.” The terminal beeped. “Partial data corruption. Waypoint plotting complete. Due to maintenance related issues, waypoint currently under repair. Waypoint will be unable to teleport Administrator and User to Gamma Quadrant. Calculating. There is a 41.23% chance that waypoint will deliver users to codename ‘Flagship’.” Low odds Marishi thought. “Specify the second scenario and provide information regarding ‘Flagship’. Marishi commanded. “Second likely scenario. Waypoint will teleport users to location undesirable which will result in death. Calculating. Access denied. You do not possess Super User permissions. Access to codename ‘Flagship’ is unavailable.”

“Great. This keeps getting better and better.” Marishi muttered to herself. “There are a pair of heretical killers hunting us, my wife has all but gone insane, we have to cross a biologically ruined island filled with atrocities that want nothing but death, and there’s a 60% chance we’ll be teleported to nothing but the world below.” Marishi sighed heavily. “Thank you for using the Allagan Empire’s information center. Have an enlightened day!” The terminal blipped as Rae and Marishi began their trek across the twisted and hellish landscape. The terminal flickered and went dark.

“Rae, stop moving so quickly! The ground isn’t stable and we don’t know what’s around us. The smell. Gods the smell is nauseating! It smells like decomposing corpses, blood, and acid.” They walked on land, though it was spongy and moist. Almost as if skin or a central nervous system had grafted itself to the rock. Rae was moving a little slower now. Perhaps beginning to understand their situation and how dire it was. Marishi looked up above the chaotic and toppled mountain on the Island. At the top sat the largest tree Marishi had seen. She gasped as she looked at it causing Rae to stop and look up. The tree appeared to be a maple tree in autumn, its leaves blood red in color slowly falling from its branches. The roots of the tree wrapped around the mountain, cracking the rock and wedging itself into every crevasse. It would have been beautiful, but something was wrong that Marishi couldn’t at first figure out. The limbs of the tree seemed twisted upwards in agony. A hand futilely trying to claw its way out of its grave. The bark had a slick and reflective like coating, like sap, but not. That’s when Marishi realized that the tree was sap was blood pouring from it’s diseased and rotting wounds. The tree was the source of the smell. Marishi put her hand to her nose, coughed and kept her head down walking forward.

Soon they came upon the Incubation Complex. Twisted deformities of what were once animals gnashed their teeth and shuffled their limbs into movement. Some appeared asleep, while others appeared on the verge of suicidal rage. “Hold on Rae. Hold it together. We’d be slaughtered by these things. We can’t hope to fight them. We’re going to have to sneak by them.” Marishi said gripping Rae’s arm. Hard. She seemed to understand Marishi’s instruction and fell behind her a pace or two. Slowly, the two edged around the macabre troupe of twisted and reviled creations. They were erratic and their path nonlinear. They were completely unpredictable. Marishi and Rae crept on, pushing themselves against the cliff side on their right trying to make as little noise as possible.

After what seemed a lifetime, they cleared the throng of beasts and the teleporter could be seen. They arrived at the unit where Marishi booted up the kiosk and prepared to execute the only program she found it its file system. “Confirm destination. Confirm teleportation.” Blipped the terminal. “Destination confirmed. Override safety protocols and unlock governor. Confirm teleportation.” Marishi commanded. “Request confirmed. One moment.” The blue light enveloped Marishi and Rae as they were broken down to a molecular level for travel. Akin to traveling via Aetheryte, though riding the lifestream via Aetheryte meant almost certain death to those without the blessing of the Echo. They dispersed. The atomic bindings of Rae and Marishi began to manifest and reform on what appeared to be a massive landing pad. Marishi looked around. They appeared to be on the central floating control center. The ‘Flagship”.

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Rae stared in horror. The Chimera... beasts created by the Allagans. She had read about them, but only did she read about them. Never did she want to imagine what monstrosities they were, much less encounter them.

'For many millennia I have heard their wretched cries,' she told her. Rae's ears drooped down as she walked passed tube after tube of creatures being kept alive in a permanent state of stasis. Despite not being able to control their own body--or what was left of it--they blinked. Their eyes held nothing, but they blinked. They stared. Rae knew they couldn't see them, but their eyes seemed to follow where they walked. From a great distance away, the agonized scream of one of those completed constructs filled the air, piercing her eardrums and causing her to cover her ears, grimacing and cowering. This was like out of a nightmare. 'They will not die. The Allagans perfected the art of keeping their bodies preserved. It was the only way so the Chimera could not decompose while they fused the bodies together. I listened and felt the operations upon these pitiful creatures. Many of mine own brood were subject to this. Their cries haunt me the most.'

Rae's attention was torn from what Tiamat was telling her to Marishi. Keep it together? Her breathing was sharp, jagged, like she had been running for malms. Swallowing hard, Rae regained control of herself, but barely. More incubators. Severed heads of dragons floated before them, suspended in a sickly green fluid that glowed thanks to the power of the aether crystal that kept the head company. Rae stopped at one and moved closer to the glass, placing her hand on it and staring directly into the eye of the dragon. "My child," she murmured, but shook her head quickly and squeezed her eyes shut. 'No, not my child. This is Bahamut's thought. Get yourself together, Rae. Marishi needs you too.' Her eyes glanced to Marishi as she began pushing buttons on the terminal nearby. She wanted to tell Marishi what was happening, what thoughts she was having, but she feared telling her would give credence to the fact that Bahamut might possibly take over her body and she'd be lost to his thoughts. They pushed at her mind even now, urging in to her brain, but she kept it at bay. She could feel Tiamat's presence seeping through, but she fought it back.

"Where will this take us?" Rae asked Marishi, looking at the screen. There were only a few letters she could make out, but all in all, she was useless. Marishi's uncanny ability to translate the text was both perplexing and unsettling. Rae half wondered if Marishi's connection to the monolith in Coerthas had anything to do with it, but she kept that thought to herself as well. She was certain Marishi would have thought the same thing as well. Without another word, their bodies were broken down. Rae sucked in one last gulp of air before she felt herself cease existing as Rae, but to assume living as particles. As they travelled, Rae felt peace. Was this what it would be like in the Lifestream? 

Before she could grow accustomed to the sensation, they were brought back to their corporeal forms. Rae exhaled, having held her breath the whole time, it seemed. Her frame shook, but other than that, she kept herself composed rather well that time. 'The Flagship,' Tiamat's voice resonated within Rae's mind once more, forcing her way through the barrier, and with her presence returned Bahamut's. Her mind was becoming addled again. 'My offspring will come to fetch thee now. Thou art close enough that their trek will not exhaust them. Stay where thou are, lest the Allagan machine detects thee and attacks.'

"Allagan machine..?" Rae asked, turning around and was suddenly nearly face-to-face with a Sphinx. The creature appeared to care little for Marishi and Rae, or it hadn't yet detected them. It was a good distance away, but it faced their direction. "Marishi, don't move." She said to her, never taking her eyes off the creature. It glowed red, which indicated to Rae that it was activated, despite it not moving. "I... I think there's a dragon coming to get us." Rae cautioned. "It will take us over to th-" Rae stopped talking the immediate moment the Sphinx began to move. It's movements were smooth, languid, hypnotic. It was also drawing nearer to them both. Rae held her breath yet again and watched with unblinking eyes as the creature suddenly stopped. It had the face of a woman it seemed. It was beautiful, but never changed expression. It stopped moving suddenly, facing Marishi and Rae. She felt her heart thunder harder in her chest. Did it see them? Did it detect them? Without eyes or expression, Rae couldn't tell what to do.

It wasn't until the creature crouched and dove at them both that she knew. Rae cried out in surprise and lifted her rapier, conjuring a spell of fire, but before she could get it off, a fireball from its flank blasted into the side, sending it sliding across the platform and over the edge. The claws dug into the metallic surface, but the mechanical creature could not create enough friction on the smooth surface to stop its fast slide over the edge. Rae stopped her cast and watched to see if the creature would come back up, but despite the wings, it never appeared.

Another creature's wing beats drew her attention as a large, bulky dragon dropped onto the Flagship before Marishi and her. Its eyes were far up on its snout and its teeth were like sharp daggers protruding from its lips. Rae's trembling didn't stop as the creature moved closer to her and sniffed. "I... I think this is our ride." she stammered while holding out her free hand to the dragon and pressing her palm to its horned snout. The creature then got onto its belly to allow Marishi and Rae to climb onto its back. Rae climbed on first, then held out her hand for Marishi to join her. She knew this would be a difficult ride for Marishi, so she opted to hold onto the dragon and allow Marishi to hold onto her.

Once both were situated, the dragon turned around and began to walk down the long pathway. Then, it picked up speed until it began to run. Once reaching the end of the path, it pushed off and unfurled its wings. The creature began to glide on the currents through Azys Lla. Rae clung on to the horns of the great beast as it flew them towards the island that glowed purple. As the drew nearer, Rae could feel the connection with Tiamat grow stronger. Soon, the battering on her mind's walls of Bahamut ceased and all that was there was herself and Tiamat. Bahamut's presence subdued, Rae breathed an easy sigh and turned to Marishi. Her arms were wrapped around her stomach and her chin rested against her back. She felt pity for her dear wife, but this was their only way now. "I'm... I'm sorry for how I was before," Rae said, speaking over the wind in their ears. "I think when I attuned to Bahamut, I took on more than just his aetheric power. I think I took on his presence within my own mind. This whole time I've been speaking to another dragon who has lived here for so long. I've been speaking to Tiamat, Bahamut's wife. She wishes to help us. This is her... child. I think. One of her children. She's got a lot. And she has a lot of answers for us, as well. I'm sorry for not telling you, I just feared acknowledging it would give way to my own sanity and Bahamut would take over my body. It's... terrifying."

As they drew nearer, Rae glanced towards Tiamat and caught her eye. She had turned her head to gaze upon them. They were crimson, much like Marishi's. And they held such sorrow. Yet again, emotion surged through Rae and she was brought to tears. They rolled down her face seemingly without end. The dragon they rode upon landed on a set of rocks just before Tiamat, allowing them to get a better look of her. She was bound. 8 neurolinks surrounded her body while 9 more pierced it, keeping her in place. Surrounding her was a platform that powered the neurolinks, controlling her body to the commander's will.

The tears flowed freely from Rae's eyes now and any words she had were lost. She stared up to Tiamat in silence, their mental bond still strong, but not active.

'Welcome, Marishi Ten, wife of Rae Ten. I am Tiamat, daughter of Midgardsomr and mate of Bahamut. I thank thee for coming to me. Upon feeling the presence of my lord Bahamut, I thought it to be a dream again, but seeing thee, Rae Ten, I know now I am not dreaming,' her voice echoed within Marishi's mind. Her presence was cold, miserable, lonely. All of which bore down upon Rae's soul, crushing her heart. 'I fear I am the cause of thy wife's tears. Our connection is strong as a result of her housing my lord Bahamut within her aether. While I wish to ease this suffering within her, I am uncertain how to. I beg for thy understanding of this matter.'

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Marishi didn’t like the idea. She didn’t like how Rae was acting. She didn’t like how helpless she was in this situation. No longer the master of her Fate, she is forced to rely upon things she was raised to distrust and hate. Dragons. Marishi knew the truth behind the Dragonsong War and the true story of Thordan and his Knights Twelve. She knew that humans had created a terrible rift between their species when they slew Sister to Nidhogg and consumed her eyes.

Even though she knew this, it didn’t make her any less suspicious. She took Rae’s hand and mounted the Dragon. Clearly unhappy. There was an internal struggle within her for control of her thoughts and actions. Marishi was helpless and frustrated. She saddled the dragon and looked around. They were aboard a custom built ‘airship’. Built below the ground of Meracydia, it was amplified by the three giant statues encompassing the middle. Each with their back facing the other. She knew what it was she was looking at. “The Warring Triad”. She whispered. She knew what they were and where they came from. She knew how to manipulate Alagan input consoles and machinery. They called her an ‘Administrator’. Her thoughts went back to the snows of The Boulder Downs. To the apparatus, they discovered there. To the place, Marishi very nearly lost her life, or worse. Her mind. Rae was struggling with a similar situation it seemed and like Rae on the snow-covered Downs, she was unable to assist.

The Dragon picked up speed and began it’s run past the Lunar Transmitter, the Parade Ground, Assembly Area, Mooring Docks, and leapt into the yellow and green-tinged sky. From the height they were at, they had a commanding view of Azys Lla. She could see the Alpha Quadrant with its huge Docking Rings for Ragnarok class ships to resupply, she could see the Beta Quadrant with the massive tree with sap like blood sitting atop the mountain like a diseased king spreading his plague to the rest of the island. She could see the area called the ‘Gamma Quadrant’ though it was mostly obstructed by the clouds and refraction of a diminished Sun. She could make out some landmarks. Twisting spears rising to heights from the ground. The soft pulse of beacons and warning lights. She could see their destination. The Delta Quadrant.

This quadrant perplexed Marishi the most. It was out of alignment slightly from the other Islands, though bound by the same chains to The Flagship. The Island didn’t appear to be overly sickly or twisted. There were oil slicks on the other quadrants that made any water in the area undrinkable. Seeping into the rocks and poisoning the land. The Delta Quadrant had a wide shallow river of clear water running through the middle. The water looked to be sourced from a brightly lit tree. To her left, there was some kind of ancient structure, but well before the land was ripped from the ground. It’s purpose, Marishi didn’t know. What was most striking about the island was the crystallization of Aether. It was everywhere. Like the roots of a great tree, it wove in and out of the ground making fantastical shapes and lines.

Marishi was reminded by a story she had overheard while in Ishgard. A group of men had ventured into Sohm Al, the Dragons holy land and began to map and survey the area. This sanctuary, also floating above the ground held many ancient structures and buildings. Testaments to humans and dragons once in harmony. They came across a place that seemed to defy nature. All around them was crystalized Aether. Also weaving in and out of the ground, buildings, forming bridges. The concentration of Aether was so strong in the area it crystalized into massive structures itself. It’s said that place was where Thordan and his Knights Twelve lured the Sister of Nidhogg to betray her and feast upon the source of all dragon’s strength. Their eyes.

The Delta Quadrant was much the same in the way of the Aether and how it was crystallized. The sheer amount and abundance of it stunned Marishi. Everything is composed of Aether. People, animals, plants, everything. It is the building block of life and akin to the blood in the body itself. Dragons are different in how they wound. They bleed, but with the blood also comes their condensed Aether. The story stated that the huge crystal structures in Sohm Al were due to one of the First Brood being slain. The Delta Quadrant being much the same.

In the middle of the crystalized Aether and seemingly the source sits a massive Dragon, though something did not seem right. She was not moving and it was difficult to see her body until they were nearly upon her. The mount swooped down and landed on a group of large rocks right in front of the Dragon.

There, Marishi could tell why she appeared so odd. She was bound in Neurolinks configured not to control her, but to confine her. Upon each foot she was pierced with a large spike, nailing her to the ground creating a grotesque crucifixion. Her wings were drawn taught by hooks with chains bolted into the crystalized Aether around the dragon forcing her wings permanently extended. Marishi and Rae dismounted and the smaller dragon, but an unheard command took it’s leave. This was one of the First Brood. Tiamat. Consort to Bahamut. But Marishi wasn’t terrified by her. Instead, she had a mix of pity, contempt, and disgust.

How long she had been there was impossible to tell. Her body from the neck below had atrophied and shriveled up from eons of nonuse. Marishi quickly looked over the Neurolinks and nails. They had long since lost the power to restrain any dragon, let alone one of the First Brood. Tiamat could have broken free even in her shattered state, but she hadn’t. She chose to stay pinned in place by those nails for reasons Marishi could not fathom. She spoke in their minds not using the verbal actions, but a form of telepathy. She spoke in the common tongue, not the language of Dragons.

“Welcome to Azys Lla, Marishi Ten. The Alagan Weapons and Research Facilities including its Proving Grounds.” Tiamat spoke inside Marishi’s head. “I know what it is,” Marishi spoke curtly, aloud. “I know that to the North of here is a housing district called ‘The Habisphere’ though I have never heard of it nor seen it. I know of The Flagship and its power source, The ‘Warring Triad’. They captured Eikons, didn’t they? They held them in stasis without the need for prayers. They use them as batteries, don’t they? I can read ancient Alagan text and manipulate their terminals as easily as I would flip the pages of a children’s book. How do I know this? Where did I acquire this knowledge?” Marishi was clearly frustrated by not knowing what was happening and not being able to control or exert her will upon the situation. “I see that thou hast been touched by the main controller of Dalamud. Thou knoweth it as ‘Thy Monolith’. Coming into contact with it caused an imprint of itself on thy soul. In thy blood. It’s knowledge, passed on to thou, even if it cannot be comprehended. This is why thine enemy pursues thee. They seeketh thine knowledge contained in thou’s blood. For in thou’s blood also houses the key.” Tiamat slowly spoke, as if she hadn’t spoken to another living being in centuries. “My blood. Houses a key. How long have you been pinned up like this Dragon? The flow of time may have muddled your perception on reality.” Marishi mocked Tiamat. She saw Rae turn to give her a scathing look of hatred. For a moment, Marishi thought Rae may attack her. “I hath been on this Isle for nigh 5,000 mortal years. Forced to watch as mine hubris and sorrow clouded mine judgment. My beloved, he was slain on the field of battle. In a land, thou may know as ‘Meracydia’. He was ever so valiant. Protecting our Brood from Alagan experimentation. After many years of battle with the Alagan Empire, they took mine beloved from me. In mine bitter sorrow and yearning for my mate to once more be at mine side, a grave mistake was made. Beings not of thy plane approached and whispered unto me how to bring my beloved back. How we may yet saveth our Brood. I followed the instruction imparted unto me. Together mine brethren and myself prayed. We prayed for mine mate, mine king, thy Brood’s father to come back to us from the Aether. Our wish was granted, but not in the way we could foresee.”

Tiamat’s voice had a charming melody if not frail. Tinged with sorrow and shame as she spoke to them without saying a word aloud. “Mine Beloved, Bahamut, King of Dragons, was reborn to my joy and materialized out of the Aether. But he was no longer the Bahamut I loved and longed for. He was a twisted incarnation of our innermost wishes. To be rid of The Alagan Empire. My beloved was gone I realized. Gone forever, never to return unto me. Thy ‘Eikon’ was given shape of mine beloved and proceeded to destroy the land thy Brood cultivated to be rid of their menace. Thy ‘Eikon’ drove the Alagans to the very shores of thy home, but instead of victory, I was made witness to thy own arrogance. They waited for our ‘Savior’ to show on thy white shores where with new fell technology and magics, they enslaved the shell of mine beloved. They fettered him and under the Alagan dominion, he became. They came for us shortly after. Enslaving our brood to sustain the monster we brought forth. They brought me here and fettered me. A testament to the glory and power of the Alagan Empire. I did not offer resistance. I saw as they entombed mine loved and mine brood in the prison they had made. I watched as the ships soared into the heavens taking the prison. I watched that prison as a crimson star for 5,000 years. I saw as the prison fell back to the Earth unleashing the fury of mine Brood unto thee, Marishi Ten. I know thou were there on the field that night. I look into thy soul and I am ashamed. Mine selfishness and hubris cause suffering to millions. Mine own children included. This is mine penance. This is my atonement.”

Tiamat’s sad voice spoke to Marishi’s soul. “Your fetters have long since failed. You are no longer bound by them, yet here you remain. You seek atonement by inaction? You seek redemption by not intervening? No, I do not think that is the case. Nor do I think that you believe your own pretty words. You are scared. Frightened of the world. So, you hide away among the stars, too scared to make right your own mistakes, yet too arrogant to take your own life.” Marishi chided the Elder Wyrm, much as a mother would scold a child. She could feel Rae’s ire upon her, but Marishi no longer cared. “Doing nothing is at times worse than those committing the atrocities. You are complacent in their deeds. By doing nothing, you are no better than the men who enslaved you. Who tortured your children unto death? Who killed your so-called ‘beloved’. You know your sins yet you do nothing. So, what? You summon us here, on the heels of men that wish to slay us, you speak in riddles of blood and keys, and state you wish to aid our cause, yet you don’t know how?” Marishi’s voice became louder as the emotions within her spilled over. “The irony is palpable, as you well know. You wanted us here, not because of us, but because of HIM.” Marishi pointed at Rae’s Rapier. “I am not a fool and I can see the toll it is bringing on my still breathing Beloved. Perhaps there is no redemption for you. Perhaps you are fated to sit among the clouds until the end of time and this world ends. Even though Bahamut destroyed the land, twice, he aids us now. Not in the form of a Dragon, but a sword. He protects us and defends us. Just as you remember your ‘Beloved’.” Marishi said.

It was quiet for several moments. No sound could be heard. Marishi never broke eye contact with Tiamat. Red, the same shade of red as Marishi’s own eye. “Thou speaketh true and just. There may yet be a path to aid you as my Beloved does. But I will speak unto you. Of your doom Marishi Ten.” Tiamat said her eyes closing to slits. “In your blood holds a key. Thy ‘Monolith’ imprinted this key unto thy body. The lock is here, upon Azys Lla. The reason why thy pursuers brought you thus. They seek to unlock the door to the City of The Ancients by spilling thy blood and taking all the knowledge of this land to apply it to thou’s below.” Marishi let out a short laugh. “They need me to open this door then? So, we leave. We leave where no one can find us.” It was Tiamat’s turn to chide Marishi. “Foolish girl. Dost, thou think their reach cannot extend its grip to you? Dost, thou think they will ever stop trying to unlock the city? Dost, thou think there are no other ways to open it? For there are. They hath not discovered them. Not yet. How will thou leave Azys Lla? Jump? Commit suicide? It would only serve to stall. Not defeat. Thou know the only way this can end. Accept thy fate, and perhaps I may be able to accept mine own.”

Marishi did not offer a rebuttal. She knew it was the way Tiamat described. The only way to stop them was to defeat them. Even if that meant bringing the very thing they sought right to their feet. Marishi knew what she had to do. “You speak wisdom. I choose not to embrace fate, but to defy it. What say you?” Marishi asked.

Tiamat turned her attention to Rae. “Rae Ten, I’d speak with thou.”

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This anger was not hers. Rae, personally, agreed with Marishi's words. Inaction was the same as doing the wrong you so desperately tried to ignore, but there was a part of her that was furious. Who was this mortal that dared speak to her like this? She has no idea what hell she has been through! She's watched her children tortured and slaughtered, chopped up into pieces to be put together in a morbid puzzle for nearly 5,000 years. Her mind broke when her beloved died, and it was further destroyed when she dared hope to live a life again with her mate, but only had it taken away when a bastardized version of her Bahamut was created.  Anyone in that situation would have done the same. The despair she felt was compared to none. There was no hope, for hope was a fragile thing that would break and shatter.

'Rae Ten, I'd speak with thou.'

Rae's seething hatred was broken at the sound of Tiamat's voice within her mind. She turned to face her, head tilted back to get a good glimpse of the gargantuan dragon before them. She felt like the only being left alive in the world besides Tiamat. Her presence was overwhelming to her, but also soothing, comforting. The rage she had withered away within her as she felt pity, sadness, and regret fill her. 'Within thy soul houses the essence of mine beloved. I have sensed it since thy approach to this realm. When thy spirit reacted to mine own, for the first time in many millennia, I hath felt hope. Thy spirit hath tempered Bahamut's, but in turn, his has affected thine own. Within thee is a battle that I sense, that has only been made worse by mine presence. I can feel the bursts of anger that were not thine own. A fury that blinded thee to rationale. I can only imagine what brought about this vile emotion. Your spirit is blackened with the wroth of mine mate, but still, thy light shineth. Within thee my mate has found shelter. I must confess that I am envious of thee, Rae Ten. I wish to be close to mine beloved once more,' Tiamat's voice slowly morphed from the sorrowful, mourning tone to one of determination. Rae's ears raised and her eyes widened as the dragon began to move. She writhed under the pain of the Neurolinks that impaled her body. Her shoulders flexed and her neck arched as she strained under the Allagan contraptions that bound her for centuries. First, the ones around her arms and chest burst, clattering to the ground. Then the chains around her wings gave way as she lowered down onto all fours. Her claws dug into the panel that contained her and that fed power to the Neurolinks. Though it was powerless, it still operated as a final cage to Tiamat. As her claws dug into the surface, it pierced through, destroying the gears and circuits that gave it power. The barrier around her flickered briefly before finally disappearing, allowing her to unfurl her wings and stretch her neck out towards Rae. As she moved, a burst of wind blew passed Marishi and her. Rae stayed where she was, shocked by the events unfolding before her. Tiamat's snout was mere inches from her face, she could feel her hot breath through her nostrils, smell the sulphur of her breath. 'I would make one request of thee, Rae Ten. Attune to my essence, as thou hath done with Bahamut's. My time of watching hath ended. No longer shall I stand idly by while those that will continue the sins of the Allagans are a threat to thee and my brood. With mine power and mine mate's, Bahamut, thou shalt have the power to smite the wicked and put an end to this battle thou and thy wife hath fought. I beg of thee, take me into thy soul, grant my heart peace and happiness, and in return, I shall give thee my strength."

Rae swallowed hard, gazing upon Tiamat with surprise and hesitancy. "I... How will I know this won't make things worse for me?" She asked. One dragon whose emotions were bubbling over into hers was enough. How could she handle two?

Tiamat smiled, it seemed, and perhaps laughed. She exhaled hot breath onto Rae and Marishi and a rumble emitted from her throat. 'With my melancholy, any rage Bahamut doth feel shall be quelled and balanced with mine emotion. Thou will be whole and in control of thy own emotion once more.' Rae blinked several times before sucking in air and swallowing down any fear or refrain she had. Slowly, her hand reached out and she opened her aether, reaching it out towards Tiamat as her hand moved. She could feel the immense storage of power and aether from within Tiamat. For something that looked so sickly and weak, she was thousands of leagues stronger that Rae and Marishi could ever hope to be. When the palm of her hand pressed onto the scaled snout of the Elder Dragon, Rae felt a rush. It was a familiar sensation. When her aether touched with Bahamut's, she too felt this wave of power overcome her own presence. The flow and ebb of aethers melding together rocked back and forth. It was like a dance. A fluid motion of swaying back and forth as the two aethers blended together. Eventually, the swaying grew lesser to one side, and more to Rae's side. She took on more aether from Tiamat, allowing her essence to flow within her. She felt herself reach capacity, but there was still more being fed to her. Rae panicked, causing a hiccup in the flow. The ground around Rae's feet turned a pale purple and crystals began to form along her boots, encasing her feet within the crystal. Before more crystals could be formed, Rae and Tiamat diverted the flow to her weapon, the Dreadwyrm Rapier. As Tiamat's essence flowed within the object, its physical appearance changed. The guard changed colour to a deep green hue. The pommel grew a forest-green emerald within the centre. From the ricasso grew a second blade that encircled the deep purple blade. As the second blade grew, the same green hue that became of the guard. From the guard grew a second wing, but this time of green hue as well. Rae's weapon took on a nearly whole new appearance as the magicite crystal also was changed.  Another dragon head and wings sprouted from the opposite side of the original and it turned in to face the first, snouts nearly touching as the blade's final change settled in to the magicite, giving it a forest green colour to blend beautifully with the purple glow.

Even after the blade changed, more energy from Tiamat was poured into it until she finally stopped, pulling her head away and  turning it, laying herself upon the ground and resting her large, frilled head upon an outcrop of rocks not too far from where they stood. Had she looked weak before, she looked deathly now. Rae dropped her hand to her side and stared at Tiamat. 'I thanketh thee, Rae Ten. I might know joy once more within thee.' With that, Rae could not sense Tiamat's mental connection any longer. She reached out, but nothing responded.

Deep within her, however, she felt a peace growing. The swirl of emotions had since ended and she felt the contrasting emotions settle upon one another. No longer was she fighting to keep control of herself. She could feel the presence of Bahamut and Tiamat, but neither of them threatened to overwhelm her now. It was a strange sensation to feel inner peace for once. Rae reached for her weapon, drawing out her rapier and holding the magicite crystal before her. Admiring the changes, Rae smiled. Not only had she been able to bring a happy ending to one who only wanted to have her one love returned to her, she was able to gain the power to stop those that wronged her and Marishi. She lifted her gaze, turning to Marishi. There was a new life within her. She felt empowered, determined, and confidence. "Come, Marishi," Rae said, smiling to her. "Let us go defy our fate."

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Marishi watched as the pact was forged. For weal or woe, Tiamat would be joined with Bahamut and both would be housed in the mortal cage of her wife. A delicate balance. What would happen if she lost control? What would happen if they overpowered her frail soul? They could devourer her at any moment. Betraying the covenant they had forged. There was no option though. Marishi and Rae could not stand against the Ishgardians as they were. They simply would not live and with their deaths, they would play right into their hands. This was the only way.

Marishi scoffed slightly “To defy our fate. Or fail in the attempt to the ruin of all.” Marishi said to Rae. “First things first though, how do we get off of this damnable island? Our quarry will most likely be at the Gamma Quadrant. And we have no means of getting there.” Almost as if on command, a wind picked up and a pair of Wyverns were seen circling down to land. Their personal transports to the Gamma Quadrant. “I supposed that was your doing, huh?” Marishi teased at Rae. “No use delaying. The hour of judgment is at hand. Either theirs, ours, or both.” Marishi mounted one of the beasts as Rae mounted the other.

Rae’s was the first to take flight. As Marishi was about to order the Wyvern to take to the skies, she stopped. There it was again. The feeling of being watched. The feeling of being hunted. The other times she could discount due to injury or emotional stress, but this, this was real. Marishi scanned the area closely and her ears pricked high listening for any movement, any breathing, anything at all. Finally, she called out to the flora and fauna “I know not who you are or how you’ve been able to shadow us for so long, sneak thief. But we’re headed to a place called the Gamma Quadrant. Where the doom of us all shall be decided.” Marishi looked around, trying to sense something, anything, but no wind rustled and no breath could be heard. Just the distant stream of water could faintly be made out. “Let’s go,” Marishi said to the Wyvern. “Land at the nearest Alagan Console. It matters not if it’s in the Gamma Quadrant.” The dragon beat its wings and soared into the northwesterly sky.

Rae was some ways ahead of Marishi and she didn’t seem to notice that Marishi was that far away. Likely enraptured with her newfound magics and rapier, Marishi thought. As the land began to give way on the Delta Quadrant, Marishi spotted what she was looking for and ordered the Wyvern to land. Quietly. Rae didn’t need to know what Marishi was up to. Not this time. She slid off the back of the dragon and walked up to the console. She began entering in the administrative protocols and encryptions needed to gain root access. Things she couldn’t possibly know but did. She knew how to manipulate the console, how to initiate a launch sequence at Helix. She knew how to shut off the defense systems on the Quarantine Block. She knew how to open the doors to the city of the Alagan. The Monolith had left its imprint on her mind and in her blood. Marishi had a detached feeling that she was more Alagan now than she was Miquot’e. She may be the last Alagan alive. Even if she were manufactured.

She found in the diagnostics systems what she was looking for. “Console, confirm working directory.” Marishi stated to the screen. “… Administrator override confirmed. Welcome, Administrator. Working Directory is labeled under Diagnostics, Organism Query. What would you like to do, Administrator?” Blipped the console. “Detect all humanoid lifeforms situated across all of Azys Lla and record their coordinates upon detection,” Marishi ordered. “Valid query string. Searching …. Searching …. Searching … Query complete. Display results?” The console replied. “Yes.” “Currently, there are five sentient life forms found within sensory range of research facility code-named Azys Lla. One being yourself, Administrator on the border of the Delta Quadrant, another headed north-west towards the Gamma Quadrant, female. Two others, male, in the Gamma Quadrant, and another, unknown. Unable to detect gender or precise location. Possible corruption of sensor data or memory pool. Correction. There are four sentient life forms …. Recalibrating … There are five sentient life forms … Administrator, a fatal error has occurred and this terminal can no longer initiate its runtime directive. Thank you for visiting this terminal. Powering Off.” The terminal went dark.

Frustrated, Marishi looked around. Which was it? Five or four? Did the Ishgardians have a trick up their sleeve? Was she just going insane? No, she couldn’t lose it. Not when the end was this close. Her hands were shaking and her heart beat erratic. She was scared. Scared of what was to happen next. Marishi was scared that she didn’t hold the strength to see it through. She placed her had on her chest and closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She imagined the Coerthas Highlands as they were when she was a child. The pines reaching to the stars and the lonely song of a far-off wolf. The crickets and firefly’s serenading the night. The sweet smell of night flowers in bloom. The cosmic wheel she was under with it’s two beautiful moons. She remembered the Holy See of Ishgard when she was a child. Carved out of the sea of spires itself. Spiraling up into the clouds. Watching her brave knights saddle and mount their chocobo’s lances flaring in the morning Sun.

She slowly opened her eyes. Marishi had regained composure of herself. Odd that her mind went to the memories of her childhood to calm her she thought in passing. Sighing, she remounted the Wyvern. Whatever, however many were waiting, there was no choice but to move forward and deal with it all at the Gamma Quadrant. “Let’s go,” Marishi said to the Wyvern as it dashed off the rocks and floated the thermal currents of Azys Lla.

Arriving on the Gamma Quadrant, the dragon bore close to itself and the Alagan City proper. It could easily be seen at this point. Jutting spires and twisting columns rose into the sky. Fractal and geometric designs adorned the buildings as well as it’s highways and byways. Soft blue lights pulsing. Some rubble could be seen here and there, but for the most part, the city itself lay in immaculate condition. There were containers of equipment and supplies near one of the largest spires with the widest base. Those containers were not of Alagan make and Marishi felt as if she could almost make out the two Ishgardians staring at her from below. Suddenly, the dragon hard banked away from the city as if something had frightened it. It beat it’s wings hard headed outside of the city limits. “Wrong way! You’re going the wrong way!” Marishi shouted at the Wyvern. It paid her no heed. Marishi spotted Rae and the other Wyvern waiting for them on an outcropping of rock, Rae clearly worried and concerned for Marishi. The Wyvern landed and as she slid off, both immediately took to the skies and left.

“They must not like it near the city. I wonder why. I wonder if they’ll come back for us when it’s over. I’m sorry I am late, love. There was something I had to check on. It is nothing, I am fine.” Marishi said with a soft chuckle when she saw Rae’s expression darken to worry. “I saw our destination while flying overhead. It’s not far from here. Looks like they’ve been setting up shop judging by all the equipment and supplies.” Marishi’s face turned to one of anger. “They know we’re here and they know we’re coming. We don’t have the advantage of surprise. This is the final dash. Know that whatever happens, I love you. You’re the only thing worth loving in this cruel world. For you, and your future, so I fight. I give all hope to you. And leave none for myself. Come,” Marishi took Rae’s hand. “The way isn’t far.”

They moved off the outcropping and shortly came upon an intricately designed road with blue lights illuminating the edges and a strip in the middle. As they walked the path their feet made slight metallic rings as their heels hit the road. All around them were massive buildings. Some giant bubbles connected with skyways to other spires or pillars. Some with doors clearly barred from entry with security protocols. As they walked, the buildings became more closely and tighter packed. The acrid smell of lightning on the winds and the distant clap of thunder. The wind began to pick up and it seemed the forbidden isles above the world also experienced weather patterns. They were completely underneath the buildings near the crates of mining and drilling equipment of all kinds. Marishi and Rae could see the where the road ended up ahead. It led to a massive door with bars of blue light across it with the floor being stone but cut into circular patterns, like tiny aqueducts.

There, one leaning against the wall, smoking and the other sitting on the ground, were the Ishgardians. Waiting, once again for their arrival. Rae and Marishi faced them, hand in hand, waiting for them to speak.

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"Well, well," mused Honfraint as Marishi and Rae approached. he sneered at them, confidence oozing from his very aura. Tarresson lifted his head and gazed at the two as they approached, but he kept his tongue still. He held his staff close. He could sense something was amiss, but he couldn't quite place his finger on it. "Look at what the cats have drug in. So kind of you to come here, it saves us the trip of finding you!" While Honfraint laughed, Tarresson only smirked.

Rae smiled back, tapping her cheek with her free hand while her other held onto Marishi's. "My, how thoughtful of us indeed! Perhaps you'd like to repay us by surrendering without a fight?" Her tail swished behind her lazily. She felt no fear towards these men. They were not a threat to them anymore.

Honfraint burst out laughing, his pipe falling to the ground as he did. "Please! Surrender? Do you think we'd get you all the way here just to beg for your mercy," while still smiling and chuckling, Without another moment's hesitation, the Elezen drew out his sword and shield, swinging the blade's handle in his hand with deft precision. He was a master at handling his weapon, that much was evident even without the showmanship. "If I seem to recall, the last battle went in our favour. You and your whore of a wife were on your knees until you had to call to the aid of the Primals to aid you. Lucky for us you tainted your blood for our cause. How you aren't acting as thralls, I won't know, nor do I care to find out."

"Caution, Honfraint." Warned Tarresson. His eyes narrowed at Rae as she stepped forward, putting herself between the sword-wielding knight and Marishi. However, if the other knight heard his companion's words, it wasn't noticeable.

Rae smirked and rested her hand on her rapier, watching the two men with casual disregard. She leaned on one foot and cocked her head to the side. "We were withholding our full strength when against you. We knew we'd have to fight Shinryu. You were never the real prize, just the cheap consolation should Shinryu arrive a little later than we expected. Of course, you lot are all used to being put second to grander things, aren't you?" Rae smirked, her tail flicked with a wicked delight as she watched the emotion flash across Honfraint's features, betraying his stone-like demeanour.

"I tire of your filthy whore mouth running off. Now that Marishi is here, we don't need to keep you alive to make sure she cooperates," the Elezen spat. A bitter cord was struck within him with her words, which gave Rae a sick satisfaction. He raised his blade and pointed it to Rae and he glared at her down his weapon. "You will be the first to die, and I shall relish it." Without warning, he sprinted towards Rae, the distance between them closing quickly.

But Rae was quicker.

She draw out her weapon and channelled her energy through it, conjuring a spell of fire. Once he was close enough, Rae threw her spell at him. The confident Elezen laughed and skidded to a stop, throwing up his shield, but his partner knew better. Blew flames shot from Rae's magicite directly towards Honfraint and Tarresson called out desperately, "DODGE THAT!" Before he could move, the flames burst against his shield, sending his arm flying sideways and his body flying backwards. The flames were extinguished upon impact, but little smoulders danced to the ground and flickered there until they died off. The air around them seemed to crackle next. Rae was preparing a second spell. Before she could take appropriate aim, Tarresson was at Honfraint's side, casting a spell over them both that granted them immunity to spell attacks. Rae drew back her rapier and watched, a fire in her eyes that hand't been lit in so long. 

Honfraint was finally to his feet, but his arm hung limply at his side. It was dangling in a sickly manner. The muscles and ligaments were torn, the joint connecting his shoulder and arm dislocated. His left arm was entirely useless. Rae stood straight and smirked. "Ready to beg yet?" She teased.

"To the deepest, darkest part of Hell with you, bitch," Hofraint groaned, standing on his own two legs finally. Tarresson placed his hand on his companion's shoulder and shook his head, but before he could speak, Honfraint quipped. "No, you can't keep me from killing the bitch. I will bathe in her blood. She will die by my hand."

"Please note the use of the singular word 'hand'. You probably won't be using that other one ever. Why don't you let me do you the favour and cut it off?" Rae shouted. It was her turn to spur them into a blind rage. She wanted one of them--any of them--to charge at her so she could test her new-found powers.

Tarresson stepped forward, gripping the staff tightly and scowling at Rae. Honfraint attempted to dissuade him from attacking, but his friend's honour would not be sullied like that, no. He threw up his weapon and channelled his power through it, conjuring up a spell of fire as well. Rae prepared to parry it, until she realized he was aiming the blast at Marishi. She glanced between the two briefly before forcefully shoving Marishi out of the way, then jumping to the side. The explosion went off, shaking the ground beneath them and instantly raising the temperature in the air around them. Auras danced in the air as particles of water atoms were destroyed from the immense heat. Rae got to her feet and grimaced. "Pick your opponent, Black Mage, or you'll find the other will cut you down far too soon." She cautioned, then threw a whip of energy at the Black Mage, who rose his weapon up to defend himself. Rae's whip latched on and she pulled herself forward. Just as before, Honfraint was in between them, blade extended to parry the advance. Rae knew it would happen, however, and attempted to deflect the blade, but the rod clattered to the ground, causing her to lose her balance and skid to a stop just before the blade was brought down before her. Had she moved more, she surely would have been beheaded. She attempted to pierce through the mail between Honfraint's plates of armour, but Tarresson was on her quickly, summoning his rod to his hand and summoning a blast of ice at her. Before he could get the attack off, however, she sliced at his hand, causing him to recoil and stop the spell and she jumped back, flipping around in the air and landing on her feet, rapier aimed at the two and not a sweat breaking her brow.

"So this is how strong you are," Rae mused to herself. "Very well. I shall no longer hold back." With that, she brought up her rapier and began casting a spell again. As she did, the ground between Honfraitn and Tarresson shook. A crack appeared in the metal surface of the platform they stood upon. Before the two of them could react, a spire of stone rose up between them, separating them as they both were sent flying opposite directions. Rae didn't give Tarresson a moment to think before she was upon him once more. She slashed her rapier across his chest, cutting through his padded leather vest and piercing his skin, causing a splash of blood to splatter onto the ground. Her rapier seemed to drink up his blood, rejoicing in the metallic taste. Rae slashed again, but he dodged it, clutching his chest and gasping for air, but Rae moved far quicker than he could anticipate. Soon, she had the man pinned against the stone wall she had created, her rapier at his throat.

"Surrender." She hissed.

The Elezen stared at her, then looked to the crystal hovering nearby and he sneered. "Ah. I see. That is where you went. To visit Bahamut's incestuous bitch. It seems you weren't strong enough to beat us. Not without the help of yet another mindless beast."

Rage flashed across Rae's eyes as she threw Tarresson from the wall and onto the ground. He laid there, still, accepting his consequences. Rae stepped over to him, standing over his body, her feet pinning his arms down by stepping on the cuffs of his cloak. "And how does it feel to lose to a dragon-sympathizing heretic?" She whispered while raising her rapier above her head, then slamming it down into his neck, severing his artery.

The blood didn't flow until after she pulled her blade away. It spurted out rapidly, a pool of it grew beneath her feet at such a fast rate. The man didn't die instantly, no. He watched as his vision turned black, the last thing he saw was Rae stepping over him and turning her eyes to his companion. His last thoughts were of Ishgard and the Archbishop, then of his bitterness towards it all. If he knew this was how he would die, he would never have become a knight of the Twelve.

Rae stopped before Honfraint, who watched as his friend's eyes slowly lost the light in them. Rae's rapier raised to his face, blood still dripping from it. "Surrender." She offered him as well, a cold tone in her voice, one that sent chills down his spine.

"I.... I yield." He croaked, dropping the sword he held to the ground and kicking it away. Honfraint raised his one good hand, then dropped to his knees, keeping his eyes on his dead friend's body.

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Marishi watched the battle unfold in a detached sense. She felt nothing. This, what she yearned for, what propelled her forward. Nothing. She felt neither anger, hate, joy, or sadness. She heard the words that were spoken but didn’t understand them. “I don’t understand this anymore.” She whispered. She watched as the knight’s arm was shattered. She watched the two mages battle. She watched as Rae gleefully cut down the other. Spilling his blood on the ground.

Marishi grimaced. She didn’t want this. Not anymore. She was tired of the bloodshed and violence. She wasn’t just a creature driven by hate and revenge.

There had been a subtle change in Marishi since her assault. She saw the world in a different light. Physically and mentally. She hung on to her hate scared that was all she had. But slowly, the hate began to fade away. Replaced by a terrible sadness and sense of exhaustion. How pointless had this become? Marishi stared down at her hands and saw all the blood she had spilled. Was it worth it? She was a butcherer, a dealer in lives. A contract killer. She took away choice from the untold amounts she had cut down. Just as her choice was taken from her. She was no better than her assailant. They both forced their wills over others and took away their choice. As Marishi watched the blood flow from the mage's neck, she couldn’t help but be ashamed.

She heard the knight. Marishi looked over to Rae and said, “Stop. That’s enough. Step back. I’ll take care of this one.” She walked slowly over to him. He looked so small and pitiful on the ground, holding his destroyed arm waiting for Marishi to render her judgment. As she walked, she slowly drew her Katana from its sheath and advanced upon him, naked blade in her hand. She stopped within striking distance and leveled the curved blade to his line of sight.

“You. You would have seen myself and my wife dead ten times over. You fed us to the Monolith not expecting us to live through it. You try to kill us at every turn. Then you kidnap and bring us to this horrid place. Oh yes, I know all about this place. More so than you, I gather. Did you know that they not only subjugated your sworn enemies, but they subjugated your kind as well, Elezen? Did you know they tortured and bled dry your kinsmen for splicing and repurposing experiments? Their bodies dismembered and sitting vats. Right now. Still alive in the Quarantine Block. You would pick up where they left off? Because that’s where that door leads. The Allagans are held as this advanced and master race, when in fact, they were monsters. Just like the ones that roam these islands in agony.” Marishi said to him sword still leveled. Her voice had risen and her strength returned to her. She knew what she would do.

“You act in the name of your Holy See, but you don’t realize that there is no more Holy See. You torture and butcher for a cause that no longer exists. Your Church. Your Doctrine. Your Thordan. Dead. Slain by their own hands. Drowned in their own self-deceit. You would deliver the knowledge of this land to heretics branded traitors? They wouldn’t restore your faith. Or your noble house. They would turn your land. Our land. Into another Azys Lla. Don’t you understand that?” Marishi asked him.

Honfraint stared up at Marishi. He knew she was going to kill him. Why she hadn’t yet confused and irritated the knight. “Spare me your musings. If you’re going to kill me, be about that business then. You’ve every right to. I’d happily take your life if our roles were reversed. So do your work.” There was a twinge of shame and remorse in his voice as he hissed at Marishi.

“Don’t you see? That’s the point. I’m not like you. I have the choice to spare your life.” Marishi said quietly and she reversed her weapon and silently sheathed it. “There has been enough death in our wake. This place is death incarnate. I am weary. Weary of the blood and the screams. There is more than just self-destruction. Even you, in your own twisted and a corrupted way, can understand that. I pity you. So, twisted by your own hate and anger you can’t even see it.” Marishi stared down at him for a moment. No sound passing between them.

“You yield. I honor your forfeit on the field. You will hand over your linkpearl or whatever means of communication you have with Ishgard and surrender it. When transportation arrives, you will be taken into custody and you will stand for crimes. You may not be spared the noose, but I will see to it that you aren’t mistreated. That is your judgment decreed.” Marishi said. She felt a great weight lift away from her. It was like she had been breathing toxins for years and finally be given fresh air. She struggled to hold back tears but she smiled at the knight and said, “I forgive you of your transgressions. Repay this debt by learning from what was said and what has happened here today.”

Honfraint was stunned into silence. Anyone that knew of Marishi Ten knew that she was quick to cut. They knew her to be dark and brooding. Angry and tempest. Of all the people in the world, for her to show mercy, Marishi was the least likely. He was confused and bewildered. So sure of his imminent death that to suddenly be freed from the gallows, he knew not what to think.

Marishi turned towards Rae. “Do not look at me so. This is the right thing. When was the last time we could say that we did the noble and virtuous act?” Marishi smiled at Rae, her red and her black eye showing true happiness behind them. Something they had never showed before. Marishi could smell the moisture in the air. It was gathering above them and forming into rain clouds. The light didn’t change and the Sun still was weak amidst the Aetherically tainted area, but it was present. “A rain to wash the world clean. This might be the first rain Azys Lla has ever seen. Wash away the blood and the pain from the land. And ourselves. We are free now my Sunlight. Free to be who we choose to be. Perhaps I’ll be a seamstress. Hang up the sword for a loom!” Marishi teased as the first drops began to fall.

The rain was a cleansing and healing rain. Softly falling musically chiming as it soaked the ground. “Take him away and divest him of his linkpearl. Reach the House of Commons and request they send an airship with supplies and healers as quickly as possible. A distress call on Azys Lla. They will respond.” Marishi said as the water was beginning to splash her face and dampen her clothing. “I think I’ll remain here a moment. It’s peaceful, in a way. We are finally free.” She said to Rae. True happiness in her voice, ringing so clearly. She had been smiling the entire time.

Honfraint was moved to a dome underneath one of the structures and feet were bound. His hands would be bound save for the shattered arm. Marishi watched Rae bind him. Smiling at her. “The Sun can finally rise now that the sky is now clear. A true union of the Moon and Sun. In harmony moving along the ever-shifting wheels.” She quietly said. Marishi closed her eyes and pointed her face towards the sky being cleansed by the rains that fell.

A loud snap broke the quiet of moment. The noise was jarring. Marishi opened her eyes and slowly turned her head back to level with the ground. She was no longer smiling. The blood drained away from her face leaving it ashen with translucent lips as she slowly reached up and cupped her hand over her neck. She felt the warm blood begin pumping out of her arteries. She turned around to see a figure she did not recognize holding the smoking barrel of a firearm in his hand. “What?” Marishi whispered. She heard someone screaming her name, but she could not answer. Marishi’s knees buckled as her legs could no longer support her weight. She landed on her knees and staring at the figure, no more than 18 years of age, she recognized him.

That was the Highlander that had raped her. But he was dead and this person far too young. Marishi’s mind forcefully recalled him begging for his life, not for himself, but for his family. He had a Son. He must have seen Marishi standing over the corpse of his Father, Katana in hand dripping with his blood. He was the presence she felt dogging them in The Peaks and Loch Seld. He followed them to the ends of the world for the moment he could take her life. She looked at him with sadness and tears in her eyes. There was a ringing in her ears that grew louder and louder and her breaths became short and shallow. He stared back at her, with nothing but hatred in his eyes, his face contorted in rage, it almost looked inhuman. Though Marishi couldn’t hear, she heard him say “I have avenged my Father by taking your life, whore.” He then reversed the barrel of the weapon, placed it in his mouth, cocked the hammer in the striking position, and pulled the trigger.

Blood was pouring from Marishi’s wound and no amount of pressure could staunch the bleeding. She could hear screaming close now. Someone was calling her name. The Sun? The Sun was calling her name. She was comforted by this as she felt herself fall backward. She was caught by Rae. Tears streaming down her cheeks, fear, and panic gripping her face. She tried to place a cloth over the wound on Marishi’s neck. “No, leave it. It is over.” She said looking up at Rae. “The boy. Make sure … he is … okay.” Blood entered Marishi’s lungs causing her breathing to shorten even more and begin to seep from her mouth. She was beginning to get tired now. Sleep was stealing itself on her. She could feel her soul beginning to detach itself from her ruined body. “No … No more tears … My Sun … I would … see you … smile … again. My life … Was saved … when I found you from … the crowd in … Ul’Dah. Don’t be … sad … anymore. I am ready.” Darkness was beginning to cloud her vision and her breath became soft as her heart slowed. “I would … kiss you … last time.” Marishi asked Rae. She bent over and softly kissed her ashen lips stained with crimson.

Time seemed to freeze at that moment as Rae embraced her Wife for the final time. There was no sound. Not from the rain, or wind. The world was frozen in place. Rae could feel Marishi slightly stiffen, then relax. Her hand upon her neck falling away. As Rae pulled away from Marishi’s face she could see that there was no more life in her. Both pupils dilated staring at nothing in the sky, her mouth slightly open with blood streaming out of the corner, her neck, jaw, and chin coated in a layer of bright red blood.

The rain continued to fall. The healing rain soaking the earth as Rae held her dead wife in her arms.

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Rae watched warily as Marishi spared his life and forgave him. Was this wise? Who was to say he wouldn't try to get revenge somehow? Or perhaps have some one else carry on his mission? Men like him clung to their old ways. He'd be back again, seeking this power and knowledge to force the hand of Ser Aymeric to bend a knee and allow the Holy See to return. She wouldn't question her, however. Rae could sense a change in Marishi. Doing this was better than dealing death. She was learning too that a life for a crime was no way to find closure.

Obediently Rae went about tying up Honfraint, smiling to Marishi's musings. It was when she heard the shot that her ears raised and she spun around. The first thing she saw was the smoking gun, then the blood. Was that... Marishi's?

No, he had to have missed. There was no way a bullet would have hit Marishi. As she fell to her knees, Rae scrambled to her feet and ran to her. She was screaming Marishi's name, but she didn't know why. Her body was moving upon instinct now. Rae caught Marishi before she hit the ground, her hands went to the wound to stop it, but it wouldn't cease spilling. She frantically thought of spells she could use to cauterize the wound, but nothing came to mind. She didn't know how to stop this from happening. Another shot was heard, but barely. Rae was repeating Marishi's name as if saying it would cancel the effects of blood loss. 

Marishi spoke, and Rae instantly sucked in her breath, listening. Her legs and stomach were covered in blood as well as her hands. She stared at Marishi as she spoke, Rae shook her head. No, no this wasn't the end. This couldn't be. No, no, no. There had to be something. Something! What was the point of being this strong if she couldn't save the only thing that mattered?! Once Marishi asked for a kiss, tears streamed down her face, blending in with the rain. A kiss, yes. A kiss would save Marishi, just like in the stories her mother told her. Rae leaned down, holding Marishi in her arms still, and pressed her lips against hers, tasting the copper taste of Marishi's blood, but she did not recoil. She stayed there, wishing so desperately that her life would pass through her lips and into Marishi. This had to be a dream. She must be dreaming. Maybe she was still on the ship? Maybe she was with Tiamat still? Maybe she was in bed in Mor Dhona with Marishi still at her side, their arms wrapped around one another and their legs and tails tangled together. 

As she pulled away and gazed down at the lifeless eyes of her wife, the pain set in. It reached farther than any depth of her soul she had known she had. The pain that settled instantly killed off that part of her, but it didn't stop there. Like vines, the pain sprouted limbs that grew and twisted within her, latching on to any part of her that it could reach. It sucked away her ability to move, to breathe, to think. For a moment, she thought she too was dying or dead. The gods would not be so merciful. The longer she stared into Marishi's eyes, the worse she felt, the more was robbed of her. She felt years of her life die off with the light in Marishi's eyes. She felt memories of anything but Marishi fade away. She was nothing without Marishi, and now, she was nothing. Nothing but the sorrow that now grew within her.

She finally sucked in air and let lose a cry. It was deep, pulled from the depths of her being. Like all the wails she would have let out during her life upsurged within her. The sound she made was not something a mortal should make. The rain poured harder and the winds finally returned, pushing at her body, carrying her agonized bellow into the abyss. The rain poured so hard that none could hear her cry, but they could feel it. The sound resonated within the chests of all those around. From the Delta Quadrant, the children of Meracydia raised their heads and looked to the distance, then joined in the wailing of the one who shared a kindred spirit with their brood's matron. From the dome, Honfraint stared, tears rolling down his face. He knew not why they fell, but a sadness such as that was so contagious. He wept. He wept for those he had lost and the chances he had missed. He wept for the evil he was about to commit and for his wicked choices. He wept for the woman kneeling outside, crying into the wind over the one thing she had in this world.

The cries did not stop there. With each breath followed another groan as Rae wrapped her arms tightly around Marishi's lifeless body, cradling it close to her to protect it from the winds and rain, wishing and hoping the fairy tales were real, that true love would stop all endings that were bad and leave only the good ones to be had. Rae's ears strained for hearing Marishi's breath, to hear her voice again. The outsides of her vision blackened as she focused, trying to see the soft rise and fall of her chest, to see the movement of her lips, the curve of her smile. When nothing came, Rae fell over Marishi's body, fainting from the sheer, overwhelming agony she felt deep within her heart and soul.

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Assistance eventually arrived by way of Ser Aymeric. They collected their inventory. One male. Elezen. Alive. Multiple fractures to the arm. One female. Miquot’e. Alive. Unconscious. One male. Elezen. Dead. Throat slashed open. One male. Assumed Highlander. Dead. Fatal head injury from a firearm. And finally, one female. Miquot’e. Dead. Arteries severed in the throat. Two alive. Three dead. The two that were alive appeared much like their fallen comrades. Ashen and lifeless. The two were taken to the infirmary where Honfraint was then taken into custody to stand before the tribunal. He would spend the rest of his life as a friar to the Fury. In repentance for his wrongdoings. Terasson was cremated per Holy See doctrine and personal wishes. None came to collect the unidentified male. His remains were interred below Ishgard in the catacombs that housed her dead.

Marishi’s requests were not to be cremated, but to be buried in the land of her birth. Coerthas. Coerthas wasn’t always a mountain range blasted with perpetual snow. Before the Calamity, the weather was much more temperamental and warm. It was midday when the attendees began to gather. It was cold, but not snowing. Several rows of chairs were placed before a wooden podium and beside that podium was freshly turned earth. Behind the small mound, a simple stone tablet stood. It read a name, the era of birth, and the era of death. Behind the tablet was a large evergreen tree. Spanning out to incredible heights. It’s said that this tree is one of the first in all of Coerthas and is as old as the earth itself. The tree gave off a peaceful and delicate aroma that soothed the raw and grieving hearts. A funeral procession was to be made here. Underneath the ancient tree. Buried beneath the snow some short ways from the tree, one could discover remnants of a building charred and destroyed by fire. Only the foundation existing. It’s story now known only to one.

News of Marishi’s death reached far. From Mor Dhona to Gridania to Gyr Abania to as far as even Hingashi. The guests from all walks of life quietly arrived and took their seats. Some sullen, some grim, some with red eyes from weeping. The front row was reserved for those that would speak of Marishi. Her deeds, her actions, her words, her stories, her adventures. To the left slightly away from the rest sat a larger chair, lacquered in black. This seat was reserved for the widow of the deceased. All present were formally dressed, or as close to formal as could be observed. Soldiers of The Twin Adder donned their ceremonial attire that glistened and glinted in the Sun. Husbands held wives close and Mothers rocked their children gently. All waiting for the procession to begin.

The last to arrive was Rae. Dressed in black with a veil to cover her features, she silently took her seat and waited for the procession to begin.

The Serpent Marishl, freshly arriving from the fields of Loch Seld, stood up and took his place behind the podium. He withdrew a parchment of paper from his breast with shaking hands and stared down at it. He could see the letters, he penned them himself, but he couldn’t understand what the words said or meant. He lowered his head in grief for several moments. He closed his eyes and tried to feel the world around him. It was solemn but peaceful. There was a presence that seemed to spread like a soothing balm from all those who were suffering the loss of Marishi Ten. The Serpent Marshal could swear he could feel her comforting him and by this, he was able to find the strength to speak. “Friends. Comrades. Brothers. We gather here today to honor one who has passed to the lifestream. Her name is Marishi Ten. She was born around these parts of the world. And here she has returned.” The Marshal paused a moment trying to form the words his emotions willed him to. “I am not here to lament a death. We are not here to mourn the passing of our beloved friend. No.” For the first time in his life, the Marshal began to silently weep, though his voice stayed strong and never broke. “We are here to celebrate a life. A life of honor. Of servitude. Of humbleness. We are here to pay homage to the world Marishi left her mark on. I’ll not speak to you of how she died. For my heart fails me when I think about it. But I’ll tell you how she lived.” He looked over the small audience. Many were quickly wiping away tears from their eyes.

“I remember when she came to the Barracks to enlist. Slip of a thing. Couldn’t have been 17. Of course, I turned her away. What use could the company have of a soldier that didn’t know how to soldier. But she didn’t leave. Gods was she defiant. She stood there all night, in the rain, not taking no for an answer. Her sheer determination is what made me enroll her into the Conjurers Guild. I wouldn’t let her soldier. Not one as small and young as she was, but she had some talent in the ways of white magics. Of course, we didn’t realize how much until the Padjaal called upon her to become a fully fledged White Mage. She provided succor for those in need during those days. So long ago. She could bring a man back from the brink of death with but a few waves of her staff. She was so bright and full of hope. She dreamt and spoke of a world that could be healed from its suffering and malaise.” He paused a moment almost not wanting to continue.

“But war broke out. And all divisions were mobilized. I was Marishi’s commanding officer. The Garlean Empire attempted their foray into Eorzea to bring us into their fold. No, that’s not quite right. One Legatus, the White Raven, sought to scorch the earth by calling down the heavens. We were stationed in Mor Dhona at that time. I remember seeing the earth rise from the ground in Coerthas. Scared the hell out of my men, but not Marishi. She had that look of defiance on her face. You know, that look that tells you that no matter what you say or do her mind is made up and by hells are you coming with her?” He chuckled at the remembrance of Marishi. “We were ordered to march on Cartenau Flats as rearguard. I remember Marishi addressing one of her senior officers trying to explain that something wasn’t right. There were things that weren’t being told. That the land was terrified over what was to come. Of course, we brushed it off like the idiotic blokes we were, even though there were reports of Aetherytes being bled dry by some entity we never could understand, Atomos. There were the reports of phantoms that mirrored the White Raven appearing in the Steps of Thal. We dismissed them. We dismissed the unnatural quiet of the land. I can’t recall seeing or hearing a single bird or animal during our assignment in Mor Dhona or the Flats. That should have told us to listen to the girl. But we were so sure of ourselves. So confident in our alliance with the other nations. Nothing could stop us. And for a moment, nothing could. Well, you all know the rest.” The Marshal said. He didn’t mean to blather on about the past. In his older age, his tendency to recall the glory days of his youth became stronger and stronger.

“After the Calamity, Marishi left the city. To my shame. Exile. After that, I hadn’t seen her until a few weeks ago in Loch Seld. She was still vibrant and beautiful. But she was tempered. That defiant will hadn’t left, but it was honed. She brought with her a companion though. A woman quite charming that any man would be the envy of his neighbor to have on his arm.” He glanced at Rae and winked. “I reinstated Marishi on the spot. Herself and Rae are the only reason I am able to be today. They may be the reason why any of us are able to be here. They stopped a massacre from happening to our men. For that, I, we, will forever be in debt. Thank you, Rae Ten. It was neither yours nor Marishi’s fight to take up, but you did without complaint and saved my life.” The Marshal said humbly addressing Rae directly. He turned to address the gathering one last time. “Marishi was my soldier, my savior, and my friend. I keenly feel her loss and I know the world is darker for her passing. But, perhaps. Across the Great River. I’ll be able to see my friend again and tell her how much I love her. Thank you.” Brookstone quietly stepped down suddenly feeling very old and very tired. He kneeled down next to the gravestone and whispered “Until we meet again, my friend. Until we can begin adventures anew. You have earned your rest. Be at peace, daughter of Gridania.” He stood, and took his seat in the procession, head low, not speaking a word for the remainder of the day.

There was movement in the back as someone walked to approach the podium. The woman was a Midlander. Short brown hair with red mascara denoting her Ala Mhigan heritage and a gaudy and brightly colored outfit. Gold rings and jewels on every finger. Rowena of the House of Splendours needed no introduction. Her normal grinning face replaced by a mask of true sorrow. “Marishi was a pain in me arse. Always questionin’ or proddin’. When I first met the girl, I was just startin’ out in the Toll. She had been doin’ the odd job or two from the Adventurer’s Guild, but I could see she was somethin’ else. She was special. She had talent. I tried ta make her one of my girls at first.” Rowena said laughing, remembering the instance. “She just about laid me low at the mention of it. Back then, there weren’t many Far East trained adventurers and she was one of the best. I never saw her fight, but everyone in the Toll knew to not cross swords with Marishi Ten. I hired her for the odd job when she came round. I’d sit her down at the table and try to explain the score. She’d stare at me like I was half-witted and ugly as a troll to boot! Drove me insane. I reckon she didn’t approve of me garb and whatnot. We’d bicker like an elderly couple overpay or supplies or whatnot. Rubbin’ each other the way misfits like us only could. I remember when she showed up as normal, but she wasn’t alone. She had with her the most precious thing to ever enter Mor Dhona. I don’t know she conned Rae into takin’ her hand, but she did and Gods they were inseparable. You could almost tell their arrival in the Toll just by the feel of the city. People went about their day in a better mood or were more apt to laugh or hug their wives or children. Marishi and Rae brought with them life wherever they went. They enriched others with no thought of payment of any kind. That’s a rare trait to find in a person. Their love fer one another was so disgustin’ apparent, you could damn near cut it with a knife!” Rowena laughed. It used to irritate her to no ends to watch Marishi and Rae in public. But now, she wished she could see them in the throngs of merchants and buyers in Mor Dhona holding hands or kissing one last time. “I’m so sorry fer yer loss, Rae Ten. It’s a loss I dare say none here will recover from. Just know that as annoyin’ as Marishi was, she was still my friend. One of my only friends. Whatever you need, girl. You let Rowena know. It’s on the house.” Rowena stepped down from the pedestal and paused at the gravestone. She didn’t say anything, but there were dark water drops where she stood over it. Sniffing and holding back tears, she sat back down in the back of the procession.

All was still. Each person lost in their memories of Marishi. Each comforted with the knowledge that they met her and had the honor to share time together. Long moments passed of silence, each person grieving the loss of Marishi Ten. The sound of light footsteps slightly packing down the snow could be heard. As the gathering looked up, there was someone standing at the pedestal. Dressed in black. Rae scanned the audience before she began to speak.

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She was grateful for the veil. Though no tears rolled down her cheeks, she felt them well up in her eyes. She was among friends and family, however. At her side was her mother, who looks very similar to her. Fiery red hair, full cheeks, button nose, slender jaw and body. Her eyes, however, were a bright blue. Rae had the eyes of her father, to which her mother would comment upon always. Throughout the speakers' words, Rae held her mother's hands. It gave her strength when she felt she would lose it. At moments where the congregation would laugh, she laughed. She smiled back at the speakers as they addressed her, feeling unspeakable joy as she realized just how much her late wife meant to them. Before long, and perhaps all too soon, it was her turn.

Rae slowly walked to the podium, her mother watching her with tears in her eyes. She was like a ghost. Her footsteps were gentle, smooth. She glided across the snow like an spectre. Her black garbs a hard contrast to the pure white that surrounded them. The snow was not her home, but as she stood there before everyone, she never felt more at peace. She could see the people wiping their eyes as fresh tears sprouted upon seeing the widow stand before them. She expected to cry, but she would not let herself. Not yet. Her words of her beloved would not be tainted with the sobs and hiccups of her crying. As she approached the stand, she lifted the veil so that she could better gaze upon the people before her and allow them to see her face as well. Before she spoke, she smiled to them all. To see the number of people in the crowd touched her heart. She placed both hands before her, and finally spoke.

"Thank you," Rae said, a sudden silence and stillness settling upon the world in Coerthas. "Thank you, Serpent Marshal. Marishi ever spoke highly of you and never begrudged you for what befell her. She did not regret what she did, nor what happened to her as a result. Thank you, Rowena, for your kind words. You sent us on many glorious adventures, some of which were harder than their worth, but never one did we resent. Marishi respected you, despite your many quarrels." Rae smiled and chuckled, then swallowed hard and sucked in deep. Now came the hardest part. She didn't plan what she would say, for anything she planned sounded scripted. This must come from the heart. Whatever her heart told her, she would say it without hesitation.

"I remember the day Marishi and I met. It was a busy afternoon in Ul'Dah. I remember the heat being almost unbearable. I was making my way through, attempting to find an inn, as I had just stepped off the airship from Limsa Lominsa. The heat I remembered, but that day seemed especially intolerable. I think it was a combination of the amount of people that was in Ul'Dah that day and the fact that I had lived so long on a small island sheltered from most intense weather that I had grown weak to the elements. Amidst the crowd and the chaotic hustle and bustle, I spotted something that captured my attention. Eyes like rubies that sparkled in the light. It was a one-in-a-million glances, but it just happened to be at the right time. We both were locked, time around us held still while everyone else moved around us, but never once did our eyes break connection. From that moment on, I knew I couldn't let her go.

"She brought a joy to me that I cannot begin to describe. I wouldn't want to keep you all out here in the cold for that long. There was a hole within me that I never knew I had. She was the missing puzzle to my life, and try as I might to reason that I was simply stricken with puppy love, the more time I spent with Marishi, the more I realized that she was the one. The first time I told my mother of Marishi, she thought I was speaking of a man. I remember the day when I brought her home and my mother was stunned. She never thought her daughter would love a woman, but as the two interacted and they grew to know each other, my mother accepted her like she was her daughter. She could see the happiness the two of us had with one another, she could feel the love we held for one another. With my mother's blessing, we were married. Our voyage across Eorzea brought us a few hardships. After the Calamity, most places were so infested with monsters, others were closed as they attempted to recover from the destructive power of Bahamut. Still, though, we would not be daunted. To the twelve vigils of the gods we journeyed. Each trek between giving us strength. No one could best us when we were together. Each held the other's trust and with that we overcame every obstacle set before us. I remember on our wedding day as I stood in the bridal room I couldn't keep myself from stealing away to Marishi's room. I knocked on the door and squeezed my eyes shut and heard her open the door. I was smiling, but tears were streaming down my face. She thought I was crying out of fear and panicked, and I had to tell her it wasn't fear, but happiness. She asked 'Rae, why are you closing your eyes?' and I answered 'It's our wedding day and I mustn't look upon my bride before the ceremony!' There was silence before she laughed at me at how silly I was." Rae chuckled as the congregation did as well. She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts, then continued on.

"I never wanted to be apart from her. Marishi... enhanced everything that I was, everything that I am. At times when her light grew dim and she felt she was a burden upon me, my light would shine and I would lift her up. When I was weak and vulnerable, she protected me and gave me strength. Our wrongs were forgiven between one another. Our fights never lasted long. Through our love, we were capable of surpassing any hardships within our relationship. There was no one else I wanted to love more than I wanted to love Marishi. I was allowed to see the side of her that a rare few had seen. I was blessed with the opportunities to be her strength when she was weak. I was honoured to bear witness to the many miracles that she performed, the amazing feats she accomplished, the wonderful deeds she had done. Marishi was a gift to this world, though she did not think it. She touched the lives of so many, and many more. On this day, we do not mourn her death, but rejoice in the life she lead. We honour her memory by living our lives the way she would want us to. To help those whom we are taught to not help. To fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. To love our families and friends unconditionally," Rae's voice picked up as she spoke the last bit, a burst of charisma flowing through her as she held onto the podium, speaking from her heart. She paused as her eyes lifted and gazed into the snowy tundras. There, beneath a tree, she could have sworn she saw the brilliant eyes of dalamud red gazing back at her. Her bottom lip trembled and her breath shuddered while tears streaked down her face. The image of her wife vanished, and with it took her breath, but not her words. Rae swallowed and breathed a calming sigh. "I know I shall. Though a life without the one I loved with all my heart will be difficult at times, there is work to be done in her name. For Marishi, I will live until the day comes that Nymeia accepts me into her embrace and I will be reunited with my beloved Marishi.

"Thank you all, once again, for joining me today to celebrate Marishi's life. I look out to this crowd and I feel blessed knowing Marishi affected so many. I hope we will continue on her legacy and make this world a better place to live, as that was all she ever wanted for us. While her body is not with us, I know she is with us in spirit. I can feel her even now warming my heart as she always did." Rae spoke softly, on hand resting on her chest and the other resting before her as she came down from her emboldened speech. Her heart pounded and ached, but she smiled. The tears had since stopped and stained her cheeks slightly, but still she smiled to those before her.

As the crowd began to slowly leave, offering their heart-felt condolences to Rae, she smiled and shook each hand and hugged a few people as well. Her mother took her hand to walk her back to the carriage, but Rae shook her head. "I'd like a moment alone with my wife." She said, tears forming in her eyes once more as she turned and approached the grave. She knelt down, allowing the tears to freely flow now, but still she smiled. Gently, Rae reached up and touched the tombstone where Marishi's name was carved. "I love you, Marishi Ten. Always, and forever."

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Bright light shines on a soft verdant meadow, the breeze gently pulling at the reeds and grass. A great river cuts the shorelines and above could be seen mountains with the whitest snow-capped tips. The water lazily drifts along downstream. There are light clouds in the sky and the warmth of the sir is enough to rouse any chill.

There is a well-trodden road that starts on the far side of the banks and stretches through the valley to paradises beyond. The road is easy and air so crisp and light, there is no fatigue. Dotting the meadow are white cherry blossom trees in full bloom, loosing their petals and dancing in the cool breeze.

Underneath a large blossom tree near the bank of The River, a hand can be seen lazily dipping in and out of the water. The hand is slender and pale. Skin as silky and pale as the Moon. Nails perfectly filed into the points at the tips. The hand belongs to a female Miquot’e. She is small and thin, with red hair and streaked highlights. Her lips are a slight shade or red which is worn in a lazy smile, not a care troubling her. Her eyes are deep ruby red and half closed as if drifting in and out of sleep. She is perfectly comfortable, laying in the grass, the light streaming down creating a halo effect.

The Miquot’e doesn’t move from this spot. She just lazily dips her hand in and out of the water. There are others who trod this road across the Great River. From all walks of life and all forms though there is no ferry, and landing on the far bank. Occasionally a curious traveler strays away from the road and approaches her. She is dressed in Far Eastern attire finely spun and black in color.

The travelers all ask the same question: What are you doing? The long road is over and the rest is just beyond the tree line. Why do you linger?

To which the Miquot’e woman always replies with the same answer: I am waiting. The Sun will one day come. She will be the most beautiful thing you’ll have ever seen. I will take her in my arms, tell her I love her and together we will take our place in the sky. But, not yet. There is much left to do, and I am patient. And so, I wait for the Sun to bless me once more and allow me to bath the night in silvery light.

The traveler will stare a moment in slight confusion and amusement, bow in respect and rejoin their companions on the road to everlasting rest, telling the tale of how they just met the Moon and she is far more beautiful than they ever dared hope.

Fin~

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