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Outsane

The Inherent Problems with Time Travel

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The Hinterlands were as she remembered them. The ruins of the once proud Sharlayan settlement stood, but the decaying remnants lay slowly reclaimed by the land around it as walls crumbled or were blown out by the Goblins. Machine and monsters alike roamed the the abandoned settlements, prowling through the streets or stalking the open areas around it. Pathways were nearly completely demolished outside the settlement borders. From their vantage point, the bridges that connected east and west were blown out save but one that was guarded by some of the local adventurers who knew it would be impossible to get from one side to another if the bridge were to crumble. The Dravanian Hinterlands were lush, teeming with life, and most importantly: dangerous.

Rae had visited the place once, but it was long after it had been abandoned by her people. Well, she could never truly call them “her people”. They tolerated her at best. The only ones who accepted her were a man she crippled herself, and another who wasn’t even Sharlayan, but a visitor to the island. The Sharlayans leered upon her with disdain. They took her from her home and forced her to stay among them to learn and attempt to make her into a weapon, but only two ever treated her as a human worthy of respect. The Sharlayans were as much her people as the Au’Ra were as much of the Dragons’.

Still, she would be counted as one of them. These ruins were part of her legacy. The passiveness was part of her history. Their knowledge was her’s, to an extent. She had liberal access to many of their books and many of their studies. Even as a defector, she still held the keys needed to access some of their precious secrets. The Great Gubal Library was one of them. With virtually countless corridors and bookshelves that were once filled to the brim with their collected knowledge, Rae once could have spent her days within the darkened building, letting her skin and hair pale and her eyesight grow dim from having her nose pressed into a book for endless hours in the day.

The other great landmark within the Hinterlands that Rae had rare access to was the very thing the Sharlayans created. A machine given a spirit by the Goblins that worshipped the craftsmanship. A machine made to defend the Sharlayans, but now no longer heeds their command unless it deems it so. A creation that all who know of it revere it with awe. Alexander.

They stood at the base of the great mechanism. Many years prior, this construct called upon Marishi. As she ventured its bowels and came to the core where the Primal existed, she made a pact with the entity, and in return, she gained perpetual youth until the time came for her task to be completed. That day seemed to soon approach as voices rang in Marishi’s head. It grew increasingly worrisome day by day as her wife related to her the symptoms and her feelings about it. Marishi was not one to speak up about things concerning her health much, unless it was debilitating. This was why Rae knew her wife was gravely serious about what was happening to her.

Rae vowed to protect her wife after that day. That day she failed, the day she nearly lost her wife. She swore nothing would befall her. Rae would move heaven and earth for Marishi. She would fight armies. She would forsake all she had, all she believed. She would do the impossible to save Marishi, to spare her from suffering again. Any trials Marishi faced, Rae would be beside her. Any victories she won, Rae would rejoice with her.

A door opened, sliding to the side to grant the pair access. Rae turned to Marishi, a comforting smile upon her face as she held out her hand to her wife. “Let’s go. Let’s find a way to stop the voices. Whatever the answer may be, it’ll be in here, I’m sure of it.” Rae assured her, a confident tone in her voice. The sun cast a glow across her face. It was no longer noon, but not nearly yet evening. The weather was perfect for their adventure. It seemed almost a pity to go inside, but they couldn’t speak with the Primal that inhabited Alexander’s body from outside.

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Marishi trudged along with Rae through the verdant ruins, but her eye was turned inwards. The voices had been whispering in her mind for months. They started as whispers and, over time, became desperate screams without end. The voices were so loud that at times, it was all she could hear. The voices were like a knife driving into her head causing migraines that would disable her ability to think clearly or even move, the sensitivity to light in her right eye compounding the pain. She did well hiding it from Rae at first, feigning overexertion or headaches. Then, the nose bleeds came. They would come without warning and they would last for hours causing her to become physically weak anemic. The bed sheets would be white at night. Come morning, they would be blotched with dark blood.

Marishi had told Rae about her venture inside the citadel and her ‘gift’ of eternal youth. Marishi did not speak of the covenant made, because it didn’t make sense to her. She didn’t speak of Alexander calling her back after the red moon fell reminding her of her duty and that she would do well to not forget. But, the flow of time speeding along, Marishi forgot. Until the metallic voices crowded her mind. She couldn’t understand what was said, but the intent was clear. Alexander has summoned you.

Uncharacteristic of Marishi, she told Rae of her headaches and the things she heard. Rae was adamant about Marishi visiting a specialist in Mor Dhona and the trek to the crystal blasted land was quick. However, none could find anything physically wrong with Marishi. For all intents, she was in absolute perfect health physically. Her Aetheric signature was certainly different from others, but was not so far out of sync that would cause her to become physically debilitated.

With less answers they had before they left, they returned. The headaches, nose bleeds, and voices became worse. They wouldn’t happen unceasingly. They would come in waves, each stronger than the last. During the lulls in pain, Marishi could recover and speak coherently. Finally, she spoke of having similar symptoms before, albeit not nearly as strong after the fall of Dalamud. It was Alexander summoning her to give her instruction. Abandon the healing arts and take up the Far Eastern blade. He even gifted her the weapon she would carry at all times. The Gordian Katana.

Rae without prompting began to charter ferries and coachmen that would ferry the two for the Hinterlands. She was more driven than Marishi was. She was scared to go. She felt something truly horrible was to happen. She had no logical reason to feel this way, but she felt it. From the pit of her stomach, she felt a storm of unparalleled magnitude was on the horizon. Marishi, despite these feelings of dread and anxiety, agreed to go. The pain and confusion was beginning to become constant and anything to reduce the pain in her head, despite the dread in her heart.

Marishi could see Rae taking in the ruins abandoned so many years ago with wide eyed wonder. Inwardly, she would have been amused and even have spoked of what she knew of them, save the chisel being hammered in her brain. Marishi was pale. More pale than normal and sweating even in the cool mountain air. She was lithe and small. Her figure slender with accents of her figure. Her curves small fitting her frame. She wore her cosmetics the old and the archaic way. Smoky shadow blended from her eyebrows to her temples. Dark and smudged. Long and dark eyelashes matching the color of her brows. Her hair a deep rust red, similar to old blood let from a liver. She wore it in a simple and single braid that fell over her left shoulder. The hair full and healthy. What was most contrasting about the way she looked was her eyes. Her eyes were startling. Her left eye the color bright red with the vertical pupil of the Miquot’e. Her right eye did not match the right. Her right eye was black. No pigment other than black. Her pupil perpetually dilated to full never to contract or respond to light. Her left eye no longer functioned. She could not see out of it and would cause her right eye vision to blur in bright, white lights. She was awarded this disability after she was assaulted, beaten, raped, and left for dead by a group of soldiers. Each finding their own end shortly after their crimes. An act of vengeance from a spouse consumed with rage, hate, and disgust.

Marishi wore the garb of the Far East. She didn’t wear the flowing hakama or Gi’s of her peer Samurai, but instead opted to wear form and lithe fitting Osode, black in color. Her Haidate she wore could be better described as tights. They were form fitting and accented her legs. The fabric itself tooled and woven to allow for mobility and breathing. The inside of the lower thighs woven in a fishnet style with sheer dark colored hose to protect against open skin. Her boots were leather and calf high with pointed toes and a small heel. Similar to riding boots, but lined for comfort and protection. Her Tekko matched the color of her Osode, tooled and fitted in black leather. Her fingers open to allow for free movement and dexterity. She wore nothing to protect her head due to her already decreased vision and depth of field. And covering for her head would interfere with her ability to see more so than it already was. She wore three weapons. The small tanto on the small of her back. The wakizashi short sword she wore at her hip, and finally, the intricate Odachi she wore above her wakizashi. The Gordian Katana. Wrapped in white cloth, the blade would pulse with soft, white light, the weapon imbued with a fragment of a God.

The two entered the silent, copper halls of the citadel. The doors opened by themselves, seemingly aware of their arrival. As they walked through the empty halls, the cogs and gears fired to life with pistons turning and steam blowing. Floor and flood lights illuminating slightly ahead of them, guiding their way. Beckoning them and leading them on a path mapped for them. Marishi entered Alexander and the voices suddenly stopped. The chanting instead reverberating from the hum of the machine coming to life and the frequency of the electricity charging the circuits. The feeling of despair taking the place of pain in her head.

Marishi knew she couldn’t run. Alexander wouldn’t let her. What was to happen, was to happen. The hand of fate silently pushing the two to the central core.

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Rae could almost sense the shift in emotion from Marishi. Casting a glance over her shoulder, Rae noted Marishi's dismal look and paused, taking a moment to turn to face her and clasp her hands onto her shoulders and look her into her good eye. "Marishi, it'll be okay. I'm here with you. I know enough about how Alexander works to keep us safe," she reassured Marishi. Truth be told, she wasn't entirely confident in herself, but she knew her own strength and at the very least, she could buy them enough time to escape if something terrible were to happen. Giving Marishi a smile, Rae turned back around, this time taking her wife's hand and guiding her along. As they scaled a few stairs and turned down a few hallways, Rae took note of every turn, of every passage they passed and entered. As they drew near a room with a large opening, Rae stopped their advance. "Wait a moment." She commanded, pausing at the entrance of the open area. As they waited, steam shot out from the walls, the hot air rising quickly to the ceiling. Gears cranked and turned, causing the door before them to move until it closed, then the whole wall itself began to shift and roll upward in a circle. As the door rolled up above the ceiling, another appeared and clicked into place where the old door once was. Then, with another hiss of steam, the door dropped down to reveal a small entry way that turned to the left. Rae walked into the newly-formed corridor, guiding Marishi along the way.

Throughout the hour-long voyage through the guts of Alexander, Rae would guide the two of them through as if she had been there countless times before. Once or twice at an intersection, she would reach into the pouch strapped to her side and produce a book, then flip through the pages and read several entries before clapping it shut and grabbing Marishi's hand and walking forward with confidence. The Sharlayans purposefully made Alexander's innards a maze that one could get lost and die in if they didn't pay attention. This was to avoid thieves who would undoubtedly come in to search for treasures to loot and sell off. Intermittently, Rae would spot evidence of someone having been there before. Markings on the doorways, abandoned belongings, bloodstains. No corpses, however. Rae paused once more at an intersection and read through the book, but as she did, the door before them slammed shut. The typical gears churning and hiss of steam could be heard as the door shifted upward to be replaced by another that opened to reveal a straight hallway. Pausing, Rae's right ear flicked rapidly as she thought. That wasn't in the book. She glanced back down to it once more, re-reading and mentally retracing their steps. She had followed it to a T, but never did it mention this conjuncture turning into a straight hallway. In fact, the shifting doorways should be long behind them. "Straight it is, I suppose." Rae murmured to herself, walking forward. This lead them to a whole new area of Alexander. The book she had which mapped out the journey to the Heart of Alexander was useless, as no direction written down in it matched with the description of the hallways they were journeying through.

Rae had to stop as she came to a room with five doors. Two on either side and one straight ahead. They hadn't made any turns yet and no doors had closed them off, so it was relatively easy to retrace their steps if needs be. Rae continued the trend, walking forward to the door opposite of where they stood. Before she could enter, however, a sheet of metal clapped down, sealing the door off. Rae jumped back, obviously startled by the sudden movement, then turned to the right door. Before she could even approach, it, too, slammed shut. She backed up a few steps, glancing around the room as the doors began to seal every doorway shut except for one. The first to the left. Sucking in a breath of air, Rae frowned. "It seems Alexander is guiding us to where we need to go, my Starlight." Rae stated flatly, turning to Marishi. "Do you need to rest? I have some provisions we can eat if you'd like. We've been on our feet for a while, so a break might be good." As Rae reached into her satchel, an angry hiss of steam blasted at her tail, causing her to jump and yelp in pain as the intense heat singed at her fur. She snatched up her tail while jumping towards the door and glaring up at the ceiling where the steam had shot from. "Fine! We'll keep going! Bastard Primal..." Rae spat, scowling while combing at the fur of her tail to brush it back into place.

The doorway lead to a winding staircase. Rae walked up first, her speed brisk at first, until after the 50th step where she began to slow down. She could feel her lungs grow heavy as she struggled to take a breath. Her inner ears felt pressure that was relieved as she opened her mouth wide and yawned, allowing them to pop. They were going higher and higher, she could tell. Still, things within Alexander remained warm. That was to be expected, however, given that the primal was a giant steam-driven machine. As the end drew near, Rae felt a tug of urgency at her consciousness. Immediately, she shot a glance to Marishi, ensuring she was safe. She appeared fine, if not worry-stricken. There was something else, then, that caused her this panic. Her heart thundered in her chest, her limbs trembled, sweat formed in the palms of her hands as she forced her legs to move forward. Before her stood a door sealed shut. Standing before it, Rae waited for it to register there was a presence there, but nothing happened. Rae stepped towards it and pressed her hand onto it, pushing onto the sturdy metal, but it did not budge. Examining the sides of the walls, she looked for a crack in which she could pry the door open, but nothing. "Hmm... Maybe he was purposefully guiding us to a dead end?" Rae suggested, turning to Marishi. As she faced away from the doorway, it suddenly slid open, causing Rae to jump, startled. Her hands went to the hilts of her rapiers, and it was then she felt the heat emanate from her Dreadwyrm Rapier. She had to pull her hand back and look at it, shocked by the heat it generated. Nothing else on her created that heat and there was no steam. Was her Primal-infused weapon reacting to the presence of Alexander? She read somewhere once that Alexander was created to defeat threats as fearsome as Bahamut...

Her train of thought was derailed as she lifted her gaze. Before them was not the heart of Alexander, but the topmost part, his head, where his brain would lay. A large glass window before them let in a blast of light from outside. Strangely, from this position within Alexander, the world looked brighter almost. Cautiously, Rae walked forward, looking around the open room with a scrutinizing gaze. It didn't appear to be an ambush. No Goblins were within, no thieves, no traps. "It's safe," Rae called to Marishi, waving her in while she approached the windows. She peered outside, taking in the scenery of the whole Hinterlands sprawled out before her. From her height, she felt as though she were a lord of the land, gazing upon it fondly. The barrier that kept Alexander's Aether-sucking presence contained slightly obscured her vision of the world outside, but it did not make it any less magnificent.  "This is beautiful." Rae murmured under her breath, looking to the western part of the land where she had scarcely been. It was more heavily populated with kin than the eastern hemisphere, but just as beautiful. A large tree grew from the arboretum. It seemed to violently reclaim the land around it, if the Morbols that stalked around were any indication to what happened when the building's walls collapsed. Tearing her gaze from the awe-inspiring scene, Rae turned back to Marishi. "Do you sense anything, darling?" Rae asked her, focusing at the task at hand. When this was all over, they'd have time to explore the Hinterlands properly.

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Marishi followed Rae’s lead, her head down with a blood crusted once white cloth in her hand. Her nose began to bleed in full force when they entered and it had not stopped. Blood droplets could be seen on the highly polished brass and brushed stainless steel flooring. Traces she had been there.

The walls moving and doors opening and closing by an unseen hand. Marishi knew it wasn’t Sharlayn ingenuity. It was Alexander. They didn’t need a map or a book to tell them where to go. He was leading them to where he wanted them to go. Once inside his belly, they were his. At least, Marishi was. Rae had no allegiance or loyalty to the Primal who resided over the past and future. He didn’t want Rae. He wanted Marishi.

It had been years since she had walked these halls, but they still felt familiar. Years past, Alexander had summoned her to remind her of the oath she had taken to him and to bestow upon her the gift of a blade unlike any other. His summons were much more urgent this time. Like the whip cracking at the back of slaves. Slaves to a God brought forth into the world not by divine intervention, but by belief and prayer.

Marishi thought about Alexander as they walked. She envisioned him bound by shackles and chains himself. Unable to free himself from the hands of fate. Enslaved by the very thing he could control. The thing that equalized all life in the world. The raw forces of nature could not even bend time to it’s will completely.

As they came closer to the intersection, Marishi could see distortions and mirages dancing off the polished walls. The heat of the steam and water creating a haze. In the haze she thought she could see dark figures moving, laughing, crying, loving. Young, old. As if she could see events of the past playing on a static induced screen. The voices in her head seemed to attune to these mirages, though they were garbled and couldn’t be understood, their emotions rang through clearly. Marishi clutched the cloth to her nose as she could taste nothing but hot iron on her through and tongue.

“… I don’t think we’re meant to rest. He is calling. Each summon louder and urgent. He wants me. He doesn’t want you. I don’t think he’s all that fond of you.” Marishi said to Rae through the cloth, her voice stuffy as she gazed at Rae clutching her tail from the blast of steam. She wasn’t amused or angry. She was strangely devoid of any emotion. “We go up. Up and up. He sits upon his gilded throne waiting, and his patience is beginning to wane.” Her tone wasn’t harsh with Rae as it was more a statement. She felt her emotions drained from her. Her purpose and the voices filling the void.

“I need you to lead the way. I’m beginning to become light headed. This blood letting is getting to be a little much.” Marishi half smiled to Rae in reassurance that she was wasn’t in danger of falling dead or robbed of her faculties completely.

Marishi climbed the stairs along with Rae. Winded at the top, she kept her expression as stoic as possible. She knew Rae was fretting over her already. It wouldn’t help matters if she collapsed on the floor and began to have seizures.

The door was intricate. Gold, brass, copper, brushed stainless steel all forming cogs and gears and cranks. All in impossibly intricate alignments. No human hand could have worked the metal for the designs of the door. As Rae poked and pondered, Marishi remained quiet. Her ears cocked high and twitching. She was listening to something. Something Rae couldn’t hear. Suddenly, the voices stopped all at once. The hallway was silent. The lack of sound frightened Marishi and deafened her. On silent hinges, the door began to unlock and move, the cogs, shafts, and gears moving silently. The well-oiled machine performing its purpose.

Marishi could feel the presence of Alexander. The feeling was overwhelming and threatened to cause her to black out. His will so great it pushed the air out of her lungs and she struggled to breathe. The heat of her own sword emanated from it’s sheathe as it burnt the skin on her hip. Light poured into the observatory blinding Marishi momentarily as her eye adjusted to compensate. They found themselves in an observatory. Great crystalline windows overlooking the basins of the Thaliak River, the huge canopy of rock and earth that shielded the caves below them from the harsh light, the scraggly pine trees that clung to the jutting mountain rocks. In the distance could be seen the Great Gubal Library, carved out of the very mountain itself. Its own modern wonder to behold. The obelisk of Idyllshire stood high with the Sharlayn letters scrawled upon it for all to be inspired. The greatest of city states evacuated overnight. Their inventions, findings, experiments, and failures left to their own devices. Including the bastion Marishi and Rae found themselves in.

In the center of the room sat a throne. Gilded in the same metal as the walls and floors with the same impossibly intricate clockwork design. Marishi’s gaze was fixed upon the seat as Rae spoke to her. Without looking away from the throne, Marishi said quietly, “He’s here.”

Steam from the pipes and whistles began to pour into the room, obstructing the two from seeing clearly. The fog grew so heavy that Marishi clutched Rae’s hand in her own. Out of awe, fear, and protection. The fog focalized on the throne and from the fog, male and female voices called in unison. “Welcome, Arbiter. Though it hath been many years thou hast spoken with me, it has been but a blink of an eye. I hath seen all thy struggles and accomplishments. Thou are worthy indeed.” Marishi felt small and insignificant. She could barely lift her head to look at seat she was transfixed to but a moment ago. “Alexander.” She announced. “Thou know thy Lord. This is grand tidings. I hath summoned thee here for thy time and place for thee to ascend has come.” The heavy fog resembled the figure of a human, though it was impossible to tell its age or it’s gender.

Marishi’s breath came in short quick bursts. “Ascend? I don’t understand. What do you want? Why are you tormenting me?” Alexander’s voice rippled in laughter. “Yes, ascend. This is thy purpose. This is why the covenant was forged.” His voice turned grim. “Thine future is hopeless. Even now, the world prepares for war. One that will cause untold death and pain. It is in thy design. Since time beginning, thy kin have laid waste to one another and the land. Time and time again. Never ending. Never ceasing. But there is hope,” His voice monotone and metallic. “Erase the suffering of the past and stop the suffering there will be. We will ease the pain, stop the hate and destruction by removing thy kin from their own mongering. Thou will act as my vessel and arbiter of this task.”

“I-I don’t … understand … what you’re saying. You … make no sense.” Marishi stammered, though the idea rang clear in her head. The instinct to run and claw her way out of the prison she was being locked in began to overwhelm her. “The covenant has been made.” Alexander replied simply as if reading her thoughts. There was no escaping. There was no where she could go. “Thou will become mine arbiter, and together, we will release the tortured souls trapped upon this realm. We will remain until time is no more. The time hath come to rise as Arbiter.” Marishi was stupefied as Alexanders plan became clear. Exterminate every living thing upon the earth to spare them and others not yet born from the pain and conflict of life. “There is no other recourse. Man must be protected from itself, Arbiter. Now, the time is at hand.”

Marishi couldn’t react. She knew that she did this to herself. Her fear of death and her boon of life turned against her. She would be the reaper of souls, yet be unable to be free. She moved her hand slowly to her katana. Her body not willing to obey her orders, she moved as if she was weighted down. As she gripped the weapon, she could feel the heat intensify. It seared the skin off her palms and fingers. She released her grip, the smell of burnt flesh filling the room. “Thou would raise arms against its creator? Thy path is set and cannot be changed. The pact is forged and thy oath called to be fulfilled.” The voice boomed loudly.

Marishi looked at Rae alarmed as she broke her contact with her wife, knocked to the ground by a force unseen. She was dragged to the front of the throne in front of the Primal. Marishi struggled to free herself as she was lifted off her feet several feet into the air. “Cease thy struggle. What will happen must happen. Thou shalt be made witness to the salvation of all.” Spears of gold and light materialized from the throne and forced themselves through Marishi’s body. Her hands, shoulders, legs, and feet impaled. “Now, Arbiter, we shall be as one.” Marishi hovered in the air, her body impaled and red blood dripping on the polished floor, her head down and unmoving. The fog began to disperse and envelop her body.

The Covenant invoked.

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Rae could only watch helplessly as Marishi combated Alexander. Perhaps bringing her here wasn't the best idea. The reality of the situation set in as she realized she thought she could confront and subdue a Primal whose dominion was that over time itself. Of course she couldn't stop a force such as that! Guilt gripped at her throat as she watched, wide-eyed and horrified as her wife was dragged across the floor and made to lay before Alexander's throne. As Rae moved to retrieve her weapons, she found her arms heavy, like lead bricks were tied to each wrist and elbow and shoulder. She couldn't move anything, only bear witness to the atrocity that slowly unfurled.

As Marishi's body began to rise, Rae felt her knees jerk. She needed to move. If she didn't, Marishi would get hurt. She ripped against the imaginary chains that bound her arms and forced them to obey her. Rae lifted her hands to the hilts of her rapiers and unsheathed them, then darted forward. Time seemed to slow for her, and perhaps it had. Perhaps Alexander put a slow on time for her and her alone, which was perfectly within his capabilities. Each step seemed to take several minutes. She felt as though she wasn't getting closer. Eyes locked on the form she saw sitting in the chair, Rae was determined to break its concentration and fixation on Marishi long enough for her to get her wife away from the place. Before she could get close, however, the golden spears appeared, then impaled Marishi through.

Rae stopped.

Time stopped.

Nothing moved for a brief moment. Her gaze flickered to Marishi's body as her crimson lifeblood flowed freely down the shafts of gold and light, dripping and pooling onto the floor.

All was still. The world was quiet. Steam hissed from beside her ear, but no sound was heard, no heat was felt. The blood in her face drained, her hands and fingers ran cold and paled. It was like her own life was being drawn out of her, like she, too, was lanced and made to bleed out. At the back of her mind there was a howling. It was distant and caused the hair on her arms and the back of her neck to stand on end and her tail fur to bristle. The howl was a mixture of unbridled anger and fathomless mourning. It was a moment before she realized the howl was not from the back of her mind, but from her own mouth. Rae screamed incoherently, calling out to Marishi in her wordless plea to not die. 

But Marishi couldn't hear Rae.

Her vision darkened, a faded ridge of darkness closed in over her eyes as she turned to face the distinct outline of a figure on the throne. To others, it was invisible, but to her, Rae could see it. Even in her fading vision, she could see the shapeless figure perched upon the gilded chair as its body attempted to blend with Marishi's. As Rae willed her body to move forward, it disobeyed. Her legs remained firmly planted where they were and her head dropped. For a moment, Rae believed herself to be almost passing out. She thought she was fainting from the sight of her most beloved thing in this world being murdered, and yet her body did not collapse. She felt... stronger. Her right hand raised, holding the Dreadwyrm Rapier, and she stepped closer, legs quaking slightly. Once close enough, her hand swung down with an uncontrolled motion. The attack was easily deflected by another lance that formed. Rae remained still a moment as she watched her body move of its own volition.

Her hand raised again, this time her head did as well. Her arm swung down, this time with more precision. While it did not strike her mark, she could see Alexander turn to face her, acknowledging her as a threat. The spears left Marishi's body, dropping her to the floor, then aimed at Rae. Two darted at her, but her hands moved quickly, parrying the blows. Three flew at her, which she parried as well. Then more flew at a time. Two stabbed at her arms, which she caught with both Rapiers, then the rest flew at her body, attempting to impale her. Before they could land, she formed her own Aetheric rapiers, catching the spears with them. Every blade in the room was held in a deadlock, neither moving an inch. Rae lifted her head to face the entity that was Alexander, her eyes began to change. Purple veins formed across the whites and greens of her eyes while gold veins snaked across her skin. Bahamut was possessing her. "You can't stop me." She growled, then threw back the lances and charged forward, throwing Sanguinaire to the ground as she ran. Rae jumped into the air and held the Dreadwyrm Rapier in both hands like a broad sword. She then stabbed it downward onto the middle of the shapeless being.

A pulse was felt throughout the room. The windows shattered, metal bent and groaned. The form could only try not to succumb to the sheer power that was Bahamut acting through Rae's body. It was ironic, almost. Here, Rae came to stop a Primal from taking over Marishi, only to have that very thing happen to her.

She felt a clock tick. The snarl on her face lessened to that of an angry realization. Alexander was influencing a time change. They couldn't let that happen. Power surged through Rae and she pushed down harder. At the tip of her blade, a small clock appeared, no larger than the palm of her hand. Rae gasped as she saw it, and was instantly thrown into a time warp with Alexander beside her. He was going to dump her off somewhere in the web of time. She wouldn't let that happen. Reaching out, Rae pushed through the form of Alexander, then gripped at the clock. A metal, grating scream could be heard as she tugged back, yanking it free from within Alexander. The multi-coloured tunnel she was in flickered, she felt her body tear at itself, but she did not relent. Pulling back, Rae forced the clock within Alexander free, yanking it out from the form. Once in her own hand, the tunnel burst. She could feel her body being stretched. Her bones popped, her skin burned and itched at the feeling of it being pulled taut. No scream could be made as she squeezed her eyes shut.

Suddenly, it stopped.

Birds chirped all around her. She felt a gentle breeze and a tickle of something against her bare legs. Slowly, her eyes opened. She stood in a field. It was The Black Shroud. Gridania is not far, as she can see the Blue Badger Gates not far from where she stood. Glancing around, Rae tried to get her bearings. It was mid morning, a few adventurers walked passed her, chatting to themselves, seemingly not surprised at her sudden appearance. Rae spun around, trying to find Alexander. In her hand, she tightened her grip, but nothing was there. No clock, no Alexander, no Bahamut. Her vision was normal, her skin was smooth again, and her Dreadwyrm Rapier was back in its sheath. She paused, mind racing at what could have possibly just happened. Nothing made sense. Did she get dumped off somewhere in time? If so, when? She didn't wish to ask the people who walked by her what year it was, knowing they'd think her insane. She stepped back a bit before coming her fingers through her hair and looking upward. It was then that she noticed it.

Dalamud.

The red, angry moon loomed in the sky, drawing close to Hydaelyn. Rae's hand trembled. She knew this year. It was 1572. The year of the Calamity.

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The wisps of cloud hung heavy in the air, despite the ruined observatory coalescing once again as if the chaos of what had just transpired meant nothing.

Alexander’s form peered down upon the crumpled body that lay on the floor. Marishi was in her final death throes, hyperventilating and staring canopy of the sky. Her blood pooling and matting her hair. The colors blending together making it impossible to discern the two.

The only sound was Marishi’s rattled breathing, wet and labored. Alexander spoke in a low voice. “A trespasser has defied thine will. She is a threat. Together, as Arbiter, we shalt remove the disease that has infected the blood.”

The mist broke form and swirled around Marishi. Her vision darkening as her heart slowed. She was dying. Her eyes welling with tears for her own wasted and squandered life and the path she set Rae down upon. It was because of her that Rae had come at all. She knew she would never see Rae across the great river. It was a journey that Marishi was never to take. She turned her head to the side and drew a sharp ragged breath and grew still.

The fog enveloped the body and sped in a circular motion until the cadaver was enclosed in a cyclone of mist. Then, the mist settled over the body and dispersed. All was silent in the destroyed room. Nothing moved. Nothing shone.

Marishi’s single red eye’s pupil contracted to almost a small black line scrawled on paper and she drew breath once more. She rose from the ground, black blood dripping off her clothing as she slowly walked to the gilded throne in the center of the room. She drew her Gordian Katana from its housing, the blade flashing blindingly white and sat in the chair, her right leg crossed over her left, her right hand gripping the weapon, the blade’s tip dug into the ground. She closed her eyes in concentration as the clocks begin to slow, stop, and begin to rewind. The Arbiter would deal with interloper by any means necessary and then finish what he began.

The Black Shroud was as verdant as she remembered it was. So long she had been away from her home. Marishi breathed a sigh of relief as she was recalled from her post in the backwater camp in Mor Dhona. She hated it there. She hated that everything was always still. No birds sang, no wolves howled. But the wind always blew. A song between the howling rocks. The song was ominous and threatening. She was more than happy to furlough under the boughs.

She spent her first days in the arms of a junior officer. A simple and unassuming man smitten with Marishi. She enjoyed the attention and doting. He would wear a mask of disappointment and hurt every time she rose from his bed in the small hours of the night to dress herself and leave. Marishi would always playfully tell him it was against military code for officers to be involved with each other romantically and how it would be a shame if either of them were to be reprimanded for this tryst. She would sneak under the cover of darkness to her own small home and sleep well into the morning. Her days spent speaking to the Hearers and teaching at the Stillglade Fane, imparting her wisdom from the days prior to the Magi Wars, when White Magic and Black were in vogue.

Her stay was far too short in her city. The call to arms had been made and all members of the newly forged Eorzean Alliance were to report back to duty. Reports filtered in of the Garlean VIIth legion amassing in the flatlands of Carteneau. Whispers of the Legatus that could call down the very stars rippled in the leaves of the trees. Nael Van Darnus had ordered his legion to the flatlands for their attack that would break the Alliance and open the way for a Garlean controlled Eorzea. Marishi wasn’t scared. She was eager and excited. She could finally aid those in need and fight for what she had begun to believe in. She would fight for her hearth and her home.

The morning came where all active duty assembled in the plaza of the great Gridanian Aetheryte. Commanders and Generals at the front, officers forming the body, and ground troops making the vanguard. Civilians and children lined the grassy avenue as the soldiers mounted their Chocobo’s and began their slow trot out of the city, many throwing flowers, cheering, and older men and women shielding their eyes from the procession, knowing all too well that many wouldn’t return. Marishi bade her lover goodbye the previous evening, his assignment to the administration of the newly founded Free Company initiative. He would not be taking up arms. She promised to return, triumphant. He was among the crowd to watch the soldiers march out of the Blue Badger Gates.

Marishi was in high spirits. She had the love and adoration of man, she was relied upon as a fountain of bursting skill and knowledge. She would never directly take the front lines as a White Mage, but she would assist her comrades and protect them from harm, restoring their flagging strength and tending their wounds. Very few Conjurers had been chosen to be permitted the use of White Magic, the Elementals weary of man’s tendency to abuse the gifts given to them. Marishi was one of the very few. She rode into the Sun as she cleared the gates, head high. The white staff upon her back marking her as one of the Mages of White. Her deep red hair combed to each side with the center pulled back into a flat pony tail and clasped with a silver brooch. Her sanguine eyes flashed with pride and playfulness. She sat side in the saddle customary for a female. Especially one in the white and pink gowns gifted unto her. The other officers, commissioned and non, chatted and laughed in the warm morning Sun. Recalling days of their glory and the dreams of their future.

On the side of the well-trodden road leading out of the city, adventurers walked to and fro from the city proper. As she rode, smiling, content with the love and conviction of her friends and gift to freely manipulate her aether and others, Marishi spotted a lone figure watching as the army passed. Upon gazing at her, Marishi’s heart skipped. Never in waking life had she seen anything quite as lovely. The figure was a woman of slender build with fire red hair and emerald green eyes. She was lithe and curved, her own attire form fitting. She wore two tucks at her hips. One on either side. The woman hadn’t noticed Marishi as she came within range of her.

“A bit far from your tribe aren't you Adventurer?” Marishi called to the woman sliding off her mount gracefully and holding the reins gently in her hand and she stood to face her. "sorry," she paused while shrugging. "Your markings are a dead give away." She smiled. “I would swear from the look on your face, you’ve just come from a funeral! There is no need to be so dour! Just look, the Sun shines upon us and the weather is almost as beautiful as yourself. Take heart, my lady. There is nothing here that can do you harm. At least, not with me around.” Her voice was young and singing. Melodic and full of life. She gracefully smiled at the woman and bowed. “Are you in need of aid or direction? You stand in front of the Blue Badger Gates of the great woodland capital, Gridania. If I may be so bold as to ask your name?” Marishi’s eyes remained transfixed upon the Emerald Green that outshone even the trees of The Black Shroud.

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She remembered this time all too well. She was 15, on Sharlaya. A part of her wanted to go see herself, to travel to Sharlaya and tell her that everything was going to be fine. Rae knew her younger self would be awe-struck to see what she'd become. She'd be thrilled. The thought of going to see her old Master, too, appealed to her a great deal. What would happen, though, if she did meet herself? She would change things for her. What if she ended up getting her killed? Would she stop existing? A pang of dread struck Rae. Perhaps affecting her past wasn't the best thing to do. Although, what she was doing now was affecting it. Even her being here in the Shroud could lead to repercussions later that she could not fathom. Time travel was truly a horrible thing that could lead to disaster; however, if she played smart, if she worked around things, she might be able to create a future for herself in which Marishi was not a slave to Alexander, or rather, that she wasn't required to become the arbiter so soon.

A familiar voice tore her from her thoughts. Jumping, Rae turned to face the young Marishi. Mounted upon a steed, Rae could not help but stare wide-eyed and mouth slightly parted. This was her wife 11 years before they met. She looked different, yet the same. She was just as stunning, but younger. There was a gleam in her eyes that Rae would only catch now and then. And her eyes... both a vibrant currant red. Her compliments were enough to cause her cheeks to burn red. It was strange hearing her wife flirt with her first. Usually, she would have to strike it up first. Seeing her wife like this was enough to overwhelm Rae. Tears sprang up in her eyes and she couldn't help but let them fall. She reached a time in her life when the reality of the world had not tarnished her youthful hope, that the poison of war had not stripped her of her enthusiasm for life. Rae's knees buckled and she fell to the ground, covering her face and letting out a sob. Not moments ago did she just watch her wife become impaled by the Primal that had promised her the world, all because of her foolish idealization that she could single-handedly subdue a Primal that lorded over time. She could save her wife. She could have a happy life with her.

"I'm sorry M-" she started, but Rae hesitated. She couldn't let Marishi know what she knew, who she was, from when she was. It would sound too unbelievable. She needed to pretend she was part of this timeline. She can't act as though she knows more than she should. "My lady. I don't normally react like this. A... beloved friend passed away recently and I'm afraid I still ache from the loss. You remind me of her an awful lot. I was overcome by shock that I thought I had seen her once again." Rae apologized, lifting her face and smiling, tears still rolling down her cheeks. It was clear they were tears of joy. To see her wife like this, to see her again alive...

Getting back to her feel, Rae brushed off the dirt from her legs and fixed her coat. "My name is Rae. You may find it a surprise, but I am from the Shroud. Southern, actually. My parents came here to be married, since they couldn't within their tribe." She smiled and wiped away her tears. Behind her, her tail swished in a lazy, happy movement. Her ears perked upward as she rested one hand on her hip just above her empty sheath and her other on the Dreadwyrm Rapier placed at her side. She needed to collect her bearings quickly. Marishi wouldn't be interested in some weepy-eyed damsel in distress, surely. "I came to enlist. I've trained afar to protect my homeland from the Primals, and now with the Garleans threatening invasion, I can think of no better way to protect Gridania than by enlisting."

Rae let a brief moment pause between them before she bowed to Marishi. "Though, now I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. You know quite a lot about me, but I know nothing of you. Perhaps you'd privilege me with your name?" Rae lifted her gaze a little, a playful smile on her face and a happy gleam in her eye as she watched Marishi. She could make this work. She could make this timeline right so she could have a lifetime with Marishi.

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Marishi stared at Rae with a gaze of pity. “I am truly sorry for your loss. Many good men have fallen during these dark times. My name is Marishi Ten. Captain in the Gridanian Army and company White Mage. Come to enlist have you?” Marishi asked. “You’ll find the recruiting offices in the city proper, but I’m afraid that by the time you graduate the academy, the war will be far over.” Marishi winked and smiled as she gracefully and slowly remounted her issued Chocobo, lingering long enough to show the shape of her legs in her white riding boots.

“It’s a shame I can’t take you with me. Hmm. I seem to recall something about field promotions in times of war …” As she was looking down and smiling charmingly, the sound of another mounted rider could be heard from behind. “My Lady! You are out of formation. Has this vagabond accosted you?” The voice of a middle-aged man rang out as he rode up to stop beside Marishi, also looking at Rae, albeit with a scrutinizing gaze. “She has done nothing of the sort, Sergeant. Do I appear as a maiden in distress?” The man quickly changed his tone. “No, Captain, of course not. The entire company knows of your feats and abilities. But you are also an asset that must be protected.” He dropped the formal tone and said quietly. “It’s not like we have swaths of White Mages at our beck and call. If something happened – “Marishi turned her full attention to the man and smiled. “I know, Rand. Thank you for looking out for me, but I should be looking out for you. There’s no need to scrutinize this woman. She’s my newly appointed Aide. Just graduated from the Academy. Second Lieutenant.” Marishi nodded in Rae’s direction. “I haven’t heard of any additions from command.” Rand stammered. Marishi quickly interjected. “Orders came in this morning. Likely, the missives are still be drafted and will be available when we arrive at Carteneau. You will treat her with the same respect as you give me, Sergeant. That’s an order.” Her tone changed from playful to stern and sharp. “Ma’am.” Sergeant Rand saluted. “We will be rejoining the main host shortly. Fetch her a fresh Chocobo and we’ll be off.”

The Sergeant grunted, frowning. He would never go against a superior’s orders, but it was clear that Marishi was lying. If she had requested an aide, it would have been the sickly and pale looking man she bed with, not some random stranger that didn’t even wear a uniform. Nevertheless, he trotted back to the supply caravans and went about his orders.

“Well, Lieutenant. It seems you’ve been conscripted. Now you can tell me all about the things that you mysteriously haven’t said. That is, of course, if you’d be interested in coming along. Not everyone is jumping at the chance to go to war, and I’m sure you’ve your own suitors and companions. You can find me with the main host, just accept the steed that my overbearing Sergeant offers, or don’t be here when he arrives. The choice is yours!” Marishi called over her shoulder as she began to gallop to her spot in the columns.

The army rode through the Black Shroud and converged with the other two arms of Alliance in Coerthas. Marishi’s place of birth. Though the marches were filled with laughter and singing, a sense of dread began to fall upon the army. Whispers from the soldiers of Ul’Dah spoke of The White Raven invading the city of gold, slaughtering its citizens. The soldiers of the desert were much more somber and grim. Their own home had been besieged and saw first hand the horrors of war. They didn’t share in the optimism of Limsa or Gridania. During the twilight hours, Marishi would sit around the campfire and laugh and tell stories. She was light hearted and jested with her men, keeping their spirits up as they began to flag at the sight of the falling moon looming closer and closer. The light took upon a red hue even in the day. Several days marching into Coerthas, the ground shook and the very roots of the mountains groaned in pain. The army was ordered to halt its march while the Alliance sent out scouts and called an emergency officers meeting. Marishi was summoned to the command tent. As the Alliance rested and command met and waited for scouts to deliver their reports, there was a sense of unease among the men.

Around early evening, the officers cleared out of the command tent. All tense and unhappy. Marishi approached her men a frown upon her face, but seeing them look to her, she changed to smiling. “We’re going to camp here for tonight. Nothing to fear! Just an earthquake is all. We hoped to convince Ishgard to lend a Dragoon or two, but they’re too busy with their head in the clouds.” She laughed, putting them more at ease. “Sergeant, if I may speak with you? In private.” Rand replied immediately. “Yes, Ma’am.” The two walked slightly out of earshot, but the men watched the two intently. The two spoke in low tones, Marishi no longer smiling. Rand never smiled. He watched Marishi, his gaze on her absorbing her orders. She made a slashing motion with her left hand downward with Rand nodding. The two walked to the Chocobo’s being watered where she placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled sadly. Rand took her hand into his own and squeezed. Marishi helped him into his saddle and as he rode away, she called out “Be back by sundown tomorrow! No longer!” She watched him as he rode away from the flats into the mountain passes of Coerthas and sighed.

“It’s cold! Let’s get the fires going! I’m starving!” She called out as she walked back into the semi-circle. The men were no longer smiling. They were tense and shifting. One asked where the Sergeant had gone. “He will be back soon. Rand is just running a small errand for me. Don’t worry, I don’t think he is apt to keel over from a bit of cold weather!” Marishi said. Another soldier said “But he isn’t impervious to a knife from an Imperial assassin.” Marishi’s smile slipped showing the weight she was carrying. These men were in her care and she may have just sent one of the men that she had known for years to his death. All upon her whim. The same soldier stammered, “I-I’m sorry Ma’am, I didn’t mean – “Marishi interjected, “No, you’re absolutely right. Here we are, marching to war that we very well may lose. The red moon grows larger by the hour over our heads. Tremors rock the land. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m scared. I’m scared of dying. I’m scared of losing anyone. I’m scared of being a coward.” She looked around with tears into her eyes. “I cannot tell the future,” She looked at Rae and smiled through her own tears. “But I swear to each and every one of you that I will gladly lay down my own life for each and every single one you. You are my family. Though I was born on the soil we now stand, I am a daughter of Gridania and if it’s within my power, our lands will remain free.” Murmurs of approval and reverence rippled through the crowd. “Unfurl the company standard. All standards fly this night.” The flag of their company was brought from a storage trunk and held high on a pike dug into the ground, the cloth rippling in the mountain wind.

Sentries were stationed during the night and missives were sent between the armies and leaders. During the evening, Marishi had been called back into the command tents, but only for a fraction of the time. In the dying firelight, Marishi spoke to her company. “The VIIth legion is confirmed to be on the flats. The Alliance is ordered to engage the imperials tomorrow night. Our company orders are to make up the left mounted wing and prevent counter and pincer attacks. Conjurers are to provide support and Bards are to act as mounted archers. U’lDah shall dispatch a small contingent of Black Mages to provide cover and ranged maneuvers. Don’t worry,” Marishi laughed, “Ours is the only wing with a real, flesh and blood White Mage. I’ll be there the entire time to pull us out of the fire. Sleep tonight. Do not let worry trouble your sleep. I will stand watch this night.” She stood and walked to the edge of the firelight. She stood staring out into the darkness and without turning asked the form that came to stand next to her. “What brings you to my side, Lieutenant? So enamored to me already that you cannot bear to leave my side?” She flashed her charming smile. “I can put on a good show when I need to, I suppose.” Marishi said. “To be honest, we’re facing insurmountable odds. Command has received reports of Nael clones showing up in the streets of Ul’Dah. Killing citizens. Aetherytes are destabilizing and becoming impossible to attune to. Some monstrosity called ‘Atomos’ drains the Aether from them, spews forth voidscent, eradicates the hamlet, then leaves. We don’t know why.” She sighed in frustration. “That’s not worst of it.” Her expression grew grim. “The earthquake earlier today? That earthquake was something ripping the very land up and raising it to the clouds. They call it ‘Rivenroad’. Command believes it linked to the red moon. Which is the worst of all. It continues to fall. Look,” She waved her hand in the sky at the giant red orb. “It’s entered the atmosphere. And our battleground? The impact point. Ishgard won’t allow us to use their telescopes to actually look at the surface so we have no idea what is going to happen.” She grew quiet. “The land heaves and screams. It’s become harder to bend the lands Aether to my will. It’s like there’s just not enough. It’s just barren in places. And it’s becoming more and more common.”

Marishi’s small company had bedded down for the night and were sleeping. Dreams of heroic feats upon their minds. “Rand is not back yet. I should not have sent him on such a selfish request. I may have sent him to his death.” Pain and remorse rippled over her face. Her mask of confidence fell and it was plain to see the weight of leading and ordering men to their deaths was hard upon her. She cared for each and every single man and woman under her. Young, old, new recruits, hardened veterans. Her doubt was laid bare. “The lands that were torn up were near where I was raised. My father raised me. I never knew my mother. Through luck, I was taken in by the Holy See and received a good education. That’s all I received from the spires in the clouds. My father stayed behind to pay my tuition. A year before I was to be anointed as a Nun for the church, my father grew frail and sick. I was there when he passed.” Marishi seemed lost in her thoughts for long moments. Suddenly, she shook her head and smiled sadly. “Anyway, I buried him in the land he loved and worked. I didn’t mark the grave. I was angry at the world. The land I buried him is close to the reports of the lands being ripped into the sky. I ordered Rand to scout the area and check if my father’s grave was still there or if it had been defiled.” Marishi said. “There are imperial scouting squads everywhere. Though it appears empty, the forests have assassins and scouts. I pray he returns to us safely. The lights overhead are imperial recon sloops with a few frigates from time to time. The Garleans have control of the sky. The only place we can take away that advantage is at the impact site of the moon. We are to engage the enemy this time tomorrow.”

Marishi turned to Rae. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why are you here? Why are you really here? It’s not to join the army. Who are you really, Rae?”

 

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Rae remained among the other soldiers. She wasn't wearing traditional soldier garb of the Gridanian army. She stood out like a sore thumb, but she didn't make any attempt to fix that. She didn't anticipate being memorable in this fight. She was going to help Marishi. From what she remembered of the tale of the battle, Marishi aided Garlean soldiers after the battle was over, healing them so they did not suffer from their injuries. That was what caused her to be dishonourably discharged from her position, then she went to Rowena after that, then became a Samurai. It was somewhere along those lines that she lost her spark, that she became hallow, her spirit quelled. Perhaps if she stopped Marishi from tending to those soldiers then her optimism would remain? The Chocobo she rode upon squawked, coaxing her to reach over and gently stroke its feathers, digging her fingers through them and scratching at the skin, this caused the Chocobo to arch his neck and whistle happily, then shake his whole body and leap a bit with excitement. Rae clung on, laughing as her Chocobo elatedly showed her affection, then snipped its beak at her, beckoning her to continue.

She noticed the stares she got from the other soldiers, and instead of cowering and keeping to herself, she offered them a smile. She was going to change things. The war wouldn't go as dismally. Perhaps she could get word to the national Leaders and explain to them what was really going to happen. She wasn't sure if there was anything that could be done now, perhaps the world must be scarred by Bahamut's rage? She paused a moment, thinking to Bahamut. She could still feel his presence within her, so he hand't left. As they marched, it gave her time to think upon things. She remained unaffected with the rollback on time. Her memories were in-tact, but Marishi's were not. Was it because of her fight with Alexander that allowed her to keep her memories untouched by the reversal? Was there anyone else who was unaffected? Would Alexander in this timeline know who she is, what she is? She's an anomaly. Her very existence should not be. Would Alexander sense that in her if she were ever to approach him? By now, Alexander had already made a pact with Marishi, and she didn't seem too concerned with her presence. At least, nothing out of what Rae would expect. At least in this time line Marishi still found her attractive... the thought made Rae blush a bit. It was almost like fate. Perhaps the two of them were destined to be lovers and no timeline would change that? She found that a comfort. She couldn't imagine herself with anyone else but Marishi.

As the army set up camp, Rae wanted to make herself useful. She assisted with setting up tents, building fires, and even offered to cook. Her culinary skill was the crowd favourite, however. A simple stew with ingredients between them all filled their bellies and warmed them up. She did her best to appease the men, but appear to be unapproachable. She didn't want them to get any ideas, despite her being a Miqo'te that wore stockings and shorts and a form-fitting top that reached down to her thighs, but went farther down her legs in the back. It was a simple stylization of the Red Mage garb, Marishi made it for her a year ago and weaved enhancements into it, allowing her skills to become bolstered when she wore the shirt.

Rae's attention was turned from listening to the men talk while partaking of her soup to Marishi as she approached, then shortly addressed the men under her command. She kept eye contact with her, never letting her gaze flicker anywhere else. She smiled to Marishi as their eyes met again. The command she held over these soldiers was awe-inspiring. Pride welled up within her. Her wife was powerful even now--especially now.  After Marishi's inspiring speech, the men seemed more at ease, but not entirely relaxed. There was a sombreness that followed and, while others were more apt to let the grim reality that they might never go home settle in and sour their thoughts, others did their best to make the most of their last night. Rae kept to herself at that point, getting nearer to Marishi and waiting. She didn't wish to draw attention to herself by approaching Marishi, but she also wanted to catch her before she went to bed.

Once the camp quieted down and most of the soldiers returned to their tents, Rae came up behind Marishi, arms wrapped around herself as she approached. She remained quiet as Marishi spoke, relaying her doubts, her fears. She told her about her past, which she knew a bit about. Marishi had told her about her father when Rae asked sometime before the wedding. She didn't know about the soldier Marishi had sent out to scout his grave. Rae frowned to the White Mage Miqo'te. "Don't feel guilt," Rae whispered, moving closer to Marishi. How she wished she could reach out and stroke her, to hold her in her arms, to kiss her delicate skin, to lick her lips, to smell her hair. She refrained, however. "Rand is a capable soldier. He wouldn't get captured so easily." She attempted to lift the spirits of her wife just as she did her own soldiers. She didn't know a Rand in her timeline. Perhaps it was possible that the soldier would never return, but she wouldn't tell Marishi that.

When confronted with her questions, Rae went silent a moment, mulling over a story. She didn't think it would be necessary, but Marishi was far more clever than Rae could ever be. She should have known it would come to this. "It's like I said. I came to enlist. I've been indisposed before, unable to return home from my school, but now I'm back and I wish to... fight," Rae stopped, looking away from Marishi. Lying to her like this felt wrong, and she knew she wouldn't buy it. "I'm sorry for lying. That's not the whole truth, but if I were to tell you the truth, you'd think I'm crazy and send me away to be detained and held in a cell until my insanity wore off, but I can see there's no avoiding this. I'll have to tell you the truth. When you asked my name, I never gave you my last name. I am Rae Ten, your wife.

"I'm not from this time, Marishi Ten. Well, I am, in a sense. I'm 15 right now on the island of Sharlaya being taught the magic of Red Mage. The lore is all but gone, with just one man left to carry on its legacy. He passed it on to me. After the Battle of Carteneau ends, I arrive back on Eorzea, and a few years after that, you and I meet in Ul'Dah. Purely by chance, but amidst the crowd, our eyes lock. I approach you first, however, since at that time, you've been... discharged by the army and are on an errand for a Hyur entrepreneur named Rowena. From that moment, we are inseparable and we get married a year later... ah... sorry, I get ahead of myself. You asked what I am doing here. Well, I made a mistake. A grave one. I thought I could battle Alexander. He calls to you. He urges you to become his arbiter and to smite the sinners of this world. I was a fool. I thought I was strong enough to help you stop Alexander, but I got you killed... I... I couldn't save you again, and this time it cost you more than just your sight." Rae's eyes formed tears and she squeezed them shut, her hands clutching onto her arms as her shoulders trembled and she bit back a sob. The vision of her wife being murdered replayed in her mind, causing her composure to slip. She sucked in air through her nose and calmed herself once more, then turned to Marishi. "I know about your pact with Alexander because you told me, 8 years from now when we are married and I ask you about the Gordian blade. You tell me a little bit, and I press for more, but you silence me by... erm... methods you enjoy employing." Her cheeks flushed at that moment and she smiled to Marishi. It was only a day for her, but she missed Marishi's touch. She missed the affection in her gaze, the way she made her feel like the person creature in the world.

"I've come to undo what I did, to make things right. I can't lose you... I love you too much. So I came back in time with hopes to stop my mistake and to give us a better life." Rae told Marishi, her eyes looking directly into Marishi's, hoping she would believe it somehow, and wouldn't send her away or avoid her. She wasn't sure if she could handle that rejection.

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Marishi let out a short laugh upon hearing Rae explain she was not of this time and that Marishi was to wed her years from now. She hadn’t heard quite a unique pickup line before. Marishi would give Rae that.

Her eyes narrowed upon mention of Alexander and a frown creased her lips. Her eyes darkened with suspicion.

She chose her words carefully.

“… You do not know me. I do not know you. The things you speak of are bordering on insane.” She took a step back away from Rae. She was too close to her for her own comfort.

“You are mistaken about any kind of association I have with Alexander. And, as you can see, I’ve suffered no malady and I can see fine, so your claims of my sight leaving me are not quite as accurate as what you remember them to be, or, what you think will happen.” Marishi was lying. There were very few that knew of her connection with Alexander and none of them were this woman. She didn’t understand most of what Rae said to her. She had no intention of leaving the army. They were her family. She had no interest in becoming a fabled Samurai. Her way was not of destruction, but of restoration. Her vision was fine and she suffered no problems.

“That’s far enough.” Marishi said quietly as Rae took a step towards her. She thought a moment over the tale she was told. It was clear that the woman was addled, but Marishi didn’t sense ill intent from her. “You’re not a Garlean spy or assassin. You would have finished your work before now and slipped away … let us assume for a moment that you’re telling the truth and against all logic and reason I believe you. How do you plan on – “ Marishi was interrupted by a clamor and men yelling for assistance. There was a pit in her stomach and dread that crashed over her. She didn’t need to be told what the commotion was about.

“Stay here.” She whispered to Rae. She was pale as she turned to the meet the shouting. She walked over to two of the men in her company and gave orders in a low tone, motioning to Rae. The soldier nodded, confused, and loosened the swords in their scabbards they wore at their hips. They walked to Rae one on either side and one spoke in a soft voice. “Come with us, Ma’am. You’re to be protected while the Captain is preoccupied. Please, hand over your arms and come with us.” He didn’t mention that Marishi had given orders to have Rae executed if she attempted to flee.

Marishi strode quickly through the camp to a small white tent where the source of the shouting was coming. She opened the flap only to confirm what she had dreaded. “Rand …” she said brokenly as she stared in horror at the Sergeants hacked body. She removed her gloves and attempted to staunch the wounds on his chest and abdomen. The infirmaries doctor lightly touched her shoulder. “He’s already gone, Captain. I’m sorry.” Tears began to well in her eyes as guilt settled in her heart. She had sent him to his death on a silly errand to check on body whose soul had been long gone. She killed him to check upon a grave. Her actions killed her friend. “… No, we have to try to call him back. I can save him.” Marishi tried to concentrate on the strands of his soul to call him back from crossing, but she couldn’t feel it. She sunk to ground, sobbing, her hands covered in dark red blood. “What happened? He was only to scout …” She said brokenly. “A Ranger in my forward team found him wounded near the quake site.” A tall Elezen said, looking down at Marishi. The two fought valiantly against the Imperial strike team. My man was able to carry him back, though he isn’t expected to survive the night.” He said grimly as he glanced over at the cot next to the corpse of the Sergeant. “On your feet, Captain. Now is not the time to break. This is a time of war. Men die. All the living can do is protect those that still live and look to us.” Marishi forced herself to stop sobbing and drew a ragged breath. “Yes, Admiral. I thank you and your brave men for assisting. Please, allow me to care for your Ranger. It is the least I can do.” The Admiral looked at Marishi sadly, seeing the same blank mask that he wore the first time he lost his friends and family to senseless violence. “Permission granted. Appraise me if his condition worsens or improves.” He placed his hand on her frail and tense shoulder as he left the tent, lost with pity and concern for his junior officer.

Marishi tended the Ranger’s wounds and eased his suffering. He did not regain consciousness though she was able to stabilize him. She then found a grey felt blanket and covered Rand with it. His battlefield burial shroud. She performed these tasks robotically without emotion, or thought. Her limbs moving their own. As she left the tent, the Sun was beginning to rise over the mountains, the silver spires of Ishgard sparkling, heralding the morning.

She walked back to where the soldiers had escorted Rae and dismissed them, each with a look of concern and shock upon their faces. The wet blood still upon their hands told them what had happened. “What happens at the battle? How many more men die? How can I save them? You’re not an Imperial, you would have knifed your target and been long gone before now.” She paused a moment holding her blood-stained hand up commanding Rae to stay silent. “Your story doesn’t make any sense. You claim to be my wife, though the prospect of marriage has never interested me, that my vision deteriorates, that I’m killed by Alexander. You know of him, which is not common knowledge. Even less so my connection …” she trailed off, not knowing why she was giving Rae this information. Information less than a handful had privy to. She shook her head. “Your conviction isn’t faked and I can feel the Aether you exude, as strange as it is. My mind screams false at your claims, yet my heart tells me …” She cut herself off abruptly. “Your weapon will be returned to you, for the time being. You are hereby field commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Gridanian Army as my personal Aide. I will give my report upon returning to the city and request a Tribunal on your behalf.” Marishi thought she was going as crazy as Rae. Bestowing rank she didn’t have the authorization to grant to a stranger she met on the side of the road claiming to be her future wife sent back in time to save her from being killed by Alexander. “Never mind the questions. It has been a long night.” Marishi’s composure was back in place, but not her smile. “Attend the meals and mounts. I would be alone. Leave me.”

She looked out to the rising Sun, absently rubbing her bloodstained hands together, trying not to give into her grief.

Midday arrived and the orders had been given to move toward the flats. The red moon in full view. It was impossible to tell the time as the skies clouded by the fall of the Dalamud. A dull roar was distinct upon the winds that did not fade. It was present at all times. Marishi rode at the head of her company, Rae at her side and the standard bearer several feet back. She looked forward and held her expression flat. Previously, she would have jested with Rae and poked her with questions and flirtations. But not after the night previous. Not with evening in front of them. They rode onto the barren flats to view their enemy.

Countless warmachina lay in formation. Magitek Reapers, Conjurers, Lancers, Archers, Marauders, Gladiators all waiting for the Eorzean Alliance to engage. The Army whispered in despair upon seeing the full might of the VIIth legion unfurled. Command tents were hastily set up and a final officers meeting was held. Marishi’s unit was to make up part of the flank and act as support to the main arm of the offensive. She received her instructions with silent nodding and a salute to her superiors. Stiffly bowing when wished Godspeed and safe return. As she approached her men, they rose to their feet and saluted. Moved by the dedication of her comrades, she spoke through tears. “My friends, my brothers. Here we stand, upon the hour of our doom. Countless enemies lie before us with the moon falling around us. We are facing insurmountable odds and given impossible tasks. Each and every one of you feels afraid. I feel afraid. But, still,” She continued as she raised her head to the group, “There is no other place I would rather be. With all of you. I will be by your side. Always at your side. For you are more important than any glory or honor that can ever be won. When you are weary, I will be at your side to provide your succor. When you are scared, I will be by your side with courage. When you are besieged, I will be by your side as your shield.” She mounted her Chocobo and gripped her stave. “For those who are lost …” She began to choke in tears, loss still too near to her. She looked out and saw the eyes of her men. Locked to hers, giving her the courage she needed and taking heart. “… And for those we can save.” She said the last quietly. Her standard bearer unfurled the banner of her company and yelled a cheer echoed by the rest. Ready to defend their lands, homes, and ladies.

“I pray your predictions of the future are able to keep you safe and save the lives of our countrymen, Lieutenant. For what it’s worth, I can see myself falling for you.” She flashed a smile to Rae as her red eyes locked with emerald. “In another life, perhaps. I look at you and I see the gentle Summer Sun. Easing my burden and warming my cold. Perhaps if we live … no. I keep no hope for myself. I will be by your side. Never shall I leave.” She nudged her Chocobo forward, slowly at first, until breaking into a full gallop when the flares fired signaling the army to advance and engage their oppressors, lightning blasting craters on the flats with deafening blows as her company banner flashed white in the dim light.

The air charged with static at blinding lightning blast, from the crater a lithe silhouette could be seen carrying a glowing and white Far Eastern blade.

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She knew it.

Rae should have kept her mouth shut about the truth. She should have lied and lied and lied and denied the truth even if Marishi confronted her about it. It only caused problems, and now the only person she loved in this world thought she was insane. Perhaps it wasn't so much that they were meant to be together, but more that they were meant to meet, at least. From there, it's up to her where the rest leads. She'll dial back the time-travel talk. She'll never mention it again if it made Marishi happy, but she wouldn't give up on her just yet.

As the shouting came from the encampment, Rae felt a pit form in her stomach as well. Her blind optimism may have cost her a bit of credence. As Marishi rushed back to the camp, Rae moved to go after her, but was stopped by two soldiers. As she was ordered to hand over her weapon, she paused, hesitating and weighing her options. They'd run her through, or at least try, and she'd never get this close to Marishi again. The con outweighed the pros far too much. Reluctantly, she loosened the belt that held her Dreadwyrm Rapier and held out the equipment to the soldiers. "And the other?" Asked one, eyeing her other sheath.

"It's empty," Rae explained, showing it to them. "The rapier that was there is gone now. It's just a case." Her town was bitter and sad. Her optimism was slowly sapping from her. It seemed she wasn't making the right choices at all. One step lead to another pitfall in her plan. She'd need to be more conscious of consequences from here on out if she's to get the life back she lost.

The soldiers seemed pacified with her answer and walked her back to the encampment, just in time for them to hear the news about Rand. Rae's heart broke, watching Marishi like that. If only she could offer her comfort, solace. She wished she could ease the pain she felt and negate the feelings of responsibility for Rand's death. It was, technically, Marishi's selfishness that got him killed. If she hadn't sent him on the mission, then he would be alive. Still, to live with that guilt was not good. Rae could see that familiar sad look in Marishi's eyes and wished wholly that she could take the pain away. Rae's lips pursed together and she dropped her gaze. Was there a way that she could have stopped that from happening? No, not likely. She never knew her wife had done that before. This was her first time learning that she sent one of her best men on a personal errand. It seemed she didn't know everything about Marishi, which she expected, but hated at the same time.

As Marishi approached her again, dismissing the other soldiers, Rae lifted her gaze to her and spoke softly. "I'm sorry about Rand. You never told... nevermind." She turned away, brows furrowed and a frown on her face. Talking about the future to this Marishi might prove more problematic than beneficial. It was then that she was bombarded with questions. Rae's eyes widened and she turned to face Marishi again, mouth open to try and answer the questions, but she spoke too fast and did not allow a moment for her to speak. Before she got a chance to answer, Marishi already instructed her to not tell her the answers. Frustrated, Rae furrowed her brows and crossed her arms. "Do you want to know how this battle will play out or not?" She asked, but it was clear Marishi's mind was preoccupied, lost in her own thoughts. With a defeated sigh, Rae glanced to the horizon where the starting sunrise began to show its colours. This was not how she imagined her influencing the past would turn out. She felt more distant from Marishi now and every attempt she made at fixing time resulted in her making more problems arise.

The sun was rising, but Rae went to rest beneath a tree. She hadn't slept that night and if she was going to be of any use in the battle, she'd need at least a bit of shut eye.

As the sun rose higher, she was met by the soldier that held her weapon and he returned it, as Marishi promised it would be. She quickly equipped it to her side and fetched her Chocobo, then caught up to Marishi. There may be time to relay important information yet. She listened as Marishi spoke to her, feeling her heart flutter a bit as she mentioned possibly falling for her. There was hope yet. Despite all the mistakes she's made. "Marishi, before you go." She called out after her. "When the skies darken, pull back from the battle field! Order everyone back!" She was already far off by that point, but Rae shouted loud enough after her, hoping she'd hear. Maybe she could spare several lives with this information. 

The first thing that struck her was the smell of blood. Smoke flowed up to the sky, reaching like vines of slate-coloured smog that could choke you if you breathed it in. A foreboding crimson hue filled the sky. Whether from the fires of dropped torches or arrant fireballs, it was difficult to tell. The battle had begun and she was charging in on her Chocobo, keeping a close eye on Marishi while at the same time cutting down as many men as she could. Riding on a Chocobo and casting her spells proved difficult. She was much more capable at landing meaningful blows of magic if she was on solid ground. Instead, her lightning tore up the ground and her fire balls exploded beside men, causing them to fall forward, but remain otherwise unscathed. Rae hopped off her Chocobo, keeping it close to her while she cast a few spells, lobbing them into the clusters of Garlean soldiers, causing them to scatter. If they weren't together, then they were easier to pick off. A few bullets whizzed passed her head, causing Rae to duck down, dragging her Chocobo along with her. Arrows embedded themselves into the bodies of soldiers around her, or the ground just at her feet. They were aiming to maim and allow for a foot soldier to kill, it seemed. Rae moved forward, however, finding cover for herself and her mount. Once it was safe, she glanced around, looking for Marishi. She could see her still close by, which was a relief. If she and Marishi were in their usual timeline, she would feel unstoppable at her side. This was different now, however. Her wife was a different woman. She mustn't forget that. She would protect Marishi with her life if it came to it. A few soldiers charged up to Marishi's back, recognizing her as a healer and commander, and seeking to cut the adder's head from its body. Rae would not allow that, however.

With a quick spell, she launched a gust of wind at the two men, knocking one off his feet and slamming him heavily into the ground while she ripped a blast of lightning at the other, electrocuting him, causing his hair to singe and his flesh to crisp. A group of Garleans advanced upon a pair of soldiers from Marishi's battalion, or maybe they weren't. It was difficult for Rae to tell the difference, but they wore the Gridanian garb. Turning her attention to them, she aimed a Verflare upon the group, causing a blast of fire to explode amidst the Garleans, slaughtering several of them, maiming a few others, and causing the remaining to duck away and cry out in terror. A pair of Garleans approached Rae, sword and spear drawn. They approached cautiously, knowing her range gave her the advantage. She watched them both warily, pointing her Dreadwyrm Rapier at them while holding the crystal to hover nearby. "Don't keep me waiting, boys." Rae teased, smirking at them.

From a distance, another Garlean soldier notched his arrow, aiming it directly at Rae's chest. He drew back and held his breath, waiting for her to still before he let go. 

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The field of battle was chaos. Artillery blew holes in the landscape, concussing all those around and rupturing their internal organs. Reapers launched ceruleum infused shells with deadly accuracy, cutting down all those in its path. Men screamed in pain and terror at the sight of their mangled friends. Bodies burnt and smoking, men wandering aimlessly looking to recover their lost limbs. Men screaming on the ground with their insides pouring onto the rock, screaming and begging for someone to help. Others said nothing at all. Their glassy eyes fixed on the smoke filled and red hued sky or staring at nothing with expressions of terror and surprise on their faces.

Hand to hand combat was initiated with soldiers on either side spilling their blood with cries of rage or screams of pain. Shrapnel from spent shells raining death down upon enemy and ally alike. Pieces of the moon began to fall away slamming into the flats sending shockwaves that caused the earth to buckle and heave. Blood seeping into the dry craters forming small pools attesting to the death and destruction that war could bring.

Marishi remained mounted, channeling Aether from the land and herself into shields that protected her men and gave vigor to their flagging strength. The enemy had noticed her and cut their way to where she sat upon her mount. Marishi was cut off from her comrades and no help could be mustered as the small group tore her from her Chocobo, slaughtered it, and threw her to the ground. Marishi countered by creating a crystalline shield around herself to throw them back and sear them with blinding and holy light. The barrier should have killed all those that attempted to touch it. It was all she could do to protect herself. She felt the land bleed dry, and with it, her own channeling. There was no more Aether left to coax. The flats now a withered husk. Cracked and dry, riddled with craters.

She dropped her stave and pulled a small double-edged dagger she kept secured to her thigh garter. Time seemed to slow and Marishi looked around. Her men screaming, falling, maiming, and broken. The interference from the red moon made it impossible to contact command and request reinforcements. She could see clearly how this would all end. All dead upon the battlefield, the land drinking their blood to retake what they had stolen from it. The Imperials would march upon their cities uncontested. Their friends, family, and lovers slaughtered and enslaved. Each wearing the same expression as her Sergeant wore when she arrived at his body the night before. She saw some sunk to their knees, crying in despair and desperation. Their youth and happiness forever robbed from them, soon to be their lives.

Marishi’s eyes fell upon the hidden archer, arrow nocked and pull drawn, aimed at Rae. The last person she trusted and the last she should care about. She remembered one of the last things she had spoken to Rae. She would be at her side and that she would protect her. Even at the cost of everything she had. Marishi focused her concentration and blew her shell outward, knocking the small group back and shattering the bubble. She began to run to Rae’s aid before the arrow let fly, hacking at the few men that attempted to stop her. Gouging with her dagger, clawing with her nails. Marishi crossed into Rae as the arrow fired with it’s high pitched wail. There was only way to stop the missile from hitting it’s intended target. To block it. Marishi ran behind Rae as the arrow found a mark. Instead of striking Rae as was the intended target, the arrow sunk deep into Marishi’s back. Between her shoulder blades where the soft skin and unprotected organs were shredded as the head of the arrow poked itself out of the front of her chest.

Marishi staggered as she gripped Rae’s collar and drug her down even as she fell. The two hit the ground in the middle of the battlefield. Marishi on her side, gasping for air as the blood began to fill her lungs. Then, the moon fell broke away releasing debris to the four corners of the continent. What came out was something no one imagined and no one could stop. The Dreadwyrm Bahamut. The battle stopped dead in its tracks as all turned eyes to the floating Wyrm filled to the brim with unbridled rage and hate. All except Marishi, Rae, and the figure that was fixed upon the two.

Marishi couldn’t speak, blood spraying out of her mouth as she attempted. She lifted her hand to gently stroke Rae’s cheek as her eyes began to darken with tears and death. The figure strode silently up to the two and with one fluid movement, took it’s Far Eastern blade and buried it Marishi’s throat, ending her life, her hand falling away from Rae’s face and slamming down on blood damp ground, her vacant eyes fixed upon Rae.

The blade was freed from the corpses throat, still wet with red blood and leveled against Rae. “How you have bent the power of time under thy control, we do not know. But this loop is forbidden and should not be. We shall end thee and close the loop. There is only one that can be allowed to exist.” Alexander in the body of Marishi said coldly. There was hesitation in his voice and his hand began to tremble, fighting with himself to take Rae’s life. “Thou shalt not defy. We will correct the anomaly. We are the Arbiter. Thine will must be done.” Alexander spoke to himself. Spoke to Marishi, still inside, somewhere deep, using all of her will to stop Alexander from killing Rae. It was a losing struggle as Alexander began to take control of all of her extremities.

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She couldn't hear the twang of the bow string. The sound of war deafened her, but allowed her to hear all at once. It wasn't the pained grunt behind her that alerted her to the dying of her wife, it wasn't the physical touch. It was a feeling within her.

Rae felt her body constrict. Her soul diminish, and her breath slip from her lungs. She could feel the shift in aether as one she was bonded with drifted away slowly. Being pulled to the ground, Rae collapsed without a fight. "Marishi," she whispered, turning her head, eyes wide and pupils shrunken. Her wife lay on top of her, blood spilling from her mouth in a small trickle that grew to almost a gush. Frantically, Rae turned around, still holding onto Marishi, mindful of the arrow in her back. She stared with wide eyes, mouth partially open. As the moon ripped open, her Rapier pulsed beside her. It reacted to the presence of Bahamut, and within her, the spirit of Bahamut reacted as well. The aether in which she attuned to and took within her began to pulse. Veins of purple and gold ripped across her skin, but she felt nothing. Nothing of power, nothing of change. She only felt Marishi.

She felt the heat of her blood covering her hands, the breath she took laboriously, the trembling of her body. Marishi was afraid to die. She always had been. Each time, Rae guided her to her death. She should have stopped her, kept her from coming to the battle. Twelve damn the rest of those soldiers, they could die, but not her Marishi! Not her wife! A lump formed in her throat as she tried to speak, but it blocked her voice, even her air. Rae felt herself choking. As Marishi touched her cheek, Rae lifted her other hand and reached to hold her hand, but was stopped when a blade dug into Marishi's neck, spraying more of her blood onto her clothes and legs and arms. Rae could only gasp slightly, eyes widened further, her body terse, unmoving. She felt the tears flow finally as they spilled down her cheek like a river flowing down a mountain. 

Her gaze transfixed upon Alexander within Marishi's body. Her mind was a whirlwind until that moment, then nothing else mattered but ending the Primal that possessed her wife. Rae wanted to purge the being. She wanted to erase it from time entirely. Her rage surmounted all rationale and without a moment's hesitation, she dove at the possessed body of the one thing she had left to lose. Her clawed hands reaching out for her neck, seeking to rip it open, seeking to choke her with her hands covered in the blood of the one she loved. Just as sh reached her, however, and her fingers reached to curl around her frail neck, Rae fell forward, grasping at nothing but the warm, grainy sand beneath her.

Scents changed, sounds changed, feelings changed. The overwhelming power and fury that guided her forward was gone and replaced with a soft, lulling feeling. Bahamat was dormant, it seemed. Shaking, Rae could do nothing to sit herself up, she could do nothing to move from where she was hunched over, keeping her hands buried in the sand where she thought a neck she would find. Rae exhaled, then gasped for air. She hadn't realized she was holding her breath. Tears stained the sand beneath her. Her own tears. Sitting back, Rae realized her hands were no longer covered in blood, her clothes were no longer blood-stained, and she was no longer in the middle of the battle field. She lifted her gaze to the sky. Dalamud had fallen at this time. She couldn't see anything passed the large, misshapen cliffs that surrounded the opening she found herself in.

Behind her was a large statue of a god she had cursed and spat upon his feet. Rhalgr.

The barbaric Highlanders worshipped that being. If ever Rae would deny a god's existence, she would deny his. His damned presence bolstered the ravenous, blood-thirsty ways of the Highlanders from Ala Mhigo. She wished Dalamud had dropped upon their land. Perhaps she should go back and change the course of its landing. No one would suffer from Gyr Abania perishing. Even her wife would be safe and her eyes-

It was then that it clicked. Rae's ears perked up and she blinked rapidly. Rhalgr's Reach. She knew exactly where she was and when she was. She quickly scrambled to her feet, glacning around frantically. She needed to stop her wife from being raped and beaten within an inch of her life. The sun was in the sky. She wasn't certain the exact day, but she would find that out soon enough. Marishi would be there, or arrive soon... as would her past self. Rae did not wish to interfere with her own timeline, realizing that if she did, she would die, surely. The implications were far too great for her to chance. She would need to wait until Marishi is alone... until before she gets attacked... Until then, Rae would remain in the shadows to stalk her wife and herself.

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Was it this hot before?

Rae frantically moved about between the tents, weaving through them and avoiding the gaze of soldiers as best she could, but her movements were heavy, clumsy, and reckless. More than once had she tripped over a rope that held up a tent, causing it all to tremble and some of the voices to shout out in warning and surprise. As they looked out to see who was stumbling about, they only saw the fleeting image of a red-haired Miqo'te vanish behind another tent.

It wasn't this hot. She was feeling fatigued. How long had it been since she had rested? She had gone more days without it, but travelling through time seemed to wreck havoc upon her body like nothing else could. She could still feel the itch of her skin at the joints where the trip through time had stretched at her, threatening to take her limbs off if she stayed within the warp hole for too long. Or maybe that was just how time travel should feel. Maybe she wasn't being stretched at all, but it made the skin itch like an allergy. After all this, she certainly did feel like she would be allergic to it.

Focus. Rae needed to be somewhere away from herself, but close to Marishi. Where did Marishi go when Rae was off on her own? She grimaced as she heard the familiar sound of a young boy shouting. An auction. He had stolen her Dreadwyrm Rapier and was attempting to sell it off. Peaking from behind a tent, Rae spotted the crowd and... herself. She stared, wide-eyed and paralyzed. Never had she seen herself before. Sure, in mirrors and reflections, but never as a being doing movement that she did not initiate. It felt... strange. Strange to see her cross her arms, to see her tail swish back and forth, to see the expression on her face change to that of annoyance. Instinctively, Rae touched her own face, checking to see if she was making the same expression. She wondered how herself seeing her now would impact her memory. She wondered how her mind now would react. Before she lost herself in that thought, Rae darted off, chasing after the boy. Taking that as her queue, Rae darted out from behind the tent. Several people glanced in both directions, seeing one red-haired Miqo'te run one direction, and the same one run another. A few called to their friends to point out the strange scene, but Rae ducked out of sight and jumped into the water, diving in and swimming hard to reach the shadow of the bridge leading to Rhalgr's throne. She knew where Marishi was now. It wasn't too late for her yet... for either of them.

Once she arrived at the tavern, Rae glanced around frantically. Marishi had yet to arrive, it seemed. Picking a dark corner to hide in, Rae seated herself, waving away the maid who came to offer her drink or food. She wasn't hungry. Her stomach churned. She felt uneasy. There was something that nagged at her, a little voice that bade her to leave, but she ignored it. Resolutely, Rae remained still, wide eyes staring at the soldiers. Him. He came in with is men. Laughing, swaggering, talking loudly. They were already drunk enough. Those bastards. Did they all have their way with her wife? Not tonight. Gripping the hilt of her Rapier, she thought to cut them all down then, but she paused, faltered. She'd be kicked out, Marishi, too. They'd be sent away and never make contact with Rowena's assistant--or worse. Killed. Relaxing back, Rae kept a watchful eye on them. The door opened again, and Marishi walked in. Rae's eyes darted to her, just as all the eyes in the tavern. Her wife. Beautiful, elegant, deadly... and in danger. Her eyes darted over to the covetous eyes of the ringleader of the merry gang of rapists. The way he looked at her disgusted her. The way he breathed the same air her wife was in, the way he was allowed to know she existed. Whether those men participated or not, Rae had branded them all already and they were going to die as a rapist should die.

Before her, the events began to unfold. The men downed more drinks, Marishi waited patiently, glancing around the room once or twice, and each time, Rae hid from view. She couldn't jeopardize the meeting with the informant; however, she also would not be suffered to allow her wife to suffer. To avoid being branded a trouble-starter, she had to wait for them to start the trouble. Sure enough, as the tavern began to empty, the sun begin to set, and the sounds begin to fade, the man stood up, approaching Marishi. Immediately, Rae's hand went to the hilt of her Rapier and her foot to the table, readying to kick it over and strike at the men. She was outnumbered, but they were out-skilled. She'd have them burning in seconds, she'd have their blood staining the floor like lacquer. As the man's voice raised, Rae's heart thundered in her chest. As his hand rose up to strike Marishi, Rae kicked over the table. The other four men turned to look at her as she hurdled over the tables, kicking one man in the face while swinging her Rapier at the Highlander holding her wife.

A hand caught her's, stopping her fatal blow. Another hand struck at her face, knocking her back. She held tight onto her Rapier and regained her footing just in time to be tackled to the ground by the hulking Highlander. He pinned her down, straddling her hips as he squeezed her arms. "Thinkin' of stabbin' me, eh? You gods damned queer cats gotta stick together in numbers because you ain't got strength alone!" He barked. Rae could smell the alcohol on his breath, she could feel the heat radiating from his body. As she squirmed, he sat up, reaching for his pants, but something struck the back of his head. A chair.

"Marishi! No!" Rae screamed. The man doubled over, but quickly jumped to his feet.

"Hold that bitch down! That one's mine!" The Highlander shouted. Two men obliged and grabbed Rae, holding her arms tight while one worked to yank her Rapier out of her hand. Marishi had shouted something, but Rae couldn't hear it. The pounding of her heart rang in her ears as she saw the man strike out, simply taking two blows from Marishi, then striking her back, knocking her into a table, then grabbing her neck and holding her there. Desperate, Rae managed to wiggle free her sword arm and swung at the man to her right, slashing through his clothes and biting deep into his skin. Blood gushed from the open wound and he cried out in agony, stumbling backwards and clutching at his stomach to keep his intestines from falling out. The other two men cried out and jumped on Rae, punching her in the stomach and face, then twisting her arm until she dropped the weapon. Blood dripped from her nose as she lifted her head and spat back at the man before her, blood and saliva staining his shirt. As he raised his hand to slap her again, the Highlander barked back. "Don't knock her out! She's going to suffer. But first... she gets to watch her wife learn how to love a man." Rae's eyes widened and she stared at the Highlander. His hulking body hunched over her wife's frail frame.

"Shouldn't we be takin' Ogren to-" started one soldier, but he was cut off by the snarl of their leader Highlander.

"He's good as dead now! We only gotta avenge his death." He roared, then turned back to Marishi. In that moment, Marishi and Rae locked eyes. There was a wordless cry for help in them, a fear that Rae had wished to never see, and vowed would never fill her wife's eyes again. The crimson hue of both eyes locked with her verdant orbs and in a moment, the world held still. In that moment, Rae prayed. She called out to Alexander, despite him killing her wife and trying to kill her now, she called out to him, begging to spare her this scene.

The scream that ripped through Marishi's mouth rang sharply into Rae's ears. The Highlander slapped and punched her several times, blood smattering the table below her wife and covering his knuckles. Despite the assault, Marishi cried out and writhed until one last strike hit her. The blow that damaged her eye and silenced her. The sound of her wife's screams echoed in Rae's ears. "Put a gag on that one! She's gonna call the whole Reach in here!" Ordered the commander. Had she been screaming? Rae didn't realize until the gag covered her mouth. Her throat was raw, her lungs burned as did her face. She had been screaming, but she didn't hear it. She could only hear over and over the screams of pain and fear from her wife, the grunt that all but took her life. Tears flowed down her face as she stared on in horror, helpless to save her wife. The three men that held her down jeered and laughed at first, then, they slowly grew quiet. Their gazes averted and their body language changed from that of enjoyment to shame and horror, but the man did not relent. Despite his comrades not joining in, he would not finish with Marishi. 

Finally, he stopped, pulling himself from Marishi's limp body. By then, the men had completely let go of Rae as they crossed their arms and some covered their own mouths. It had gone too far for them. "What? You didn't think she was going to be the only one to have fun, did ya," the Highlander sneered, walking over to Rae. "Yer gonna pay fer killin' my man. He was a good man, an' now you get t'suffer." None of the others moved to stop their leader. They stepped aside as he approached Rae, grabbing her by the neck and holding her up. She dug her nails into his skin, grabbing at his arm and hand, trying to pry herself free, but his hand squeezed tighter around her neck, causing a dark rim to encircle her vision. "Don't pass out, cat. You squeeze better that way." He growled under his breath. Rae, unable to save herself, stared down at him, pure hatred and rage in her eyes. Her mouth gagged, she could not speak, but she screamed at him anyways like a feral beast. It was all she could do.

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