This Ruined Puzzle
by Lassarina Aoibhell
This fic contains MAJOR SPOILERS! All characters, etc. belong to Square.
I am nothing.
Honour? Courage? Pretty words, nothing more.
I should be in Baron. They're probably just starting the ceremony. I can still see their faces when I said I'd be away. Cecil looked like I'd just dealt him a mortal blow. Rosa understood.
Her understanding hurt me more than his resentment.
The wind is cool and brisk, ruffling my hair and stinging my eyes.
I can pretend that the wind is responsible for the tears.
I'm looking over the broad vistas below Mt. Ordeals. The view is breathtaking, but all I really see is a pair of soft amber-golden eyes.
Turning, I walk to the small spring I found and splash cold water on my face. As the surface stills, I look at my reflection.
The face looking back at me is the face of a cold, traitorous bastard.
The Crystal Room in Fabul fairly hummed with power. Although the room was entirely enclosed, I could feel the stirring of air. Cecil stood between me and the Crystal, his blue eyes astonished and glad. Behind him was some pale-faced prettyboy with a lute tucked under his arm. One of the powerful Monks of Fabul stood on his other side.
He was so glad to see me, racing down off the dais, his usual guarded expression completely gone. And then I showed him what I had become: a betrayal of all we'd believed in.
The memory wavered, only to be replaced by another, just as painful.
The village of Mist was burning around us. I could only stare at Cecil, who was bound and determined to rescue this child. Didn't he know how powerful Baron was? The King raised us, for God's sake, didn't he know that the man could find us anywhere?
He picked a hell of a time to rediscover the honour and compassion buried under that black armour.
I didn't know what that little green-haired summoner child thought she was going to accomplish by babbling all that mumbo-jumbo, but I also wasn't going to attack, and probably kill, a child in cold blood.
The giant's appearance was a surprise, to say the least. The earthquake knocked me senseless. When I awoke, it was night, and Golbez was standing over me. Clumsily I got to my feet, then found myself kneeling to him in a gesture of submission.
Some small, tiny part of me remained free of his magic, and I cringed at what I had become. What I knew I would do.
Despite being Golbez's pet tool, I was never left alone. He or one of his Fiends was always with me. Valvalis, the blonde slut, was determined to coax me into her bed. She wanted to know if a human would be as good as her fiendish brethren. Or at least, as good as Rubicant. I doubt even Valvalis would have been willing to sleep with the decaying mound of flesh that was Scarmiglione, or the turtle-like Caignozzio.
If I'd been left alone, I'd have slit my wrists. I was a Dragon Knight of Baron. I was my father's son, and I was an honourable man.
Honour. Man's little joke to himself. A pretty smoke screen used to hide cowardice.
Oh, the look on Cecil's face when I attacked him in the Crystal Room in Fabul. The hurt, the betrayed trust. Even when he was crumpled on the ground, bleeding where my spear had struck, he still had that expectant look, waiting for me to give him a cue, as I always had during our childhood in Baron.
I couldn't kill him. Dammit, I couldn't! He was my brother, in ever way that mattered.
That voice. Her voice.
She was standing in the doorway, looking like some kind of angel. Her blonde hair streamed over her shoulders, rippling against the pristine white cloak she wore. I saw recognition in her eyes. I also knew the second that her White Mage's training told her what Golbez had done. Even the compassion in her eyes didn't mar it. She mesmerized me.
Golbez's cold, taunting words broke my reverie, jeering at me for being so caught up in a woman. I could only watch helplessly as he took both Rosa, and the Crystal.
I don't realize that I clenched my hand around the point of my spear until I feel warm blood running down my wrist. The memory of my own cowardice still makes me cringe. It wasn't the things that Rubicant and the others had said to me--the comments about how I was whipped, less than a man because a mere woman had thrown me off. It wasn't the way Golbez treated me after that--like a child who had to be watched to be sure he didn't accidentally spoil anyone's plans.
It was Rosa. Acting on Golbez's orders, I went to her cell every once in a while. As fast as her bruises healed, new ones appeared. Some were by my hand. Others, Golbez caused. I dared not think about the Rubicant. Despite his attitude, the Fiend of Fire had his own code of honour. He would never fight an opponent who wasn't at full strength, and he would never harm a woman. Golbez had been brutal in his punishment when Rubicant refused his orders to rape her, but the Fiend refused to bend.
In a way, I could admire him.
Despite Rubicant's refusal, Golbez was determined to break her spirit one way or another. After all, he only had to keep her alive long enough to ensure the safe delivery of the Earth Crystal. Yet even when I struck her, laughed at her, called her names that I still can't bear to recall….never once did she look at me with hate.
Neither did Cecil. He resented me--oh God yes, he resented me for turning traitor, but he never hated me either. Not even when I stood on the deck of the flagship of the Red Wings, the ship he had once commanded, and taunted him, comparing his Paladin's robes to those of a drag queen. Even when I called Rosa his whore, he didn't hate me.
How could anyone stand the abuse I heaped on them and not hate me? Their understanding hurt more than hate ever could have.
It still does.
Cecil burst into the room where Golbez held Rosa captive. I remained slouched in the corner, waiting. She was bound, with a giant battle-axe suspended over her. I knew Golbez intended to kill her. He was only using her to get that precious Crystal. Like he was using me.
He used my weaknesses, like my love for Rosa. Much as I loved her, I would never have said anything. She wanted Cecil, and that was the end of it. I would simply have to live my life wanting her, and never having her.
Golbez changed that. He brought out my darkest side. Not that it was all that deeply buried anyway.
The old sage's magic was powerful. The shock of his spell broke Golbez's control over me. And when I saw Cecil ready to welcome me back into their group....
....The urge to die was never so strong.
"Cecil...I can't. I--"
"You were hypnotized. Not your fault." Damn the man, why did he have to be so bloody accepting?
"But I retained consciousness." I couldn't look at them. "Rosa...I...."
"Rosa..." Cecil turned to her.
She was practically glowing. "Cecil, I knew you'd come."
This, I certainly couldn't watch. The emotional wounds opened by Golbez were too raw. I turned away from their joy, but I couldn't shut out their words.
"I missed you so much..." Cecil said. "I realized..."
The sound of a kiss.
Have some thought for those around you, for God's sake.
"Kain?" Her voice was very soft, as was her touch on my shoulder.
"He's okay now," Cecil said, his voice filled with that damnably innocent optimism that he always had. "Tellah's Meteo broke Golbez's spell."
"But I was still aware," I said, keeping my face turned away. "Yet...Rosa...I wanted to keep you close at any cost!"
I couldn't say anything. Nor could Cecil. I would imagine it would screw up your head to hear the man that you loved as a brother admit that he wanted your girl.
Rosa, of course, didn't care. White Mages and their infinite compassion will be the death of me. "Let's fight together, Kain," she said gently.
I laughed, bitterly. "After all that I've done...it's too late."
"Let's go, Kain," Cecil said. He might have been shaken by my admission, but he wouldn't let it ruin our friendship.
I couldn't say anything. He wasn't noticeably affected by it. "We need your help now more than ever."
Even as I writhed in shame, I thanked them.
Valvalis showed up as we tried to leave. She thought she could stop us. The little slut wanted my spear? I'd be more than glad to give her a taste of it. Her, and her freakish brothers.
I can laugh at myself now, for my stupidity and innocence. I thought that breaking free of Golbez's control once meant I'd be free forever.
Not in this lifetime.
My spear is sharp in my hands. The faint pearlescent glow it gives off is brighter now as sunset fills the sky with blood-red light.
That won't be the only thing filled with red.
I stroke my fingertips softly over the razor-sharp edges of the spear's head. Thin red lines appear on my fingers, and the blood drips into the little pool, staining it with crimson.
I recall how it felt, walking out of the Sealed Cave in the underworld and feeling that painful pressure at the back of my skull, the sudden loss of volition. Oh, the looks on their faces when I took that last Dark Crystal and returned to the man who controlled me.
I laugh aloud, bitterly. That cocky young Prince of Eblan was so shocked when I told him to kill me if I turned traitor again. Even then, I thought I could somehow reclaim my honour as a Dragon Knight. I thought I would somehow be able to erase the taint Golbez had left in my mind.
And now here I stand, watching my bright red blood trace patterns on the glowing white surface of the Holy Spear, trying to summon the courage to put that spear through my heart.
Will they grieve for me?
Cecil and Rosa will, but they'll have each other. The others….what reason have they to care? The little Caller thinks I'm a traitor. The arrogant ninja….well, he won't miss me. Nor will the monk or the princeling.
Another drop of blood falls into the pool, fragmenting the water's surface. Fragmented, like me. I'm like a ruined puzzle, with pieces of me scattered everywhere, and twisted beyond repair. All I ever had was that tiny, faint hope that Rosa would one day see me as more than her friend, as more than Cecil's brother in every way but blood.
That, and my dream of honour. The dream of being worthy to be my father's son.
The first dream is being shattered now, as Rosa accepts Cecil's gold ring on her finger and becomes the Queen of Baron. The second….was shattered after the Bomb Ring destroyed Mist.
Carefully I set the hilt of the Holy Spear into a small crack in the ground, so that it is firmly held and tilts upward, at just the right height.
I step back, measuring my distance. Coward that I am, I don't want to screw this up. It's not that I'm afraid of pain; I don't care how I die. The only thing I'm afraid of is not causing myself enough damage, of being able to survive this. The ultimate failure.
Looking around me one more time, I see my Dragoon helmet resting against the lip of the pool. I'm no longer worthy to wear it. Traitors do not belong in the ranks of Baron's Dragon Knights.
"Rosa...Cecil....I'm sorry." I close my eyes and let my body fall forward.
Instead of piercing pain, it feels like striking a smooth, slightly giving surface. Slowly I open my eyes....and find myself resting on a shimmering veil of white light, just above the point of the spear.
Automatically I pull myself upright and settle into a defensive stance, though my spear is still behind me.
You have nothing to fear from me, Kain. I am KluYa.
KluYa....Cecil's father. It is only now that I remember where Cecil acquired his rank of Paladin. Here on Mount Ordeals....conferred by his father.
How the hell does one address the spirit of a Lunarian?
I hear a faint, disembodied chuckle. Don't worry about that. Kain, why do you wish to die?
He couldn't possibly be serious. "Because look at me! I'm useless, all I've ever had was my honour and I haven't had that since Golbez...." I have to let the words trail off, I'm disgustingly close to tears.
Being controlled does not imply a loss of honour.
"I was still aware of what he was doing to me!"
But unable to fight against it.
"What does that matter? I still let it happen! I was too damn weak to stop it!" God, I've lost it, I'm talking to a voice I'm not even sure is really there.
Kain, you could not have stopped it. Think for a moment. Yes, there is a place for you on the other side, but there is still a place for you HERE.
"Yeah, right. Like what? As captain of the Dragon Knights? They would never accept someone as soiled as me. Advisor to the King of Baron? Yeah, that would work well, considering I betrayed him not once but twice while he fought to save the world."
You fought beside him.
"And against him!"
KluYa sounds irritated now. Stop looking at what you HAD. Start looking at what you HAVE. Look at what you could have.
"I don't get it." Hell, now I sound like Ninja-boy.
If you had one wish, Kain....just one....what would it be?
My instinctive reaction is To have Rosa love me. But is that really what I want? She's happy with Cecil, and that's always been enough for me before. I'd rather she be happy with him than unhappy with me. And if I were to make that wish, and take her away from the man I call my brother...it would kill him.
The next thought that comes to mind is To be worthy of my father. But what is that, really? All I know of him is the tales that the men in his squadron told of him. He was a great and brave Dragon Knight, and was honoured many times over by King Odin for his valourous deeds. But those are deeds. Who was the person? Who was the man who sired me?
I have my answer.
"I would want my honour back." King Odin raised Cecil and I to always act with honour. I may not have done so when Golbez controlled me, but by God I will have it back now.
He sounds pleased. Go back to Baron and command the Dragon Knights. You will have it. But Kain, remember....you are more than your honour.
I make the slow journey back down Mt. Ordeals, my Holy Spear making short work of the undead creatures there. As I start to head back to Baron with the Hovercraft I borrowed, I look back.
Shimmering light bathes the summit of the mountain. And for some reason, it fills me with peace.
This fic's title was inspired by a Dashboard Confessional song called "This Ruined Puzzle." All characters, etc. belong to Square.
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