Spirit of a Knight Blade Chapter 2
By Lia Strife
"Look," Vormav said suddenly, pointing to something in the distance.
Izlude was too weary to even raise his head, as were most of the other soldiers and knights.
"I said look! Or are you too stupid to understand me?" Vormav said again, this time accompanied with a backhanded slap to Izlude's face.
Though the ferocity of the blow would knock most normal men almost out of the saddle, Izlude barely flinched, accustomed to this rough treatment. Izlude forced himself to look ahead. In the far distance rose the majestic form of the cathedral, gleaming in the gentle light of the setting sun.
"Our goal is near, Father " Izlude said, forcing a smile.
Vormav displayed a macabre grin.
"Yes, Izlude soon, I will have control of the Zodiac stones. Then then Ivalice will belong to the Lucavi!" Vormav muttered with wicked zeal, grin widening.
Izlude was so shocked he almost fell off his Chocobo. What is he talking about? the Knight Blade wondered incredulously. He himself said that we were going to give Ivalice back to the people, under the guidance of the church! Izlude shook his head rigorously, attempting to rid himself of the weariness that wreaked him. I was hearing things. He forced himself to believe. Father would never think, nor say, such things. And I have never heard of these "Lucavi." His thoughts were interrupted by a knight who rushed up next to Vormav, barely keeping up with his Chocobo.
"Sir Tingel! Sir Folles requests that you command the troops to come to a halt. Even our sentries are left completely unaware to any threat due to weariness," the messenger knight said, already almost gasping for breath.
Vormav's grin was wiped from his face instantly and replaced with the noble expression of a Shrine Knight.
"Of course. You all have worked long and hard for the good of our church, for the good of Ivalice. The very least you deserve is a rest. Inform Sir Folles that I will do so," Vormav replied, the embodiment of knightly goodness.
Izlude smiled, contented. This was the Father he knew and loved. The knight bowed as well as he could while running, turned around, and was quickly out of sight. Vormav's face remained expressionless as he held up a hand to stop the line of soldiers. They halted near instantly, and Izlude could hear many audible sighs of relief. Vormav turned around in his saddle to face the small army.
"We will rest here until further notice! I suggest you all use this time wisely!" Vormav shouted.
Many heads bobbed in agreement, breaking away from their formations to find a place to sleep. Izlude steered his Chocobo to the base of a nearby tree, where he slid out of his saddle and fell to the ground. Not bothering to tie up his Chocobo, he rested his head against the tree trunk, closing his eyes.
"Brother! Izlude!" a girl's voice yelled, followed by the sound of running footsteps.
Izlude didn't even need to open his eyes to tell who it was.
"Meliadoul " Izlude said, opening his eyes enough to see her face.
She did not smile now, but instead frowned, eyes filled with worry. Izlude turned his face away, and grimaced inwardly at the mistake. Now the angry red welt where Vormav had hit his earlier was plainly visible. Meliadoul opened her eyes wide with shock, gingerly touching the wound.
"How ? Izlude, a blow like this should have at least broken your jaw! And yet " Meliadoul trailed off, squinting at the growing bruise on his cheek. "Who did this to you?"
"It was a tree branch. I got careless, and it hit me," Izlude lied.
"Izlude, you always were a bad liar." She bit her lip. "It was Father, wasn't it?" Izlude remained silent. "Answer me! Please, Izlude!"
" It was my fault," Izlude mumbled, trying to come up with an excuse. "I "
"Enough. I'm going to get a chemist, or a white mage, or something. If you move from this spot, Izlude, I'll !" Meliadoul started, but she silenced herself when she noticed that Izlude had closed his eyes once again and was breathing slower, oblivious to her hollow threats.
Meliadoul smiled. She would let him sleep, for now. Or at least until I can find a chemist or a white mage who's at least coherent enough to do their jobs, she corrected herself.
"Good night, brother," Meliadoul said quietly before walking off to find someone who knew how to heal.
"Excuse me?" Ramza exclaimed, trying to get the attention of his rowdy soldiers. "May I have your attention?"
A few heads looked his way before turning back to their dinners. Finally, a young archer who was passing by, Noppo, noticed Ramza's dilemma. He stood up beside Ramza, put his thumb and first finger in his mouth and emitted a piercing whistle that had Ramza cover his ears with his hands and everyone else silent in a matter of seconds. Ramza raised his eyebrow at the outgoing archer, but Noppo simply shrugged and took a seat around the campfire next to Bernard.
"Thank you. I wish to inform you all that we are getting close to our goal, and will arrive by noon tomorrow!" A cheer erupted among his small group of dedicated soldiers and he waited until the cheers quieted before speaking again.
"I want you to know, however, that there is, as there always is, a great deal of risk involved. This time, not in the form of monsters, but in the form of the church of Ivalice itself," Ramza continued.
The smiles faded away almost as quickly as they had come, and a buzz of whispers began to fill the ring around the campfire. Keith stood up, a determined look on his face.
"Ramza, I'd follow you to the seven hells and back. There's no way I'm gonna bail out on you now!" he exclaimed, earning nods from many others around him.
Ramza nodded to him in thanks.
"Listen, you're the bravest people I've ever had the good fortune to know," Ramza said, voice filled with pride. "And if we fight together, no one can match us in battle. They might be stronger, but brute strength is not what wins a war. It's teamwork and dedication.
"You can bail out now, and I would understand. This isn't jail; you can come and go freely. But do know that we would be stronger and smarter with you, and we'd have a better chance of saving our friends, our families, all of Ivalice, and perhaps even the whole of Gaia. So what do you guys think? Are we going to fight for our country?" he finished finally.
Everyone who was there erupted into a great cheer, and even the usually timid Rad joined in with a yell of his own.
"Alright! Then everyone eat a good meal, get a good sleep, and when we get there tomorrow, the Shrine Knights and their army won't even know what hit them!" Ramza shouted over the din, joining them around the campfire.
Ramza forced himself to smile, knowing that, indeed, these people would fight to the death. But will that be enough? he questioned himself, looking up at the clear night sky at the constellations.
Pisces was high in the sky, a subtle and foreboding symbol of what was to come.
The four hours of sleep Izlude recently had did very little to replenish his stamina. His muscles were tired and sore from the days of riding, and even though the chemist had done as good of a job healing Izlude's jaw as she could, it still throbbed dully. His spirit was lifted, however, by the sight of Orbonne, the church's goal, so very near.
"I can feel the Holy Stone " Vormav said to no one in particular.
Izlude squinted in confusion but said nothing. As the hour dragged by, the two remained silent, engrossed in their own thoughts. What does Father Funeral want with the Holy Stones ? Izlude thought to himself. And what is this "Lucavi?" surely, it, or they, is for the good of Ivalice, if Father spoke of them so and yet
Izlude's thoughts were interrupted by the voice of his father. Izlude had not even realized they had arrived at the monastery.
"Only those previously selected by Sir Izlude, Sir Folles, or myself will come with us. All other soldiers present will stay here and watch for the heretic!" he shouted, making sure that all could hear his instructions.
Wiegraf and a few experienced soldiers rode from the back and dismounted their Chocobos.
"Greetings, Sir Tingel," Wiegraf greeted him formally. "Shall we?"
He motioned to the doorway of the grand monastery. Vormav nodded briskly and began to saunter confidently towards the doorway, Izlude close behind him. Weigraf, however, did not move at all. Izlude turned his head curiously and raised an eyebrow.
"Sir Folles, will you not be joining us?" Izlude asked, keeping his tone respectful. Wiegraf's mouth turned up in a slight smile.
"After you. Sir Tingel said he wanted the both of you to go first there were some 'matters' he wanted to get out of the way," he said, emphasizing the statement with a shrug.
Izlude nodded slowly and opened his mouth to reply.
"Hurry up, boy! You're slowing us down again!" Vormav hollered.
Izlude turned around hastily and bolted after his father, who was already at the doorway.
"Sorry, Father. It won't happen again," Izlude said, bowing his head in respect. Vormav snorted.
"I should hope it won't. I might leave you for the heretic," Vormav quipped maliciously. He turned to the door.
"In the name of St. Ajora and Most Holy Father Funeral, open the door and let us, the Glabados Shrine Knights, enter!" Vormav boomed.
The door was opened a crack by a male priest, who looked furtively out at them. His eyes widened to near the size of teacups when he saw Vormav's face and the door was swung wide open.
The priest's mouth worked wordlessly for a few seconds and then the priest managed to half-cough, half-stutter a few words.
"G Greetings, Sir Tingel. To what do we owe the honor of this visit?" He stammered, face flushed.
Vormav simply shoved his way past the young priest and into the hall.
"Where is Simon!?" Vormav roared.
He whipped back around to the young priest and shot him a look that made the priest's blood run cold and his face turn a deathly white color.
"F F...Father Simon? I I don't know, sir!"
"Wrong answer." Vormav grabbed the priest by the collar and lifted him into the air with inhuman strength, the priest's feet hovering a foot over the floor.
"Father? He is a priest of St. Ajo-" Izlude interjected from the doorway, a horrified look on his youthful face.
"Silence!" Vormav screamed, shooting Izlude a look that made the one he gave the young priest look friendly. Izlude cringed as if physically struck and was silent. "As you are of no use here, go look for that fool Simon somewhere else!"
"NOW!" Vormav yelled. "Get down there or I will kill you myself!"
Izlude fairly jumped down the stairs and dashed through the doorway, nearly in tears.
Vormav grinned maliciously, returning his gaze to the priest.
"Are you sure of that answer? As you can plainly see, I'm not even afraid to kill my own son. Don't doubt the fact that I would take great pleasure in seeing you suffer at my hands."
"Y..Y...Yes. N..N..Yes, N No, sir! Wai-"
Vormav threw the stuttering priest down the stairs, drawing his sword.
"Again, wrong answer. You are of little use to me now, I fear. So long, priest. Your precious Father Simon will be joining you shortly," Vormav said, sounding almost bored.
He strolled carelessly down the stairs and stopped in front of the quivering mass that was the priest. Vormav rested his sword's blade casually across the priest's neck.
"Any last words, you pathetic fool?" Vormav said, sounding almost friendly.
The priest opened his mouth and Vormav jabbed the sword in between the young man's ribs. The priest died with a horrified look on his face, only making Vormav's grin return.
"Too slow." He shrugged to the corpse apologetically.
He wiped his bloody sword on the priest's white robes and strolled once more up the stairs. The door to the lower level banged open and the sorry form of Father Simon emerged, Izlude following close behind with his sword drawn. His soldiers were not with him.
"I I found him, Father. He was downstairs, in the book storage." Izlude explained, leading Simon up the stairs to Vormav.
"Excellent. Good work, Izlude." Vormav complimented him. He turned to Simon and scowled.
"The Holy Stone, Virgo. Where is it!? I can feel it It's here!" Vormav said, voice rising in volume with every word.
Simon's face showed an expression of both horror and confusion.
"Vormav, Sir Tingel, my old friend, what is this about? I cannot give you the Holy Stone, you know this!" Simon pleaded.
Vormav simply punched him in the face as a reply, breaking the old Father's nose. Blood began to flow freely down Simon's face, and his expression changed to that of the purest horror.
"Listen to me, "old friend," I asked you a question. And I can do so much worse than break your nose " Vormav trailed off, cocking his head towards the bloody form of the priest and moving his hand to the hilt of his sword. "Now answer me, old fool, where is the Holy Stone!?" He roared, drawing his sword.
Simon hung his head in submission.
"...Downstairs, Sir Tingel." He sighed, "You will find the stone downstairs."
Vormav grinned wickedly and sheathed his sword.
"You just bought yourself a while longer to live," Vormav sneered.
He turned to the doorway leading outside.
"Wiegraf! Come here and give the Father his reward for cooperation!" he called.
As if on some pre-determined cue, Weigraf walked in, hand resting on the hilt of his sword.
"You rang?" Weigraf remarked. He glanced at the corpse of the priest, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "I take it the negotiations did not go well?"
"Always the comedian, Weigraf. Izlude and I are going to search downstairs for Virgo. Make sure to give the heretic a nice surprise when he gets here. Father Simon has long been known to be a man of little faith. I'm sure that the church would be better off without him," Vormav replied. "Come, Izlude." Vormav disappeared in a flash of blue light.
"God have mercy on us all father " Izlude muttered, raising his gaze to the roof. He, too, disappeared in a flash of light.
Ramza hurriedly dismounted his chocobo and handed it off to Gordon. They had arrived at the Monastery, but were forced to enter from the back, as the Glabados army was currently watching for them on the other side. His little sister, Alma, soon joined him, face showing her worry clearly. Ramza sighed and shook his head.
"Alma, stay here. It's too dangerous for " Ramza was cut off. Alma only scowled.
"For what? A girl? No, Ramza, I'm going," she interrupted, sounding very much like a small child.
"No, it's not that, I don't want you to get hurt, Alma. You're the only real family I have left," he replied with another sigh. Alma walked to the doorway, placing her hands on her hips defiantly.
"Are you coming?" she asked him.
With that, she spun around and walked through the doorway, head high. Ramza ran after her, full speed. He finally found her in the underground book storage, floor one.
"Alma, are you crazy?! Running off like " He stopped short, seeing the corpse of a priest and the bloody form of Father Simon lying on the ground.
Alma shrieked, running to the old priest's side.
"Simon!! Please answer me!!" she sobbed, lifting his head from the ground.
Simon opened his eyes and frowned when he saw who it was.
"U, ugh...Alma... Why...are you...here?" he coughed, his face a mask of despair.
"What happened?" Alma asked him, a terrified expression plastered on her face.
"It's dangerous....here. Hurry....run. They...came for the Holy Stone 'Virgo'..." he explained through gasps.
Ramza stepped up beside his sister, a curious expression on his face.
"Holy Stone!? Then Alma was right..." Ramza mused. Simon coughed again.
"The Stone's been a royal treasure for generations... When Princess Ovelia came here, they gave it to us as proof of her status," Simon told him. Ramza raised an eyebrow.
"Who are 'they'? Who's trying to get the stone?" he pressed, stepping closer to the wounded Father.
Simon squinted up at him, trying to see who it was.
"You're Alma's older brother Ramza, aren't you? Don't get any more involved. You'll be killed..." Simon pleaded.
Ramza silenced the other two, raising a finger to his lips. Voices. It's those damned Shrine Knights!
"Where is the Holy Stone!?" a distant voice said.
"Wait! It must be here somewhere! Look for it!" said another.
"We can go underground from here. Let's go!!" said a third voice, more youthful than the other two.
"I'm a fugitive, branded by the church as a 'heretic'. Is it because of the stone? Please tell me. Who are they?" Ramza asked Simon, keeping his voice quiet.
"High Priest and his sect are trying to regain power. First, they're reducing Larg and Goltana's military power by causing in fighting. If the war drags on, it not only reduces their power, but trust in the royal family," Simon said in a melancholy tone. Ramza pondered a moment before speaking again.
"What's the real reason for collecting the Stones... and reviving the Zodiac Braves?"
"To gain the people's trust, of course."
"But the Cardinal already joined the Lucavi. If it's only the stone's power, it'd be strong enough to replace the military. Funeral wants that power?" Ramza pressed.
"You're different from your brothers. More like Balbanes. Perhaps you might be able to destroy their ambition," Simon said, smiling remorsefully.
Ramza looked at his sister with a deadpan expression on his face.
"You stay here. I'll go after them," he told her sternly.
"I'll go with you!" she said, rising to her feet. Ramza shook his head.
"We can't leave Simon alone. Hide in a safe place!" he sighed.
Alma narrowed her eyes and then nodded her head grudgingly.
".... Okay, I will."
Ramza dug into his armor and pulled out two faintly gleaming stones and handed them to Alma.
"Hold on to these stones, just in case. If I don't come back, make sure to throw them in Bugrosia Sea," Ramza said. He was dead serious.
"I regret I can't help you. I wish I were born a man..." she sighed. Ramza snorted.
"Don't be silly. You're the only one I trust," he said, flashing her a smile. Alma lowered her gaze.
"Take care of Simon!" he exclaimed.
Ramza nodded to his sister and bolted down the stairs, following in hot pursuit of the Shrine Knights.
"Both sides blame one another. There's no good or bad side. Just two sides holding different views."
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