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Kannadi's Promotion [story]

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Cartenau Flats weren’t, at the current place of rest. The cliffs dividing Thanalan from Mor Dhona stretched and crumbled into the plains region where the Allied Forces planned to make the evening’s clash. A full thousand soldiers hailed from Ul’dah alone.


Kannadi observed them from atop a boulder atop a cliff. A breeze caught her vanya-silk robe and fluttered her flared gray sleeves. She reached up to secure her hat.


Joint military operations, she thought. A fine misdirection for the public.


She had risen to Chief Sergeant by virtue of a handful of dead Garleans, a respectable number of healed adventurers, and an awful lot of dead monsters. Her specialty, she felt, was and always had been detailed observation; the slinging of spells both soothing and scouring was more of a hobby at which she excelled. It seemed that the Immortal Flames valued the latter more than the former. She felt it was a pity. Observation was clearly the more important skill. If not by astute examination, how else could she know with which spell, on which body part, how far away, at what strength and what speed she might destroy a given foe with maximum efficiency? It astonished her how many of her fellow adventurers thought Bombs were weak to Water spells….


Down in the allegedly flat lands below her, before the next sunrise, a clash to end an era would occur. That was the plan, anyway. Plans. Oh, what she wouldn’t give to simply make plans, to step back and a little ways above the field and issue orders. Kannadi imagined a grid laid over the Flats, populated by individual units who had come to an agreement that only one would move at a time. How simple and sensible it would be, how much cleaner it would be, if all wars could play out like that….


“How’d you get up there?” Came her cousin’s voice below.


“It isn’t so difficult to climb, Leyla,” Kannadi said from on high. “Just a matter of upward momentum.”


Leyla Albedo, a Chief Sergeant herself, leaned on her lance. Her armor was all chain and black leather, draped on her narrow frame like a limp flag. She and Kannadi had a long-standing rivalry, grown friendlier in recent days. But not too friendly.


“Well get down then, Kanna,” she said. “Rider wants you.”


Kannadi descended the boulder like a goat, a controlled fall made of short hops from tiny foothold to tiny foothold. She landed with aristocratic grace, bent her knees and dusted the hem of her robe.


“For what purpose?” Kannadi asked, casual as could be.


“Damned if I know.” At that, Leyla swept her lance on her shoulder. Its arc knocked Kannadi’s hat off her head, but Kannadi deftly caught it at the brim and donned it again as she rose without a break in the single swift motion.


“Move like that and you just might survive today,” Leyla continued, smiling.


“No Garlean worth his ceruleum would swing a shallow blow like that, cousin,” said Kannadi, smiling back.


“Oh?” Leyla rotated her lance off her shoulder and struck like a heron. The very tip of her weapon went tink, ever so gently, against the black pearl of Kannadi’s left earring.


Kannadi, still smiling, and precisely as gentle, moved the lance-head away with the tip of her finger. Her middle finger.


“Strike like that and you may well survive too,” Kannadi said.



- - -



“Promoted?” Kannadi asked, suddenly bewildered in the Free Brigade’s command tent.


“I don’t believe I stuttered, Second Lieutenant.” Jakys Rider slid a long paper across what passed for a commander’s desk during field operations. “Functional Area Fifty-Nine, Strategic Plans and Policy, which means deciding who goes where with what and how -- or it would, if there weren’t already plans put in place by better officers.”


Kannadi snatched up the document. Rider rolled his wrist and turned his body to the map hanging on the tent wall behind his desk. “The Sultana thanks you, blah blah blah,” Rider droned. “Enjoy the view from the rear tents.”


“Now wait just a moment!” Kannadi read quickly by habit and skimmed the paper at lightning speed. “I had no say in this! Who in….”


At the bottom of the sheet, signatures already filled horizontal lines. Kannadi recognized a name. She closed her eyes.


“Commander Rider, sir?” Kannadi maintained her composure with some difficulty.


“Yeah?” The High Flame Commander’s attention remained on the map. His posture declared that it was there to stay.


“I was not aware that my grandmother had attained any rank in the Flames whatsoever.”


“She hasn’t. Thanks to the fortune she moved into our coffers, she’s earned a couple official favors.” Rider dragged his thumb around a rise in elevation on the map, tracing a troop advancement that only he saw. “I’m not sure I want to know where she got the money so fast.”


“Usury, mostly,” Kannadi grumbled unpatriotically. Only in Ul’dah could wealth buy influence and get a receipt. “But your name is here as well,” she flapped the paper down, “and you are not the sort to promote without merit. May I ask what I’ve done to deserve this?”


Rider shrugged one shoulder, eyes still locked on the printed terrain. “Look,” he said, “you’ve served well so far, and Roaille said to go with it, so I did.”


Kannadi dropped her jaw. “The Grand Flame Marshal? Why would she? I ought to be below her notice!”


“It had something or other to do with your paper on Dalamud.”


“What? I wrote no such--”


But she had.


Many weeks ago, after Dalamud had descended close enough for scrutiny, Kannadi became entranced by it. Something about the lines and circles in its surface had refused to leave her mind. And so she had become all but a shut-in, glued to her desk and shackled to her telescope by the mystery it presented, until at last the spell broke and she found herself the owner of great sheaves of painstaking illustrations and mostly-legible scrawling.


Sheaves which she had shut away in an armory chest and deposited at her parents’ home for safe keeping, in the off chance that all those papers might come to some value one day.


And her grandmother made frequent visits to her parents’ home.


Kannadi took a steadying breath.


“Am I to assume that my grandmother is present on the field?”


“Hells no. She’s moving more funds from behind the walls. Haven’t needed to contact her yet.” Rider finally turned back to his desk, only to open a small drawer. A drawstring pouch sat inside: white and lumpy, bearing a shell crest. Rider, satisfied that it was still there, quickly shut the drawer.


Kannadi’s eyes practically flashed at the bag’s brief appearance. She fought to keep her tone level.


“Commander. May I borrow one of those linkpearls?”



- - -



“I thought you would be pleased, Kanna dear.”


Kannadi paced angrily, alone, near the excellent vantage of the cliff-edge boulder. “And why precisely would I be pleased about you forwarding that poorly-assembled pile of half-mad chocoboscratch to the Flames?! Could you even make a gil’s worth of sense out of it?”


Karen Albedo, safe and secure in her home on Garnet Street, lowered a stemless brandy glass. Her seventy-nine years hadn’t tarnished any of the stately class with which she carried herself, even when seated. Her free hand pinched the white linkpearl pinned to her earlobe.


“I couldn’t,” she said, “and they were simply going to waste with your mother and father, so I showed them to Rasim, and he seemed quite taken by your conclusion.”


Back at Carteneau, Kannadi pinched between her eyes. Rasim. Another cousin, an alchemist of higher rank in the Flames than her. Of course her grandmother would have shown him.


“I don’t even recall my conclusion.”


“That the lines in the moon resembled the motion of aether through one of those crystal-sheet things you used to enjoy.”


Kannadi blinked. That sounded familiar. Yes, the little panes of aetheric glass in the special frames, not unlike guildleves. Strike a spot on the edge with the little pointed hammer and irregular spectral lines would spider out through the glass in a flash of light. They were costly toys for wealthy children, intended to delight the dim and stoke curiosity in the bright.


If a spell were shot through such a toy rather than the force of a tiny hammer, the lines would always include circles -- but no spell had ever been rigorously tested in such a manner, since almost invariably, spells destroyed the glass. Those surpassingly rare examples of non-breakage had been recorded in minuscule detail in one of the books passed on to new thaumaturgists as required reading.


Kannadi had read them all, of course. And Dalamud’s surface, as much as could be seen through a telescope, bore a strong resemblance to one of the recordings. She knew this because of the endless hours she spent drawing each and every line she could see. She had hardly even blinked in the perpetual red light, unsure if it promised or threatened….


“What spell is it?” Karen’s voice snapped her granddaughter out of her reverie.


“Excuse me?”


“Those were the last words on the last page of your mountain of notes. They concluded an avalanche of surprisingly detailed and -- if I may say so -- exhaustive speculation which you seem to have sourced from several of the Ossuary’s heavier books.” Karen gently swirled her glass. “What spell is it? A fine question to bother the finest minds in the Flames for at least the near future. None of them know, though it’s still much too soon to expect results.”


“Oh. Yes.”


“You could try to sound more enthused, Kanna dear. Think of the possibilities. Your one question may well be the start of an investigation into new applications of magic -- perhaps even a new school. There were some in the Flames who were… intrigued. Myself included. And so I used my influence to nudge you out of harm’s way in the coming battle.”


Karen sipped her brandy. Kannadi’s annoyance came across the linkpearl loud and clear.


“You ‘nudged’ me off the field entirely,” Kannadi said.


“To keep you safe, dear. It simply would not do to let one of the Sultanate’s best and brightest meet an ignoble end so early in what promises to be an illustrious career. The Marshal agreed with me.”


Kannadi wished she could scowl across the link. “And how much did you donate to the cause before she agreed?”


“Six figures,” said Karen, utterly unabashed. “Come now, Kanna, don’t be so cross with me. It was your fevered scribbles that purchased you a nice safe officer’s commission. All I paid was the filing fee.”


Silence fell over the link.


“Thank you, Grandmother,” Kannadi said after a moment. “I will use my new rank well.”


The white linkpearl disappeared into Kannadi’s fist. She strode around the boulder. Leyla stood on the opposite side, arms and ankles crossed, her back against the rock.


“Off to hide in the officer’s tents, Kanna?”


Kannadi stopped short. “I am off, cousin, to attach myself to a unit. By chains if need be.”


“What?” Leyla uncrossed herself, plainly astonished.


“Plans are already in place for the attack. But no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Kannadi swept her arm out over the view. “Someone out there will need a field strategist today.”


Leyla arched an eyebrow at her cousin.


Kannadi stared back.



- - -



Steel clashed and magic flew.


Leyla leapt and skewered a rider off his magitek armor as the rest of her unit, ten adventurers in all, assailed nearby Garleans on foot.


Kannadi, the temporary twelfth to the party, watched her cousin pin the rider to the ground. She shook her linkpearl in her hand. The sounds it made buzzed and spat fractions of words. Kannadi could hear the battle far afield to the south even without the little device.


“Commander!” She yelled into it. “Commander Rider! Respond!”


A legionnaire charged Kannadi from behind. One hand to her ear, she pointed her ivory staff and blasted her foe off his feet in a localized gale. He sailed into the path of a magitek armor’s main cannon, took one hit and was seen no more.


Kannadi clenched her jaw. Two armors remained, and twenty enemy soldiers besides, in the narrow pass between the cliffs. The rock walls stretched so high she could only see the uppermost curve of the nemesis moon. “Flats indeed,” she practically growled at the lying terrain. The linkpearl remained unresponsive in the erratic aether. There was little chance of any word getting out.


“Confound it!” She shouted. “We’ve lost contact with the main host!”


Leyla yanked her weapon free as the riderless contraption sagged. “What was that about plans, Kanna?” She shouted back above the din of battle.


Kannadi smiled. Ducked a whizzing arrow.


“Rally the unit! Pinch those walking armors! One by one, cousin!”


An earthquake struck to punctuate her command. The sheer force jarred Kannadi to the bones. Rocks crumbled from the cliffs.


“Run!” Both cousins shouted.


The serendipitous quake freed hundreds of stones large and small upon the fighters in the pass. Kannadi, Leyla, and Leyla’s unit fell back in time. The Garleans did not. In a matter of seconds, the pass was closed with stone and corpse.


“Commander?” Kannadi tried the linkpearl again. More buzzing, and nothing but. “Comman--”


The last syllable froze in her mouth. The small portion of Dalamud that still crested the cliff broke apart. Something rose inside.




Leyla shouted something at her. She didn’t hear. Didn’t care.


What spell is it? A foolish question, in retrospect. What Kannadi never asked, what should have commanded her attention, was one step deeper.


On what was the spell used?


She learned in short order, as did every living eye in Carteneau.


Kannadi remained still amid the calamity of flaming stones, statuesque in stunned serenity, wishing only that she had a better vantage. Gradually she became aware that her cousin was shaking her violently by the shoulder. She hadn’t finished processing that sensation when Leyla slapped her full across the face.


Kannadi held her cheek. Her hand glowed. All parts of her did. Her senses returned enough to wonder why her cousin was glowing as well.


The ground and sky dropped away, not only from sight but from all sensation.


And she wondered no more.

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I love your writing style, its terse but emotive!  Hope to read more of what you have.  I had to write my character's own story of Carteneau after I read your piece.  Thanks for the inspiration.


Thanks, and you're welcome! Most of my writing has an... economy of language. I've had a lot of practice with television screenplays, so it blends into my prose.


It helps to have an audience who already knows as much as possible about the setting.

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