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The Grand Adventures of Little Garaf and Crawa [Closed]

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((So, in our anticipation for what will inevitably be fun Final Fantasy RPz, Garaf and I have decided to write a series of stories about Garaf and Crawa as ~6-year-old children, as sort of a fun prologue to their adult adventures that will happen in-game. The time frame for these stories is directly after the events detailed in A Birthday Gone Bad. We'll be updating with a new episode every weekend until launch.))




Chapter 1


The last few days had not been Garaf's favorites. He had spent them trying to avoid his hosts, particularly the girl Crawa. He didn't mind them personally, but Crawa was always shouting at him about this or that. "Don't make a mess!" she would say, or "Why are you dirty?!" or "Don't eat with your fingers!" or "Get off the roof!" All the shouting hurt his ears. But she was still preferable to the elderly man and the short servant-person. They kept giving him looks like they would put him to work any day now. So Garaf did the only thing he was prepared to do: He spent many hours on the roof and attempted to find a way to escape from the place that in his mind was quickly becoming an impregnable compound of doom.


The Compound consisted of three main buildings: a temple, a house, and a small warehouse, as well as a number of small buildings spread about the garden between the three larger buildings. Encasing the entire area was a circular hedge nearly as tall as the buildings themselves which somehow kept the forest beyond at bay. A large oak gate pierced through the hedge in front of the Temple and seemed to be barred much of the time, doubtless to keep the fierce beasts of the woods from breaking in and feasting on everyone inside the compound, or so Garaf figured.


Naturally, he knew escape would be his only option. The one called Esslar kept saying that there weren't any Duskwight Caves for many, many malms, but Garaf couldn't trust him. He was just the right size to be a goblin in disguise. In his child-mind, Garaf knew that there would be a Cave just a half hours stroll from the Hedge where he would be welcomed, handed a big piece of cooked Aldgoat meat, and never asked to do any meaningful work he didn't intend to do.


And one afternoon, while sitting on the shady side of the warehouse's roof, he spotted his chance. A scuffling sound lead him to a small rabbit's hole burrowed along the bottom of the hedge. He never would have found it without his Duskwight hearing, and as he bent down to push his way through he heard a shout that made him wince.


"Hey! What are you doing?" He pulled his head out of the brush and found the girl had come around the corner with a covered bundle in her hands.


"M'makin' my escape! There's a great big world out there 'n you can't keep me cooped up here!"


"It's dangerous out there, Stupid."


"I can take care of myself!" And with that Garaf threw his body into the hole with all the might he could muster. It turned out that he was a little wider in places than the rabbit who had been kind enough to form the tunnel, so he wound up doing some burrowing of his own as he went along. Just as he was beginning to think that the Hedge wouldn't ever end, his head pushed free into open air amid a burst of twigs and leaves. He squirmed the rest of the way and stood up, taking a big breath of 'freedom' before half-heartedly dusting the twigs and dirt from his clothing.


Just as he was finishing, he saw a blonde head of hair with a very disgruntled expression pop out from the hole by his foot. "You shouldn't leave the Hedge! It's dangerous. Papa says we're not allowed."


"So you stay here 'n I'll go." If Garaf had been more empathic he might have realized that his words stung the young girl but instead he wasn't paying attention and just shrugged as he started to walk off in a random direction.


He hadn't gone far when Crawa caught up with him, and he couldn't help but notice that she'd somehow kept her cotton dress clean as she went through the Hedge. "I'm supposed to look after you. Mama says! Now can we go back?"


Garaf kept walking. "She's not my Mama, sa why should I care?"


That earned him a bop on the back of the head and a shout of "errrr... STUPID!" Garaf grimaced and rubbed the back of his head before deciding to lose the girl in the brush. So he took off at a run, jumping and leaping through the brush and trying to outrun the girl who kept shouting at him to stop. He barreled through the tangled growth of tree and bush as best as his wiry frame could manage but he could still hear the girl keeping up and shouting names at him. And when he finally skid to a halt on the precipice of a slope that angled down into to a pit of mud, he got a jolt as the girl collided into his back at full speed.


The two went over the edge in a tumble of limbs and skirts and shouts to end up in a pit of thick mud that clung to them like paint. Garaf stood up and saw the both of them covered in debris and mud and began to laugh. Crawa rose from the mud with tears in her eyes and swiftly put an end to his laughter with a hand-shaped imprint in the mud on the boy's cheek. "Stupid! Now we're lost and I'm all dirty and my dress is ruined! All because you had to be stupid! Go ahead and go - I'm never speaking to you again!"


The Duskwight was dumbstruck as he watched the girl climb her way out of the pit with heaves and sobs. It was only then that he began to understand how upset she had been and he plopped down on a rock at the edge of the mud to try and figure out what he should do. His fantasies about goblins and spits of aldgoat and fortresses of doom didn't seem so clear anymore.


The girl disappeared over the edge of the pit before he thought of anything to say and he felt the heavy weight of guilt settle on his shoulders. A few moments later, though, she re-appeared at the edge of the pit; her fists clenched and tears running streaks through the mud on her face. "â¦Which is the way back, again?"


Garaf got to his feet. âI'll show ya.â He figured it was the least he could do. He scrambled up the slope like a bullfrog, and led Crawa along the trail of broken branches and trampled grass back to the Hedge. She sulked the entire way back, not saying a word the whole time. Garaf found that strangely uncomfortable. When they got back to the Hedge he pushed his way back through, trying to clear a more comfortable path for the girl, and came out the other side looking like some sort of tree-mud monster. When Crawa came after him a few moments later, she just walked off sullenly, forgoing even a âgoodbyeâ or a jab about his dirtiness.


Garaf looked about and for the first time noticed the bundle that had been in Crawa's hands earlier. She had set it on the ground next to the warehouse wall, probably before she had followed him through the Hedge. Garaf pulled the wrapping off and started to use the cloth to clean his face. Once the mud from his skin was more or less transferred to the towel, he noticed what it had been wrapping: a plate with a still-warm leg of aldgoat meat. "Well... maybe this place isn't sooo bad...â



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Chapter 2


It was a good week and a half before Crawa finally forgave Garaf for the escapade that had ended with one of her favourite dresses covered in mud. Although Crawa still studied on her own with Esslar, she had begun to drag the boy (once literally) to some of her tutor's lessons - a project which Garaf did not seem to appreciate nearly as much as anyone had hoped.


âFor the last time, we're not trying to indo-.. induct-...indoctamate you - stupid!â Crawa hissed across the table at the sullen figure on the other end. âI'm supposed to look after you. You should learn something too!â


The boy stuck his tongue out and made a silly face. âNuh uh. I can take care of myself jess fine. Yer prolly younger 'n me, even!â


âYeah, well, you still act like a baby! Stupid.â


â... Children?â Esslar entered the room in the usual manner: cloth bound book in one hand, tea in the other, and the skeptical scowl that seemed permanently affixed behind his spectacles ever since the young Duskwight had come to reside at the Temple. Crawa snapped to attention as the Lalafell came in, while Garaf yawned loudly o slouched lower into his chair. âI'm afraid I shall have to let you alone for just a few more minutes. Your grandfather has a short errand for me, Crawa, and I must complete it before we commence today's lesson. I assure you it is quite unavoidable but should only occupy a few moments of this afternoon's lesson plan.â


âOkay!â Crawa answered obediently.


Garaf only mumbled something under his breath as Esslar left. The door had only been shut for a few short minutes before the boy piped up at his usual volume. âI'm hungry.â he proclaimed to the roof as though it should somehow redress the situation.


âYou should have eaten breakfast, stupid.â Despite having a voracious appetite for someone his size, the boy had developed an uncanny knack for missing meals.


â... meh. Why bother gettin' up that early? I'm gonna get somethin' ta eat.â He hopped off his chair and strode for the door.


âHey! Wait! Where are you going?â Crawa leapt up and followed him.


âTha kitchen... where else?â he tossed back with a shrug.


âThe kit-... you can't just take stuff from the kitchen! We're not allowed!â


â..So?â Garaf ran through the door and down the hall, Crawa following with an unending barrage of childish threats and admonishments. Despite her best efforts, they found themselves in the otherwise deserted temple kitchen. The boy started casting around, opening cabinets and drawers while Crawa wavered nervously in the doorway.


âWe're going to get in trouble, stupid! ...Hurry up!â Her mind was full of notions that someone would find them at any moment and all the terrible punishments that would inevitably occur.


âYeah, yeah... oh!â Garaf had stumbled upon a large ceramic urn, which upon opening the top was revealed to be full of cakes. Each one was bigger than Crawa's two fists combined. Garaf wasted no time in pulling two out before replacing the lid. He crammed one into his mouth, spilling crumbs everywhere.


âMessy...!â Crawa muttered, frowning at the crumbling cake.


Garaf paid her no heed. âHar,â he mumbled through his full mouth. âHab 'un.â He held the second cake up in front of her.


Crawa wavered, looking out the door and into the hallway before ascertaining that nobody would see them. She quickly snatched the cake out of his hands. âDon't talk with your mouth full.â


âBlaaaaaaaa,â Garaf retaliated, opening his cake-filled mouth wide. Crawa made a face and bit gingerly into her cake. âYou're gross.â


âYer a goody-boo.â


Crawa set her hands on her hips in her best attempt at an indignant stance. âAm NOT! Take it back, stupid!â








âI'm gonna tell Mister Esslar!â


Garaf raised an eyebrow. âThen yer gonna get in trouble iffin yer still eating cake.â


Crawa frowned and stared at her cake. âFine. But we're going to go back to the library now before anyone catches us. Okay?â Garaf just shrugged and followed her out.


By the time the Lalafell returned to the classroom, there was no trace of any cake on either of them thanks to Crawa's meticulous cleaning. When the lesson was over, the two children made their way out of the room together.


âYa know, cakes ain't bad...â


âShhh! We were stealing! That's bad!â


âHeh, didn't seem ta stop ya from enjoyin' your sweet bit anyway.â


âI'm never doing it again! Ever!â


Garaf only shrugged and pulled another, rather squashed cake out of his pants pocket and wordlessly broke it in half and offered a piece of it to Crawa. She hesitated, then grabbed it from him.


âDon't tell anybody,â she mumbled.


âWhy'd I ever tell?â






â...you're still stupid.â



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Chapter 3


"Sit still, please." Garaf made a face at the wall but complied while the Lalafell pushed his hair aside to inspect the nasty scar on the side of his temple. "Do you feel any discomfort?" The bespectacled scholar probed the tissue with a finger, checking its integrity.


"Only when strange people start pokin' at my head."


"Erm, yes..." Esslar released his head and turned to make some notes in one of the canvas-bound volumes he always seemed to be carrying about. Garaf snuck a glance out of the corner of his eye but all he could recognize was that he didn't recognize the lettering. His mind leapt to notions of goblins and trickster spirits but he also recalled that Crawa had told him the Lalafell had been some sort of big smarty pants at something called a 'mooss-em.' He wondered if everyone at a 'mooss-em' would write things differently. All the same, Esslar began speaking again after several moments had already passed in silence. "Still, an outside observer might conclude that it is your scenario which is the least orthodox of all. Your arrival was most... peculiar, for a variety of factors, and you still have not explained your own origins."


"S'not like I'm keepin' secrets or nothin'. I just don't 'member. I can 'member some Caves with all their comfy shadows 'n all, but don't 'member actually bein' nowhere till I showed up here. What? Ya think I'm lyin'?" The boy squinted at the full-grown Lalafell in an attempt to be menacing. Even given their comparative ages, they were both about the same height.


"Not at all. I believe you are quite sincere in the absence of your knowledge concerning your own origins. Severe impacts to the cranium, such as the one which seems to have caused your wound, are known for inducing loss of memory. It is possible that your memories may return in time, though I could not postulate as to the probability of such an occurrence. I am curious however - are you not concerned with the possibility that there may be some persons, outside the Randirim Temple, who may have a vested interest in your well-being and whereabouts?"




"Wouldn't your parents be worried about you?"


Garaf shrugged, genuinely not concerned. "I figure, iffin' they was important, I'd 'member 'em either way."


Esslar's expression indicated quite clearly that he didn't agree, but he gathered up his items without any further comment and turned towards the door. "You are in good health, I'm pleased to say. I would appreciate your assistance on the morrow with some repairs which must be made about the grounds."


"...Ya mean work?"


Esslar didn't pause for further comment, as he really was quite busy, but answered "Indeed." and exited the room. Garaf was left to half-heartedly grumble about his free ride finally being over.


When he got bored doing that, he opened his window and leaned out to grab the ledge of the roof and, with some amount of effort, drag himself onto the roof. He laid down against the sun-warmed tiles, tucked his hands behind his head and began to hum aloud. He was terribly off-key and exhibited no discernible tune, but he boldly continued onward with full childish bravado.


He stopped when he heard a window open below him. A familiar head poked through, squinting up at him. "Hey!" Crawa waved up at him. "What are you doing up there? I could hear you from the other room!"


Garaf just shrugged. "Why don'tcha come up 'n see?"


"I'm not allowed on the roof!"


"Then I'll just be enjoyin' this view all by myself."


A few minutes later, a small hand appeared over the edge of the roof. Garaf scooted over to the edge and did his best to assist Crawa as she too shambled onto the tiles. After a few minutes of huffing, grunting, and complete disregard for the lack of safety inherent to dangling from a ledge several yalms above the ground, the two lay side by side on their backs and watched the clouds float by. "So, do you know any other songs?"


"Dunno that one. I made it up good 'n proper. You?"


"Yep! Mama sings all the time. Wanna hear one of her songs?"


"Shar." In truth, Crawa's reproduction of her mother's melody was less accurate than she may have believed, but she faithfully recited the song for the better part of an hour.


"Mama's out there right now, doing really important things," she said as she finished, pointing at the horizon. "What do your parents do?"


"Dunno. I don't 'member any."


"Really? No wonder you're so bad! But," Crawa dropped her voice to a confidential whisper, "you can share my parents. Okay?"


Garaf paused for a few moments as if mulling the notion over in his head before casually replying "'k."


"I think they'd like you," she said, assertively. "'N when they come back for my birthday next year you can meet them properly. Maybe Mama will teach us another song! That would be nice."


"Mm... heh," Garaf elbowed her. "That cloud looks like 'n aldgoat."


"Which...? I don't see it."


"That one, right there."


"Stupid, that doesn't look anything like an aldgoat."


"Iffin' s'not 'n aldgoat then what s'it, Smarty-Stockin's?"


"Hmm... like a bush, or a big flower."


"Huh. I like tha aldgoat better."




"... I'm hungry."



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Chapter 4


"That'n looks like a cake!"


"Stupid, every cloud looks like a cake to you."


"I'm hungry..."


Crawa sighed and kicked her heels at the tile. She and Garaf had been spending plenty of time on the roof during the past few weeks, when the sun had been shining nearly non-stop. Although she wasn't supposed to be up there, she was beginning to enjoy the warm and quiet retreat from the world below.


"Hey... didn't Mister Esslar give you work to do today?"




"So... did you do it already, or what?"


"Iffin' I had do ya think I'd be up here?"


"Shirker! I'll tell!"


"Nah, you wouldn't."


"I will!"


"Iffin' ya tell 'em then he'll know why ya weren't in your history lessons."


Crawa frowned at Garaf disapprovingly, but stayed. A few minutes of silence went by before the sounds of shouting drifted up to them from the other side of the compound.


"Hey, do you hear that?"


The Duskwight rolled his eyes. "S'not like I couldn't. Sounds like fun though. Let's go see!"


"Let's not - wait!"


Garaf had already shimmied down from his perch, dropping to the ground and running around the building. Crawa sighed and followed after him, taking more caution with her decent so as not to mar her clothing, and made their way towards the sounds. They soon found themselves watching the Gate where Guthlac stood shaking his cane at a cadre of rough-looking Hyur. Crawa, not liking the look of the troublemakers, shouted out "Grampa!"


"Garaf? Crawa? You two should go inside." The children turned as they heard Esslar's approach behind them. The lalafell seemed slightly worried as he looked around them to the scene playing out in front of the gate. "Let the Ser deal with the vandals."




"I simply asked you to abstain from vandalizing our hedge." He made a gesture. "It is as much a part of the Temple as are its walls, and I must ask you not to disrespect it so."


"Ach! Ya 'ear that boyos? First we gotta get out o' town 'n then this 'ere ol' fella wants ta keep us out o' 'is place! Now see 'ere, Mister, we don't much care fer your bushes. Why we'll mince 'em up right now if we want! And then we'll take everythin' ya got! If ya don't want ta get hurt ya'll keep out of our business!" One of the strange men elbowed the other out of his way as he stepped forward. "Who're ya, mah mother? Ya couldna stop us if ya tried. Tha' stick thar ain't nuthin'. If ya're all tha's guardin' tha place then that ain't nuthin'! We shoulda hit this place lots earlier!" The men laughed.


'Grampa' Guthlac only nodded. "Suit yourselves, son. I shall have to take precautions to ensure the safety of my home, of course."


"Ya, right. Come on, boyos!" The loud man motioned at the others to move towards the gate and drew a long half-rusted knife with a smirk.


The old man sighed and stood his ground. "Very well, then. I was really hoping that I would not have to do this."


"Aww-Shut it, Gramps!" The ruffians continued moving forward with their belligerant stance and taunting jibes. They halted though as a shadow fell over them; the pale blue sky darkening suddenly out of seemingly nowhere.


Guthlac grimaced up at the sky, motioning to the three men. "Well, will you look at that... it looks like the weather is going to turn nasty soon, wouldn't you say?" With that three slender bolts of lightning arced down out of the clouds striking the ground just inches in front of the vandals. They looked at the old man in incredulity and then without another word set off running in the opposite direction.


"Imagine that." Guthlac murmured as the clouds dissipated as quickly as they had come.




Crawa watched with Garaf and Esslar from a distance, gasping as the lightning struck by the vagrants. She turned to Garaf with a kind of fierce pride in her eyes. "I'm going to be able to do that one day!" she exclaimed.


"Not for quite some time, Miss Crawa," Esslar reminded her sternly. "Garaf, I believe I set you to some tasks earlier this morning. Have you completed repairing the equipment already?"


Garaf only scuffed his toes at the ground and muttered something incomprehensible. Crawa grinned at him, until the lalafell turned her way. "And you, Miss Crawa, have a considerable amount of studying to do. And, if you please," he gave her a questioning expression, "abstain from doing it on the roof in the future."


Crawa's eyes widened as he mentioned the roof, but nodded quickly and ran off. She was already imagining throwing lightning bolts at "bad guys", just like her Grampa.



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Chapter 5


Crawa sat in the library, studiously attempting to examine a volume concerning the history of Ul'dah. Esslar had promised her another quiz, and if she passed this one she could expect a cake with her dinner. So it was something of a nuisance when Garaf burst into the room, shouting excitedly.


"'Ey! You'll never guess what I found! S'grand I tell ya!"


Crawa didn't even lift her head to acknowledge him. "Go away! I'm studying!"


"Aww, ya can study later. Come 'n look at this!"


Crawa huffed and looked up from her book. "What is it?"


"I told ya! S'grand!"


"...What's a 'grand'?"


"S'somethin' really... ya know... grand! Ya comin' or not?" The young duskwight was practically hopping from one foot to another in excitement.


She scowled. "You're trying to get me in trouble again, aren't you?"


"Pffft, why'd I bother doin' that? 'Cides, tha' Old 'un 'n tha' Short 'un like ya too much fer ya ta get in too much trouble. Now come ON!" He bounced over to the door.


The wildwood sighed, rolling her eyes at Garaf's names for her grampa and Esslar. Putting her pen in the book to mark her spot, she rose to follow the boy. As she got close to him, she could smell the odors of sweat and smoke hanging about his person, and she held her nose shut. "You stink." Whether Garaf had heard her remark or not wasn't clear, as he was already halfway down the stairs.


She followed him out of the house and across the courtyard that was mostly occupied by Esslar's garden, and to the large mortar and wood building at the back of the compound. Esslar called it the warehouse, and Crawa had hardly ever gone inside - she'd barely ever had reason to. She caught up with a grinning Garaf at the large double doors that led inside, and peeked through them curiously. All she could see with a cursory glance was a large, shady, open interior filled with the detritus needed about the Temple that didn't have a regular purpose. She looked back to Garaf. "Well? What is it?"


Garaf wiggled his eyebrows and excitedly proclaimed, "Treasure!" Then he was off again, weaving through piles of stores and stocks and tools, and Crawa had little choice but to follow. When she found him again, he was leaning against a panel that was sticking up out of the floor. As she got closer, she realized it was really a trapdoor that led to a smaller room beneath them. "Go on! Take a look! S'grand!" he repeated.


With thoughts of evil spirits springing out of the dim slowing her steps, Crawa began to cautiously creep down the steep stairs. Garaf swiftly followed with a lantern in hand, and held it up high once they were both on the ground. As the two looked on, the small flame flickered its light over a hidden storage room filled with oddities from unknown places and times. A large, curved blade with a falcon emblazoned on the handle was mounted on the wall over a collection of heavy armor that looked like it would take a mountain to move. An assortment of tea cups, no two the same, rested on a table next to a flintlock with delicate silver engravings. An elegant fishing pole gathered dust beside a beautiful flute, and a few paces away a rough stone statuette of a wolf bared its teeth at them. A dozen other items were revealed in the wavering light, but the thing that Garaf stood next to, admiring above all the others, was a small clockwork doll made of brass and bronze. It sat in a wooden chair against the wall, its copper "eyes" seeming to glow as they caught the light and threw it back at them. "S'better 'n grand." Garaf repeated almost reverently.


A steady voice pulled their eyes back up to the top of the stairs. "Children? Come up from there." Esslar stood at the top, doing his best glower through his spectacles as the two of them reluctantly left their discovery and climbed back up to the warehouse. As soon as they were clear, the lalafell closed the trapdoor with a loud thud, sending dust flying everywhere. "You two shouldn't go down there."


"What is it, Mister Esslar? Where did all those pretty things come from?"


"From your honored ancestors, Missus Crawa. The items below are the treasured artifacts of your own heritage." And then, leveling a stern frown at Garaf, the lalafell stated: "They are not to be disturbed."


As he walked off, Crawa glared over at Garaf. "You were trying to get me in trouble again, stupid."


The boy stuck his tongue out in reply. "Was worth it though, huh?"


"... I have to study."



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Chapter 6


The sun shone through the canopy of the trees and cast a shifting, green-hued pattern over the world below. It was in this world that a thin boy in a worn grey tunic sat, under a tree with a pile of fallen branches at his side. Garaf had finished collecting all the wood he'd needed, but he was more interested in watching the patterns of light and shadow play out over the forest floor than returning to the Temple (and most likely being charged with yet another menial task). Mesmerized by the mosaic of light, he never noticed the approaching steps, or had a clue that he was no longer alone, until a dark shadow was cast over his resting spot.


He cast his eyes upward to see a dim, yet familiar silhouette. "AH-HAH! I found you!" Crawa cried, triumphantly.




"Granpa said I should wait till you came back, and Mister Esslar said I shouldn't wander around the woods on my own, but I was not going to let you run off again so I snuck off when Mister Esslar was getting his tea and I walked through all of the woods and I found you!"


Garaf frowned, not quite sure how to take Crawa's boastful pride. "S'not like I was hidin' or nuthin'... 'N I was gonna come back!"


"Of course. You can't hide from me! I know all the woods now! All of them!"


"So you know how ta get back ta tha' Temple?"


"Yes!" Crawa proudly proclaimed, setting her fists to her hips. A few moments passed in relative silence before Crawa began to look around her with a worried expression. "Ummm..."


For his part, Garaf just rolled his eyes. "S'over there." He pointed east from where they were sitting and then paused. When Crawa's eyes followed his own, she froze as well. Near to where he had pointed, a bright yellow creature had emerged from the brush. It was a bird, and one so tall that its legs alone were taller than either of them. It strutted with a powerful gait, occasionally pecking at the ground with a great golden beak as long as Crawa's forearm.


"Oooohh... chocobo," she said, under her breath.


"It looks fast." Garaf's voice was just as reverent as hers, genuinely amazed by what he saw, but his next words were simply inevitable: "I'm gonna ride it!"


"Don't be thick, stupid," Crawa put on the best lecturing tone she could manage in a whisper. "How would you ever get on it? Do you think it's just going to stop, and let you hop on?"


The boy gave her a wink in reply, and then quickly and reasonably silently turned and scuttled up the tree he'd been sitting against. Crawa looked helplessly back and forth between her friend and the grazing bird with a growing look of concern. For his part, Garaf managed to move through the branches quite well, and wove his body through the web of branches, passing from tree to tree, until he was perched directly over the chocobo. He gave Crawa a wink through the foliage and then leapt forward.


Grinning like a puppy, he plummeted through the air towards the great yellow back. However, the chocobo took a single step forward, and Garaf hit the ground behind it with a loud "OOF!" At the impact, the bird startled and bolted off screeching, "WAAARK!"


The Duskwight sat up to the sound of laughter, spitting out a mouthful of dead leaves. Crawa had already walked over to him, her face contorted in mirth. "You.. you," she gasped between bouts of laughter, "You jumped, and... and... haha! He moved, and you went... ha! SMACK! Hoohooohoo!" She started wandering off through the woods toward the north, giggling all the way. Garaf only grinned, his heart still pumping from the close encounter with the chocobo. It was not an experience he would soon forget.



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Chapter 7


Crawa tottered outside, a large book in her hands and a wild grin on her face. Spotting Garaf across the green courtyard, she waved and shouted to get his attention. "Garaf!" The Duskwight boy turned, scowling in the sun with shovel in hand. A narrow ditch extended from where he stood to some ilms away, evidence of a morning of labour. As usual, he didn't seem to exactly ecstatic to be deprived of his freedom to laze about for the entire day. "Garaf! I'm learning magic!"


Esslar shuffled up behind her, nudging her shoulder and correcting her gently. "You have but begun to learn the most rudimentary basics which might one day lead to an eventual preliminary understanding of the fundamentals of the elements. That's IF you manage to maintain your studies."


Crawa sobered immediately. "Yes, sir."


The lalafell smiled. "You are free to go now, Crawa, but take care not to disturb Garaf in his work." Esslar turned a discerning eye to the boy who had gone back to driving the spade into the soil. "It seems he still has some way to go." He wandered off, leaving Crawa with her book. She waited a moment, then put it down and ambled up to Garaf, inspecting his handiwork.


"What'cha doing?"


The boy looked up and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. "Esslar wanted me to dig 'em a ditch so he can catch rainwater fer his garden, or something. It'd be easier iffin' tha ground was actually made of dirt instead of rocks."


The ground was indeed stony, and the shovel was chipped in a few places from the effort of driving it through the earth. Crawa looked down at it introspectively for a moment, before giving a shout. "Hey! Look at that one!"


Garaf furrowed his brow and peered into the dirt. "What?"


"That rock! Right there - it moved!" She bent down until her nose was nearly level with the stone in question. It was mottled and had an odd shape, and as the two stared at it, it shifted slightly and a small protrusion poked out of its side. Crawa gasped as four tiny legs and a head slowly emerged from the stone. "That's not a rock! It's a ... a turtle!" She reached forward to pick the creature up, nearly falling into the ditch herself but managing to finally lift it out. She straightened, holding it up in front of her in triumph.


Garaf grumbled "Yes. It's positively fascinating", mimicking the way their tutor spoke on things of scholarly interest.


"Isn't he adorable?" Crawa cooed, placing the turtle down on the ground and watching it closely. "What should we do with it?"


"Make soup."


Crawa ignored him. "I think we should play house! It'll be fun! See, you'll be the papa, and I'll be the mama, and he can be our baby!"


Garaf wrinkled his nose in a look of both confusion and mild disgust. "I ain't gonna do that! I don't wanna be that thing's dad!" And then under his breath, quiet enough that she wouldn't hear he said "'n who'd wanna marry you?"


The girl rolled her eyes. "It's just pretend, stupid. Besides, I already know who I'm going to marry, for real. And we're going to have LOTS of babies."


The proud declaration caught Garaf unawares and he cocked his head with a curious "Oro?"


"Yep! His name is Dasma, and Mama said I'm going to marry him when I grow up! I can't wait, I'll get to wear a pretty dress and everything!" The girl spun around, grinning, as though she were at a ball.


"Well ain't that just grand fer ya." The boy was annoyingly unenthusiastic as he lifted his shovel to resume his chore.


"Hmph. I'm going to go study, if you're going to be so boring."


"Suit yerself."


"Have fun digging, stupid. Come on," she beckoned to the turtle, who ambled up behind her. "Let's go."



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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 8

An important visitor comes to Randirm Temple and a tense rivalry is born


Garaf arrived at the gate in a rush, and suffered the bespectacled glare of Esslar for his trouble. Guthlac, Crawa and the lalafell stood in a neat line, all decked out in their formal wear. Garaf took his spot on the other side and attempted some last-minute neatening of his tunic. Even he was feeling the pressure of being conspicuously under-dressed standing next to the others, but he didnât own anything else to wear; a problem made all the more troublesome as he was fast outgrowing his one set of clothes.


Esslar cleared his throat, and Garaf looked up from his tunic to see a procession of chocobos rapidly approaching down the path that led to the gate. He grinned goofily at the exhilarating sight of fully-equipped chocobos moving at speed, but another âhrmphâ from the lalafell at his side put a stop to that expression.


The chocobos came to a stop just shy of the gate, momentum carrying a cloud of dust from their heels past the venerable wooden threshold. Most of of it wound up passing over a displeased Duskwight. Then, he saw that behind the two chocobos was a small coach, decorated with green paints and red enamels, and he watched as the porter slid from his perch and opened the door to the cabin. No sooner had the porter put down a step stool between the door and the ground than a stately looking boy appeared. He stepped down the stool, ignoring the porter, looking to Garafâs eyes the very image of a stately young prince, about the same age as Crawa. His clothes were formal, and obviously expensive, and the Duskwight reckoned that anyone with posture that perfect either had a stick along their spine or had never stooped to do a dayâs work. He instantly decided he favored the chocobos more than the much anticipated visitor.


The other boy approached Guthlac and gave the man a formal bow, binding down at the waist so that his body formed an L. âI am most gracious for your hospitality, Ser Guthlac, and hope to return your generosity at the earliest available opportunity.â The formality of his speech and manner, juxtaposed with his young age, created an almost comic effect. Garaf barely kept himself from giggling.


âIt is a pleasure to see you, Young Dasma. I only wish we could enjoy your company for more than a single evening.â


âAlas, but my training needs must recommence on the eve of the morrow. If only there were time.â He stepped down the line to Crawa, never disturbing even a puff of dry dust with his silver and sable boots. Garaf squinted as he noticed that Crawa was blushing furiously, and he was sure that he could hear her heart fluttering in his ears. And that was before this âDasmaâ character knelt before her, took her hand in his and laid a kiss on the back of her palm. âMy lady looks dazzling this morning. I have anticipated this day for some time and can only hope that I live up to your expectations.â


Crawa was speechless at the display, and now Garaf was sure his ears were picking up her heartbeat. It was the skip when the boy took her hand that convinced him.


Dasma did not approach Esslar when he got back to his feet but he did give the scholarly lalafell a respectful nod. âMaster Esslar, even in the city we have heard of your esteem-able knowledge. Perhaps later we might discuss the history of the Wailers?â


Esslar bowed in turn and replied. âCertainly, Sirrah.â


Dasmaâs eyes barely even fell on Garaf before he turned back to Crawa. âNow, if you would be so kind as to have your boy get my things, I should be delighted to see this Temple I have heard so much about.â


It didnât immediately dawn on Garaf just what Dasma had meant, not until he saw Esslar pointing expectantly at a small mountain of luggage that the porter had just set in the road. When it did dawn on him, Garaf commenced with flinging daggers from his eyes right into the back of the silver-haired wildwood boyâs head.


It took two trips, and another face of dust as the coach rode off, for Garaf to haul all the luggage to the guest room on the second floor of the house. More than once he considered lugging them out a window and leaving the jangling, jingling contents to roll and rust on the ground. It was only the thought of Guthlac and Esslarâs reactions that stayed his hand. Still, it didnât stop him from concocting a creative method of piling the luggage so that, at the slightest touch, it would topple to the ground.


From then on he went about his day. He had spent the last three days cleaning every ilm of floor and wall in the Temple so he grabbed a fishing pole and decided to make himself scarce for awhile. Esslar eventually passed him by, however, and asked that he check in on the other two children. Garaf found them in the library, politely tittering on the history of this and that. He slid the door open and stepped through nonchalantly, still toting his tackle in one hand. ââEy. Esslarâs wantinâ ta know iffinâ yaâllâr gettinâ along?â


âOh, Crawa,â came the detestable voice of Dasma, âI know I shouldnât but I feel I must speak to it. You really should do something about your servant. Heâs quite filthy and has that insolent way about him. Surely youâve heard the reputation of the Greys. No good can come from associating with his kind.â


When asked later why heâd done it, Garaf could never recall quite why heâd gotten so mad at that. Heâd never done something like it before, that he could recall, but the other boyâs words had just stripped through his inhibitions. When Dasma happened to look back towards Garaf he found a bony grey fist hurtling towards his face. Knuckle connected with forehead, and Dasma rolled backwards, either to avoid the brunt of the blow or because of it. He got back to his feet in a flash and threw a punch at Garaf, who ducked inside it and tried to knee Dasma in the groin, though the other boy blocked it. From there it quickly broke down into a cascade of fists and feet and elbows as the two boys tumbled around the Library. Crawa shouted at them both, but neither of them heard. Garaf had speed and strength, but Dasma had discipline, and neither had a clear advantage over the other from the outset.


Somehow during the hubbub, Guthlac had appeared in the doorway. âENOUGH!â His voice boomed like a crack of thunder and the fight paused until Garaf resumed gnawing on Dasmaâs ankle and the fight resumed. At least, until the old man stomped across the room and pulled them both apart by their ears. Both of them were scraped, bruised and scuffed in equal measure and a dangerous glare passed between them. âGaraf! To your room! Dasma, you will come with me!â The two boys continued glaring as they were marched away until the walls got in the way. Even then Garaf continued to frown, as though his glance could cut through the wood. Neither had noticed Crawa crying back in the Library.


Garaf was in his room alone for several minutes before Esslar came in to join him. He wore a stern look on his face, but none of the anger that Garaf had expected. The lalafell approached where Garaf lay on his bed but stood to the side. âI must admit that I am considering checking that head of yours for further injury; to explain your recent lapse of sanity. Yet I am well aware that the thickness of your cranium would render such things considerably improbable. Tell me though, do you understand the importance of Sirrah Dasma?â


Garaf stared up at the ceiling and tried to recall if it had ever been mentioned, but he couldnât remember anything specific; heâd just kept hearing how important Dasma was. âHeâs a richie hoity-toity.â


âHmmm⦠well, that in of itself may be true, but it does not, in and of itself, impart any significance within these walls. Dasma is Crawaâs betrothed. Do you understand that?â


âMeans theyâre gonna be hitched.â


âIndeed. Dasma comes from a very old family in Gridania; one with a noble history of defending the city and its surroundings. His family and the Nerian family have a centuries-long history of inter-marrying. Their wealth helps support this Temple, while we reciprocate with spiritual wealth, to put it one way. Our spheres complement each other. Crawa was promised to Dasma very soon after she was born, in fact. Yet his family has another tradition, one that requires Dasma to become an officer among the Wood Wailers;the legion of lancers that have long defended Gridania. To follow that tradition he must enter into the training for this on his seventh birthday, which is in less than four days. His parents sent him here as a long-planned sojourn, and so that he and Crawa might have memories of each other before they reach the age where they might be joined.â


âSo?â Garaf wasnât quite sure where Esslar was going with all this. In his head the silver-haired boy was still just a âhoity-toity.â


âSo, Dasma comes from a clearly different environment. One that is, perhaps, somewhat⦠ungracious towards others. If it is too much to ask for you to respect him, then you should tolerate him. If not for his sake, then for Crawaâs.â


Garaf answered with a âhmphâ and rolled over towards the wall. He had understood what Esslar had said, or thought he had, but he still wasnât quite satisfied. A few minutes later, Esslar left Garaf to brood in silence.


Garaf decided, if only to respect Crawa, to avoid the other boy and found that it wasnât hard. He stayed in his room much of that day, carving and whittling to pass the time. He had no visitors, and was quite content with that. The next day he went out to the warehouse and used the makeshift forge there to continue working on a number of projects. A few of them were items he had been asked to repair, but just as many were personal projects of his. He grinned every time the hammer fell; secretly hoping that the clanging would annoy their oh-so-important visitor.


He heard the cart approach the gate in the late afternoon, and finally left the forge. He scurried up to the roof of the house and watched as the other four assembled around the coach. He felt his first pang of guilt when he saw Esslar huffing to carry Dasmaâs things, but then he only got more annoyed at the precocious boy. A few minutes later he was gone, and Garaf fell on his back with a sigh of relief. âGood riddance!â


Crawa, however, watched the dust of the coachâs passage until it faded into the distance and the great gates that spanned the hedge were closed.



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Chapter 9

Crawa learns her first spell with explosive results


ââPull tha weeds, Garaf.â âMind tha tomatoes, Garaf.â âStop makinâ a racket, Garaf.â âFertilize tha garden, Garaf.ââ The Duskwight boy grumbled to himself as he dragged his feet to the garden shed. Between the lalafell and the old man, Garaf had found himself inundated with chores as soon as it had been determined that he was capable of them. Out of all his tasks, he found gardening to be the most boring of all, but he didnât exactly have the option of refusing.


He swung open the door of the gardening shed, poking his nose into the dusty interior. Heâd spent hours in the warehouse but heâd barely ever even noticed the small shell behind the house. âIffinâ they ainât gonna tell me whatâs where howâm I gonna find it?â he muttered, digging through bags and boxes in an attempt to find the fertilizer he had been told to spread on the garden. Everything was dusty, and in the dim light everything looked the same, too. Eventually, his hands found a smallish bag nestled near the wall, and upon placing his hands within it found that it was full of a powdery substance. âThisâll do.â


He carried the bag outside and proceeded to sprinkle it, rather more carelessly than he should have, over half the garden. It was early yet in the season, and few of the plants had emerged above the soil. The powder, dark in the sunlight, blended in with the soil until it was nearly invisible. Garaf tossed the bag on the ground by the shed and dusted his hands off. âYep! Thatâll do.â he thought triumphantly, before finding something more fun to do with the rest of his afternoon.




âGaraf! Garaf, where are you? You really must see this!â Crawa poked her head around the corner of the building where Garaf sat, whittling away at a piece of fallen wood.




The girl seemed just about to burst at the seams with excitement. She waved a small maple wand in her hand as she spoke. âGaraf, I finally did it! Grampa says Iâm really good at it, too!â


Garaf grumbled and got to his feet. âWhazzat?â


Crawa ran off into the open space near the garden and away from all the buildings. âCome over here and Iâll show you!â As Garaf wandered over, she picked up a fallen tree branch and stuck it into the ground like a fence post. She backed up several paces, motioning to Garaf to do the same. âI learned my first element, Garaf! Watch, watch!â


Garaf leaned back against a wall and shoved his hands in his pockets. âWell lets see it then.â


Crawa let the smile fall from her face, a look of concentration so intense coming over her that it was almost comical. She held her wand in both hands, screwing her eyes shut for several seconds before thrusting the instrument forward. âFIRE!â she yelled, her voice echoing off the walls of the buildings around them. The branch that she had so carefully placed in the ground began to smolder slightly, but that was all. Crawa groaned in frustration. âStupid!â


Garaf held a hand to his ear sarcastically. âYep. I can hear them beastmen hordes fleeinâ in fear already.â


âYou be quiet. I did it before and Iâll do it again. Now watch.â Crawa once again grasped her wand and closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths to calm down. âDestruction of nature, gather in flame⦠FIRE!â she yelled, jabbing the wand forward at her target.


She opened her eyes, letting out a whoop of joy as the branch burst into colourful flames. âSee? SEE? I did it! I did it! I-â¦â She fell silent as the flames crept from the branch onto the garden soil. Suddenly Esslarâs precious garden of teas had turned into a minefield of erupting flame and smoke as the ground itself seemed to smolder and pop. In moments billows of aromatic, white smoke were wafting over a ruinated battlefield of a plant-bed.


âTHATâS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!â Crawa shrieked in horror. âHelp! Esslar! Grampa! HELP!â


The two elders were already on their way of course, drawn by the sound of the explosion. Guthlac muttered a few words, and a thin wash of water welled from the ground to quell the remaining flames. âCrawa, sweetheart, what happened here?â he said as the last wisps of smoke began to dissipate into the air.


The girl was on the verge of tears, and she stared balefully at the ruined garden for several seconds before responding. âI just wanted to show Garaf Fire and it wasnât working and then it did work and it went on the whole garden and I didnât know it would happenIâmSORRY!!!â she cried all in one breath before bursting into loud sobs.


Meanwhile, Esslar, clearly shaken by the loss of his crop, tottered over to inspect the damage, leaning down to sniff at the scorched ground. Picking up some charred soil he rubbed it between his fingers and gingerly touched it to his tongue. He looked up at the others quizzically. âSirrah, this would seem to be black powder. It is no wonder Miss Crawaâs spell went beyond her control.â


The old man raised his eyebrows in surprise, before leveling a stern glare at Garaf. The boy had adopted a posture somewhere between diving to the ground and beating a hasty escape as soon as the explosion started and heâd yet to relax from it. âBlack powder? Did you spread that on the garden, boy?â


Garaf straighted out and pointed apprehensively to the discarded back by the shed. âWell tha fertilizer was a black powderâ¦â


A cursory examination of the bag by Esslar confirmed its former contents. âI recall this parcel,â the lalafell explained, âSirrah Gilhend brought it back from one his ventures to Ulâdah. It contained a fine grain of gunpowder used in musketry and also in alchemy. I recall I had requested it for an experiment at the time but fear I had long forgotten both the experiment and the parcel.â


Guthlac, with full measure of stern discipline in his voice, turned back to Garaf. âAnd you thought to spread this over the fields, boy? Do you know how dangerous that could have been? Someone could have been injured!â


âHey! Wasnât âzactly my choice. Yaâll jess said spread some stinky stuff over the ground, ya didnât âzactly say what I should look fer or where taâ find it. Howâs Iâm supposed ta know thaâ stuffâd go kerfloosh?â


âYou ask, boy. For that is the beginning of wisdom.â


Esslar cut into the conversation before it could escalate further. âLuckily, most of what was burned was not⦠truly vital. I will dearly miss the ivory snow drop, and the longleaf, ⦠and the dragonsbud⦠but these plots were for my pleasure only, and not our foodstuffs. Come, Garaf. I will show you where the fertilizer is so that this may not happen a second time.â Esslar lead Garaf back to the shed and did his best to ignore the boyâs grumbling and how he walked as thought there were a dark storm cloud over his head.


Crawa watched them go and huddled close to her grandfather. âGrampa?â she inquired hesitantly.


His beard waggled as he responded. âYes?â


Crawa chewed on her lip. âI think Iâd like to learn Water next.â



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Chapter 10

Crawa's seventh birthday is met with little celebration.


Crawa streaked out of bed and flew to the door as soon as the first rays of sunlight found their way through her curtains. She was seven today, a full year older, full of a year that had seemed to go by even more quickly than she could have imagined.


She flung herself into the corridor in her pajamas, running the short distance down the hall to Garaf's room. âGARAAAAF! Wake up!â She had no answer other than a muffled snore, and she huffed in impatience. âGRAMPA!â she yelled as a recourse, knowing that at least her grandfather would hearken to her call.


Her instincts were correct, for it was not long before the door slid open and old Guthlac emerged, bleary-eyed but dressed. âGood... morning, sweet heart.â he creaked, hobbling down the hall towards her.


âDid mama and papa get here yet? Can I see them??â


The old man shook his head. âPatience, sweet heart. They did not arrive last night, but it is not unusual for them to take the extra night to travel. They will be here today, never fear.â


Crawa pouted, but acquiesced. She dressed, ate, and fidgeted as the day went on, reluctantly studying at Esslar's behest, and scuttling to the window whenever the adults' backs were turned. The day seemed to last an eternity.




âWhy aren't they here yet?!â The newly seven year old Crawa demanded, pounding a small fist on the table. âThey should be here! It's my birthday!â


The sun had gone down, and there had been no sight nor sign of Gilhend and Tuilinn Nerian. Garaf and Crawa sat at the table, picking at the remains of their dinners while their elders talked quietly in the corner.


âThis isn't fair,â she frowned, absentmindedly knocking her spoon against her plate. Garaf didn't answer, the only other voices being those of her grandfather and the lalafell.


âIt is highly unusual for them to not send word of their delay. I shall begin to worry before much longer,â Esslar pronounced, sipping his tea with a considerable air of agitation.


âPeace,â Guthlac answered through his beard. âThey will come.â


Crawa listened to their mumbling voices until they began to blur together into a buzz, not even realizing that she was resting her head on the table. The next thing she noticed was sunlight streaming through her window; she had been put to bed, and it was day, and she was seven â and her parents hadn't come.


The day went by as the previous one had, and the next ones quickly followed after. Crawa passed the time in a mood too foul and self-absorbed to notice the adults' increasing worry. The silence around the dinner table after a week had passed was heavy and uncomfortable; even Garaf's routine complaints about his vegetables were quelled. The weather outside seemed to echo the mood in the room, rain pounding on the roof between shuddering thunderclaps. As Crawa picked over a left-over piece of birthday cake â Esslar had made extra to comfort her â she suddenly threw down her fork and burst into tears.


Seeming to sense the cause of her fit, her grandfather left his seat and came to her. âThere, sweet heart. They're coming, don't worry. They'll be here-â


âYou're lying!â Crawa wailed, interrupting him. âThey're NEVER coming! Never!â


Guthlac said nothing, but gathered her in his arms as she wailed. It startled everyone when Garaf slammed his fist down on the table with a frustrated "GORRAMIT!" and bolted from the room.




Rain was coming down in sheets, pelting him with a non-stop torrent as Garaf splashed through the forest. Occasionally lightning would explode in the sky, casting the trees in stark brilliance before returning to the dark of a stormy night. The Duskwight had no thought to where he was headed; only a grim determination to see Crawa's parents returned to her. In his state of mind, rational thought of how to accomplish that goal never occurred to him. He had no plan but the will to see it done.


He splashed through a large puddle, tripped over a root, and found his momentum suddenly redirected towards the ground. He picked himself out of the mud and wiped the leaves and clay from his face. 'What am I doing?' he thought, 'I've never even met them. How would I know them? Where would I even look?' The recent memory of Crawa crying by her birthday cake swept through his mind. 'Doesn't matter. I'll do it anyway.'


Before he resumed his dash through the woods, however, he recognized a sound under the splatter of the rain: stout footsteps and the clink of metal. He knew the woods well enough to know there weren't any roads nearby; no reason for anyone else to be wandering through the trees. He crept closer to the sound and squinted through the rain as he peeked from behind a tree trunk.


A flash of lightning showed a squat creature covered in boiled leather and ramshackle pieces of armor shuffling along the forest floor. As it moved, the mis-matched pieces of armor clanked together, making a tinkling sound that stood out amidst the falling rain. Garaf could barely make it out when the darkness returned, but he recognized it as a goblin. Within his child's mind a scenario came to him, and in that moment he laid all the confusion and pain he'd witnessed in the last year on the goblin. Suddenly it was the beastman's fault that Crawa's parents were missing, that he couldn't remember his own parents or any life he'd had before, that he was never quite sure of where he fit into things.


He jumped out from behind the tree and shouted as he charged towards the creature. "BRING THEM BACK!" The goblin, not expecting a sopping wet, screaming child to charge it suddenly, was caught unawares and Garaf tackled it to the ground, pummeling it with punches. "I know you took them! Where are they?!"


A year of labor had put steel in the boy's muscles, and at first the goblin struggled and squealed to ward off the blows. But he had twice the mass of Garaf, and the benefit of surprise soon wore off. The goblin pulled a knife and slashed out, cutting open the boy's tunic and knocking him down.


Garaf, heedless of the gash stretching from his left arm to his sternum, tried getting to his feet but found a grubby boot on his stomach. The boy bore a grim expression as he looked up to see a slab of iron, ground to a rough edge, brandished above him. The goblin drew back to strike again when a shout broke through the tumult of the storm.


"FIRE!"... and just then a small ball of flame erupted on the goblin's shoulder. The beastman squealed and hopped about, slapping its shoulder and then glowered back at the boy. Garaf was still laying in the mud, watching the goblin with sharp, angry eyes. Lightning flashed again, illuminating the dark silhouette of another among the trees. The goblin hopped and ran to shuffle off in the other direction.


Garaf looked up and saw Crawa standing over him. Her clothes were covered in mud and rain and torn from running through the woods. âGaraf! What were you doing?!â The girl's breath came in gasps. âYou're bleeding! We have to go back. The goblin's gonna find us again, quick now!â She pulled at Garaf's arm, looking around frantically.


"I didn't find them... yet." Garaf looked away again, seeming not to have heard her. He felt shame, not for having run off into the night, but for having failed to find her parents. He heard the leaves squish as she knelt down next to him, but he certainly didn't expect it when she slapped him.


"Stupid! Everybody's always leaving me and going away. I won't forgive you if you leave too!"


"I ain't gonna sit 'round 'n watch you gettin' lonely! Iffin' I find your folks then everything'll be good 'n happy."


Crawa quieted at that, but after a few moments put her hands on her hips in a stance of determination. âIf you go out running after them now, you'll get eaten by goblins, or worse! We're just kids. Besides, mama and papa always come back. Grampa said so.â The words were certain, but her voice was hesitant. âAnd... and if they don't, we'll go and look for them when we're grown ups who can go away without permission and fight bad guys without getting hurt!â She glared pointedly at the gash that sliced through Garaf's tunic.


Garaf nodded and worked his way back to his feet, wincing as his body reminded him he was leaking. The cut wasn't deep, but it stung. "Ok. We'll go tagether." Satisfied, Crawa got up on her own feet, and the two of them began to work their way back to the Temple. âHey, look now,â the girl said, pointing at the sky. âIsn't it pretty?â The rain had stopped and the clouds were swiftly parting. The storm had finally cleared, revealing a sky full of stars.



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Chapter 11

Thirteen years later, Garaf and Crawa begin their journey into Eorzea.


Garaf stood in the doorway looking into his room. He had to stoop just ever so slightly to go through the doorway these days, but this was the first time his room had ever seemed small; the first time it had ever seemed anything other than his. In truth, he wasn't as concerned about the room itself, or even the Temple at large, but he was going to miss the heavy workbench that was bolted to the floor and the wall. The core of it was small, still sized for a child, but it had been one of the first things he'd built himself. Over the years he'd added and expanded on it till it took up most of the far wall. Every gouge, burn mark, puncture, nick, and stain had been made by his own hand.


It was now cleared of everything except his final project: a mechanical doll that he had assembled from hand-built pieces over the years. He'd never figured out exactly why he'd built it, but he had a vague memory of a clockwork man sitting in a dim room from his childhood. His own machination was still quite incomplete and missing a number of key components that he just couldn't construct at the Temple. He decided he wasn't going to miss the room - he was actually a bit excited to leave it behind - but he was going to miss the workbench, and his "Arc".


He didn't miss the sound of light footfalls behind him, and turned to see Esslar holding out a note. "Quite fortuitous timing, Garaf. This note has just arrived for you this very moment. Should you like to read it before continuing to gather your things?"


The Duskwight patted a small leather satchel on his belt. "Got everythin' I need right here." Garaf excepted the envelope and looked it over curiously. "Don't think I ever got a note before. Who do you reckon s'from?"


"The author did not see fit to include return information I'm afraid. Crawa has received one as well, and I believe she was inclined to review its contents in the garden, should you wish to join her. I should see to your morning meals so we can at least send you off with full stomachs!" The lalafell patted his own tummy with gusto and then left a grinning Garaf alone in the hallway.


He tore the side off the parchment envelope and then unfolded its contents. The paper itself was of some quality and the penmanship was smooth and clear, unlike his own blocky lettering.


I understand you are soon to depart in the company

of my betrothed. Understand that should harm befall

her in my absence I will hold you personally accountable.



Garaf rolled his eyes and crumbled the letter. âYeah, like I gorram needed ta be told thatâ. He tossed the crumpled note across the room into an otherwise empty wastebasket beside the workbench and walked down the corridor. "Gal prolly couldn't find her way 'round tha' bend without someone ta' show 'er first."




âWe'll go and look for them when we're grown ups who can go away without permission and fight bad guys without getting hurt!â


It had been nearly thirteen years, and Crawa's parents had not yet returned. Now, with her elders' leave, she and Garaf were going to go find out why. She smiled to herself as she gathered her things together. No matter what they found at the end of their road, the very fact that they were finally on their way to unraveling the mystery gave her a surprising amount of hope. Even the weather was bright, the sun piercing through the trees and into the garden where she sat.


It was a secluded area of the temple grounds, one of her favourite places. She placed her pack on the ground and sat down, breathing quietly. In the shrubbery, half-hidden, a worn and weathered statuette stood, the figure indiscernible from time and wear. Crawa often wondered if it had once depicted the Matron, or whether it was a remnant from before the temple had been built, an ancient forest god from a time out of mind. Whoever it was, Crawa set herself before it, scattering a few flowers at its base for luck. She asked of it guidance, for Garaf and she to find the true road, for her elders to be safe and hale when she returned. She barely noticed the rustle of footsteps in the grass.


âSweet heart, there you are.â


Crawa turned as her grandfather emerged from the other side of the garden. âI thought I might find you here. This letter is for you,â he held out an envelope, âIt came just now, and one for Garaf, too. In the meantime, I have a few more things to do. I will see you by the Gate when you are ready.â


He hobbled off, leaving her with the letter. She flipped it over a few times before slitting it open with a fingernail and unfolding it to read.



I regret to not be present at your seeing-off; as it is, I

grant you my most sincere wishes for the success of your

mission. I keep you in my memory and look forward

to our reunion upon your undoubtedly successful return.





Crawa smiled and folded the note back up, tucking it into a side-pocket of her bag. It said little, but it would be a reminder of home. Something to look forward to. Had it already been a year since she had last seen Dasma? She wondered that the time had gone by so quickly. He had come all the way to the Temple to marry her, as had been arranged so many years ago, but Crawa had refused to become his wife while her parents were still missing. All had agreed with her decision and thought it wise, but it was yet another reminder that all was not right with the world.


She looked down at her wrists, at the bracelet given her by her mother on her sixth birthday, the last time she had seen her. It was still as shiny and new as it had been then. She wondered vaguely what this day would have been like had her parents returned, and stayed. Doubtless they would be seeing her off today, as she and Dasma inherited their places. She would be setting off on a different journey, returning to the Temple once a year, to do as they had done â righting injustice, restoring balance where she could, having children so that these small charities might continue. Her parents would have remained at the temple as her grandfather did, living the rest of their lives together in peace. It was a happy fantasy, but Crawa knew very well that her parents were not here, where they should be, and that she and Garaf were departing on a very different journey than the one that had been envisioned for her when she was born. She was not bidding them goodbye from the Gate, she was not married to Dasma, she was not â she admitted - ready. 'But when I find them', she thought, refusing to consider replacing âwhenâ with âifâ, 'things will be as they should be.'


With that thought full in her mind, she made her way out of the garden for the last time.




They were all assembled at the Gate by mid-morning. Guthlac and Esslar had changed into their formal attire at some point, though Garaf and Crawa wore clothing more suitable to traveling. Garaf thought that the two older men might burst at any moment into sunshine, songs and rainbows from all the pride and tears welling in their faces. Crawa mostly just had tears.


"This day's been a long time in the coming," Guthlac began, "but part of me wishes it was still a little ways further off. I'm sure you'll do us proud."


"I'll do my best, Grandpa."


"Are you quite sure that you are adequately supplied?" Esslar eyed their meager luggage suspiciously. Garaf carried a number of small items on his belt, and his old self-made bow, but Crawa was the only one who'd thought to bring an actual pack, and it was not exactly overburdened with supplies.


"S'not like we're goin' too far at first. We can pick up more in Gridania iffin' we really need ta. 'Cides, just about anythin' we need, I can make. 'N we got plenty a' coin between tha' two of us so no needs for worries."


Guthlac put on his strong, stubborn-as-an-oak face. "I'm not worried a bit! And when you find your parents you tell them just how much we've missed them.â


Crawa swallowed. âOf course.â


They began to turn away but a cough from Esslar bid them stay. The lalafell donned a guilty expression for the blink of an eye and then spoke his confession. "Wait please, a moment. I confess I should have informed you of this previously, perhaps, but silence was requested of me. As you are no doubt aware, just under fourteen years ago Garaf arrived at our Temple. We still don't know how or why." The lalafell looked up at the Duskwight and Garaf shrugged in response. He himself did not recall anything prior to waking up at the Temple. "What you did not know, because your parents requested we not tell you, was that he carried a... token, of some sort. I am dreadfully sorry that neither Sirrah Guthlac nor myself saw the item ourselves, nor were we informed of its significance, but it was this... artifact that prompted their departure so quickly after its discovery. The last we were aware their destination was Ala Mhigo, but that was long, long ago. Where they may have gone from there, or even if they ever reached that destination, we simply don't know."


Crawa frowned. âThat brings more questions than it does answers. Ala Mhigo had been destroyed for over a year when they left, in any case. What in the world would they find there?â


As she spoke Garaf wondered, not for the first time, what circumstances had led him here over a decade previously - and what he might have been carrying that would have concerned Tuilind and Gilhend Nerian. By the time she had finished speaking he had concluded that the answers wouldn't be found standing in the Temple Gate. "Well, least it gives us a place ta start lookin'. We'd better be hittin' tha' road. Ya'll take care of yourselves 'n we'll let ya know iffin' we find somethin'."


Crawa hugged Esslar and Guthlac tightly, lifting the former briefly off his feet. âI'll be back, and I'll bring them with me,â she said as she embraced her grandfather.


âThe Matron guard you, sweet heart,â he replied.


âAnd you, both of you... take care of yourselves!â Crawa called as they crossed the threshold. The Gate swung shut behind them, and the Twelveswood beckoned them forward. It was a start.



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