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The Incunabula of Midnight [Closed]

Loc Talon

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The Four Tribes


For we do not know how long the Four Tribes had roamed Eorzea before the Conflicts- nor do we harness knowledge of the lands from which they came. Only the Elders of the past held the knowledge of our origins; A chronicle of our history that they would take with them to their graves. The Four Tribes were defined as rival mercenary groups of Duskwight Elezen, that roamed the lands in everlasting strife. They vied for domination over the lands, obtaining new technologies from rival Tribes and, ultimately, acquisition of contracts from the various city-states scattered throughout the region. The Four Tribes fought each other, in a ceaseless battle, to hold advantage over these aspects for ages.


The Twilight


The Twilight Tribe was primarily Disciples of the Land that worshipped Nophica, the goddess of abundance. The Tribe was comprised of Miners, Botanist, and Fishers, though their prowess in warfare was not to be trifled with. They utilized their knowledge of the land and its resources to shape the ways they carried out their contracts.


They would wield their modified pickaxes as inconspicuous weapons to follow their targets through crowded streets, as they waited for the opportune moment to deliver a single deadly blow to the back of their victim's skull. The Tribal Botanist used their knowledge of plants to concoct poisons to leave as a subtle way to subdue their foes in the form of a refreshing drink or enticing meal. The Fishermen could hurl their harpoons with skill and precision to lodge it gracefully into the heart of their enemy from several hundred yards away.


By utilizing their skills of the Land as combat mechanics, the sustainability of the Twilight Tribe was unsurpassed. Although they were Disciples of the Land, only a fool would underestimate their efficiency on the field of battle.



The Eventides


The Eventides were Disciples of the Hand, who held their faith in Byrgot, the Builder. They constantly escalated their combat capabilities to new heights with their knowledge of the crafts. The Eventides would use their knowledge of crafts to bolster their fluency on the battlefield by crafting state of the art armors and weaponry.


The Carpenters would erect walls to guide their enemies into a perfect ambush location. Weavers would rig up elaborate networks of tripwires throughout the battlefield, silently waiting for their unsuspecting enemies. The advantages that they held in the crafts provided the Eventides with insurmountable defense mechanics to weaken the enemy forces, as well as, traps to thin out the numbers of their foes. The Eventides would wait patiently in the midst to strike down their enemies at their most vulnerable moment.



The Nightfall


The Nightfall was a tribe of Disciples of Magic and followers of Thaliak, god of knowledge. They implemented their knowledge of the aether to further their advancements on the battlefield. The Thaumaturgists would hide in the shadows as they subtly weakened the enemy forces and strengthened their comrades, as the Conjurers would unleash the wrath of the elements upon their foes. The Nightfall would vanquish any that confronted them with a quiet hand gesture, an aspect that would have their enemies to carefully reconsider their actions before crossing them.



The Darksky


The Darksky were Disciples of War and followers of Halone, the war goddess. The most brutal of the Four Tribes, The Darksky utilized sheer viciousness and ferocity to conquer their enemies. Furthermore, they housed a significantly larger militant force, which doubled the size of any of the other three tribes.


The intelligence of the Darksky was not something to be underestimated, for they executed each and every assault with precise calculation and efficiency. The Darksky were trained from infancy to be masters of conflict, both in terms of subtle assassination and open combat. They were resourceful warriors who adapted methods to complete their missions through any means necessary.



The Garlean Invasion


In the time when the Garlean Empire stormed across Eorzea, The Four Tribes were caught in the wake of its destruction. They were driven out of their settlements, forced to flee to the South, and leave their homes to burn in ruin. It was in this time of despair that the Darksky knew the Four Tribes needed to unite their forces, if they were going to stand any chance of surviving the Invasion. They gathered their forces and they set out on a campaign to locate the other Tribes. After several days of searching and fighting, they managed to coerce the other three Tribes into a single force, which they named "The Covenant of Four".


When the Garlean Empire vanished, shortly after the Covenant was formed, the Four Tribes agreed to maintain the alliance. Seeking to restore their settlements, they turned to the city-states in search for contracts, but were firmly denied. Appalled that the city-states would refuse to aid them, after years of devoted service, they drifted into reclusion. It is in this time that they adapted a new way of life and devoted themselves to utilizing their skills for the benefits of the underprivileged. They vowed among themselves that they would obliterate the city-states, in the name of the countless mercenaries that they had so coldly turned their backs on.


The Covenant held a lot of distaste for the other races of Eorzea, including their Wildwood cousins, only allowing Duskwight Elezen to enter into their ranks. They had also developed a strong hatred for any form of civilization. The allied Tribes actively sought conflict with other races and openly declared war on several city-states. They pillaged, robbed, and burned any that they felt were inferior to them.



Decent of the Four


The Covenant was very open with their assaults, often times leaving letters behind to stand as a sign of pride in their works. They would hang around in taverns and proudly boast of their operations. They spared no details of their assaults and met anyone that would challenge them with a timely death. This aspect of The Covenant of Four would eventually become their undoing.


It was a mild spring day that the leader of the Covenant met for their monthly meeting, as they deliberated and planned for their assaults for the upcoming weeks. They sat at the table, as several Guards moved into position around the perimeter of the building and stormed in, quickly slaying the leaders before they could even stand. To this day, no one knows exactly how the Guards found the leaders on that fateful day. Some say that spies had infiltrated the Covenant, others believe that a city-state had paid off a member of the Covenant to divulge information on their whereabouts. All that is certain is that this one event marked the end of the Covenant of the Four.


In the months that followed, the remaining members of the Covenant were hunted relentlessly. Some members fled Eorzea completely, while others went into deep hiding and dropped off the map. The members of the once powerful Covenant of Four died during those months, in one way or another. Be it a painful death by the blade of a Guardsman, or the spiritual death of abandoning their identity and leaving behind everything that they once lived for.


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The Elder


The Elder


Thus, to this day, we do not know the true identity of "The Elder". The only recollection of the Elder's past, that we hold, is the last testament that he shared in his last days. It is with this testament, that we draw a greater insight on the man that was the Elder and how he came to take his place as the pinnacle in the careful crafting of The Midnight Covenant.


The Elder was born unto the fold of the Darksky. He began training at a very young age, learning to wield swords with deadly precision, shoot arrows with vicious accuracy, and thrust a lance with brutal destruction. Through will and perseverance, the Elder excelled in his training and quickly passed all of his trials, becoming a fully fledged Disciple of the Darksky in his early teens.



Rise of a Legend


By the time he reached his coming of age, he was already a battle-hardened warrior. He had seen many battles, developing a strong hatred for the other Tribes and races of the lands. He developed a strong sense of pride and conquest within the Darksky heritage, thus would hunt down and mercilessly slaughtered anyone that did not bear the mark of the Darksky.


Over the years, his reputation for brutality and ferocity in battle had spread across the lands, especially within the other Three Tribes. He was constantly challenged to prove his mettle and display his worthiness to such a bloodthirsty title. As such, with each and every naive challenger, that he left mangled in a pool of their own fluids, would only further the justice of his given reputation.


A legend,passed down through generations that tells of his brutality and drive on the battlefield, speaks of a great battle between the Darksky and the Eventides. The Eventides had trapped many of the Darksky warriors in their intricate traps, rendering them incapable of battle. The Elder used his cunning and climbed into the treetops of the misty forest to avoid the traps the Eventides set out on the grounds below. He stripped himself of his armor and weaponry to allow him to weave through the trees in a more agile manner.


The Elder hunted down the Eventides that were scattered throughout the woods, gathered their corpses, and then proceeded to their outpost. Attempting to weaken their spirits, he dismembered the corpses of their comrades, set them a fire, and hurled the burning body parts over their great walls. This greatly disgraced the Eventides, as they massed their troops and charged the Elder. He retreated into the woods and managed to carry himself over the walls of the outpost, viciously crushing the skulls of the few post guards, left behind from the charge. He locked the remaining forces out of their own encampment and crafted several nooses from the ropes of the Eventide's Weavers.


Finally, he taunted the remaining forces to the walls of their outpost and roped them up, one-by-one, as he heaved them up the walls. After pulling each of his foes, he would kill them in the same graphic fashion, that had since become his trade mark. Eventually, this series of events forced the Eventides to route, leaving the Elder to proclaim victory, as he let his war cry echo through the valleys.



To Enter unto Exile


After several years of loyal, devote, service to the Darksky, he eventually was appointed as an Elder within the Tribe. As an Elder, he continually strived to display the might of the Darksky to the other Tribes, by taking an active role in leading and organizing many offensive assaults. Furthermore, he felt a strong sense of responsibility and obligation to train the young Neophytes, taking a personal role in their lives to teach them the ways of the Darksky and molding them into great combatants.


When the Tribes were forced to flee from their homes and retreat to the South, The Elder reluctantly joined in the migration, fleeing from the first battle in his lifetime. Arriving in the Southlands, he aided his people by rallying his forces and doing what he could to assist with accountability, as well as tending to the wounded. Word had circulated through the forces that the leaders had planned to ally with the other Tribes and he was not hesitant to voice his displeasure. Despite adamantly voicing his concerns and disagreements to his respected leaders, the alliance and forming of the Covenant of Four pressed on.


The Elder became bitter and felt betrayed by his leaders for allowing, what he perceived as, degenerates from the other Tribes to poise as his superiors. He felt that they were unworthy to hold any sort of power over the Darksky for, in his eyes, the Darksky were far more superior. Eventually, this loathing would lead to his downfall.


It was a dark, silent, night. The rain fell upon the land like a waterfall cascading from the skies. The Neophytes of the Covenant were working hard to bring the fresh gathering of resources in from the rain, as The Elder stood by and watched the horizons for any signs of danger. As the Neophytes worked dutifully, one of his new found authoritativea made their way to the site and ordered him to gather resources. This was the final straw for the Elder, for after years of servitude and hard work, rendered to claw his way to where he was at, he was not about to be reduced to grunt work after all he has given for his Tribe.


The Elder snapped and lashed out at the leader, wrapping his hands around his neck and quickly bringing the leader to his knees. He readjusted his hands to rest his thumbs over the leader's eyes and gauged his eyes out exclaiming, "You blind fool. You know not that which the forces you toil." Unable to control his anger, he drew his blade and decapitated the leader, placing his severed head on a stake for all to see. This event would become his last recorded act of conflict.


He stood before the Circle with no remorse or regret. One of the Circle Councilors would step forward, to act as his interrogator. The tribal markings on his forearm signified to The Elder that this Councilor was a fellow Darksky. The Elder leveled his glare with the Councilor and rendered a reluctant bow of respect.


The Councilor spoke out to the Elder, as he stood in the middle of the low-lit, circular, room.


"When I had heard what you did...I requested that I personally oversee your consequence."


"Then, let us get on with it...."


"I have waited a long time for this, brother..."


"As have I...Councilor."


"Hmmm...I'm not sure that you quite understand the severity of your predicament."


"I merely did my part to cleanse this land of a disgusting plague...I am a Darksky. Some of us still remember, and take pride in, the ways that our forefathers laid before us. Our ancestors would be disgraced if they arose to find the scion of their, once powerful, Tribe negotiating and compromising with the enemy...the filth that we vowed to rival with our every breath, until domination was achieved."


"You always did hold such a strong opinion. Unfortunately for you, my brother, your opinions will not help you here. We have waited nine years for this day and, I assure you, that nothing you say will change the events that will take place here."


The Elder furrowed his brow, as he looked to the other members of the Circle watching on, in an emotionless state, before he turned his stare back to the Darksky Councilor before him. "What the hell are you going on about, Councilor?"


The Councilor laughed in amusement, "Did you honestly assume that we didn't know? Honestly, brother, that sort of naivety is not becoming of your legend."


"That was nine years ago!"


"Indeed. Nine years. Nine years we have waited...You brought disgrace to our tribe that day. The only thing that has protected you this long was a minor loop hole in the old tribal traditions...We have been waiting all this time for you to slip up, so that we could serve just consequence for your transgressions. When I heard that you had removed his markings, I must say I was impressed at your cunning. However, unfortunately for you, you didn't bother checking to see if your comrades had actually left...as you had instructed them to do so."


"...I did what I had to do...to protect her."


"I assumed as much, but honestly, did you have to murder the guards? You didn't even have the honor to give them a proper burial...Burning corpses is no way to render your respect to the dead, brother."


"Let's not drag this out, what is to be my consequence for killing that disgusting excuse for a leader?"


"Ha! You still do not understand! That was nothing, but a decoy! Nine years ago, we could not award consequence for your transgressions because of that loop hole. We got tired of waiting, brother. So...We arranged to have that leader reduce you to grunt work, knowing that it would push you over the edge, in your unstable state of mind. It was unfortunate that you had to kill him, but that act merely served as a more appropriate means for us to put you on trial, without raising too much concern from the commoners. Bravo, brother, well played."


"...Betrayed, by my own tribe...The tribe that I have served and loved since my birth...On this day...everything that I have lived for, and believed in, has been stripped from my very hands...Councilor, with this, I have nothing further to live for...I surrender myself to the mercy of the Circle...to determine the most fitting death..."


The Councilor chuckles to himself, "Death? Oh no. Despite your crimes on that day, you taught us something...that there are things far worse than death."


"You wouldn't!"


Several Councilors stepped forward and subdued the Elder, tackling him to the ground and securing his hands and feet. The Elder tried to fight back, but the sheer number of the Councilors was too much for him to match. One of the Councilors took hold of his forearm and began to carve into his skin, removing the portion of flesh that contained his tribal markings.


"You are hereby stripped of your brand and exiled from Eorzea for the passing of three thousand six hundred and thirty moons. And know this brother...if you should breach the borders of these lands before the passing of that final moon...We will make you wish that you were dead."


On that day, the leaders opted not to kill him, but instead chose to exile him from Eorzea for ten years. Reluctantly, he accepted his fate and left Eorzea. Nothing would prepare him for what he would find when he returned.


During the ten years of his exile, The Elder traveled to many diverse regions and was exposed to many differing cultures and people. He began to reflect back on his old lifestyle within the tribe and see err in killing without purpose. Searching his soul, he adapted a more meaningful lifestyle.


Though he still utilized the skills and training he acquired from his time within the Tribes, he chose to use them in a more beneficial way. He traveled the lands helping the commoners with various tasks, that ranged from simply assisting with crop harvests, to taking out groups of bandits that were assaulting townsfolk.


That night, after retiring to his quarters, the Councilor sat nervously on the edge of his bed. Beads of sweat rolled along his skin, before separating and falling to the floor below. His eyes shifted to and fro, breathing heavily with anxiety. A dark hooded figure appeared before him, standing within the shadows of a corner in the room. His glowing green eyes peered across the room at the Councilor, as he spoke with the tones of a thousand voices.


âYou have done well, Councilorâ¦Everything is going as scheduled.â


The Councilor looked to the Shade, with wide eyes, before quickly kneeling before him. ââ¦Thank you, Master.â


The Shade narrowed his eyes, âSoonâ¦They will all understandâ¦The balance must be brokenâ¦â


âWhat will you have me do next?â


ââ¦Prepare for the rapture.â


He hesitated for but a moment. The guilt that coursed through his veins was, at times, overwhelming. He could not recall when this figure had come into his life. All he knew was that the Shade possessed insurmountable power over his soul. Reduced to a prisoner within his own body, he could not defy the figureâs will.


âAs you decreeâ¦My liegeâ¦â


The Shade stepped backwards into the shadows, as he spoke to the Councilor, in a low tone, âDo not fail me...Councilorâ¦â His eyes dimmed slowly, before the Councilor was left in the room, alone with his thoughts, once again.



A Disenchanted Return


The Elder returned to Eorzea to find the land he once called home had drastically changed.


The Council of Four and the Darksky, his beloved Tribe, had been destroyed and left but a fragment in time. New city-states had erected and others had grown to incredible stature. In this land that he was born, that he trained, and that he called home all his life, he was now a stranger.


The Elder was nearing the end of his days and new that he only had a few more years on Hydaelyn. After spending years reflecting on his past lifestyle, he vowed to repent for his deeds by erecting a new Covenant, before he passed on. He vowed to resurrect the new Covenant with the traditions, pride, and courage held by the old Tribes, but with a renewed sense of purpose. The Elder would rebuild the new Covenant with a new image and more subtle approach to missions.


Make no mistake, the new Covenant would come to be just as deadly as its predecessor. It would simply have different means and purpose. It would realize a heightened potential by opening its doors to the other races of the land, but the highest positions would be reserved for the Duskwight lineage. It would not seek fame or glory, but would remain hidden amongst the shadow and strike in the blink of an eye with exquisite precision. Above all, the new Covenant would have a true purpose and calling, no longer killing for sport, but for cause.


The Elder would not be able to confront this challenge alone. In his dying age, he would need to choose a new Council to champion the Covenant and carry on the legacy. He would spend the remaining years of his life seeking out and training the offspring that held the tribal blood. Just as he did the Neophytes in the days of old, he would teach them, train them, and mold them. He would take them under his wing and shape them into leaders, that would carry the name of the new Covenant into the future ages, restoring it to its former glory. Just as a phoenix rises from the ashes of which it was destroyed...


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The Incunabula of Midnight


Chapter I : Star-Crossed Lovers


Mid-Year - Ten Years before the Invasion


In the years before the Invasion, when the Four Tribes were still segregated, there was a great warrior, by the name of Ava Tempeste. Ava had lived her entire life devoted to the Darksky and was personally trained by the one known as "The Elder". Through her years of service, and under the guidance of The Elder, she grew to become a revered Archer and noteworthy War Caller. She commanded troops of all sizes to victory, as she consistently proved her mettle, both as an experienced fighter and honored leader on the field of battle.


Across the lands, where the Nightfall dwelled, there was a skilled Conjurer by the name of Rieve Trentes. Rieve spent his days experimenting with new spells and constantly pushed to better himself in his vocations. Rieve always aspired to become a leader within the Nigthfall, but his skills were constantly being undermined and surpassed by his peers. Though, where he lacked in the arcane arts, he made up for in charisma and charm. His had plenty enough skill as a Conjurer to effectively carry out his duties as a Scout and his personality kept him in good standings with his community.


It was the night before the Battle of Rushing Wings. Rieve was sent out to scout the lands and discover the Darksky encampments. He utilized his knowledge of Wind and Earth spells to silence and conceal his motions, as he gracefully moved across the plains. With alert, watchful, eyes he scanned the horizons, searching for any signs of enemy activity.


She hid in the bushes, covered by the night, as she carefully watched a lone Scout dart across the vast plains. He ran on the winds and conjured earth to conceal his body, but she had a trained eye and knew all too well of the scouting tactics of the Nightfall. Ava silently kept her eyes locked on this lowly scout, like a predator anxiously awaiting its prey. Watching, she would wait for him to let down his guard, before she moved in for the kill.


Rieve halted his scouting operations near some high brush. After moving for several hours, he needed to stop and regenerate aether before continuing on. Just as soon as he got comfortable, he would find himself diving quickly into the bushes as an arrow, just barely missing a kill shot, grazed the side of his ear. He scanned the plains, with rapidly shifting eyes, trying to analyze every shadow for any signs of movement. He hears the sound of displaced air, seeming to echo across the plains, as another arrow charges with deadly precision. He was spotted.


Ava growled as the scout quickly dodged her second arrow. He was quick and cunning, but no scout has ever escaped her with their life. She screamed with mighty vigor, charging from her burrow, firing several shots at the wayward scout. She locked onto him, as he scurried from his hideout. Quickly changing direction in mid-stride, she chased after him like a ravenous animal barreling after its next meal. He was fast, but she was quicker. This scout was not getting away


He fled, as fast as his legs would carry him, arrows falling behind him. He had not had time to regenerate any aether, and was only left with is physical attributes. At that instant, he felt his legs give way beneath him and, before he knew it, he would find himself drawing his staff and desperately try to fend off the endless attacks from the Darksky Hunter. He was no match for her without aether, but he struggled for survival with every action. He managed to get himself back to his feet and, unintentionally, backed himself into a tree.


She glared at the Conjurer, blade drawn, as she stood ready to pounce. She closed in on the Nightfall Scout and raised her blade. This was it, the moment she'd been waiting for, the kill. She stopped mid-swing, her blade inches away from his face...What was that enchanting sound that graced her ears like the voice of a thousand gods? She looked down at the man, as he sang his song of passing, a melody so dark and alone, and yet so beautifully elegant. She had never experienced feelings like this before.


Rieve continued to sing his song of mourning, as he accepted his fate of death on this dark, cold, night. Tense, eyes closed, ready for the final impact of the sword. But, he was not met with death. On this night, fate had a different plan in store for him.


Ava dropped her blade, as she stared in bewilderment at the Nightfall that had since ceased his lullaby. They sat in silence for, what seemed like an eternity, questioning each other's motives, as well as their own feelings. Finally, the eternal silence was shattered.


"Wh-what is your name, Scout?â she inquired to him with a trembling voice.


"Trestes...Rieve Trestes. Of the Nightfall...A-and yours?â he would reply.


Stunned for several moments she finally answered, though with her own share of reluctance, "Ava. Ava Tempeste...War Caller of the Darksky."


The sun would rise on the two newly united lovers. It was in those brief moments, they had felt true peace and serenity. It was in those moments, that they were able to experience but a fragment of happiness. Fate had brought them together, but it's ever churning hand would not unite them in bliss. For those few, quick, moments of solitude would award them a lifetime of longing, conflict, and persecution.



Chapter II : Ballad of Forbidden Passions


End-Year - Nine Years before the Invasion


The illuminating light seemed to blind them, as their eyes adjusted, once the sacks were ripped from their heads. Try as they might, to move their limbs, their bindings were too tight; their captures clearly knew what they were doing. They franticly scanned the candlelit cave, trying desperately to figure out where they were and, more importantly, how they got there.


Lying there in the cold, wet, floor of the cave, they knew what had become of them. After over a year of secret rendezvous and affairs of a forbidden love, they knew that it was only a matter of time before their transgressions caught up with them. They relished the memories they had shared over the past year and were willing to accept any consequence that would come of it. They would hold no regrets.


The anticipation escalated as the three masked figures entered the cave. Ava noticed the dressings of the guards, that stood watch at the mouth of the cave; she knew that their captures were her people. She would lay her head in the dirt of the cavern floor, in defeat, as the figures circled around Rieve.


One of the figures took hold of the bindings around Rieve's wrists and lifted him to his knees, holding him firmly in place, as the other two took turns mercilessly pummeling his face. The first figure released his grip on the bindings, as Rieve fell, face forward into the dirt. While he lay, bruised and beaten, one of the figures took hold of the hair on the back of his head, pulling his head back and bringing a finely sharpened dagger to his jugular.


Ava pleaded with the figures, "Let him go! Take my life instead, for it is I that has brought such disgrace to the Darksky!"


The figure looked over to Ava and retorted, 'Disgrace? You have done more than just 'disgrace' our people. You have defiled everything that we stand for by smearing yourself with the filth of this degenerate."


She leveled her gaze as she spoke, "Then...I beg you, of mercy, that if you take his life, you will grant me the same consequence. I would rather suffer a thousand deaths, than a life without him, as disgraceful and defiling as that may be."


The figure remained poised and silent for several moments, before dropping Rieve's head back to the ground and sinking his dagger into his leg, causing Rieve to cry out in pain, and letting his blood flow into the dry soil. He stood up and walked over to Ava, planting a firm kick to the side of her face, causing her to yelp. "You are as disgusting as this Nightfall scum! You make me sick!â he yelled at her.


The figure motioned to the other two figures and said, "Leave us. I will handle the transgressors on my own. Ride back to the camp and inform the War Council that the situation has been handled."


The two other figures nodded and left the cave. The remaining figure stood up and pulled his mask from his face, revealing himself to the captives. Ava looked up at the man, recognizing him as her mentor, as she began to weep.


She spoke to him with a shaken voice, "Then let it be...that I might die by your hand, master..."


He looked down at her with pity, "Ava...I have trained you in the ways of the Darksky since you were but a youngling...I watched you grow to become one of the greatest warriors that I have ever mentored. It pained me when I heard of your acts with this... miscreant...I felt betrayed. The War Council will not allow this transgression to go unchecked, but I cannot, in good conscience, stand to see you lead a life of emotional agony. I would never forgive myself."


She looked up to The Elder, with begging eyes. "Wh...What will we do?"


The Elder sighed as he closed his eyes and leaned against the cave walls, looking out to the rains pouring outside, beyond the cave mouth. "This act cannot be cleansed without blood." He walked over to Rieve and pulling his knife from the wound, as the wounded Nightfall screamed in pain. The Elder slowly crouched down in front of him and held his knife at Rieve's throat. "You...Disgusting filth...You have brought disgrace to my proud people...By all rights, I should behead you where you lay...It is only by the grace of Ava that I do not. You have a choice to make rat."


The Elder slid his dagger to Rieve's cheek area and placed the point firmly into his skin. "I can take you back to camp and turn you over to the War Council, where you will assuredly meet your passing..." He dug the tip of his dagger deeper into the captive's skin, as a small trickle of blood moved down Rieve's face. "...or you will leave Eorzea...never to return. But, know this, that you will forever hold her life in your hands. For if you should ever return, I will kill the both of you...And you will become nothing, but trophy marks upon my skin."


The Elder slid his dagger down Rieve's cheek about a quarter of an inch. "...Make your choice."


Rieve looks at the Elder with weak eyes, as he tried to form his words. âI...will go...I have no other choice....I will...do whatever you ask...to protect her."


The Elder looked at Rieve, as a grin spread across his face, distorting the myriad of scars that decorated his cheeks. "Ha-ha...I thought you would see it my way." The Elder quickly drug his dagger back along Rieve's jaw bone, leaving a deep gash running from the side of his chin to the lobe of his ear, before rotating his wrist and gliding his dagger through the cartilage that held the ear to the side of his head. Rieve screamed with agony, as the Elder picked up the bloody ear and attached it to one of the small hooks that decorated his necklace.


The Elder stepped over Rieve, to straddle the binding's that held his arms firmly bound behind his back, and took hold of his captive's forearm, examining his tribal marking. "The noble crest of the Nightfall...All who adorn this crest are a plague upon our lands..." He brought his dagger to Rieve's forearm and began carving into his skin, as Rieve squirmed and sent his agonizing screams echoing through the cave, with every meticulous cut.


After several minutes of carving, the Elder stood up, holding the section of Rieve's flesh that donned the tribal markings in his hand. He looked down to Rieve's broken, battered, body and spoke, "...And thus the plague has been cleansed."


Rieve lay, breathing heavily, in the dirt as tears, blood, and saliva streamed down his unrecognizable face, leaving a mixed pool in the cave floor. He turned to looked at Ava, lying on the other side of the cavern in a mortified state, as he spoke out to her, forcing himself to form his words to carry to her. "...My legacy...will live on, my love."


The Elder turned his eyes to the mouth of the cave and called to the guards. The guards approached the Elder and glanced down at Rieve, "What should we do with him?â one of the Guards asked the Elder. Lifting his eyes and leveling his stare with the Guard, the Elder responded, "Forgive me...my brothers..."


The Elder made swift work of the two guards, thrusting his dagger to land precisely into their vital areas. After they fell to the ground, the Elder knelt down and removed their tribal markings, in the same manner as he did Rieve's. He turned and walked over to Ava.


She looked up at him and inquired, "What...will happen now?"


He turned his eyes to Rieve and the guards, as he nodded and answered, "He will live and I will ensure that he leaves Eorzea...As for you...The War Council will demand punishment." He looked back to her, "Do you want me to do it?"


She laid her cheek in the dirt, as she looked out at the down pouring rains, beyond the mouth of the cave, as the sound of thunder cracked in the distance. "No...This...All of this is my doing. It must be done by my hands."


The Elder reluctantly nodded, as he knelt down and cut Ava loose of her leather bindings. He helped her to her feet and then twirled his dagger around in his hand, holding the handle out to Ava. She looked at the dagger, with sorrowed and shameful eyes, before looking back to the Elder's war hardened face. She sighed reluctantly, knowing what must be done, as she took the dagger.


She knelt down and dug her hand into the dirt. She locked and straightened her elbow, spreading her fingers apart, creating indented trails in the dry dirt of the cave floor. She then tucked her index, middle and ring finger beneath the palm of her hand, leaving her smallest finger extended. She slowly raised the dagger, as she closed her eyes and steadied her breathing.


After sitting poised and silent for several moments, her breathing grew heavy, as sweat beads began to form on her skin. The time had come, with one swift motion, she inhaled sharply and brought the knife firmly down upon her pinky, as she let out a deafening scream in tormented agony. She began to sob deeply, in both pain and shame, as she lifted the dagger once again.


She only hesitated for a second, before bringing the dagger forcibly down on her pinky once again. This time a loud, nauseating, cracking noise as the dagger broke through the bone and severed the pinky from the rest of her hand. She screamed once more, sending her anguished vocals echoing through the cave and out into the lands. She drops the dagger, as she continued to sob, cradling her dismembered hand to her chest.


The Elder sighed with sympathy and turned to gather some rope from his travel packs. He fashioned the rope into a lasso and wrapped it around Rieve's waist, who was now unconscious, before turning to Ava. "I will tend to his wounds...I cannot tell you where I will take him, because I cannot risk you allowing yourself to succumb to your foolishness. Go back to the village and tell the War Council that I am disposing of the body. Have the shamans to tend to your wounds."


The three exited the cave, as the Elder mounted his chocobo and looked down to Ava, "I will return to the camp shortly...Let us pray that our plot is not discovered...For both our sakes..." He spurred his chocobo and rode off, dragging Rieve behind him, as Ava began to make her way back towards the encampment, a single tear falling from her cheek.



Chapter III : Birth of the Misbegotten


Mid-Year - Eight Years before the Invasion


The hour grew late as Ava lay, exhausted, in her bed. The past several hours of labor had taken a toll on her body, and the signs were obvious, as sweat dripped from her brow. She turned her gaze to her children, with a faint smile forming on her lips, as the midwife saw to the care of the twins. Ava slowly closed her eyes as visions of Rieve and that night in the cave flashed through her mind.


The midwife turned to Ava, "They are fine, strong, children. What shall you name them, miss?"


Ava answered with no hesitation, as she had the names chosen several months priors, "For my son...Alagarde...and my daughter, Trysta..." She smiled as she looked at her children once more, as she noticed features of their father, "...Trentes."


A new voice would chime in from the entrance to the small bungalow, "You would give them the name of the enemy? Honestly, Ava, I cannot understand how it was you fell so far from who you once were..."


Ava glared at the man standing in the doorway, "...What business does the War Council have here?"

The man narrowed his eyes, "Our business lies with your children..."


Ava's eyes grew wide, "My...children? What would the Council want with them?"


The man's face twisted into a smug grin, "That is just it...We do not want them. Through their veins, courses the blood of impurity. They have no place in the Darksky. With that said...I have come to present you with an ultimatum. Either you send your children away, to be tended to by an outside source...Or you will be exiled from our people."


Ava's jaw dropped slightly, as she was taken aback, "You would ask that I choose between my children and the Tribe?"


"No...Forgive me for the miscommunication...We are not asking, we are decreeing. And allow me to further elaborate, when reference to your possible exile...We will send messengers to the Nightfall and inform them of how brutal you were, when you killed their poor Scout."


"What?! Why would you do such a thing?! After my years of loyal service!â she exclaimed.


"You have brought shame and disgrace to our people. Your acts have made a fool of the Darksky. Such actions demand consequence...severe consequence. In regards to your children, as far as we are concerned they are nothing more than parasites to us. You should be grateful with our proposition. Considering your transgressions, our demands are quite lenient."


"Lenient? Forcing me to choose between my offspring and my Tribe? You call that lenient?!"


"Of course. You are fortunate that we took your past service into consideration...Other wise...Well, I'll leave it to your imagination, as to what would have occurred to you and your children under the given circumstances."


The Councilor turned and started out the door before turning back to Ava, "You may tend to your offspring until they are of walking age...Then, you will send them away. If you cannot determine an environment or guardian that is suitable for you...The Council will intervene and determine the best course of action. Good day, Miss Tempeste."


Ava sank into her bed, as a few tears dropped down her cheek, despite her efforts to hold them within their ducts. "What is this unusual fate, so derived from passion...?â



Chapter IV : Vagabond's Legacy


Early-year - Five Years before the Invasion


The snow drifted carelessly outside, covering the ground in an alabaster blanket. A comfortable fire cracked and sizzled inside the small bungalow, and outside the call of the nocturnal creatures could be heard chattering in nature. Ava sat, watching her children play about, as a faint smile graced her woeful face.


At that moment, the Councilor that had condemned her three years ago came into the bungalow and spoke with a cold tone, "The time has come, Miss Tempeste..."


Ava furrowed her brow as she slowly stood to face the Councilor. The expression that captured her face was that of both mourning and sheer rage, as she so desired to lash out at him. She didn't speak a word, but merely stood in silence, glaring at him with contempt.


The Councilor smirked, "Aww...Come now, Miss Tempeste. You knew that this day would come...Let us not drag this out and make it as painless as possible, I'm sure that you will agree that will be in the best interests of us both. Now, tell me, what is your decision?"


She slowly closed her eyes, as she forced herself to speak, "The Darksky is my family...It has been all that I've known and lived for my entire life...I have bled and spilled blood to ensure the triumph of our people...I...I cannot turn my back on my people...my tribe...My children...will go with their caretaker.." She hung her head in defeat and began to weep. Having just made the hardest decision of her life, the signs were clear in the anxiety expressed by her non-verbal actions, despite this, she continued, "...It is my hope that this will absolve me of my transgressions in the eyes of the Council..."


The Councilor looked at Ava with no signs of sympathy, as he lifted one of his eyebrows in a smug fashion, "Yes...We will be sure to take that into consideration, Miss Tempeste..." With that he snapped his fingers, as several guards rushed into the room and took charge of the caretaker, who had been quietly sitting in the corner watching the scene unfold, and the two children.


The guards began to drag them out of the bungalow, as Ava dropped to her knees and began to sob, tears flowing down her face, cascading like a water fall. Everything seemed to slow down in her mind, as she watched her children, the only remnants that she has of her love. She cried and whispered to herself, "...Your legacy lives on....my love..."


Alagarde, her son, cried out to his mother, "Mommy! Mommy!! Where they take us!? Mommy!!!"


The caretaker tried to comfort them, "It's okay, children, we're just going on a trip..."


Trysta, her daughter, called to her mother, "No!! I want stay with Mommy!!"


Ava crouched into a fetal position, as her body began to shake uncontrollably. Tears continued to fall down her face, as an over-whelming sense of helplessness came over her. Her children's cries seemed to resonate through her being, as if shattering her very soul with every cry. Not able to take it any longer, she balled her hands into tight fists and began pummeling the ground. She screamed at the top of her lungs, as if trying to find some way to release her feelings of guilt, despair, and torment, sending it echoing through the valley.


Overcome with sheer primal rage, as her motherly instincts took the best of her, she drew her blades and lashed out at the guards. One of the guards quickly reacted, as he drew his sword and carefully struck her in the back of the head with the hilt. Dropping to the ground, in a daze, she watched helplessly as her children were carried out of the bungalow. She heard the faint voice of the Councilor saying to her, "...You have made your choice.", before she fell unconscious.


The Councilor and the guards escorted the children and the caretaker to the outskirts of the town, as they watched the trio venture out into the snow. The Councilor turned to the guards and spoke with authority, "Get back to your posts...There's nothing more to see here.â He then turned and stared back out into the snow, the silhouettes of the trio now vanished, their footprints covered by the winds behind them.


A hooded figure appeared before the Councilor, as the area around the two seemed to darken. His body was enveloped with shadows, swirling about his person, in a sort of smoking effect. He looked on, in the direction of the Councilor's stare, with his glowing green eyes. He spoke with a low, gravelling, voice that sounded like several voices hissing in unison.




The Councilor's eyes grew with terror, as he immediately turned and knelt before the dark figure, speaking carefully, "Yes...everything is going according to schedule..."


The hooded figure turned his sinister gaze from the snowed over fields and looked down upon the kneeling Councilor, "Begin the preparations for the next phase..."


The Councilor's eyes grew with worry, "So soon? Forgive me, master, but you said that my services would be complete once they were separated."


The hooded shade did not move, as his eyes brightened. The Councilor quickly brought an agonizing hand to the side of his head. Tightly closing his eyes, as his face twisted with pain, the anguish became unbearable and he wailed in agony.


The Shade looked down at the Councilor, as he spoke with an eerie calm above the Councilor's screams, "You will execute the next phase...Less I find another pawn to carry out my will...Someone who is more...grateful."


The eyes of the shade dulled, as the councilor fell to his hands and knees, coughing and hyperventilating violently. He said, between his fit, with a shaking voice, "Forgive me...master...I will not fail you.â before looking up and seeing that the Shade had vanished.


The Councilor fell to his side and began to sob uncontrollably, as a direct result of the terror that overcame him. He whispered to himself, "What have I become? But, a shell of a remnant, to that which I once was...Within this darkness....I have lost my soul..."



Chapter V : A Melancholy Passage


Mid-year - Five Years before the Invasion


The children sat in front of the door of the rundown house. Isolated from the rest of society, the house rested in that gods-forsaken swamp. Any remnant, of what used to be the front yard, had since became a disgusting cesspool. The yard was scattered with leftovers of civilized living and the sound of the multitude of flies, that had gathered around the trash, was nearly deafening. The caretaker slowly vanished on the horizon in her departure, leaving the children sitting all alone.


Suddenly, the door swung open. Rieve looked down at the children with a perplexed look. "Whar tha hell ded yeh facks come fram?" He had fallen drastically from the charismatic man that he once was. In the three years he had been banished, he had been reduced to poverty and driven to alcohol. He had become but a shell of his former self.


After his banishment, he was deprived of everything he had ever known and loved. He was driven from his homelands, the only lands that he had ever known. He was torn from the arms of his lover, Ava, an act that would forever haunt him. Cast away from his tribe and family, he took to alcohol to ease his pain and slowly forgot, not only the pain but, who he was.


He had become a hermit, completely distancing himself from the rest of society. He'd even taken to making his own booze, as to not be hassled with having to go into town to maintain his addiction. He had abandoned his life of honor and noble affairs, existing to live his days by the bottle.


Rieve inspected the two closer and found a note, that Alagarde was holding in his left hand. Rieve reached down and snatched the letter from his hand, "Whatcha get her'?" He read the note to himself.


"My Dearest Rieve,


In the years since your banishment, I have given birth to our wonderful children. I long to return to your arms and reunite with you once again, so that we might raise our children together. But, alas, things have become unsafe for our offspring and they can no longer remain in the lands of our birth. I have tasked this caretaker with the express responsibility to seek you out and see our children safely to your doorstep, in the hopes that you will teach them and keep them safe. I have named the twins Alagarde and Trysta Trentes, giving them your surname...The War Council did not approve much of that, but I felt, in my heart, that it was the right thing to do. In closing, know that you have never left my thoughts...and I still await our reunion. My love, your legacy lives on...


With love,

Ava Tempeste"


Rieve turned his dilated eyes from the letter to the kids. He now felt reluctantly obligated to take the children in, but alcohol was a burden to his better judgment. The children were now his property.


He crumpled the letter and tossed it into the yard, "Awret, ye besteds, git ye arses insard."


The next years for the children would be trying. Becoming subjects to frequent physical and verbal abuse, they lived their lives on pins and needles, taking care not to anger their father. Though, more times than not, their efforts were fruitless.


They were forced to fend for themselves, taking to thievery to obtain the sustenance they needed just to survive. Their bodies adorned scars and bruises, constant reminders of the misfortune that fate had dealt. They frequently tried to run away, but they were quickly tracked down and beaten by Rieve.


Rieve drove them like slaves and constantly forced them out into the swamp to gather ingredients for him to concoct his liqueur. The twins would often sneak some of his alcohol, while he was rendered unconscious by his love of alcohol, and would take it into town and sell to various patrons. None the less, this would usually result in a vicious beating from their deranged father.


Alagarde and Trysta survived the best they could through the years, with the resources that were available to them. Living under the tyrannical rule of their abusive father, they consistently strived to do whatever they could to not draw attention to themselves and subject themselves to his rage. They longed for freedom and hoped for a life away from the clenches of their, once honorable, father.



Chapter VI : Epiphany of Vengeance


Mid-Year - Nine Years after the Invasion


The fog was thick that morning, at the Trentes house. The light of the early morning sun was just barely able to cast a hazed glow upon the swamp. The sound of the flies continued their never ending buzz around the trash littering the front yard. This was the day of reckoning.


The twins awoke early that morning, as their father lay passed out in the floor, with a bottle nestled comfortably in his hand. They cautiously stepped over his unconscious body. They made their way to his distilling room, taking care to not make any noises that might rouse their father from his drunken slumber.


Entering the distilling room, they looked around the room, spotting several half empty bottles of booze. Alagarde took one of the bottles and brought it to his nose, taking a slight smell, before taking a quick swig and passing it to Trysta. She would partake of her own drink, before sitting the empty bottle quietly on the ground.


Alagarde began to round the bottles up into a centralized location, as Trysta expertly mixed the contents into several full bottles. When Alagarde was reaching for one of the bottles, which set high upon a shelf, he bumped a tin can and sent it falling to the ground with a loud "Clank". Theyfroze in place and quickly turned their eyes to the father, who grunted and spoke some incoherent chatter, before resuming his obnoxious snoring. The two let out a simultaneous sigh of relief, as they returned to their work.


After combining all the half-empty bottles that they could, Alagarde gathered all of the full bottles into a nearby crate. Alagarde stood up with the crate, after loading all the merchandise, and accidentally bumped the table that their father's distiller was sitting on. The two held their breath, as the device toppled off the table and crashed upon the floor with a loud "Crash".


Before they could react, Rieve was looming over them in a drunken rage, "Whatha fack dozya two thank ya doin'?! Staylin' fram yer der ole pap?! Arma garna bayt yer arses!!"


Trysta twirled around and stood to face her father's wrath, "We werenât doing anything-" She cut herself off and paused for a moment. âYou know what? Yeah, we are stealing from you, we have been for years. Since youâre too much of a dead beat to take care of your own children, itâs all we can do to keep ourselves alive!â


Rieve snarled as he reached forward and picked Trysta up by her hair, "Yer've gerta rayl smort moufun yer, ya wrench. Arma garner bayt thart altitude outer ya!"


Alagarde ran over and took hold of Rieve's arm, trying to shake his grip to free Trysta. Rieve lifted the bottle, held in his other hand, "Yer garner wait yer torn, bested." He forcefully thrust the bottle into Alagarde's face, sending him flying into the opposing wall, and shattering it on his skull.


Rieve turned his attention back to Trysta, "Naw...Whar wer we?". He proceeded to lay into Trysta's face, bringing each massive strike colliding with her face, with extreme force. He maintained his grip around her black hair, as he continued to ceaselessly pummel her body. No matter what he did to her, she would not scream.


Trysta smirked, despite her wounds and broken body, "Is that all you have, you son of a bitch? You must be getting weak in your old age." The girl taunted.


Alagarde watched on, in a slight daze from the blow he had received, as Rieve continued to beat his sister. They had received beatings from their father before, but this time was different. In that moment, he knew that if he didn't intervene, Rieve would surely beat her to her death.


Alagarde forced himself to his knees, as he scanned his immediate surroundings. Struggling to stand up, he cut his hand on the broken neck of the bottle, that Rieve had struck him with. He took the bottle into his hand, as fought to his feet.


Blood rushed from the wounds, scattered across his face, some of which still had glass still protruding from them. His heart raced as he slowly crept towards the drunken juggernaut. He had to do it, for Trysta.


Rieve continued his assault on Trysta's body, as she still refused to scream. He growled at her, "Yer thank ye outgrew yer ole man?! Ar will brak ye, little gi- "


Alagarde sank the bottle tip deep into his father's jugular, sending blood spraying. He dragged the glass shard across the width of Rieve's neck, as Rieve dropped Trysta to the ground with a "Thud". He turned in a discombobulated fashion and struck Alagarde, with what force he could muster, causing him to drop the bottle shard.


Rieve, determined to take his son to the grave along with him, produced his pistol and took aim at Alagarde. He tried to speak, but his words came out as bubbling gargles, as he choked on his blood. He continued to slump towards Alagarde, with murderous intent in his eyes.


Trysta got up and looked to Alagarde, who was bracing for his death. Without thinking, and reacting on pure instinct, she grabbed the bloodied shard. She mustered every ounce of energy, that she had within her, and charged at her father. Finally screaming, she sunk the bottle neck into her father's abdomen, gave it a firm twist, while dragging it across his waist line.


Covered in the blood that was let from his gut, she released the bottle neck and dropped back to her knees. She watched, in a petrified state, as her father halted his advance and stumbled in place. He dropped his pistol, discharging a bullet into the ceiling, as he fell to his back.


The two looked at each other in silence, as Rieve sucked in a series of rapid inhales. Alagarde gave Trysta a reaffirming nod, before looking back to his dying father. Rieve sucked in one last sharp inhale, as the rapid inhales temporarily paused. Trysta and Alagarde looked on, wide eyed, as their father let out a long exhale; it would be his dying breath.


The two slowly made their way to their feet and looked around the small cottage. They were overcome with feelings of disbelief and relief; uncertainty and hope. The twins staggered outside, their wounds still seething with blood.


The fog had lifted from the swamp, allowing solar rays to speckle the land, as a faint breeze swept through the valley. Alagarde looked to Trysta, "Sister...this...is our day of reckoning."


Trysta looked to her brother and smiled, "I...I guess it is, isnât it." She said with a slight stutter, her mind still catching up with what had just happened to them.


Alagarde turned his eyes back to the lands, "We need new names...No longer to be identified by our father's right..." He looked back to Trysta, "I will call you Ellia Thorn...from the word Elliasa'thorne...'The one who ends'."


Ellia nodded in approval of her name, as she turned to Alagarde, with a thoughtful expression, "Loc Talon, Alocai'talonara, 'He who protects'."


Loc smiles, "And so it shall be...On this day...we are reborn a new."


The two left that secluded house in the swamp, the place that they had lived so many nightmares. Though they abandoned that house, the haunting memories they acquired within the walls of that hellish structure would forever live on with them. Their scars would be a constant reminder of the fate of which they came and the desperate actions, that were taken in the name of survival.



Chapter VII : Homecoming of the Forsaken


End-Year - Eleven Years after the Invasion


The cold rain seemed to drive nails into their skin, as they stood alone on the docks. In the dark hours of morning, the moon was the only light that kept their company. The crickets sang a melody with the sound of the sea, rustling it's waves against the shore line, as their harmony.


The past two years have not been comfortable for Loc and Ellia, but compared to the hell they had endured at the hands of their father, it was a peaceful inconvenience. They took to the streets, endeavoring in petty crimes and misdemeanors. The two resorted to thievery and hustling to obtain the resources they needed. Peddling and panhandling had also become tools in their catalog of survival skills. In the end, they were committed to survival, by any means necessary.


Ellia kept her eyes focused on the sleeping town as she spoke to Loc, "Where in the hells are these guys? And who's fucking idea was it to make the drop on a rainy day..."


Loc shrugged, as he leans on some abandoned crates and observed the night's sky, "They should have been here by now...Are you sure this is the right dock? What does the letter say?" Ellia pulls a crumpled letter from her pocket and squinted at it's lettering, trying to read it through the elements. "Yeah, this is the right one. Don't question my navigational skills."


He shifted his eyes from the skies as he turned his gaze out to sea, "...Maybe they got lost..."


She folded the paper back up and placed it back in her pocket, "I have half a mind to just take the goods and make a run for it...We're hardly getting any thing for doing this to begin with..."


The twins quickly turned their eyes sharply to the end of the docks, in the direction of the scurrying footsteps, their ears pointed and alert. They analyzed the trio as they approached; One Human, and Two Roegadyn carrying a large wooden crate. The Roegadyn sat the crate down, before crossing their arms in a shady disposition, as the Human took point, in front of Loc and Ellia.


She was short, even for a human. Her hair was haphazardly tucked behind her ears, and kept in place by a slack red bandanna. Her young face was unadorned by cosmetics, but held a certain, rustic, beauty. She spoke with a harsh accent, but with a contrastingly pleasant sounding voice.


"Sorry ta keep ya'll awaitin'...Had a bit of a run in with some of the law offica's. They don't take too kindly to me and my boys here."


Loc lifted his back off the crate, as he turned to face the woman, "Mmm...It's not like we have anything better to do...I'm sure the don is a patient man." He said with a sarcastic tongue.


The woman smirked, "Well...We ain't got all night. Let's get down ta business, shall we?" She signaled to her partners, "Show 'em tha merch, boys."


The two Roegadyn quickly slid the large crate in front of Loc and Ellia, before kneeling down and removing the wooden lid. The crate contained several exotic arms of all shapes and sized. Ranging from daggers, swords, and armor; to rifles and pistols. The woman looked at the twins, with a prideful expression, "Quite the site, ain't it? I hope you brought enough gil. A shipment of this size is quite a payload."


Ellia picked up the large satchel that was sitting on the dock, next to her feet. She opens the bag and shows the woman, revealing a substantial amount gil. "Yeah, it'd be a better sight if it wasn't pouring rain. Speaking of, lets get this over with."


A wide grin spread across the woman's face, "Oh, well ain't that just lovely..." The woman reached to the small of her back, with both hands, and quickly produced two pistols. The Roegadyn swiftly placed the lid back on the weapons crate. The woman chuckled, "Now...Be a good lass and just slid that right over here, next ta momma."


The twins reached for their daggers, before the two Roegadyn couriers produced two large barrel rifles from underneath their parkas, stopping the twins short of arming themselves. The woman spoke once again, "Come now...No need ta get cross. It's just business, afta all. Just give momma what she came for, and we'll be on our merry little ways."


Ellia shifted her eyes to Loc, as he looked back to her and gave a nod. She sighed heavily as she tossed the bag, landing it on top of the weapons crate.


The woman smiled, "There now, that wasn't so hard. Was it? Now, I do so hope that we can still be friends, but we must be off. Let this be a lesson to ya'll. Thief's rule number one...Don't present the cash, 'til ya have the stash."


The woman made a hand gesture to open a portal, as the Roegadyn picked up the weapons crate and the satchel. The trio slowly backed into the portal, as the woman brought one of her pistols to her brow and gave a courteous wave with the barrel, "Au revoir!", before backing into the portal.


Loc and Ellia glared as the portal collapsed on the trio. Ellia turned and punched one of the crates stacked behind them, "That bitch took everything! We should have just taken the gil for our own "


Loc brought a hand to the nape of his neck, rotating his head, releasing an audible "pop", "The don's not going to be happy about this..."


Ellia leaned forward and dropped her head down onto one of the crates, with a "thud". "Remind me to steal a gun the next chance I get..."


Loc sighed before turning to walk back towards the slumbering town, "Come on...Let's get some rest. We'll face the music tomorrow..."


Ellia turned and kicked a pebble into the waters below the docks, as she walked with Loc "I have a feeling we went wrong somewhere along the way..." The two wandered through the night, until they found a suitable cave to settle themselves into for the day. The rain eventually ceased, leaving only a thick fog in it's wake.


The next night, the twins say in the don's manor, as he looked out the window. A couple of henchmen stood guard by the door behind them. After several moments of silence, the don turned to face them, standing on the other side of the desk, opposite of the fancy wooden chairs that Loc and Ellia sat in.


He was a large Human who had, slicked back, black hair. He wore an expensive looking suit, and several rings adorned his finger. Wrinkle lines formed around his sunken eyes. Upon his chin was a finely groomed goatee, that he stroked frequently, as he spoke with a weathered voice.


"So...Whach ya tellin' me...Es'at thes...thes...lady...held the two of yous at gunpoint...end made oo'af wit my cash...end tha merchandise?"


Loc leveled his eyes with the don's gaze, "That is correct..."


"And yous two...did nothin' ta get my prop'aty beck?"


Loc took in a deep breath, "Four guns...against daggers? No, we didn't do anything to get your 'prop-aty beck'."


The lowered his head as a small laugh escapes from his smiling mouth, "He-he...Yous real funny, guy..."


In that instant, the don furrowed his brow and threw his drink glass across the room, shattering it against the wall on the other side. He lept over the desk and wrapped his large hand around Loc's throat, yelling and pointing a finger in his face.


"I send yous out on a job end yous come back ta me wit jokes?! You are NOT in tha position ta fauck wit me!"


The don released his grip on Loc's throat, as he straightened out his blazer and maneuvered his hair back into place. He recomposed himself and turned to face his back to the two. "Thes...es'a business. Yer job...was ta make a transaction...foa dis business. I trusted yous ta make shoa that transaction was fulfilled...and yous betrayed meh trust. Yous two let me down...and now...yous hafta pay tha consuquants."


The don turns and leaned against his desk, as he snapped his fingers, and began to pour himself a drink. Four guards rushed in and roughly apprehended the twins, dragging them violently from their chairs, as they struggled, and stood the two on their feet. All the while, the don merely leaned against his desk, swirling his drink, occasionally taking a sip.


He looked to the twins, "Yous left meh in'a tight spot hea. 'S unfortunate...we coulda made swell business pa'tnas. Enjoy ya stay at the mana...Good day." He turns to look out the window as the guards drug the twins out of his quarters.


The guards escorted the two out to the manor courtyard. There, they forced them to their knees, as two of the guards took aim at the back of the twins' heads. They closed their eyes, as Loc whispered under his breath, "Ashes...to ashes..."


A large bang echoed through the manor, as an eruption ripped through the courtyard entrance. The force had blasted the guards off their feet, as debris bombarded both the guards and the twins alike. Smoke, from the blast, had filled the courtyard, as the guards struggled back to their feet.


Through the smoke cloud, a Miko'te rushed in and, with one swift motion, planted daggers into the four guards, dropping their lifeless bodies to the ground. Loc and Ellia managed to get back on their feet, only to meet the dagger tips, held by the Miqo'te.


The Miqo'te spoke with authority, "You two are not dressed like any henchmen, of this crime lord, that I've seen. What are you doing here?"


Loc shrugged, "I guess you could say that we had a conflict of interest..."


Ellia nodded at Loc's statement, "Apparently, we don't make very good 'business pa'tnas'."


The Miqo'te sheathed her daggers, "Well...if you've made an enemy of the don, you've made a friend in me. Unfortunately, survival in these parts can get tedious, to say the least, with don and his goons nipping at your heels."


Loc quirked a brow, "What are you doing here anyway?"


The Miqo'te chuckled, "Let's just say I was giving the don alittle repayment. He double crossed me and my clan during a deal a few weeks back. I figured some property damage would pose a nice collateral. Listen...Do yourselves a favor, and get out of here. You two don't seem like the clan type, and if you've crossed the don...he'll never stop hunting you, it's a sort of sport to him."


Loc leveled his gaze with the Miko'te, "So far, these lands have brought us nothing but misfortune...All we ever wanted was a new beginning, to find our purpose in life...A destiny..."


The Miqo'te smirked, "Hmm...As odd as it may seem, I'm rather inclined to give you a hand with that. Any enemy of the don, is a friend of mine, after all. But, everything in these parts comes with a price."


Ellia looked at the Miqo'te with an inquisitive look, "What are the conditions?"


The Miqo'te nodded, "I have a ship docked in a town near by, if you give me a hand here...I'll give you two a ride to Eorzea, lots of folks seem to be migrating there lately, for similar reasons, and we need to make a stop there to pick up a shipment of...err...some merchandise. You two help me here, and I'll let you tag along with us."


Ellia turned her eyes to Loc, as he shrugs and says, "So far, she's the only one seemingly half way trust worthy, in these gods-forsaken lands. I mean...we don't really have anything to lose..."


Loc and Ellia helped take out several guards in the manor, as well as cause some significant property damage. Before long, some more member's of the Miqo'te's clan converged on the manner, pushing them to the advantage. With the don's clan either killed or forced to route, they secured their victory. They searched all through the manor, but found no signs of the don.


That night, they had a great feast, commemorating their victory over the don. Dancing, music, drink, and merriment decorated the festivities of the night. When it was all over, it was time to take to the seas.


They left those lands and set sail for a new world, Eorzea. They did not know what awaited them beyond the vast, crimson, horizon of the seas. They longed for a new beginning, but the new beginning they would find was one that would change their lives forever.



Chapter VIII : Dawn of Destiny


Early-Year - Twelve Years after the Invasion


"Master...They have returned...I have felt their presence."


"Mmm...Thus the denoument has begun...Councilor..."


"Yes, my liege?"


"Deploy the Three Shadows..."


"As you wish...Master..."


The early morning sun was just peaking over the horizon, casting an orange hue upon the skies, as the twins stepped onto the docks. The docks were filled with various fishers, sailors, and dockhands, as they all went about their business in a sort of choreographed manner. The Miqo'te stepped off the ship, as she held her arms out to either side of her body, "Well...This is where we part ways. We need to hurry to pick up that weapons shipment and high-tail it back home. I hope you guys find what you're looking for."


Loc turned to the Miqo'te, "Yes...Thank you for your assistance..."


The Miqo'te looked to Loc and smiles, "Don't mention it. You can never have too many people, in this world, that owe you one. You two take care."


The twins waved to the Miqo'te, as she and her entourage made their way off the dock. "Well...Now what?"


Ellia turned her head, with a smile, and looked to Loc, "Wanna get drunk?"


Loc nods, "Mmm...I could use a drink."


The two wondered through the city-state, as they took in the sights of their new-found homelands. They would eventually happen upon a tavern, fitting for their desires. Walking into the tavern, they took a seat at the bar, as the bartender walks over. "Morning. What are you having?"


Loc nodded his head in greeting, to the bartender, "Your stiffest drink..."


Ellia waves her hand in aggreance, "Make that two."


The bartender starts to prepare their drinks, mixing various spirits, as he looks to them, "So, you folks new to Lima Lominsa?"


Loc nods, "Just came on the ship this morning..."


The bartender smiles, as he slides their drinks across the table, "Ah. I see, I see. Well, enjoy your stay, strangers."


The two sipped their drinks in silence, as they enjoyed a few moments of peace. It had been a long time since they were able to simply enjoying a couple of drinks together, as they weren't very welcome around the towns in the swamp. It was comforting feeling, as they looked forward to their new lives and a clean slate.


They finished their drinks and paid the tab, as they made their way to the streets, for some more sight seeing. No sooner as they had left the tavern, they were confronted by three hooded figures. Each figure wore a separate color hood, Red, Grey, and White, respectively, with a black robe. Their faces were hidden by the shadow cast by their hoods.


Loc shifted his eyes around to the three figures, "...This can't be good..."


Ellia groaned, as she lightly hung her head, "Who knows, maybe their a welcoming committee."


The Grey-hooded figure stepped forward, "Alagarde and Trysta Trentes...By Order of The Shade, your souls are condemned to damnation..."


Loc quirks a brow, before lowering it just as quickly, as the assassins simultaneously produced two swords each, "...Shit."


The Shadows charged for the twins, as Loc and Ellia ran for their only escape, through the tavern entrance. As the group charged through the entrance, several patrons jumped to their feet, in surprise, over the sudden commotion. Loc and Ellia rushed through the seating area, turning chairs and tables over, in hopes to slow their pursuers.


Gaining a lead on their pursuers, the siblings ran towards the back of tavern, as the Shadows continued after. Once the twins ran out of site of their assailants, they ducked behind two groups of crate, that were stacked opposite of each other in the musty back hallway of the tavern. They nodded at each other, as they waited for their persuers to catch up, and drew their daggers.


The Shadows entered the hallway and slowed their pace to a walk, as they cautiously scanned the back reaches of the hallway for any signs of their prey.They slowly stepped towards the two stacks of crates, as the White Shadow proceeded forward. Once he breached the threshold, Loc and Ellia dug their daggers into either of his legs in unison, as he dropped to the ground and growled in pain. The two bolted for the back door, leaving the two other Shadows to temporarily aid their wounded counter part.


Loc and Ellia took to the streets and headed for the front gates, before they were cut off by an old Elezen, that blocked that their path. The two stopped dead in their tracks, as the old Elezen loomed over them, glaring down the street ways. The twins looked up at the large Elezen, as the Shadows closed in behind them.


The old Elezen stood tall and, despite his age, had a muscular build. His eyes held a weathered, yet experienced look. The top half of his body was unadorned by any cloth, revealing the wide array of scars and tattoos that cover almost every inch of his dark skin. He wore a pair of loose, white, cloth pants and had two, curved, battle axes clasped on the backside of his belt, attached by long chains that looped around to the front.


The twins looked up at the old Elezen, as he moved past them without a word. He unclasped his battle axes from his belt and lowered his body, bending at the knees, as he maneuvered into a, sort of, crouching position. He outstretched his, slightly-bent, left arm in front of him, as he moved his right behind him and bent i, at the elbowt into a ninety degree angle. The old Elezen leveled his gaze with the Shadows, as they momentarily halted their advancement.


After several moments, the Shadows readied their blade and commenced their attack. The Red and Grey Shadow charged forward, as the White Shadow stayed behind and began conjuring a magic bolt. The Red Shadow leaped into the air, while the Grey continued to charge forward on the grounds below.


The old Elezen hurled one of his battle axes at the Grey Shadow, sticking it in his chest with great precision. He forcefully tugged the chain, sending the Grey flying towards him. He wrapped his massive fingers around the throat of the Grey, twirled him one time to increase velocity, and sent him flying straight for the air-borne Red Shadow.


The Red grabbed hold of the Grey, giving his own spin, and redirected the momentum back to the old Elezen. The Red dropped to the ground, and instantly lowered into a crouched position. The White, who stood behind him, sent his magic bolt hurling towards the old Elezen, passing inches over the crouched Shadow.


The old Elezen grabbed the descending Grey Shadow and hurled him to collide with the magic bolt, clashing with an explosion of energy. The Red Shadow rose into the air, from the smoke cloud of the explosion, and began lunging several daggers toward the old Elezen with unmatched speed. Despite the old Elezen efforts to elude the daggers, several escaped his avoidance and dug into his flesh, as an expression of rage overcame his face and he growled under the pain.


The Red Shadow dropped back to the ground and slowly stood to his feet, looking on as the old Elezen dislodged the daggers from his skin and tossed them to the ground. The Red Shadow laughed as he called out to the old Elezen, "Hmhmhmhmmm...A pity...We were expecting more a fight from you..."


The old Elezen slowly rose and leveled his gaze with the Shadows. "You blind fools..." The Elezen plucked the final dagger from his skin. "You know not that which the forces you toil..." In that instant, The old Elezen spiraled the dagger straight into the Red Shadow's left shoulder.


The Elezen roared with beastial rage and charged, full force, towards the Shadows. Upon passing, he lodged his axe into the chest of the Red Shadow and drug his victim along the ground behind him, as he continued his charge for the White Shadow. The old Elezen leaped into the air, a few yards in front of the White Elezen.


The old Elezen snapped the chain forward, sending the Red Shadow barreling towards the White. The White Shadow leaped into the air, avoiding collision with the Red, while the old Elezen launched his second axe at the White Shadow, lodging it into his collar, before forcefully dropping back down to the ground. The old Elezen landed with a violent impact, sending a large dust cloud bellowing around him. He grasped the chain with both hands and heaved on the chain with all his might, bringing the White Shadow back to the ground, colliding with the Red Shadow.


The dust settled, as the Shadows struggled, brokenly, back to their feet. The lands grew dark, as the old Elezen rose up and cautiously began scanning his surroundings. The Three Shadows scrambled to a kneeling position, as the Shade appeared before them, facing the old Elezen.


The Shade observed the old Elezen with an unemotional poise, "I see...that you have finally returned from your...vacation. Eh...old friend...?"


The Shade lifted his head slightly, "This...sentimentality...is unbecoming of you...The prophecy must be fulfilled...In time...even you will come to understand...the level of careful contemplation required...to ensure it's fruition...


The old Elezen snarled at the Shade, "What are you going on about?"


The Shade sighed, "Oh..The observation of such ignorance is surely a pathetic sight...Your exile...the fall of the Covenant...even the birth and migration of the forsaken offspring...It was all part of a grand scheme to usher in the dawning of a new era...An era that was foretold by the prophecy long ago..."


Rage over came the old Elezen, as he charged ferociously at the Shade. The Shade tilted his head, as he lifted a hand and flexed his fingers, stopping the charging Elezen in his tracks. The old Elezen shouted at the Shade, "Face me, you coward! I will tear your flesh from your bones for what you have done!!!"


The Shade smirked, "All in good time, my impatient child...The stage is set...The curtain ready to be drawn...as the plot thickens and advances into the final act...What will become of our intrepid cast?...Only fate shall decide..."


The Shade released his fingers and slowly brought his arm back to his side, dropping the old Elezen. He shifts his eyes to the twins, before looking back to the old Elezen. He simply smirked, as he lifted a hand and faded into the environment with the Three Shadows. "Come...my children...the prophecy is upon us..."


Loc and Ellia ran to the old Elezen and helped him to his feet, as Loc shifted his eyes around the streets for any other signs of the Shade, "Who the hell were those guys?"


The old Elezen looked at Loc, "Remnants of your past..."


Loc quirked a brow, as he looked back to the old Elezen, "Our...past? I think you're mistaken."


The Elezen shook his head, "There is no mistake. You are the offspring of Ava Tempeste..."


"What the hell do you know about our mother?", Ellia said with an inquisitive tone.


The old Elezen turned his eyes to Ellia, "There are many things that I know about you, young one...Your heritage runs far deeper than you had ever known...All that I can ask...is that you trust that the words I tell you are true."


Loc studied the Elezen for several moments, "It is hard for us to place our trust in someone that hasn't even told us their name..."


The old Elezen nodded, "I have gone by many names in my life time...However, you may refer to me as 'Elder'..."


Loc continues to study the Elder's face, before nodding, "...Tell us what we need to know..."


The trio left Limsa Lominsa and set up a make-shift camp in the outlying country side. There, around the campfire, the Elder told them stories of their past. He told them of their parents and the Four Tribes. He spared no details as he spoke of the fate that had befallen the Covenant of Four, that he'd discovered upon returning from his exile.


The twins listened in astonishment, as they heard stories of their heritage that they had never known. When the Elder finished, Loc looked at him and spoke, "So...Where do we go from here?"


The Elder sighed, as he stirred the camp fire, "The tribes have fallen...They only remain as a memory...a shadow of what they once were...I fear that my days upon this earth are growing short...and you are the only ones that have the tribal blood coursing through your veins...You are the only ones that can carry on the heritage..."


Loc furrows his brow, "...And what if we refuse?"


The Elder cast his gaze to the stars, "Then the heritage will fade away...and you will return to your lives...In the end, the choice is yours...Do you accept what I have to offer and take this opportunity to gain a sense of purpose in your life?...or do you refuse and go back to your life, simply surviving in the streets?"


Ellia looked at Loc, "It's not like we have anything better to do. We've got no direction in life, and if it weren't for him," she motioned to the Elder with her thumb. "We'd likely already be dead."


Loc sighs as he looks to the fire, "I suppose you're right..." He looked back to the Elder and leveled his stare, "But, what about that hooded character?"


The Elder closed his eyes, "I don't know...Judging by this morning's events, I suspect that he is the leader of a fanatic cult and apparently responsible for the downfall of the Covenant...I am still not entirely certain of what his motives are...But, I'm sure that will all be revealed in time...What I do know is...is that he needs to pay for his transgressions against our heritage..."


Loc took in a deep breath, as he looked back to the fire, "We have never had anything to really live for...other than simply trying to survive day by day...Trying not to become the bastard that our father was..." He turns his eyes to Ellia, "We have been searching for a long time...to find our destiny...Perhaps Menphina has finally answered us...Maybe this is the destiny that we have been seeking all along..."


Ellia smiled at Loc, "I'll go along with all this on one condition. Teach us to fight like you. I'm tired of being too weak to protect myself, and if anyone can train us it's you."


The Elder nodded, "Then it is decided...Get your rest tonight...We will begin your training in the morning."


For the next two years, the Elder trained Loc and Ellia. He taught them how to fight with skill and tactic. He taught them how to be resourceful and self-sufficient. He taught them about tribal heritage, tradition, and philosophy. He trained them to become leaders and passed down the wisdom and knowledge that he held. The twins trained hard and survived the vigorous training exercises that the Elder subjected them to and, in the end, he had taught them everything he knew.


They had come along way from the gods-forsaken swamps that they left five years ago. They had finally found their destiny. But, all the training in the world would not prepare them for the hand that fate was soon to deal them...


"Master...the time has come..."


"Mmm...After all these years...Let it begin..."



Chapter XI : Contest of Fate


Early-Year - Fourteen Years after the Invasion


"Master...our guests have arrived..."


"Ah...thus the time of the prophecy is upon us...The dawning of a new age is within our grasp...Mmm...Send out the welcome party..."


"Of course...Master..."


The camp was vast and wide, wooden walls towered over the perimeter in all directions. Hooded soldiers swarmed the camp, humming incoherent chants, as they wandered to and fro in a trance-like state. In the center of the encampment, a large stronghold stood looming over the camp, casting an ominous shadow over the forces below.


The trio stood before the gates of the massive encampment, as Loc looked to the Elder. "Well...this is it..."


The Elder nodded at Loc, keeping his eyes firmly focused on the gates, "Yes...The time has finally come, that our vengeance will be had..."


Loc looked back to the gates, "He manipulated the tribes to believe him to be some sort of saint...Once he had their trust...It was just a matter of timing to move his forced in to assassinate the leaders and blame it on the city-states..."


Ellia nodded, "Yeah...with the leaders out of the picture, there was no one standing in his way."


The Elder shook his head, "He brought shame and corruption to the Tribes...Using them as pawns in his twisted scheme for domination over the four nations...The only way that we are to ever reclaim our heritage, in it's former glory, is to take out the Shade..."


Loc quirks an eyebrow, "I'm still not certain where exactly we play into all of this...But, you gave us purpose...something to live for. You trained us well, old-timer...If this is something that you feel you need to do...then we are with you until the end, it's the least we can do..."


The Elder smiled, as he briefly reminisced of the past two years he'd spent training the twins. He'd watched them grow from petty criminals, with no direction or purpose, to courageous fighters and leaders. He'd only hoped that they would have the resolve to face what was soon to come. "Come...Let us make our entrance."


At that moment, the sound of the Shade's vo

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Chapter X : Flight of the Phoenix


Early-Year - Fourteen Years after the Invasion


"Master...our guests have arrived..."


"Ah...thus the time of the prophecy is upon us...The dawning of a new age is within our grasp...Mmm...Send out the welcome party..."


"Of course...Master..."


The camp was vast and wide, wooden walls towered over the perimeter in all directions. Hooded soldiers swarmed the camp, humming incoherent chants, as they wandered to and fro in a trance-like state. In the center of the encampment, a large stronghold stood looming over the camp, casting an ominous shadow over the forces below.


The trio stood before the gates of the massive encampment, as Loc looked to the Elder. "Well...this is it..."


The Elder nodded at Loc, keeping his eyes firmly focused on the gates, "Yes...The time has finally come, that our vengeance will be had..."


Loc looked back to the gates, "He manipulated the tribes to believe him to be some sort of saint...Once he had their trust...It was just a matter of timing to move his forced in to assassinate the leaders and blame it on the city-states..."


Ellia nodded, "Yeah...with the leaders out of the picture, there was no one standing in his way."


The Elder shook his head, "He brought shame and corruption to the Tribes...Using them as pawns in his twisted scheme for domination over the four nations...The only way that we are to ever reclaim our heritage, in it's former glory, is to take out the Shade..."


Loc quirks an eyebrow, "I'm still not certain where exactly we play into all of this...But, you gave us purpose...something to live for. You trained us well, old-timer...If this is something that you feel you need to do...then we are with you until the end, it's the least we can do..."


The Elder smiled, as he briefly reminisced of the past two years he'd spent training the twins. He'd watched them grow from petty criminals, with no direction or purpose, to courageous fighters and leaders. He'd only hoped that they would have the resolve to face what was soon to come. "Come...Let us make our entrance."


At that moment, the sound of the Shade's voice echoed over the encampment. "Come, my Followers, our guests of honor have arrived! Open the gates and let the festivities begin! Hahaha!"


Loc furrowed his brow, "So much for a grand entrance..."


The trio stepped from their chocobo and charged forward, weapons at hand, as the massive gates slowly crept open and revealed the fanatic mass of followers charging for them. They were swarmed by Followers from all directions, fighting frantically to keep them at bay. The Followers over came them, as the trio slowly vanished in the masses.


"You...." The ground began to tremble beneath the mass of Followers. "...shall...not..." A large force erupted from within the dog pile, as the Elder lifted with all his might, shouting, at the top of his lungs, with a ravenous tone. "PREVAIL!!!â he shouted, as he sent Followers flying violently in all directions.


The Followers fell back, as five stood in a circle and began conjuring an elemental force. Several waves formed in front of the conjurers, as they continued their chanting and humming. A dark shadow formed at the center of the conjuring circle, as it slowly began to expand.


Loc snapped his eyes to the conjurers, "What the hell are they doing?!"


The Elder narrowed his eyes, "The Ritual of the Shade...Anything that is caught in its shadow will dissolve from reality, if they do not bare the Rune of Shadows that these Followers bare within their soul..."


Ellia quirked her brow, "Rune of Shades?"


The Elder swiftly nodded, "It's a seal that is placed on their soul by the Shade...its how he keeps them under his command...We have to take out those conjurers before this whole area is consumed!"


The trio fought for hours, combating wave after wave of Followers. They worked diligently to take down the conjurers, before their sadistic ritual infected the whole area. In the end, they stood in the middle of the encampment and looked on at the stronghold; the bodies of the Follower legion littered the ground around them.


The Shade's voice echoed over the encampment once again, "Bravo! Your perseverance never ceases to impress me! You are everything that the Prophecy spoke of! But, the show must go on...Take this time to reacquaint yourselves with some familiar faces! Hahahaha!"


The massive gate of the stronghold creaked and cracked as it slowly opened, before it slammed to the ground, sending a dust cloud bellowing to the skies. Through the cloud of dust, three sets of eyes appeared, as the Three Shadows slowly emerged from the veil of dust. The White Shadow spoke out to the trio, "It has been awhile...Master has heard our prayers...and...I assure you...things will be much different, than when last we met..."


The White Shadow stretched his arms to either side of his body, as he held his head to the skies. He opened his palms, out stretching his hands, as he began to chant and hum. After several moments of chanting, his shadow began to rapidly grow into a menacing darkness and advanced towards the trio.


Loc watched with a wide-eyed expression, "That can't be good..."


The Elder furrowed his brow, as he slowly turned his body, keeping his eyes locked on the White Shadow and the ever advancing darkness, "Get to the chocobo....Now!!"


The trio turned and quickly mounted their chocobo, as the darkness continued to spread behind them. The Red and Grey took off, quickly sprinting after the trio. Loc turned and noticed the advancing Shadows closing in behind them, "We've got company!"


The Elder kept his eyes forward, as the three weaved through the forest, the darkness mere yards behind them, "We've got to keep moving...There's no telling what will happen if we get caught in that shit behind us!"


The Grey Shadow leaped towards the fleeing trio, flying high into the air. Loc stood up, as his chocobo continued forwards, he drew his daggers. "Alright...Let's dance..."


In a flash, the Red Shadow appeared and collided with Loc, knocking him off his chocobo, as the Grey landed from his decent, replacing Loc on the vacant chocobo. Loc and the Red rolled down a large embankment, as the darkness continued past them in pursuit of Ellia and the Elder. The Red drew his own blades and circled around Loc, like a starving wolf, "Now...Let's see how much you learned from your beloved mentor..."


The Grey Shadow drew his blade and brought it down upon the Elder, before the Elder promptly blocked the attack with his one of his battle axes. The chocobo continued to charge on, as the Elder and the Grey Shadow exchanged attacks, in a tug-o-war styled fashion. Ellia glared at the Grey Shadow, as she stood and leaped from her chocobo, roaring with ferocious vigor while in mid-flight.


Loc and the Red Shadow charged at one another, clashing their blades in a sort of choreographed dance. In the middle of the blade dance, Loc swiftly lifted his leg and sent a forceful kick driving into the Shadows abdomen, sending him flying backwards, into a tree. Loc charged at the Shadow, with his blade forward, but the Shadow quickly grabbed a branch of the tree and propelled himself into the air, causing Loc to dig his dagger into the tree.


Ellia descended upon the Grey Shadow, twirling her blades with vicious force. The Grey Shadow broke his fray with the Elder and steered the chocobo out of the Elder's melee range, turning his attention to franticly fend off Ellia's attacks, before she took hold on the other side of the chocobo. The Grey Shadow delivered a swift boot to Ellia's face, knocking her from the chocobo, as she fell to the ground. She struggled to keep her grip on the reins, as the chocobo continued forward, dragging her in its wake. The Grey Shadow leaped over the Elder and landed on the opposite chocobo, that Ellia had formerly commandeered.


Loc struggled to remove his firmly lodged dagger from the tree, as the Red Shadow hurtled back towards him, with blades drawn. Loc left his dagger embedded in the tree side, as he rolled nimbly out of the way of the Shadow's onslaught. The Shadow landed, with a thud, as Loc rose, with a growl, and charged forward.


Ellia pulled herself back atop the chocobo, as she immediately leaped back towards the Grey Shadow. The Shadow leaped and met Ellia in the middle of her jump, as he readied his blades for his next assault. Before he could strike, he felt a strong grip around his ankle, as the Elder pulled him from the air and commenced to drag him along the ground. Ellia fell from her descent and landed on the Shadow's chest, sheathing her daggers in flight, and began to pummel the Shadow's face relentlessly with her first, "You picked the wrong girl to kick in the face. Iâll break every bone in your body!"


The Red Shadow dropped to his back, planting his foot firmly into Loc's chest, as he began to flip Loc over his body. Before the Shadow could successfully flip him, Loc swiftly lodged his dagger firmly into the Shadow's eye, while he was at the mid-point of the flip, directly over the Shadow's body. The Shadow shrieked with pain, as Loc flew over him and landed harshly on his back, leaving his dagger jutting from the Shadow's eye.


Ellia screamed at the Grey Shadow, as she continued to beat into his face, "Iâve wasted enough time on you, suffer and die!" She unsheathed her daggers, her hands decorated with the Shadow's blood and flesh, that was collected upon her knuckles during her assault. Ellia brought her arm across her chest, before striking down and dragging her dagger across his throat, as blood sprayed from the wound.


Despite the breath being knocked out of him, from his landing, Loc lifted himself to his feet. The Red Shadow struggled back to his feet and blindly staggered towards Loc in an adrenaline induced rage, still screaming from the pain of the dagger that rested in his eye. Loc rushed forward and maneuvered himself behind the Shadow, dropping his foot to the Shadow's knee. The knee cap snapped. with a loud crack, as bone fragments splintered from the backside of his leg explosively, dropping the Shadow to his knees.


Ellia drove her second dagger firmly into his chest, and gave it a forceful twist. With a second push, she drove the dagger deeper into his heart, before she withdrew and leaped from his body back to a chocobo. The Elder released his grip on the Shadow's ankle, sending his bloody, battered, body rolling and bouncing into the darkness behind them. The Elder called out to Ellia "We have to get back to Loc!" They turned they chocobo to head back towards Loc's location, the darkness bellowing violently behind them, homing in on their every motion.


Loc stood over the Red Shadow, glaring down on him, as he continued to scream. Loc slowly placed a hand under the incapacitated Shadow's chin, as his screams grew silent, now replaced with muffled gargles. Loc placed his other hand atop the Shadow's head, providing the tension. The Shadow tried to struggle, sensing his impending doom. Loc whispered to the Shadow, "Ashes...to ashes..." as he swiftly pulled his hands in opposite directions, breaking his neck with a loud snap, as his body fell lifelessly to the ground.


Loc reached down and dislodged his dagger from the dead Shadow's eye socket, before sheathing it at his side, with a twirl. He turned, as he heard the Elder yelling at him from a distance. He saw the three chocobo advancing quickly towards him, the darkness following close behind. Loc took one final glance at the Red Shadow, before sprinting off into the woods, in the direction of the Elder's calls.


Loc halted his sprint, as he saw the Elder and Ellia rushing towards him on the horizon. He stood his ground, as they rushed passed him, grasping the Elder's outstretched hand. The Elder slung Loc up onto the vacant chocobo, as they rode back towards the stronghold.


The White Shadow called out to the trio, as the rod up to the stronghold, "You may have bested my counterparts, but you stand no chance against the darkness!"


The trio split of into three different directions, as the darkness continued to follow the Elder. The Elder stood upright on his chocobo, as he charged towards the White Shadow's front. Ellia and Loc turned their chocobo back towards the Shadow, as they charged in from the flanks.


Just before impact, the Elder leaped to Ellia's chocobo, sending his own continuing towards the Shadow. The chocobo collided with the Shadow as the darkness consumed it in a fiery death. The Shadow fell on his back, slightly dazed by the explosive impact of the chocobo.


With his focus broken, the darkness dissipated, as he staggered back to his feet to find the trio standing in a line, a few yards in front of him. He glared as he stretched his hands back to his sides, "You will fall to the Master's will. You will be consumed and baptized in his spirit!"


The Elder leveled his gaze with the White Shadow, "Not today..." He flung one of his battle axes at the Shadow, planting it firmly into his chest. The Shadow's arms immediately dropped to his side, as his eyes grew wide. The Elder gave a swift tug on the chain, attached to his battle axe, jerking the Shadow towards them. He quickly produced his second battle axe and brought it across the Shadow, as his body flew past them.


The Elder gave the chain of the lodged axe a strong yank, as the Shadow's body barreled past them, sending his body bouncing back towards them. His severed head continued onward, before bouncing and rolling to its settling point. The Elder dislodged his axe, dropping the body to the dirt, as he turned to face the stronghold. "...and then there was one..."


The three advanced towards the ominous stronghold, breathing heavily from exhaustion and sweat dripping from their brow. The climax of their efforts would soon come to fruition, but the events that would unfold would change them forever. From the bowels of the stronghold, the Shade taunted them, "...And thus the curtain closes on act two and we prepare ourselves for the third and final act...Enter...my guests....Ha-ha-haaa..."


They entered, as the gate of the stronghold slowly creaked shut behind them, sealing their fates forever...


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