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Revenants [Story]


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Part I

-Northern Thanalan, immediately following the Calamity.



The sky was the darkest it had ever been. The world alight had given way to thick smoke rising from every corner of the realm and the ash had sank into the starless night sky, coating the Immortal Flames' retreat into darkness. Caerkoel ran as she had never run before, her eyes stricken with fear, her expression blackened with ash and dried blood. She held a limp soldier in her arms. Around her, Immortal Flames soldiers stumbled in the dark.


What was that thing? She heard a voice exclaim from somewhere in the smoke. I don't know! I don't know! Keep running! Came the reply from elsewhere. Then from somewhere else a scream.


Caerkoel turned, but could not see more than dark shapes moving aimlessly through the smoke like revenants in the night. "What was th-"


"Garleans!" A voice rang out in the unnatural silence just before the boom of cannons sounded in the distance. Bullets ripped through the shroud and more screams followed. Caerkoel turned on her heel and ran once more. To her left and right, she saw the shades of other Immortal Flames doing the same.


Run! Run! The Garleans are pressing the advance!

The VIIth legion?!

I don't know! Run!


From the darkness more shapes materialized. Hounds with red eyes and salivating maws. A shape moved in front of her and Caerkoel almost ran over an Immortal Flames private who had crossed in front of her path. She stopped so as not to run into him, then reeled back in horror as a Garlean hellhound leapt from the smoke and locked its jaws around the private's neck and dragged him to the ground, ripping and tearing.


With the wounded soldier in her arms, she could do nothing to save him, so she pressed on through the dark. The icy howls of Garlemald's wolves echoed one another and Caerkoel knew at once that Gaius van Baelsar meant to secure Eorzea in the midst of this chaos.


"The XIVth Legion is upon us! Get word ahead! We must hold their advance!"

Our linkshells aren't working! a voice ahead answered her.

"Then spread the word up the line! We must find a place to hold them!"

Ser! Then after a breath she heard that soldier call ahead of him as he ran, Spread the word! Garlemald is on our heels!


More cannon fire sounded overhead and one blast struck near Caerkoel. She was flung from her feet and her charge was cast to the ground. Before the Roegadyn could recover a hound was on top of her. It bit deep into her upper arm and she screamed as she kicked it off of her. The hound circled its prey and Caerkoel drew her blade against it. She met the hound's glare, then froze, seeing her death in its eyes. Hounds never hunted alone...


Wheeling around she swung at the hound that had materialized behind her. It caught the heavy blade in its jowl and cried as it fell away back to the shadows. The first hound charged and pushed Caerkoel to the ground. Her hand on its throat was the only thing keeping its snapping jaws from her face. Cursing at the Twelve damned creature, she hacked at the thing's side with her sword until it finally fell away from its wounds. She scrambled to her feet looking about her madly, but unable to see anything in the darkness.


If there were more wolves beyond, she could neither see nor hear them. Nor could she find any trace of the soldier she had been carrying. Panic took her and she called out into the dark. There was no response. Then the light of lanterns shown through the dark, illuminating the smoke in their orange glow. She looked about, holding her sword aloft.


"Sultansworn!" A voice called out. The lanterns were those of a regiment of Immortal Flames. Seeing them, Caerkoel lowered her sword and nearly wept for joy.


"Over here!" She called out to them as they approached, "I have injured! But I was attacked. The XIVth is pressing their advantage."

"How close?"


"Make for Camp Bluefog! Our regiment has been ordered to hold this location. More reinforcements are working on doubling back to this location as we speak."

"Thanks and godsspeed! But I must needs find my charge."


"Over here!" An Immortal Flame called out. Caerkoel rushed to the sound of his voice where she found the crumpled heap of the soldier she had been carrying. The soldier's face was pale and ashen in the lantern's light. Her armor was broken and falling away from her body. Caerkoel stooped and picked up the small frame once more. The woman's eyes flickered open briefly then faded shut once more.


"There's a medical camp being set up at Bluefog. Make haste! Your friend looks like she needs it."

"Aye! Your name sergeant?" Caerkoel asked.

"Dalvag, Ser."

Caerkoel nodded, "It will be known. My thanks!"


She gained several hundred yalms before she heard gunfire and the sounds of battle rise up behind her. She stopped and turned back. In the distance flashes of light and fire could be seen from the line. She knew she could not return, she had to trust that the line would be held. She pressed on, making her way to the retreating camp of Alliance soldiers.


It wasn't long before she saw the lights of the camp looming in the distance. The Roegadyn was out of breath and near collapse when she entered the camp. Soldiers rushed to her aide as she fell to her knees not yalms from the perimeter.


"Sultansworn!" They protested as she waved them off, "My- my friend, help her." Another Roegadyn approached, lifting Caerkoel's burden from her.


"Bring her to the medical tent! And get me a table. She's near death!" The Roegadyn shouted.


Inside the tent, Caerkoel collapsed into the chair offered her. She could not lift her arms, and her head rolled from exhaustion. The dying Miqo'te soldier was laid out on the table before her. The Roegadyn chirurgeon closed the curtains and began pulling the Miqo'te's armor away and cutting what would not come free with his knife. As the leather and breastplate were cut away, Caerkoel could see her body covered with burned skin and massive bruising across her chest. Her navel and bare chest were blue, as were her fingers and lips. Under the light of the overhead lantern, the Miqo'te's face looked deathly pale. Then the Roegadyn moved in front of Caerkoel's view, placing his head on the woman's chest.


"She ain't breathin'," he said, quickly placing two fingers on the captain's throat, "And her lifeforce is weak. Burns to her airway and a crushed chest. We're gonna 'ave to open her airway or she won't live." The Roegadyn turned to Caerkoel. "You ain't gonna like this, but I'll need ya to hold her down."


Caerkoel didn't fully understand, but she struggled to her feet nonetheless. The Roegadyn chirurgeon had a sponge in his hands and was scrubbing the left side of the Miqo'te's chest. Before Caerkoel could look away, the Roegadyn plunged a large, steel needle into the top of her ribcage. Caerkoel reeled and vomited without warning. Her face turning from red to green. The other Roegadyn appeared un-phased.


"I need ya, come 'ere an' hold her down."


Caerkoel turned and did as she was told, grabbing a hold of the woman's bare shoulders. The needle was still in her chest, giving off a slow, soft hiss as her chest seemed to reinflate.


"Don't look, miss. If ye thought that last bit was bad."


Caerkoel made the mistake of looking up at recognition of his words. He was standing above her head, a long slender tube in hand. He slicked the end in a dish of linseed oil. He gave Caerkoel a stern look, "She looks calm now, but she ain't fully out... and she ain't gonna like this."


Caerkoel tightened her grip and tried to direct her gaze anywhere in the room but down. With a sick squelching noise, the Roegadyn inserted two gloved fingers into the captain's mouth and lifted her head from the table. The Miqo'te's whole body heaved and with surprising strength tried to rise off the table. Caerkoel held her tight, and with one deft motion the Roegadyn slid the tube down her throat. A billow of air rushed down the tube and the Miqo'te's chest inflated completely. Her body relaxed and moved no more, and Caerkoel stumbled back into her chair. The Roegadyn regarded her a moment then said, "You should rest. My work 'ere's far from over. I'll call if somethin' changes. Good or bad."


Caerkoel nodded weakly and left through the flap the chirurgeon had indicated. Outside, the sounds of battle had swelled once more as soldiers of the Eorzean Alliance rushed to reinforce the line to the north. Their efforts on Carteneau had been in vain, Caerkoel thought, they had only forestalled their doom if Dalvag's line should fall now. She took a deep breath and moved to join the battle raging to the north, but collapsed, her strength finally giving way completely.


I have done my duty. I have saved Sounsyy. Were her final thoughts before darkness consumed her wholly.

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Part II



Sounsyy's eyes flickered but saw only darkness. Someone, somewhere was shrieking? The sound echoed within her ears as if she were under water, the siren's shrill song mere ilms from her ears. Her equilibrium disturbed her. She tried to rise, and imagined she did, but there was no up, no down, only the uneven rocking and jostling which upset her stomach. Was she... running?


Her eyes opened to slits. Darkness, like before, but something moved in the darkness. As if she were truly submerged beneath the Indigo Deep and some great serpent ghost moved just beyond reach. Then a form materialized in the deep sea darkness, a siren, calling softly to her.


Cambre? she thought. But the shrieking only intensified in response. The siren moved from the darkness, their faces almost touching. And upon viewing the siren's closed lips, realized the shrieks were coming from her own mouth.



"Gods, lass, keep 'er still! Keep 'er from bitin' the tube!" The Roegadyn chirurgeon growled in exasperation. His brow was creased in deep concentration as he carefully measured droplets of vanilla extract with the crushed leaves of belladonna. Caerkoel was all but straddling the flailing Miqo'te. Her fragile frame thrashed and screeched, her eyes locked upwards yet unseeing.


"What's wrong with her?!" Caerkoel yelled back. Her head and shoulders were slumped over with exhaustion. She had barely slept since Carteneau and dark circles were evident beneath her eyes. The chirurgeon gave her a look over his shoulder. He had slept even less, and the Miqo'te soldier was not his only charge. He sighed, replying, "She's feverish. If the lass don't die o' 'er wounds, she'll die o' infection. There's not much I can do for 'er out 'ere until we reach Ul'dah."


"We're days yet."

"This journey is doin' little to 'elp. Best I can do is keep 'er under. Pray that the Thanalan heat 'elps break the fever. Remember, keep 'er body covered. It's 'ot as the seven 'ells out 'ere but them burns are makin' 'er lose heat," the Roegadyn said as he forced the solution he'd concocted down Sounsyy's breathing tube via a device which aerosolized the liquid.


The Miqo'te continued thrashing in the moments that followed, but her actions became sluggish and lethargic, until finally her body relaxed and fell back under sedation. The chirurgeon sighed at the small victory before reattaching a small, bag-like contraption to the end of the tube and directing it at Caerkoel. He said, "Keep squeezin' it. Breathe when you take your breath."


"For how long?" Caerkoel asked as she took a hold of the bag and began squeezing it gently. She had watched one of the other chirurgeons do the same for the last day or so before his strength finally gave out and he was forced to retire.

"Until you're ready to let your friend pass," he said flatly, "The medicine... it keeps 'er from feelin', but it also keeps 'er from breathin' on 'er own. You stop, she dies. But if ya can't go no longer, I'll get someone to take over for ya. Til then Sultansworn, I must needs make me rounds."

"Merlgeyss," Caerkoel stammered after the chirurgeon, "Thank you... for all that you've done."

Merlgeyss Myrgantoumsyn said nothing as he left.



Nearly two suns had come and gone. Caerkoel held onto her strength as long as she could, but in the end was forced to relinquish hold of Sounsyy's breathing apparatus to another. The trek across the desert had been an arduous one. The hellfire rained down by the calamitous destruction of Dalamud had sorely damaged the landscape. Some passageways through the mountains were no longer passable, and many of the tunnels through Nanawa which led into central Thanalan were no more.


A sun was spent navigating safe passage through the altered terrain, but when the caravan finally set up for the night, the Jewel of the Desert could just be made out in the distance. Still it stood, defiant against the Calamity and for this Caerkoel breathed her thanks to Nald'thal. It was small consolation in the face of all that had been lost. The Eorzean Alliance had been broken and defeated. Still the Immortal Flames battled a host to secure their borders. How many were dead? How many still were going to die? As if in answer to Caerkoel's query, the chirurgeon Merlgeyss caught her glance as he exited a tent, a grim expression marring his face. Deep creases had formed on his skin and the shadows of fatigue were dark within their folds. Caerkoel approached the campfire to which he had retired for just a moment's respite before returning to his charges. He looked at her with head hung and shoulders heavy.


"Two more dead," he said, indicating the tent he had just vacated.

"Ul'dah is upon the horizon. No more than a sun's travel once we reach the Starway. Will the rest make it?"

"Impossible to say. What succor could be spent 'as been. We'd only be riskin' the 'ealers' lives to push 'em harder. Some are already my patients. My skills are limited by supplies. When those run out..."

"Do not dwell on that outcome. We're nearly home."

"Tis my duty to accept the eventuality. There are many wounded 'ere who won't last the night. Much less the last leg on the morrow. Your friend might be among those. So, if you don't mind my askin', how'd ya know 'er? Her bein' Maelstrom n' all."


Caerkoel let out a slow deep breath, unsure at first how to answer his question or if she should. But Merlgeyss had gone out of his way to save the soldier, he had earned at least an explanation. Caerkoel finally opened her mouth to speak but Merlgeyss held up his hand saying, "If it's not my business, it's fine."


Caerkoel shook her head at him, "Are you familiar with the Corpse Brigade?"

"What chirurgeon ain't?"

"Once the royal guard of the Mad King, they were no strangers to murder, kidnapping, and the like. Without a King to hold their chain, they served only themselves, turning their foul talents on Ul'dah's wealthy for recompense for their suffering. While nowadays many Ala Mhigans find their acts damnable, back then... their call to action enticed many a hot blooded youth down a darker path. That's how I met Sounsyy."


Merlgeyss offered only a gruff acknowledgement. "So ya set 'er on the right path did ya?"

"No, I sent her down one much darker," Caerkoel admitted, keeping her gaze on the campfire ahead when Merlgeyss cast a sidelong glance at her. She swallowed hard and continued, "We Sultansworn acted swiftly to put them down. Most escaped our raid, some killed, one injured and captured - this poor girl, who'd only seen fifteen summers. She was my only chance at dismantling the Corpse Brigade before more people would come to harm. But she knew nothing of use. I visited her after the Brass Blades were done interrogating her... the look she gave me... has haunted me for ten cycles since. Blinded by my ambition, I wronged her further. But when I saw her face on that battlefield, I knew Nald had given me another chance to right those wrongs. Which is why you cannot let her die."


Merlgeyss rose, staring ahead into the bleak surrounds. "I make no promise miss," he said, "Nald may 'ave offered ya another chance, but Thal 'as the last say."


He left then, in the direction of the medical tents. Merlgeyss had another sleepless night ahead of him. Caerkoel's gaze remained fixed on the distant Jewel, her heart heavy.

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Part III



Merlgeyss held his stoic gaze on the dying soldier before him. Her small hand in his large ones. She looked up at him and whispered weakly to him. He nodded and did his best to console her with a kind smile. A smile crept across her lips in reply and she closed her eyes as Thal took her in His eternal embrace.


Merlgeyss returned her hand to her side and covered her head with the bedsheet. He placed the palm of his hand on the woman's forehead, the sweat from her skin soaking through the bedsheet, as he spoke, "Walk with her Thal, so that she may 'ave a shoulder to lean on in the afterlife."


He looked down at the soldier's amputated leg, and shook his head. Another dead.


"Rest well, Jaimee," he said as he left the room. He shut the wooden door behind him and leaned against the stone wall just beside. His hands came up to his face to wipe away imaginary sleep that had crept into them, when really he was trying to force back tears. There were so many wounded and so many that could just not be saved. A voice called his name down the hallway and he looked up in surprise.


"Ser Caerkoel!"

"Merlgeyss, it's been too long, I apologize," Caerkoel said with a weary, albeit happy smile upon her face. She gave him a smart salute and then a gentle hand on his arm.

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