Long time coming. I have to say, forcing yourself to write does work its wonders because once the frustration subsides (and it can last for quite a while), the creativity just works its way out and everything flows very nicely. And writing conversations is a great way to get the word count up. Just kidding.
Without further ado, here is Lindblum Part One. Part Two is currently mulling and hopefully will be accomplished sometime this week.
Lindblum had done a fine job of disguising Atomos’ maelstrom. She could never erase the dismal chaos of that terrible night as the colossal eidolon rose from the earth and nearly swallowed the fortress whole. From of the golden rays of the dawn, Lindblum was a mountain of stone and white smoke. The city gleamed and amplified the morning light, glowing like a beacon of technology and inspiration. Cid had brilliantly converged his latest invention of steam into the city with its original mechanisms, and the fortress looked a thousandfold more spectacular than ever.
“Still engineer, eh?”
Freya agreed. The night had been cold and she had been more concerned keeping him warm than of her own comfort. He had stayed up all night as far as she knew, while she periodically dozed out of exhaustion. The ocean had seemed endless but at last, at the strike of dawn which echoed down the hillside, Shoofie had arrived magnificently on time.
“Ah am stiff, let us down already Shoo.”
The chocobo chirped in reply.
Dr. Francis leaned back to her and whispered loudly: “Better he goes unnoticed. He don’t like the attention anyway.”
“And you have something to call him back?”
“I’m not worried about it! He always finds me!”
But does that mean he never finds him? Freya shook her head. “Where will you be going in Lindblum?”
“To the Court Library, where else? And where are ye going?”
“I was going to find an old friend.”
“The one with the tail?”
“Well ye find me tonight at the library. And then?”
She looked at him rather confused. “I don’t know what you mean?”
“Where are we sleepin’?”
Freya smiled and looked down, the soft grass coming up to greet them. “I will let you know, Dr. Francis.”
Shoofie landed lightly and Dr. Francis fell off before the bird could trot to a stop. Freya jumped off after him as he tumbled away for a short distance.
“Are you alright?” She put her hand on him.
She leaned back when he hopped up to his feet.
“Dang nabbit bird brain, too slow for anybody…” he grumbled, dusting himself off.
She smiled again and stood, looking up to the city in the distance. They stood a few hundred yards from the main road, and though it would be an upward climb, it felt good to stand on firm ground. Small structures with whisking smokestacks littered the countryside and there were a few countryside folk in the distance preparing for their daily routine.
“Let’s waste no time, shall we?” Dr. Francis held his arm out to her. She obliged and they began walking toward the city. When they got to the main road, he patted her arm. “Odd couple we are, eh?”
But her thoughts were elsewhere. It had been over two years since she had set eyes upon this place. Now that the surreal view from the sky was just a picture in time, seeing it as every other folk did from the ground made her uneasy and restless. And what would she find? Would people recognize her still, force her to hide herself under the cover of night? And is anyone the same anymore? Things and people had changed so much. She never bothered to keep up with technology, but now it felt as if she were antiquated and left behind. Useless.
Dr. Francis interrupted her thoughts. “There is no shame in keeping away from everyone, Miss Freya.”
She turned to him. “I wish for no recognition.”
“Then don’t act so.”
She frowned, then nodded. “You are right.”
They continued uphill.
There he was. Blonde unkempt hair covering his face, mouth slightly open and the rest of him sprawled haphazardly on top of the bed’s blankets. No, his habits hadn’t changed at all.
She had skipped the alleys and barrooms after her and Dr. Francis had parted ways at the gate. The guards had treated her like any other citizen, and the doctor too had said he was here to visit old friends. Nothing had changed.
Not wanting to make a nuisance, she found a crate near his bed to sit upon and crossing her legs and folding her hands, she took in the hundreds of knick knacks and paraphernalia that littered the club’s room. They had been keeping themselves busy.
The sun was nearly halfway across the sky when he finally stirred.
“I took the long way here, too,” Freya said softly, anticipating the reaction.
Zidane lurched up onto his bed and promptly fell off the other side. His head popped up, then in an instant his face turned to surprise. “Freya!”
She smiled, squeezing her hands. “Expecting someone?”
“Ah, um,” he chuckled and exhaled, settling himself down to the edge of the bed near her. “You know me Freya.”
“I do,” she nodded.
“And where have you been?” He looked up, his eyes bright and sparkling.
It felt good to see him so happy. “I’ve been at Daguerreo after Garnet’s coronation.”
“That place fits you,” and he grinned. “Only you have the patience to sit in there for two years. Meet anyone interesting?”
“I have.” She didn’t want to spoil his curious joy.
“Freya,” he leaned forward. “Something’s bothering you.”
But she couldn’t hide it forever. “All these years apart, you can tell?”
He crossed his arms. “We’ve been friends for a very long time. You practically raised me to who I am now!”
She shook her head. “Don’t flatter me so.”
“But it’s true. So what’s wrong?”
She was quiet for a moment. “Have you noticed anything strange lately? Or heard any ill omens?”
“There’s always ill omens. Someone’s always trying to preach gloom and doom. Or are you saying something’s reached Daguerreo?”
“Then that’s probably more important than the drunk doomsayers here. What’s going on?”
“There has been talk of Terra, that it’s never really been destroyed and that it’s returning to destroy Gaia.”
He rolled his eyes. “Sounds more like that nonsense has taken its time getting all the way down there! Freya, those rumors have been going around since the day it was destroyed. You can’t possibly believe all that talk. Terrans live here, right here in Lindblum, and everywhere else now too. They deal with their fair share of being ostracized, but everyone knows they’re harmless and aren’t responsible for the maniac that controlled them.”
“A scholar I know has just completed a manuscript about Terra, and there is information in it that I’ve never heard of or seen before.”
“He probably interviewed one of the Terrans.”
“But this scholar,” she paused, stiffening from the visions. “He completed the manuscript, gave it to me, then threw himself off a cliff.”
His eyebrow arched and he frowned. “That’s an odd sentiment.”
She shook her head. “Before he committed this tragedy, he spoke of protectors returning to this planet, that our crystal is fading, and that we are doomed. I don’t know who these protectors are, and I reminded him that there is no Mist anymore, but he told me that is irrelevant.”
“‘Returning?’” He tilted his head. “We eliminated Garland a long time ago. And the rest of the Terrans died when Kuja destroyed that planet. Could he be talking about eidolons?”
“What happened to the eidolons?”
“Garnet and Eiko haven’t called for them since the final battle. No one’s seen them since.” He shrugged. “I can’t imagine who these ‘protectors’ are.”
Freya sighed. “Whoever they are, they are returning.”
“But that’s just one man’s idea.” He leaned forward. “He could have been crazy, you know.”
“Perhaps. But the manuscript he had given to me was stolen from me that very night. Someone cast a sleep spell on me–”
“There are mages in Daguerreo?”
“This all disturbs me very much, Zidane. There shouldn’t be, and magic isn’t allowed inside the library. The book was stolen, and in my searches for it, a young acolyte mocked me for failing to retrieve the book and he too threw himself off a cliff.”
Zidane threw his hands up.
“An airship had just departed Daguerreo as well when the second death occurred. Someone took that manuscript out of the library.”
“Hm,” he tapped his finger to his mouth. “Do you know who took it?”
“I am not entirely sure, but a Dr. Mokts was a peculiarly curious scholar about that book.”
“That name could be a cover, too.”
She leaned toward him. “The scholars there may have their peculiarities, but never do they display this sort of fanaticism. And were they infiltrators to obtain that book, why then would they die for it? There is something dangerous about what was written inside, something a sect of people don’t want us to know.”
“Mhm. I assume they expect Gaia to be dying again?”
She nodded. “And that they will transcend to a higher power.”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course! They will sit at the right hand of Garland, or whoever they worship, and help direct the fate of the world!”
“These are the most dangerous kind.”
“Right, right,” he acquiesced with an exhale and looked down. “Well I’m afraid I don’t know anything about all this. I haven’t seen or heard of any crazy religions or suicides lately. At least not here.” He put his hands up and looked at her. “As crazy as it is, there are people out there who wish Terra took over. I’m inclined to say that someone heard about your friend’s book and wants to make it their gospel or something.”
“But to die for it?”
“People are crazy, Freya, you ought to know that!”
She shook her head. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“You came alone?”
“No, I met an interesting scholar after the fact and we came here together.”
“He’s on your side?”
“He believes the book is enchanted. Someone placed a spell on it and is turning people into martyrs.”
“Martyrs for Terra?”
“But Terra is dead! You said so yourself!”
Zidane chuckled and shrugged. “Just playing devil’s advocate. If Terra were still alive, and on top of that, if it were trying to revive itself, why not make a spell that makes people voluntarily send their souls to their crystal?”
“I think it’s more complicated than that.”
“The Grand Fusion, or whatever they called it, that’s the only way Terra can take over Gaia. Unless they decide to make an army of the miniscule amount of Terrans left here and destroy Gaia itself.”
“But they don’t want Gaia, they only want its husk. Our blue crystal isn’t capable of Terra technology, that’s why it has to turn red.”
Zidane frowned and tilted his head. “You seem to know an awful lot about this Terran business.”
“It’s my duty.”
“Hm. You’re not going to ask me to save the world again, are you?”
He paused and Freya knew that she in fact did come here to ask him for help. But he resumed before she could put her words together.
“So what do you think you’ll find here? You think they brought this book here?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “It’s the nearest city, so I believe it’s possible. I am assuming my friend, Dr. Francis, is doing his own investigation at the Court Library.”
Freya looked down at her hands and stopped her unconscious thumb-twiddling. He sounds reticent to help me. Should I even ask?
“Coffee?” Zidane motioned to her with his cup.
She shook her head, got up and joined him at the table. She never had a problem doing what needed to be done, but when it came to personal requests and conversations, she found herself fearful and apprehensive. I shouldn’t be so nervous. He’s my friend, he means no harm! “What you said before…” She started, taking a breath and glancing at him before continuing. He sipped his coffee and stared up at her, as cool as can be. “You wouldn’t help me stop this?”
He put his cup down and looked at her.
She could fathom his simple expression before he even opened his mouth. He was always an easy read.
“I can’t, Freya. I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t think you’re chasing shadows, it’s just that I have a lot going on right now. And if this does turn into something, I don’t want the attention anymore. I’m so happy where I am right now Freya, you have to understand.”
I understand more than you think. I don’t want this job anymore than you, but… I can’t shrug it off and pretend it never happened, either. She nodded. “I think I do.” And I too don’t want the attention. You of all people know I don’t.
“I can tell you where you can hear the best gossip around here. I’ll help you in any other way that I can Freya, you can always come to me.”
“That’s why I came here first,” she said quietly.
“Freya,” Zidane grabbed her arm. “Please don’t take it personally. You just give me the word and I’ll get Cid and Garnet on this case, too, if you think that will help. I’ll find you places to stay. I’ll tell you where the nearest Terran is so you can talk to them yourself. Please Freya, don’t be upset.”
She managed a small smile and looked at him. “Thank you. I am truly thankful for your help, but most of all your friendship. I will come to you if I’m in need of any of those things. I would wish for the gossip and perhaps even the Terran.”
He smiled wide and nodded emphatically. He turned over half the room before he managed to find a pencil and something to write on, and after his quick scribbling, he handed the torn napkin to her and bowed.
“Kicking me out already?” Freya said in amusement, turning the napkin around until she was able to read his handwriting.
“Naw, you can stay as long as you want, but I am due for a stage cleanup and some I-don’t-remember-what for Baku.”
She shook her head. “Iso..?”
“Isoto. She’s really sweet, and really smart. I think you two would get along.”
“Thank you, my friend. I have much to do today, and it is getting late already.”
“But it’s only noon!” He grinned and they walked out of the hideout together. They embraced and went their separate ways.