The morning after the disaster at Operation Mi'hen, Lulu anchors herself with a memory from her first pilgrimage.
"Man, she's still asleep?" Wakka drew back the ball he was carrying, balancing it idly on his fingers, and started to take aim at the nearest wall.
"Wakka..." the mage said gently.
"Whoah." Suddenly he focused on the ornate carvings adorning the rocky sheath that formed the outer skin of Djose Temple. He quickly tucked the ball under his arm.
"Still snoring," Lulu chuckled softly, although the merriment did not reach her eyes. "That was a long night."
"Poor Yuna." Wakka and Lulu exchanged knowing glances: whatever their differences, they were of one mind about the girl with mismatched eyes. It had been a long night for them as well. Deep in the temple, Gatta had finally wept himself into exhaustion, leaning against the mage who was not a friend but at least a familiar face, while Wakka tried to comfort him. The aloof woman had held the young man as if she did not even know he was there, glaring at empty space with such smouldering fury that her fellow Guardian found it difficult to speak in her presence. "A long night, ya," Wakka repeated, seeking some sign of acknowledgement from her.
Seldom in the mood for small talk, the mage simply folded her arms across herself and ambled away from him and the others, seeking a vantage point where she would be able to observe the leap and discharge of the currents crackling above the temple. The metal-rich shell of rock had grounded itself, but it was still buzzing angrily with static. Lulu exhaled, losing herself in the unseen pulse of power. "Thank you," she murmured under her breath.
"What do you see?" a gruff voice asked at her ear.
Lulu lowered her gaze, surprised to find the red-coated Guardian looming beside her. "Energy uncaged."
"Your favorite element."
The mage nodded. "I mastered it first. Besaid's jungles hold a lot of water fiends. And... " She stopped, frowned at herself. Why would she tell the legendary Guardian about that? It was hardly his business.
The thin young woman started when long hands came to rest on her shoulders. "Oh! I'm sorry, milady!" she gasped, shaking out of her trance. How long had she been standing there, transfixed in awe and ecstasy by the magnificent sight of a shattered cliff suspended in mid-air by almost unfathomable forces? All the storms and crashing waves she had ever witnessed on Besaid seemed like the pop of soap bubbles compared to the raw fury of Djose raging before her eyes.
Lady Ginnem laughed brightly. "It's all right. Take your time."
"If another Summoner's inside, we should hurry."
"If another Summoner's inside, we should be courteous and wait. Enjoy the spectacle." The Summoner folded her arms before herself and stood, tall and straight like the pillars of Mushroom Rock Road, a peaceful figure in repose in stark contrast to the angry swirling maelstrom of rock and lightning roiling high above them over the temple's dome. "Besides, I wanted you to see this."
The young mage nodded, her face pale and shining. Slowly she raised her hands before her face, cupping her palms outward to feel the uncaged energies flowing between earth and sky. It was intoxicating, overwhelming, exhilarating. "And you served as priestess here for fourteen years?"
Ginnem nodded, smiling approvingly at her delight. "Since my parents died. The high priestess tried to send me to Bevelle; she said Djose was no fit place for children--" the Summoner knelt and rubbed her fingers together, trying to coax one of the scampering rock-creatures over -- "but I was never lonely."
"It's... it's wonderful, Lady. And the Aeon? What's he like?"
"You'll see. Terrifying. His name is Ixion. That's all I'll say; I want him to be a surprise for you." Ginnem raised her chin, eyes flashing with anticipation. "That door has waited for me all my life. I've stood Guardian twice, but never passed through."
The girl grinned. "Maybe you'd like to solve the Cloister yourself, then?"
Lady Ginnem laughed and shook her head. "No, my dear, I'll leave you that pleasure. You and your puzzles."
"They're designed to baffle fighters, not mages," Lulu murmured with a touch of pride.
Slowly, majestically, the huge piers of stone began to fall one by one. Dust rose and the ground shook as they settled, sheathing the temple once more in a stony fist. Ginnem held out her hand. "Come, Lulu. You and your friends were so hospitable to me in Besaid. Let me show you my home."
The doors ground open again, and young Tidus came jogging out. Shaken from her reverie, the mage started. She realized Sir Auron was still watching her, waiting for her to finish the sentence. "Sorry. Memories."
Surprising herself, she added, "My first Summoner was a priestess of Djose. Lady Ginnem."
Auron nodded. "This did not seem to be your first pilgrimage."
No word of condemnation or blame, no questions: Lulu relaxed slightly and inclined her head. "Yuna's is my third. I have gone as far as the gorge at the edge of the Calm Lands."
"And survived." There was a curious softness in his voice.
Wary of pity, but sensing something else entlrely, Lulu shrugged. "Mmhmm. Come, let's see about rousing Yuna."
As she glided off, she was unaware that Sir Auron waited behind for a moment, observing her framed against the crags and temple and brooding sky.