Episode 016: Trials! The Never Ending Journey
Episode 016: Trials! The Never Ending Journey
Time passed and the evening of Topaz Ebony's house warming party at his new mansion at the Coastal States arrived. Luna entered the town, immediately noticing that there was danger all around. 'A trap,' she thought. The black dragon had been acting strangely when he invited her, albeit the oddity of his behavior could only be noticed by the particularly observant. Strangely, the town was deserted and a feeling of dread hung in the air. Luna quickened her pace towards the mansion. The tall front gates were open, leading to a cobblestone carriage driveway, which reached to the steps in front of the mansion's entrance.
Luna hurried past the inviting gates and towards the beckoning double doors of the main entrance that were already open. With great speed, she dashed past the doors into a grand hall decorated with dark colors, black, grays and wine, accentuated with topaz jewels. At its center there was a gray marble fountain with water flowing from the mouth of a dragon statue that resembled Aqua Lord Ragradia. The atmosphere was still and silent, foreboding. Luna wielded her knife, "her whole body glowing golden. "You're certainly a daring one to challenge me," her voice was calm yet fierce.
From the top of the grand staircase that overlooked the fountain, there came a man who was actually a dragon. His hair was black and shiny, perfectly straight, tied in a low ponytail and reaching to his mid-back under his black cloak. His eyes were a piercing gold, angular and long, like the shape of his face and his tiny nose. The rest of his clothes were also dark in color, presenting various shades of gray, making the topaz decorations on his belt and the front of his cloak to stand out more. "I will not be your opponent," the dragon replied with confidence. "I am merely a negotiator. Would you give up your life in exchange for the lives of the townspeople?"
Luna was not one to be easily pressured, nor was she one to panic. With a calm demeanor and solid serenity that somehow existed in harmony with the fierce power in her glowing eyes, she replied. "I have no guarantee that they will be freed once I'm gone. Furthermore, I'm sure that the plans you're trying to accomplish by getting rid of me will result to be far worse than the extinction of this town."
"Far from it, traitorous knight," Topaz argued.
"Traitorous?" Luna perceived that it was more than just a random insult.
"You are meant to try with all your might to defeat the monsters and yet when given the opportunity, you refuse. Is that not traitorous to Ceifeed?" Topaz accused.
Luna's expression morphed into a mocking grin. "No hurt feelings, eh? I knew you would insist upon that."
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A month prior... Zephilia was a very special human town, known to produce a great number of skilled individuals. It was a place where no enemy spy would dare to go, a place where not even the bravest and strongest bandits could endure. It was a town of sorcerers and swordsmen, a place of skilled magic users and mercenaries. Yet on the surface it had the appearance of a quiet country village where people spent most of their time farming grapes.
Topaz entered a boutique near the front of the town. Ladies were busily moving around making sure all the merchandise was perfectly arranged. They immediately notice the visitor and greeted him politely. The owner of the store, Tatjana Dayward, approached with a smile. "It is good to see you Mr. Ebony; it has been far too long."
"It has indeed, Miss Dayward," Topaz gave her a charming smile. He had not spoken to the formal designer since his fiance, Jewel Ivory, was killed by Xellos to please Zelas' whim of wanting a dragon hide designer purse as a Christmas present. The young white dragon had been quite a fan of Tatjana's kimonos and Topaz often gifted her new ones. Of course, Topaz had no idea that Xellos had secretly gone to Tatjana to craft the purse where her rival, Marty Lenford, had failed to create a product that met the needed standards. Very much less, he had no idea that Tatjana had done a stellar job and the final result had pleased Zelas well. "Pardon me for appearing on such short notice, but I wish to purchase a fine product from your selection of hand crafted jewelry."
Tatjana was pleased by the news. The rich Topaz Ebony was a very good customer to have as a regular. "Certainly, come this way and I will personally show you my best selections. Did you have a particular gem in mind?" She knew that the black dragon favored his namesake gem, the topaz, but his past fiance had preferred emeralds, rubies and rose quartz. "And might I ask who the lucky lady is?" Though Topaz had not made any mention of having found a new prospective bride to be, Tatjana certainly hoped he had. Another younger dragon like Jewel, for whom he'd have to wait until she was old enough to marry. Then he would spend the in-between showering her with gifts until she was surely his.
"Not just yet," Topaz admitted. If he felt any sort of sadness for Jewel's death, he did not show it. He would have very much liked to have her, but only because she was such a treasure, such an amazing beauty. "The gift I wish to purchase is for a lady who is not even truly an acquaintance. I know her by name and face as many people do, but we have never spoken. None the less, I feel it would be rude to show up to meet her empty handed. I must ask for your assistance in choosing the gift, for I do not personally know what the tastes of the knight of Ceifeed may be."
'The knight of Ceifeed! Luna!' Tatjana's mind buzzed with excitement, though her expression remained calm and polite. "I believe Luna might be fond of garnets." Or at least they would match her usual colors. Tatjana looked through the jewelry on display behind glass and reached for a wine-colored box, the covering soft in texture. It was cushioned in black on the inside where it held a platinum bracelet adorned with dagger-shaped garnet charms. The bracelet looked fit for a princess or even a queen.
Topaz reached for the box that Tatjana held out to him. Her forte, many insisted in the past, was clothing and she should stick to it. They thought she couldn't be good at designing clothing and jewelry as well. But when she launched her line of designer jewelry the world was dazzled into swallowing their words. His fingers traced the outline of the perfectly crafted bracelet. The garnets were of top quality and the cut was precise, giving the gems a splendorous deep crimson shine. "Beautiful," he finally spoke. "I shall purchase this lovely piece and I do so greatly appreciate your advice."
"I am only all too happy to assist," Tatjana smiled.
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A short while later, the bells on the door of the Inverse general store chimed as a man dressed in dark colors entered. Labyrinthine, who was at the front counter at the time, greeted him cheerfully. "Welcome, Mr. dragon, feel free to browse and let me know if you need anything."
Topaz paused, then grinned in acknowledgement. Of course she would notice he's a dragon even if he had never gone beyond the entrance of town where Tatjana's boutique was. This woman, though now enjoying the peace of retirement from her previous profession instead dedicating herself to the quiet life of a shopkeeper, was still and always would be, a powerful sorceress. "I thank you for your kindness. My name is Topaz Ebony, might I inquire of the whereabouts of the knight of Ceifeed?"
"Ah, so you're here to see my daughter, I'm Labyrinthine, nice to meet you. Luna is working at the cafe down the street right now, you can't miss it." Mrs. Inverse replied with a glow of curiosity in her eyes. "Say, Mr. Ebony, is there something going on? The last time a dragon came to town looking for Luna the world was set to end according to an ancient prophecy by the hands of Darkstar."
"I assure you madam, there is no prophecy this time," Topaz replied with a casual friendly laugh. He was telling the truth in what he said, but he didn't speak the whole story. To be sure there was no prophecy, or at least no prophecy that he knew of, but Darkstar was certainly involved.
There was a flash of something in Labyrinthine's eyes. "That is good to know," she smiled as if she perceived nothing more than what she was meant to perceive.
"If I may be excused, madam, I must be on my way to speak to the knight of Ceifeed. I thank you for your guidance." Topaz' voice was polite, but Labyrinthine caught an undertone of cunning deception.
She smiled in a mischievous half grin disguised as pure friendliness. "Any time..." 'It looks like my girls will have a new adventure on their hands soon,' she thought.
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Down the street from the Inverse general store, there was a quaint little cafe that Filia happened to be very fond of. At the cafe there could be found a peculiar waitress who seemed to have a constant aura power around her. Topaz spotted her as soon as he entered the cafe and as they made eye contact, somehow he perceived that she knew he was there to speak to her.
Luna exchanged a few words with another waitress away from Topaz's hearing range. Then she approached him with a smile that seemed to scrutinize his very being. Her eyes were hidden behind her long bangs, but all the same, her stare still felt very piercing. "Welcome..."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Luna Inverse, knight of Ceifeed." Topaz managed to maintain his confidence, even if Luna's aura was on edge. It was as if her instinct was telling her more than he could ever speak in words. "My name is Topaz Ebony, if I may, I would like to ask for a short audience with you... privately."
For a second Topaz thought he saw Luna's eyes literally light up behind her hair. Yet the shadow of the deep purplish crimson once again made such details imperceptible, making him wonder if it had even happened. "You may..." Luna agreed. "I shall bring you something as well, would you like to see the menu?"
Topaz shook his head, "that will not be necessary; I shall trust the judgment of your recommendation."
"Very well," Luna accepted. "Let us speak at a table on the terrace. It is a rather slow day today and there is no one there at this time."
xoxox xox xoxox
A few minutes later, Luna and Topaz were sitting at a table at the cafe's terrace. There were cups of tea and cookies before them and anyone who saw them thought they were just two young people passing the time on calm afternoon. "First of all let me make a proper introduction, I am Topaz Ebony, of the black dragon Ebony clan. It is a small, but ever growing independent clan, allied to the Ilumina clan as well as several other clans that dedicate themselves to the well being of the dragon race's society and the world as a whole."
"Politicians," Luna observed and her tone was not favorable. Not that she judged all politicians alike, but the recent movement of dragon politicians was reminding her more and more about how human politics worked and that might not be very favorable, yet none the less, it was a part of the ever turning cycle of evolution and change. While many dragons still clung to the elder system, where the elected elder would serve in a position of leadership for life, others preferred a more dynamic method to choose their leaders along with the possibility of discarding them if they did not perform their duties in a satisfactory manner. In theory, the democratic method was the best, but reality was often a great contract to theories.
Topaz didn't like Luna's tone, but he remained calm and polite, presenting a counterargument in a way that it didn't even sound like he was arguing. "Not only that, but true leaders who want to restore peace to the world and ensure the safety of the dragon race, the elves and also the humans. I do hope to one day form a close alliance with prominent members of the human race. While some dragons may be a little cautious about this, I recognize the ingenious and potential of humans."
Luna only smiled, but she was far from being tricked. Topaz wasn't going to soften her up by complimenting her race and trying to say between the lines that he was better than other dragons.
Seeing as Luna didn't seem to have the intentions of voicing any further comments, Topaz continued. "Before we proceed to discuss the good news that I have come to deliver with my visit, I would like to present you with a small gift." He produced the elegant box from his fine cloak and gave it to Luna, "Please accept this humble present as a token of my admiration and friendship."
Luna gracefully accepted the box with a polite, "thank you." She knew that the so called humble gift would be something flashy. As Topaz seemed to be expectantly waiting for her to open the box, Luna decided to humor him. She ran her hands on the smooth wine-colored velvet and gently lifted the lead the reveal the sparkle of exquisitely crafted jewelry. The garnets that adorned the platinum were a lovely deep crimson color and they were even shaped as daggers. The bracelet, Luna had to admit, was very her, if she wore sparkly jewelry and it was not something she often did.
Topaz gave her a charming smile, "please try it on. Here, let me assist you with the lock." He took her left hand before she had the chance to reply, picking up the bracelet from the box and putting it around her wrist. "It looks lovely on you."
Luna's reply was a simple, polite, yet noticeably monotonous, "thank you." She was bored and did not care to hide it. She expected the dragon to proceed to invite her to some party or promotional activity that would further his political career by claiming he had the support of the Knight of Ceifeed. "Let us move on to the main discussion, shall we?" She picked up her cup of tea and drank.
"Ah yes," Topaz made a pause that, according to him and him only, was quite dramatic as he took a sip of tea. "I bring you wonderful news. You see, I have discovered a way to rid this world of the monster lords for good!" That was it, the mask of politeness fell and Luna had to laugh. Topaz looked slightly offended for a second, but he quickly recovered and continued. "I know it sounds too good to be true, but I assure you, I am not playing a cruel joke on you. I have contacted a noble being from the over-world and he is willing to transport the monster lords of our world to his and defeat them permanently. It is the one and only Vorfeed, the over-world's equivalent to our own honorable Ceifeed."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I very much doubt Vorfeed would make such an offer," Luna ascertained. "Who ever you might have spoken to, he is not Vorfeed." The real Vorfeed was most likely busy with the situations of the over-world and couldn't be bothered with the problems of a different world. Besides, Vorfeed wasn't even a he. Technically, it wasn't exactly a she either, not by the human and dragon definition, but she had a female persona, which caused her to take a female form. Luna knew little else about Vorfeed and the few details she did know were things she learned in dreams which the remnants of Ceifeed had seen from the Sea of Chaos.
"I assure you, I have spoken to Vorfeed and if you would just accompany me to speak to him, you will believe," Topaz insisted. He was starting to get impatient. "Just think, the monster lords gone for good. Think of the peace and prosperity that will overtake the world!"
"Perhaps," the first word of Luna's reply made it sound as if she was considering the possibility and it filled Topaz with hope that would soon be dashed to pieces. "For a time..." Luna continued. "With what is perceived by most as the ultimate evil of this world, the three remaining monster lords, Beast Master Zelas Metallium, Deep Sea Dolphin and Dynast Grausherra gone, peace would reign for a time. Celebrations would follow and the arts would flourish in the bliss of victory, just as it happened last year after the near end of the world was overcome. Yet that ecstasy has died down a year later and with the passing of time it will continued to do so."
Topaz misunderstood Luna's argument as an agreement. "Exactly! With this plan, we can make that victory lasts forever!"
"No victory lasts forever," Luna emphasized. "With the final battle won, there will be nothing left to win, nothing left to accomplish. After the excitement settles down, stagnation will settle in. People will find ways to pick fights of course, and perhaps they'll destroy each other by the absence of a greater enemy that motivates them to join forces. Those who do survive will be lulled into a sense of laziness as there would be nothing to combat, nothing to compete against. It will be a quiet world full of abundance, until people forget what perils are and thus forget how to overcome them. Then something simple, a small problem will destroy them. Those who survive further even then, will forget what sadness is and will feel peace until they become numb to happiness. Then with their emotions gone, they will be as good as dead."
Topaz was unable to come up with a proper argument to speak, thus Luna continued. "Living creatures are made to evolve, to achieve, to conquer. When you accomplish something, you might take some time to rest and enjoy it, but eventually, often sooner rather than later, you'll be off to pursue your next goal, be it personal or professional, or trying to progress towards simultaneous different goals at once. That is how it works; there can never be pure stillness as long as there is life, for the only true stillness is death. That is how the Mother of All Things made it to be. I do not believe that you or your deceiving friend can defeat the monster lords, but if they or the dragons were ever to be entirely missing, the balance would be lost and the world would head towards its end."
To be Continued
The dagger shaped garnets on the bracelet are a reference to Princess Garnet, who went by the alias of Dagger in Final Fantasy IX.