Once upon a time, a country bumpkin found a magic sword. Spoilers for ToD (PS2 remake), ToD2.
Shards of Sky
"Call my name."
Although the actual memories were fuzzy due to nearly drowning, Stan was sure that he couldn't have actually verbalized anything. There was the entire problem of underwater and lack of air/. But under the circumstances, the trustworthiness of a disembodied voice in his head was the least of his worries, so he'd gone along and /thought the name at it, along with "argh", "pain", and "I don't want to drown".
He'd asked, later, whether it'd been necessary to evaporate the entire lake, and had been greeted with a faintly embarrassed sort of silence. It was then that Stan felt the beginnings of suspicion that perhaps his Magic Sword might not have quite as much of a grip on things (no pun intended) as it - he - made it out to be.
"What, that old piece of junk you're wearing's just a toy, then?"
He got confirmation quite a bit later, after the fact, when the voice in his head had burned with righteous indignation, and several moments later he was looking at the champion of Noischtat flat on his face in the middle of the coliseum arena. Kongman hadn't been seriously hurt - Stan had better control than that - but Master and Swordian had shared a brief moment of triumph before it quickly gave way to chagrin and panic as monsters descended upon the town. It had quickly turned into one of those "that never happened" occurrences, especially after Kongman had joined them on their quest.
But it had confirmed for Stan that powerful magical artifact or no, there was a person in the shabby old blade, a person who could get upset and be annoyed, or alternately feel happiness and amusement, rather than simply an instrument of war. It somehow made him feel less silly when passersby stared as he talked into thin air.
"Do Swordians get hungry?"
Their companions who weren't afflicted with the problem had gotten used to it when one of the Masters would pout or laugh or start yelling at nothing. Magical artifacts weren't really given to small talk or gossip, but sometimes they forgot the gravity of their mission and started chatting like old friends.
Bit by bit he picked up little bits of trivia, like Dimlos' fondness of curry or Clemente's favorite color being yellow, though he'd never gotten the courage to ask about Atwight and the rabbits.
Dimlos had been unusually quiet during their journey through Fandalia's dim snowscape. It was only on the Draconis, a hero's homecoming, that Stan felt a sense of honest relief from the Swordian when they had broken through the snow and storm into clear sunlight, wind and sky streaming past. He had not known why until much later.
"It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Are we still human then?"
In the painful, delirious hours following Leon's death, Stan hadn't been in the frame of mind to listen to much of anything. As long as he kept moving he didn't really have to think about it, and some part of him still expected Leon to suddenly pop out around a corner and tell them that it was all a joke, that he'd survived after all. It was only after he'd held Rutee and listened to her quiet sobs that he'd been able to feel grief, sympathy... and a bit of relief, that in the end Leon had not been alone.
As the world they knew shattered around them and Stan tried not to think of Baruk and Irene and Hugo, he wondered, if he'd made different decisions, whether Dimlos might have chosen as Chaltier had done, and promised himself to never put it to the test.
"I'm not asking your professional opinion as a soldier. I'm asking you what you want to do."
The man who had greeted him in the Spiritual Vortex of Drifting Clouds wasn't quite what he'd expected. Stan had automatically associated the image of "hero" with the illustrations of majestic, regal giants with big beards and armor you could sink a ship with, in the old stories he'd read. He'd been surprised to find himself facing a man only a few years older than Stan himself, graceful and imposing but never larger than life.
It had always seemed somehow irreverent to think of the Swordians as people, or pry too far into their histories. But now he had a face to go with the voice, and all of the inane things that Stan had tried to not ask were whirling through his head. Where had he lived? What had his family been like? Why had he joined the war?
It was also confusing, because the Dimlos that he'd fought wasn't quite the same person as the nagging sword at his side, and neither was his sword, and when he thought about it that meant there'd been three of them coexisting at the same place.
It did, however, give him better comebacks when the sword quipped about his spikey hair or fighting stance, and he could definitely picture the expression on Dimlos' face when he told the Swordian that his outfit of a thousand years ago reminded Stan of Philia's dress.
"You're outsiders, but if that "we" includes us... if you'll fight for our lives as well as yours---"
They had risen out of darkness into a vast, vibrant field of green and azure, carpet of lush grass and trees and sky as far as the eye could see. It was all the more surprising when the last they'd seen of the shell had been bleak and barren, an unfinished world.
There were no rivers, lakes, deserts or mountains - simply the endless emerald carpet of meadow and forest, with wildlife ambling among them. A paradise, compared to the world below that was lit only by the artificial glow of the energy absorbers and the single pathetic patch of sky peering through the gloom.
It might have been easier had it remained the barren wasteland. But unlike the world of a thousand years ago, there was not even the excuse of the debris and the storm from which to escape - this was simply a madman's empire. Looking down at the stolen paradise that rushed back beneath them, he thought he knew the answer to why the original Masters had gone to such lengths to topple the aerial cities. In the back of his mind he felt the unspoken acquiesce, the beginning of a farewell, because the world had no use for such terrible legacies.
"It's alright, Stan. We have already lived for far too long."
The day the warrior arrived at Cresta, Stan had been expecting something to happen. It might have been combat instinct, or just the feeling of pressure like the sky before a storm, but he'd been expecting trouble and mentally kicked himself for not being better prepared.
Although it had been years since he'd fought anything more threatening than a couple of loose monsters, the heft of a sword in his hand came easily to Stan, and he ducked easily under the swing of his opponent's axe to tear Roni away from the man's grip. It was only when he turned to deliver the final blow that he realized his mistake.
The blade sliced through the air, barely grazing the man's chest, but he gout of flame that would have seared through his opponent didn't materialize. As the giant's axe bore down, Stan stared blankly at the sword in his hand, and could only think that Dimlos would have had a fit at the miscalculation.
"I want to be a hero just like dad!"
Stan was caught off-balance when Kyle came home one day with a strange girl. Cresta was a small enough town that everyone more or less knew each other, much like Leane, and he was fairly sure he'd never seen her. She was gentle and polite, but there was something about her expression sometimes that suggested sights and sounds that normal people weren't meant to see.
But she was still a nice girl, and Stan certainly wasn't going to get in the way of Kyle's choice; if Rutee sometimes had to interrupt their embarrassed conversations with a polite cough, at least they were obviously happy. When he asked them how they met, the only coherent response he got, amidst the fierce blushing and sheepish grins, was something about destiny.
Sitting out in the field behind the orphanage, Stan relaxed in the morning sun. The clouds overhead held nothing more threatening than imaginary sheep, and patterns of azure and slate, cyan and turquoise and cornflower blue flowed behind them. As he began his next letter, Stan found himself sketching faint pencil scribbles of said sheep in the margin, and wondered what the recipient would have said to that.