[Legends-specific] There is one last thing that Ramirez must do before he can offer his life to Galcian. (Requested by pumpkinchao on fic_on_demand.)
Ramirez knew all of this well, even though he had visited the mines only a handful of times before. He had even spoken out against it, horrified and enraged by their mistreatment. When Lord Mendosa had told him that he would try to have it stopped... he had been foolish enough to believe that his former mentor would actually keep his word. He'd believed that Mendosa was actually a good man, that he had cared about the well-being of their slaves.
What an idiot he'd been, he thought bitterly. Mendosa had been just the same as the rest of Valua - greedy and cold-hearted, hungry only for his own profit. He hadn't cared about the slaves. He'd laughed at Ramirez's own concern, and had tried to have him killed. He had known that Ramirez had trusted him as a father, and yet he'd considered even his life less important than profit...
He forced the thought of Mendosa out of his mind. Mendosa was dead, and his ship was burning in the Ixa'takan sky. Doc had escaped, perhaps, but Ramirez hoped that no one else had - he hoped that Mendosa's family had died in that fire. It would be far better for them to die believing that their father was a good man than to live knowing the truth, as he would have to live for the rest of his days.
Ramirez would have seen to their deaths himself, but he knew that time was short. When other soldiers discovered the burning wreck of the Aquila, they would be searching for him. He needed to run, and find the one man that could save him... but there was one more thing that he had to do, here in the Mines. One last thing that had brought him there, flying through the blue skies in a lifeboat as quickly as he could.
As he entered the mine's central cavern, he saw a small group of soldiers gathered around a lamp, laughing and joking. It wasn't until Ramirez was almost upon them that one of them noticed him, and immediately they snapped to attention. If he had been attacking them, he thought with sudden, burning contempt, he would have killed them all before they'd even suspected they were in danger.
"Sir!" one of the soldiers said - he seemed to be in charge, although Ramirez didn't see any signs of his rank. "Forgive us, we were only-"
"At ease," Ramirez said. "I'm here to inspect your work. Assemble the slaves in this sector of the mines here before me so that I can examine them for fitness."
"Yes, Sir, at once!"
The soldiers scattered. Ramirez closed his eyes, but he could still hear them - could still hear them yelling at their charges, and once in a while he could hear the sound of a slave whimpering in pain after being struck. Their screams were the hardest to bear, and he tried not to think about the blood he'd already shed... the way that Mendosa had screamed as he had died.
No, he could not think about that. It would drive him mad.
He opened his eyes to see the soldiers driving the last few slaves into a rough line. Ten slaves stood before him, all of them dirty and poorly-dressed. A few of them were young, and still had a bit of strength behind their eyes; most, however, were broken and hopeless and dead-faced, and didn't look Ramirez in the face at all. They stared fixedly at the gray stone beneath their feet.
Ramirez nodded. "Good," he said to the soldiers with a nod, and drew his sword as he began to walk along the line. He barely looked at the bodies of the slaves, but he did look at their faces, and what he saw sickened him - they were weak, too weak to fight. Even the strong ones had been overpowered. "So you are the ones who welcomed us into your country, who gave us rich gifts as we plotted against you," he said quietly, but loudly enough that he knew the slaves could hear him. "This mountain was a holy site to you once, wasn't it? And yet you gave it to strange men, for them to defile."
The younger slaves started in anger, but the broken ones did not react even to that. Behind him, the soldiers began to stir. "Sir," the head soldier started, "how did you -"
"Be silent!" he snapped, without as much as a backwards glance. He stopped at the end of the line, in front of a particularly silent slave. "Have you no pride?" he said, and reached out to take the slave's chin in his hand and to tilt his head, so that the slave had to look him in the face. "You are in slavery to greedy tricksters, yet you stay and say nothing! A prouder man would have died to defend this land, or thrown himself into the sky rather than be forced into slavery!"
The old man said nothing, even as Ramirez lifted his sword and pressed it against his dirty throat.
"As I thought," Ramirez said. "Your spirit is utterly broken. But do not worry. I will put an end to your captivity."
Before anyone could react, he had swung his sword and cut the man's throat. Red blood spurted out of the severed artery as he fell, and soon the air was full of the smells of death - the odors of blood and urine that Ramirez knew so well. Before the body had even hit the ground, Ramirez was moving. He stepped across to the next man and stabbed him between the ribs, and watched him die as the sword pierced his heart.
"Sir! What in Thunder are you doing!?" the soldier cried, but Ramirez didn't stop to listen. He went to the next slave - but he was one of the stronger men, and he dodged the stab and ducked inside of Ramirez's defenses. He swung one massive fist and caught Ramirez on the side of the head, a blow that made even him stagger for a moment. He was a fighting man, Ramirez thought - yes, he had spirit, but that wouldn't save him. He was weak, and Ramirez was stronger and quicker; he sidestepped the next punch and countered, stabbing him as hard as he could. The blade went clear through his body, and the slave's eyes widened. Ramirez saw his lips move as he slumped to his knees, and while he did not know all of the man's language he was sure that the slave had cursed his killer.
He found himself smiling, in spite of the anger and pain in his soul. This was his final break with the human world, his last act of mercy. He would kill these foolish slaves, and then he would go to Admiral Galcian and accept his fate -
"Stop, Sir!" He felt a hand on his shoulder, heard the hiss of a sword being drawn. "Those men are the property of the Empire! I can't allow you to -"
"You fool!" Ramirez turned on him and drove his sword deep into his gut, and the soldier cried out in agony. "You soldiers are as much slaves as they are," he shouted as the fool gaped at him, "slaves to deceit and greed! You deserve to die even more than these pathetic savages, for you remain slaves by your own free choice!"
"The Vice-Admiral has gone mad!" someone shouted. Ramirez only smiled, and pushed the impaled soldier away. "We must inform Lord Mendosa at once!"
"There is no need," a new voice said, before Ramirez even had the chance to speak. The Silvite froze at the sound of it, and his sword-arm fell limply by his side. "I will deal with this situation myself."
The soldiers rushed to attention again, many of them trying to salute and support the wounded man at the same time. "Admiral Galcian!" one of them shouted. "Moons be praised! What are your orders, Sir?"
Ramirez did not turn around. He didn't even move as Galcian walked up behind him - he could hear the slow, measured steps, his footfalls heavy against the stone. "Remove the dead and the wounded," he said calmly. "Dispose of the bodies - throw them over the side. Do not speak of what has happened here to anyone; if I discover that anyone, slave or master, has spoken of this day, I will have you all beheaded as traitors to the Empire." He stopped, and when he spoke again, he was standing directly behind Ramirez; it took all of Ramirez's self-control not to jump. "As for this young soldier, do not concern yourself. I will deal with him."
"But, Sir," one of the soldiers said, "he's Lord Mendosa's Vice-Admiral... shouldn't his Lordship deal with him?"
"Perhaps... but Lord Mendosa is not here, and I do not have to answer to him. I will take care of him, and you will carry out my orders immediately."
"Y-yes, my Lord!" The soldiers moved quickly, lifting up their wounded leader and the slaves' corpses and carrying them away with unbelievable speed. A few of them looked back at Ramirez as they left, but looked away quickly. Soon they were gone, leaving Ramirez and Galcian alone in the cavern.
"Turn around, Ramirez."
I didn't want it to happen this way, Ramirez thought as he slowly turned around, keeping his eyes downcast. I didn't want it to be like this at all.
"Look at me." Ramirez slowly looked up, and saw Galcian standing over him - but he was not enraged. Indeed, he seemed to have the barest hint of a smile on his face. "It would seem that I was right, then."
"... yes, my Lord." Ramirez spoke quietly, but his eyes were fierce at the memory. "Mendosa was no better than the rest of the Valuans."
"Of course not. He was worse than most, for he pretended to be a better man than he truly was." Galcian smirked. "So you are the one responsible for his death, then. My own spies on the Aquila informed me of its destruction," he added, as Ramirez started in surprise. "Of course, they also saw a ship flying a black flag flying in the direction of the wreckage. There's no one who can say that they did not destroy the ship... no one but myself, that is." He looked around the cavern. "They told me that they saw you flying in this direction. I must admit, however, that you have surprised me."
"My Lord, I... I confess that I have acted rashly." He dropped his gaze to the ground again. "I can only beg your forgiveness. I place my fate in your hands."
"I told you to look at me, Ramirez."
Ramirez looked up at Galcian, and watched him turn and stare at the dark stains where Ramirez had shed the slaves' blood. "I have often wished to do what you attempted to do here today. These men are all weak, foolish pawns. Their lives are meaningless." Ramirez found himself nodding in spite of himself. Galcian seemed to see out of the corner of his eye, and smirked again. "But there is one thing that you did not consider. While I have little interest in the profits made by this mine, it does produce Moon Stones that will prove invaluable to my fleet. So I allow them these slaves to live, because they are of value to me." He looked back at Ramirez. "And I will allow you to live as well, if you will serve me."
"Lord Galcian..." Ramirez dropped to his knees and bowed his head. "Please, allow me to serve you. From this day forth, I will do nothing that does not serve you. My life is yours."
Galcian was silent at first. But then Ramirez heard him approach, and felt his cold, gloved fingers under his chin, forcing him to look into the Admiral's eyes.
"Good," said his master. His eyes were fierce in their triumph. "Very good."
A/N: Written for Pumpkinchao on fic_on_demand some time ago, then recently tweaked a bit. The idea just sort of jumped out at me, after taking a second look at Ramirez and his, well, bizarre leaps of logic in his Legends cutscenes.
Like it or hate it, but feel free to drop me a review either way.