Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X > Resurrection III: Stolen Fayth

For Want of a Sword

by helluin 5 reviews

Auron takes stock of the situation.

Category: Final Fantasy X - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Romance - Characters: Auron - Warnings: [!!] [R] - Published: 2006-04-26 - Updated: 2006-04-27 - 2445 words

A/N: Thanks to storyless for the suggestion that inspired this chapter.

It was a mistake.

Auron watched the young woman on the low pallet dispassionately. She lay with her back to him, but he had studied that innocent young face on more than one night, trying to divine the future in the pattern of her fine bones. The priests at the temples sometimes used scapulas from slaughtered beasts for divination, seeking signs of the next year's harvest, the time until the next Calm, or the prospects for a great man's wedding (they never forgave him for defying the decrees of the dead). A rigged future. Hers was too. Would her left eye win? Or her right?

The illusion of choice.

Jecht had talked about a game they played in Zanarkand, his Zanarkand. You lay down on a board in the breakers offshore. Catch them just right, and you could ride them all the way up the beach to dry land. Any other way, and you would slide off the back or get picked up, hurled, broken, and drowned. It was easy to see why he enjoyed it: he was a blitzer. Sword's art was not so different. Seize the moment. Don't look back to your last move. Don't plan too far ahead. Stay open to possibilities. They were only there for a split-second, and the ones that you did not see were usually the ones that killed.

The warrior monks and Yevon demanded discipline, obedience, and doing things by the Book. Braska made that way beautiful. All you needed was faith. The whole system was laid out for you, one stepping stone towards death at a time.

Auron had been playing Jecht's game for ten years now. It served. It was probably why he had not yet spotted Ginnem or Seymour or Yojimbo looking back at him from the mirror. Hold onto the goal. Hold onto the board. Don't grip too tightly. Let the waves steer. Don't fight like you own or understand the sea. It will drown you.

"Do you suppose that one of us could, just for a time, make the other feel like one of the living?"

They had been the right words at the right moment. One instant sooner and he would have laughed in the siren's face. An instant later, and he should have turned and walked away. Spira was no playhouse. It was a morgue. What had he been thinking? Damn the woman!

Don't think. Feel.

I know what it feels like now, Jecht. I saw the terror in her eyes. I felt her fighting me with all her strength-- no, not all, or she would have clawed out my eye and bitten through my throat-- and there was no way for me to defend her from this enemy. I felt the intruder in me that exulted in her suffering, in her pain, in her violation. Worse, I was that intruder, sharing in his appetites, feeling a fiend's joy feasting on living flesh and the prey's struggle. For that moment, I was Sin. Is this how you felt destroying your beloved Zanarkand, extinguishing your precious stadium, leaving behind a shattered shell where beauty had been?


Auron knew it was time to reach for his sword when he started churning over the past. Brooding was not simply a self-indulgent luxury for him, like it was for the young people. It was poison. He had felt his mind slip a few times over the last ten years when something threw him back to that last day in Zanarkand, to Braska's fearless face mounting the stairs and Jecht's cocky, "I'll think of something." The first time Auron had let the memory ride him, he had gone back to the Dome and gotten himself killed. Now there was every chance he would become the anger that animated him, and lose his mind. He had to hold onto that board a little longer. Or in his case, a sword. The trouble was that right now he didn't have one.

Wakka was sawing away with his rattling snore in the cot beside the empty one where he was supposed to be. Yuna was used to the noisy lullaby and smiled even in her sleep. Auron had left her in the others' care and shirked his duties too much tonight already, but he needed to anchor himself. They hit Gagazet tomorrow. He walked towards the curtain-door and through it (had he remembered to push it aside?) and stepped out into the cold, clear air.

Yuna would be moving on none too soon. Auron loved rugged places, but he preferred to be on top of them; if there were walls he wanted a roof. He surveyed the end of the canyon wearily. For a moment, he thought Kimahri had vanished, then he realized that the other Guardian was parked by the mage's tent. Torches gleamed off his yellow eyes as the Ronso turned towards him with a forbidding stare that included him among the fiends being guarded against.

They had definitely slipped off the crest of the wave tonight; forwards or backwards remained to be seen. First rule of being a Guardian: trust your friends. Now the Ronso was suspicious, and Lulu (it hurt to think her name right now) might be in no shape for the last leg of this trip she had spent years training for.

There had to be a sword lying around here somewhere. These people were Crusaders.

Auron trudged off behind the lodges, turning his back on the Ronso's silent accusation, and ambled among the stores, eyeing packs and bundles and barrels stacked up in the shadowed alley between the huts and the cliff. He noticed an alcove off to one side with a weed-grown altar to Yevon, and nearly passed by with a snort. Instead, some instinct that had made him jump and ride Sin twice now diverted his steps towards a dark opening between two rough-hewn pillars set into the cliff. He stood staring down at the worn glyphs on the altar's plinth, finding Mi'hen's sigil and wondering whether it was Kinoc or some earlier Maester who had let the old rites lapse. Not that it mattered. When Auron was still in temple, he would have been outraged by the shrine's neglect, but he no longer had much faith in heroes.

His boot-tip fetched up against something that clanked. The swordsman smiled sourly, bent and felt around in the tall grass until his glove found a hilt. An ornate hilt. A hilt attached to an ostentatiously enormous blade with prongs and flanges and teeth like a dragon's head. Auron would have assumed the rusty old blade had been made for show in the old Monster Arena, except... except...

Auron sat down in the grass, laid the ancient weapon across his knees, and began to laugh.

How many people had searched for the sword of Lord Mi'hen? How many still believed? How many had scoffed at it as myth? He had believed, before Braska gave him a quest better suited to a young man's passions. As a junior monk he had pored over all the books, every scroll and scrap in the temple's library, searching for clues to hidden treasure. It had been here all along. Red and grey rust had eaten away the inscription on the pitted surface, but he had memorized that sword's silhouette.

With a certain sense of irony, he propped his elbows on the relic and dismissed it from his mind to take stock of the battlefield.

Oaths: Yuna and Tidus safe for the present. He had better get his head on straight and keep them that way.

Pilgrimage: problematic. The mage's wounds would take more than one night to heal. (His body driving into hers, while her "I trust you" screamed in his mind.) Would she be able to continue as Guardian? Would she be the voice of wisdom Yuna needed in Zanarkand? This was a close-knit group. Would they start dividing their attention between concern for Lulu and their Summoner? Five Guardians were enough, although she was the most seasoned. The Ronso village would probably take her in.

Vengeance: on schedule. He would like to add one more name to the list, but Yunalesca and Yu Yevon were enough of a challenge. He suspected that Lulu would take care of Yojimbo for him if she survived the pilgrimage. Appropriate, since that was her story, but he could not help wishing to witness the conclusion. He would like to know what revenge her dangerous mind would devise. He hoped that she would choose a wiser option than he had. Face-down on the floor of the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth was not where her story should end.

/Lulu/. His hands tightened around the blade. She had said there was nothing between them. Just two old souls on the way to the Farplane, seizing a little fire back from a world gone cold. He thought she had meant it. It tasted like something different now, although both of them were wise enough to know better. How could this have happened?

The crucible of the pilgrimage knitted Guardians and Summoner together. Two at least had to be bound by love by the time they reached Zanarkand. Auron had opted to play this game a second time and see if he could make the ending come out differently, but he had forgotten some of the rules. The other Guardians were too young, too innocent to understand him, and it was easy to keep them at arm's length. She saw through his scars. He saw through her unscarred mask.

Do you really think that child is strong enough to survive your Sending?

She would have been, until Yojimbo. Now he was not certain.

Unless Yojimbo meant something else. Should he warn her? No, Lulu had been cold and dead in his arms for half an hour, long enough to preclude that possibility. (/Impossible/.) Even were it true, there was not much to be done. She might expect him to stay. That was not possible, and he had not needed the examples of Ginnem and Yojimbo to know why.

Yojimbo spoke lies and made them hurt. Auron would not be fooled by that one.

Which left...

Himself. Troublemaker. Yuna and Braska and Jecht needed the Legendary Guardian to be focused on the mission, not another Guardian. He had gone with Lulu tonight to make certain that Yuna had all six Guardians and was not mourning a friend's loss on the slopes of Mt. Gagazet. However, Auron was not fool enough to fool himself. He had gone for other reasons too, reasons that had nothing to do with oaths, vengeance, or finishing what Braska had started.

"Isn't that what you want, old friend? To try a different way?"

Auron sat back and returned his attention to his surroundings warily, searching for the voice's owner. Dark lumping shapes of huts like sleeping shoopufs. Cliffs rising out of his sight to darkened sky. Flicker of torches. Rustlng dry grasses tickling his bare arms. Hero's sword that meant nothing to him propped across his knees. No pyreflies anywhere in sight to play tricks on him.

"It is not relevant to our quest, my lord," he stated flatly.

"Do you remember why we went on this journey, my friend? To kill sorrow. To bring joy to Spira. Love is relevant. Otherwise you would not have wasted time showing Tidus that sphere."

"That was part of my promise to Jecht."

"Then promise me you'll use the moments you have left. Not only for Yuna. I know you'll look after her. For yourself, also."

"With all due respect, I'm not making any more promises."

Braska's quiet laughter drifted over him. "'Make mistakes. That's what youth is for, after all. Do not waste it.'"

Auron grunted irritably. "Fine advice for the young."

"You never let yourself be young, Auron."

The kindly presence left him then, or the pyrefly-hallucination ended, and the swordsman found himself staring at a single guttering torch between the shoulders of two tents. It was pulsing like a heartbeat.

Don't think. Feel.

Auron had done enough thinking for tonight, that was certain. But he felt...

He felt alive, as Lulu had promised. It hurt worse than being dead. He wanted to go to her and beg her forgiveness. He wanted to set the whole damned pilgrimage aside for a few days and coax that wicked smile into her eyes again before it was extinguished forever by the lies of Zanarkand. If he were not careful, he was going to discover whether this body he wore was capable of tears.

The flame flared up a brilliant yellow, danced for a few seconds, then collapsed in on itself and went out. An omen? If Auron sat here much longer, he was going to start trying to read the future in split bones. Time for the sword.

With a grunt he stood, moved over to a cleared space behind one of the empty tents waiting for a new generation of cannon fodder, bowed himself over the blade, and began to acquaint himself with its weight, its balance, its scarred history. He lost himself in controlled, perfect arcs carving the space around him. This dance was his old lover, an easy partner that knew all his favorite moves. Spinning thrust. A quick snap downward. The sweep that hewed limbs at the first joint. The beheading stroke.

Suddenly a choked cry muffled by thick canvas and distance ripped through the spell of sword-play. His own name? Auron set the sword down with a thump and dove through the gap between the lodges. Ignoring the flash of a startled sentry's weapon whipping around, he crossed the mustering-ground with purposeful strides, heading towards the smallest tent. He could not so easily ignore a spearhead the size of his hand coming down in a sweep to clank against his breastplate, or the narrowed eyes of the Ronso braced behind it. "Kimahri check Lulu," the other Guardian rumbled dangerously. "Auron stay out."

Unarmed, Auron tensed for a split second, weighing openings. None worth taking. Fuming and keeping frustration hidden behind his glasses, he gave a stony nod. "See to it. I'll guard." The tap of the spear-point against his chest held a double meaning when the Ronso turned and headed silently for the tent.

Maybe this was wiser. The Ronso had watched over the trio from Besaid for ten years. Auron was just a passing dream, like Tidus. Right now, a cause for nightmares. Head bowed, he stalked back to Yuna's hut, shutting his ears against the too-faint sound of a woman's voice.
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