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

Sacred Stone

by helluin 3 reviews

Resting in the Ronso settlement, gathering strength for the trials ahead.

Category: Final Fantasy X - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama - Characters: Auron, Lulu, Rikku, Tidus, Wakka, Yuna, Other - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2006-06-03 - Updated: 2006-06-03 - 2392 words

Like Sin, nightmares had a way of returning.

"I have cast aside Yevon! I will follow the temple no more!"

"Then you will die by these words!"

Brave. Rash. Indomitable. Yuna stood unbowed before the circle of bristling Ronso on whom she and her friends had fastened vain hopes. Maybe they had been lulled into too much trust by Kimahri himself, a pillar and a rock to the three from Besaid for ten years. Perhaps they had counted too much on the rumor that Maester Kelk, the Ronso leader, had turned his back on the other Maesters after Yuna's trial for treason. In fact, they had no other choice: Kimahri's people had been defending the pass over Gagazet as long as Summoners had been coming this way, and there was no other certain route to Zanarkand. Footsore and exhausted as they were, they were ill-prepared to find the sacred mountain's protectors barring their way. But there was no turning back now. Lulu drifted in next to Auron's shoulder while Wakka, of all people, shot off his mouth heaping blistering scorn upon the Teachings. Tidus and Rikku backed up his defiance with cheers and jeers. Kimahri might have put in a calmer word, but he was locked in a tense staredown with a hulking Ronso warrior who seemed to have some personal grudge against him. Sir Auron's stance shifted slightly; he was getting his feet firmly set under himself. It was small comfort, very small, to have him beside her for the coming battle.

Lulu flexed her hands. A good strong Thundaga would feel very satisfying right about now. But more Ronso heads and silhouettes were appearing over the rocky outcroppings around them at every moment. If she chose the path of bloodshed again, Yuna could not possibly afford Yojimbo's price -- their foes were too many.

Foes? Lulu almost regretted teaching the young Summoner to stand up for herself. Was this the end of Yuna's journey, dying in battle with Yevon's own, whom she had pledged her life to save?

"So be it. We have no regrets."

No regrets? Not one?

"Lord Kelk Ronso, if I may?" To her astonishment, Lulu found her voice calm and level. "Have you not also turned your back on Bevelle?"

Gently, courteously, she attempted a diplomacy better suited to Yuna's gentle nature, a strange reversal. But the mage was tired, so tired of betrayals, and she had seen enough blood on the stones of Gagazet for one day. Sir Auron chimed in at once, backing her up with his own measured words: did the Ronso leader not see that Yuna's defiance of the temples mirrored his own disgust with the politics in the capital?

It worked. Dear Yevon (not that Yevon felt very dear right now) there was still someone left in Spira who could think for himself. If there were more time, perhaps Maester Kelk could oblige Wakka with a few pointers. The aged leader hesitated, reconsidered, and in the end gave way before the determined young Summoner, praising her steel-tempered will. A few timely words by her Guardians hadn't hurt either.

It felt like a victory. Why was Lulu still waiting for the mountain to fall as the dour Ronso led Yuna's party back to a spacious rock-hewn cave, traditionally set aside for Summoners and their Guardians? Perhaps she had grown so accustomed to ambushes by now that this one's postponement felt like a breach of hospitality.

Nevertheless, Yuna and her friends were pleasantly delighted to find the Ronso as fierce in hospitality as in defense. Food and drink were brought to them in stone bowls and goblets. Rugs, tallow candles, and low stools were scattered around the broad chamber, heated by a ceramic brazier set in the center. The cave's natural columns had been carved with prayers for the Summoners' good fortune. Against some of the uneven walls, cunning channels had been cut to let milky water flow down into mosaic basins, where flow-stone had been allowed to form iridescent spires. The candles were set in high niches here and there around the walls, glistening off wet stone. Yuna's Guardians gratefully shed packs and weapons and settled down to the feast provided. The Ronso attendants bowed, swung shut the heavy front door of metal and hide, and left them alone as the last grey light faded from the sky outside.

Dinner conversation turned from the day's challenges to tomorrow's, and Lulu remained tucked on a stool near Yuna long enough to offer her store of knowledge on the fiends they were likely to encounter. A debate about the best attacks for bombs and flans and floating eyes quickly turned tiresome. Lulu gathered her bowl and drink and retreated to the shadows of a steep spiral stairwell, cut in the far corner of the room, which doubled as a chimney. Finishing her meal in silence, her attention was drawn to scrawls and inscriptions cut into the soft stone beside the stairs. They appeared to be names, some newly-carved, some encased in translucent stone like glass and beginning to fade. Her lips parted in awe at two words deeply-graven into the wall near her elbow.

Lady Yocun. Lilith.

The sorceress arched an eyebrow. "Of course," she murmured under her breath, and leaned sideways to scan some of the other mementos of heroes long gone.

"Hey, Lu, whatcha found?" Wakka asked, setting his bowl on the floor and peering towards her.

"Graffiti from past travelers, it seems."

"Oh, neat!" Rikku dropped her bowl with a clatter and hopped to her feet, pattering over. Lulu smiled inwardly, although she chided herself for drawing their attention. The others quickly piled in behind Rikku, except for Auron, lounging by the front door, and Kimahri, who was sharpening his spear-blade with single-minded attention on the far side of the chamber. The rear of the room was suddenly very crowded.

"Hey," Tidus said, pointing at a flowing, almost vinelike script down near Rikku's hip. "That doesn't say 'Seymour,' does it?"

"What the?" Wakka squatted and peered past the wriggling Al Bhed, forgetting his wariness for a moment. "Nah, can't be."

"I'm afraid it can," Yuna said thoughtfully, faint sorrow in her eyes.

Lulu shared an oblique glance with her. "That Aeon," the mage said slowly, realization dawning. "You said it was surprisingly powerful."

Yuna dipped her head in confirmation.

"What?" Tidus asked, straightening and peering between them. He rubbed the back of his neck, brows knitted. "So... Seymour's a Summoner?"

"Obviously," Lulu returned icily, dropping back into familiar patterns of speech out of habit more than ire. "Or did you fail to notice the Aeon that nearly destroyed us in Macalania? 'Anima,' he called it. Yuna did not recognize it. It came from none of the temples we have visited so far. Which means--"

"Oh, wow," Rikku said, gulping. "That thing was a Final Aeon?"

"Apparently so."

Wakka shook his head. "Can't be, Lu. We beat it. I mean, if it's supposed to be strong enough to defeat Sin, it should've smeared us into fish paste, ya?"

"Then we're strong enough already!" Tidus crowed, thumping the older athlete's shoulder and failing to notice Yuna's quiet head-shake.

"Yeah!" Rikku said hopefully, picking up on his excitement. "Exactly! And that means Yunie won't have to--"

Auron's gravelly voice cut in across the chamber. "The strength of some Aeons varies according to their use as much as their Summoner. Isn't that right, Yuna?"

She nodded, brushing her braid back apologetically. "Right. I guess... Seymour wasn't using it against Sin, and perhaps it was confused about being turned on ordinary people instead of Fiends."

"Oh. Yeah." Tidus' face clouded up. "Which is just totally twisted, right? I always knew he was--" he paused, noticing Yuna's pained expression. "Bad," he finished lamely. He smiled apologetically and gave her shoulder a light squeeze. "Hey, at least we didn't have to fight the Ronso."

Lulu folded her arms with a sigh. Something had caught her eye, and she had been debating whether to mention it. Coming to a decision, she tapped a violet nail against a trio of words carved near the ceiling, apart from most of the other inscriptions. "Yuna, Tidus," she interrupted gently.

All of them fell silent as Yuna stood on tiptoe and touched her fingertips to a name neatly incised by a priest's hand. It was not "Lord Braska," "Braska of Bevelle," nor even "Summoner Braska". Modest as ever, he had written his name and nothing more, the only record of his passing. His daughter's eyes glimmered in the candlelight, and Rikku slipped her arms around her cousin's waist comfortingly. Tidus stood behind with a crestfallen expression, probably wishing himself in Rikku's place.

"Yunie..." Rikku said wistfully.

"It's all right," Yuna murmured, patting her hand. "It's a sign, you know? Even if I've been following my father all the way, it's nice to... be able to see his footprints."

The Al Bhed girl's brow furrowed, but she wisely did not ruin the moment by protesting that a slight detour might be in order.

Noticing the half-finished name below Jecht's, Lulu sought Auron's gaze across the dim chamber. He shrugged, then glanced towards the stairwell and jerked his chin upwards. She arched an eyebrow, curiosity roused.

"Heee--ey, will you look at dat," Wakka interrupted, scratching the back of his neck and craning his head to peer at a strange jagged squiggle chipped in the wall to the left of Jecht's name. "Tidus, what is dat thing, anyway?"

Tidus glanced down at the necklace he wore and grinned. "Zanarkand Abes! What did I tell you, Wakka? My old man must've put it there."

"That's right," Yuna smiled. "Sir Jecht. He had it tattooed across his chest."

"Show off," Tidus muttered.

"Well, then," Rikku said brightly, fishing into her toolbag. Slipping away from Yuna, she moved around and through her friends, hunting for one of the few spots on the wall that did not already bear an inscription. Pulling up her goggles and setting a drill against the rock, she gave an exploratory tap with a hammer. Tink, tink...

Ignoring her, Tidus turned around. "Hey, Auron! Why didn't you sign your own name? Looks like my old man only got halfway through it."

Tink, tink, tink...

"Will ya knock that off?" Wakka said irritably, glaring at the girl.

"Shush, don't make me mess up," Rikku replied cheerfully, not looking up. "How d'ye spell 'Summoner' again?"

Tink, tink, tink, tink...

"That is why," Auron said, glowering pointedly in Rikku's direction.

Lulu pinched the bridge of her nose, feeling the first outriders of a headache coming on. Seven warm bodies packed in somewhat close quarters would be claustrophobic even on better days, and the heavy stone roof made her feel as if the mountain was pressing down on them. "I think I'm going to take a walk," she murmured.

"Lulu," Yuna said warningly, reaching out and catching her sleeve.

The mage sighed, supposing she deserved it for last night. "I'm not leaving the village, Yuna."

"Kimahri go too," the Ronso announced abruptly. "Keep watch."

Guessing she could not win, and morbidly curious whether the heavyset Ronso could fit up a spiral stair obviously hewn with humans in mind, the sorceress nodded. "Very well," she said quietly. "Come."

~ * ~

Kimahri's shaggy feet kicked up a thin dusting of snow coating the rocks. He had fit up the narrow winding passage of the stair ahead of her, barely, and Lulu had been grateful for the assurance, since it was dark and cold and sooty in that narrow chimney. They had emerged on the bluff above the Ronso village -- or rather, overlooking the empty cleft of the trail running through it, since his people made their homes by tunneling into the knees of the mountain they worshiped.

He seemed to be leading her somewhere. They seldom shared speech when hunting together, and she was content to follow as they used to when he was tracking the scent of game. The shadowy, brooding clouds piled low against the heights, the heavy shoulders of the mountain looming above them. The starkness of the rocks seemed to suit him. The silence was restful, and helped her set aside the day's unsettling battles and the darker struggles of the night before.

A tang of sulfur on the air made her curious. Was it warmer up here, or was she beginning to get used to the chill breath flowing down from Gagazet's peak?

Rounding a knee of rock, Kimahri halted, leaning on his spear. Below, held back by a retaining wall that had been built so long ago that it looked to be part of the mountain, a broad pool larger than the cavern where they were lodged curved along the perimeter of the cliff. Clouds of steam were rising from the surface, and carved stone steps led down to it. A faint glimmer of phosphorescence lit the water from below. Kimahri pointed to a pile of blankets and towels set out on a stone bench by the edge of the pool.

Lulu exhaled. "Now that," she said softly, "is what I call civilized. Thank you, Kimahri." She had not enjoyed a proper bath since that night at Rin's. She felt an almost violent shudder of relief: she had been suffering an irrational urge to scrape off her outer layer of skin for the last twenty-four hours, and a hot soak might help. The burly Guardian inclined his head and withdrew.

Struggling out of her clothes and unpinning her hair, the sorceress found her way to the water's edge and sat for a moment on the lip, drawing her legs against herself and letting the icy air cool her white skin. She gazed back across the foothills and the dark shadow of the Calm Lands stretching to the horizon beyond. Bevelle was somewhere back there, Djose and Kilika, and the sweet backwater island home they would probably not live to see again.

She cupped her hands in prayer and bowed, not certain why.

Shaking her head, she set a toe in the warm water and carefully eased into the pool. Glorious heat enveloped her. Taking a deep breath, Lulu propped her shoulders against the steps (carved for human frames, she noticed) and closed her eyes, letting thoughts, worries, and stains float away and dissolve in Gagazet's sacred waters.
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