Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Fleeing Dragons

The Prophecy

by Myshu 0 reviews

The Dragon Tear is unlocked. Archmage Hapshetsut enlists the help of a strange prophet to track it down.

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Crossover - Characters: Zidane Tribal - Published: 2006-12-20 - Updated: 2006-12-21 - 4617 words

They say two heads are better than one, but for some reason three heads are never better than two.

5. The Prophecy

When Jerad asked his visitors to take him on board, giving them board wasn't quite what he had in mind.

"I thought we were going to Death Peak."

Not that he was ready for a mountain expedition; he was still flopping around his apartment in fuzzy slippers. Idle until further notice, Jerad was bent over the back of the sofa, shooting prying looks around Myshu's head at the book in her lap. It had to be nearly three in the morning, yet the thrill of discovery kept him on his toes.

"We are, as soon as this tells me where to go from there," she responded without glancing up, flipping another couple of tawny pages.

His diaphragm sick of holding his weight, Jerad straightened off the sofa and stood back. He was already beginning to resent the way that... woman just sat down and took charge of... whatever it was that was going on. That was probably why he allowed it, actually; he didn't know, and she had the answers. Or some answers. Or more answers than he had, at least.
She was better to talk to than the big, brooding, creepy wizard sitting in the chair cornering the sofa, at any rate.

A pang of caution struck him on remembering his company. He had to be careful, he warned himself, not to become too stupid in the pursuit of answers--that would probably defeat the scientific approach, never mind his life.

Jerad pressed his glasses snugly onto his nose and studied the magic tome from afar. It was old--anyone could see that. However, he'd all but made his living perusing ancient manuscripts (most from the eleventh century), so he had a bit of an edge on the average onlooker.

"That book, you called it the what? T'torlan? It has to be at least a hundred years old, just from the discoloration..."

He was intrigued by the contrast from page to page: delicate, browned leafs with graceful black ink were spaced between yellowed, crisp sheets with scrawls in pen and pencil. It appeared as if, a long time ago, some writer decided to butt in on something written even longer ago.

"Is that Medinan reed? They don't print on that anymore. And then scarab parchment? That has to be centuries older! It's all very well-preserved. I don't see any damage--not one tear. Why are there two different kinds of paper? I remember Doctor LEA reading from this. Are those her notes inside? It looks like her handwriting, on the pages that look fresh. Er, more fresh. Comparatively speaking."

"Do you always talk to yourself like that? It's unnerving," Myshu cut him down.

Jerad grumbled apology. After a few minutes of silence, he couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. "So, what's in that book, anyway?

"See for yourself, if you can," was all she offered, not even budging to pass him the text. She continued skimming the passages at her leisure while Jerad took a closer perch on the sofa's armrest.

"Wow, I was right. Did Doctor LEA transcribe this entire volume? What's that language on the left? I've never seen anything like it."

"It's Tri-Xi, the old dragon language." Myshu turned a snarl from an illustration of a wolf demon to the young man invading her space. "You ask a lot of fucking questions. Hasn't anyone ever told you that too many questions can get you into trouble?"

"The way of the learned man is to ask questions!" Jerad asserted.

She ducked back into her reading. "I'd work on learning to be a real man first, pipsqueak."

Jerad's jaw dropped with a self-defeating chirp. His fuming was snuffed by Magus's firm, deep voice.
"What makes you think that book will tell you how to work this?" He tapped the crystal ball in his hands for emphasis.

"Just a good hunch," Myshu cryptically answered.

"Hrmph," Magus cryptically rejoined.

"It's a hell of a better lead than jumping around the galaxy in circles, okay?" she snipped, "I don't see you pulling grand ideas out of your billowing ass."

Magus removed one glove and traced aimless loops with his finger over the Dragon Tear's gloss. Jerad could swear he saw a luminous purple streak burrow beneath the magician's fingertip before dissipating in the orb's sea blues. "The galaxy is a big place, last I heard. What makes you think you'll be remotely successful in finding this Phoenix? What makes you think you're the only one looking for it? Maybe it's already been found. You could be wasting your time," the wizard tested.

"If it was already found," Myshu riposted without batting an eye, "The Darkness would be gone."


The Imperial Captain of the Guard rode the lift to the top of the palace and entered the Archmage's chamber.

For the highest authority among neiphiti and leader of C'tarot's Peacekeepers, Archmage Hapshetsut kept some beautifully spartan personal space. Silken gold drapery bounced across the ceiling and slid down the six large columns crossing the room. A quaint goldfish pond was punched into the middle of the floor, and nothing else by way of furnishings. The Captain spied a door off to the side, perhaps concealing a bed and toiletries, though for all other appearances the Archmage was not a fan of reclining, or even carpet; rose marble tiles were spread to every corner.

Even if the Captain's clattering footfalls hadn't announced his arrival, one of his liege's mystical senses would have surely accounted him. He was thus at silent attention while Hapshetsut stood gazing out the broad windows of his penthouse, seemingly oblivious until he wet his gullet and called, "Yes?"

There was little ceremony to the Captain's salute; Hapshetsut wasn't going to see it with his back turned. "Your Ultimacy, Lord Neferkara is here to see you."

The Archmage pivoted on air--literally, the Captain noticed when Hapshetsut shoved his cape behind his shoulders and faced him. The grand wizard often hovered while meditating, which at least explained how the floor remained immaculately smooth despite the talons weighing down Hapshetsut's bare feet.

"Oh! Very good. See him in."

"I think I can see myself." Neferkara appeared in the wake of the Captain, who was dismissed.

A full-blooded dragon neiphiti, His Ultimacy wore a black-scaled, leering countenance that masked most smiles. "Well there you are, little brother. Good afternoon. We haven't spoken in a while."

"Hmm." The half-blooded of the siblings, Neferkara's human visage bore a frown by choice. "I'd like to speak now about that stranger you've let roam around the palace."

"You mean the prophet."

"So he says he is."

"What's wrong, my brother? Don't trust him?"

Neferkara raised one, thin eyebrow. "Why should I?"

Hapshetsut turned again to the dusky orange cityscape spanning beyond the windows, clasping his gnarled, clawed hands behind his back. "Because I have invested my trust in him, and as my brother and subject you should trust as I do."

"Pardon if I won't bow and scrape before every blade of grass that finds your favor, like all your servants in Parliament."

The Archmage turned a yellow, slitted eye on his brother, hardly irked by the familiar insubordination. "You're ever-stubborn."

"Must run in the family." Neferkara crossed the room on light, steady feet and stood by Hapshetsut. "I'd really like to know what guiling this prophet did to win you over so quickly."

Hapshetsut huffed and split his muzzle with a self-certain grin. His craggy teeth were like pearls between coal lips and gums. "Don't you believe in visions, Neferkara? He appeared in my dreams as a man swathed in purple, preaching before a multitude of Peacekeepers and dragons. The next day, that very man was on my doorstep."

"He could be a dream-weaver, manipulating you."

"That thought crossed my mind, so I tested him. I bid he recall my last three meals and predict my next three. He recited every detail, down to how many bites of pie I left unfinished."

Neferkara smirked. "Still thinking with your stomach, I see. He could be informed with your kitchen staff."

"He also foresaw the theft of the Dragon Tear, six hours before it was reported."

"He's an accomplice, then."

The Archmage's high cheeks swelled. "Sent here to do what? Throw me off the scent of his comrades? I sorely doubt anyone would hazard such deception to my face. He'd have to be either suicidal or a total fool, and it takes more than the latter to enter my gates." His smug grin resurfaced. "And more than the former to leave. Mwah."

"You think he'll lead to the Dragon Tear's recovery, then?"

"Better," Hapshetsut quipped, "I think he'll lead us to the Promised Land."

Neferkara, dumbstruck by the revelation, took a moment to gape before snorting outright. "Honestly."

"You're scoffing," his brother caught him, "But surely you've sensed what I have. The Darkness is in the air. There are fiends on the border worlds already, and even on C'tarot, in the wildernesses. It won't be long before the Black Death's ichor runs through the streets of the capitol like a river. And now, of all times, the Dragon Tear has been taken from us. It is the advent of Ragnarok, just as written in the T'torlan."

"You don't suspect a coincidence of crimes?" Neferkara suggested.

Hapshetsut inflated with sarcasm. "All of a sudden you believe in coincidences? Your open-mindedness never ceases to amaze."

Neferkara scowled. "Stop toying with the matter. Do you know how many of your predecessors have cried Ragnarok? I do not have to remind you that they've all been wrong thus far."

"Are you so much a skeptic as to ignore divine signs?"

"Greater men have fallen for less."

Hapshetsut levelled his gaze with his brother, suddenly grave. "I won't stand such mockery, not to speak of heresy, even from you."

"I won't stand to have my brother played the fool by a con-artist."

"I have more the upper hand than you give me credit for. The prophet has no margin for error. He has only to fail me once to lose his head, no escape or questions asked."

"He only needs to fail you once."

The Archmage sniffed and resumed his city-watching. "Don't be so nervous, Neferkara. Paranoia has undone as many men as it's saved; smoke that in your rhetorical pipe."

"You don't even know his name," Neferkara would not yield the last word.

"I don't have to know it. In case you haven't sensed as well, there's not a speck of magic in him. He's harmless."

"There's no such thing as a harmless fortune-teller."

"You have a cart for every bottle, do you know that?"

"Master Hapshetsut."

Both men turned to witness the ironic entrance. The prophet drifted in through the open door and paused.

He was not a presuming figure; heavy, dull purple cloth enveloped his modest form. A delicate white chin peeked from the shadows of his drooping hood, and three huge, blunt, padded toes brushed the floor at each foot. Just as Hapshetsut assured, Neferkara could discern no magic about him, though the shrouded identity was unnerving enough.

The prophet's voice was soothingly fluid. It cast hardly a ripple through the air. "I hope I'm not interrupting."

Hapshetsut waved him nearer. "Of course not. My brother was about to be dismissed. What news do you bring?"

"It concerns the Dragon Tear. I'm afraid it is no longer on this world."

Off to the side, Neferkara sardonically remarked, "You don't say."

"How is this possible?" the Archmage spoke up. He gripped the fringe of his cape tightly enough for his claws to rent the embroidery. "All ships have been grounded, and the gates locked."

"The thief took an unrecorded gate to a planet on the borders," the prophet answered easily.

"What gate? Which planet? Can you tell me where?"

"I believe it is possible to track the Dragon Tear's position, but it will take time."

"My time is valuable. Don't waste a second of it. You shall confer with General Ishmael and Lord Neferkara over the Dragon Tear's retrieval. It is a vital tool that will lead us to Ragnarok's glory."

Neferkara narrowed a glance at the Archmage and growled, "Brother..."

"Don't whine and try doing as I say for once, /brother/," Hapshetsut ordered, his tone sensible and strong enough to reach his shrewd sibling, "Go with the prophet and take back what's ours."

Neferkara pursed his lips, swallowed defeat and marched off the floor. The prophet hesitated, bowed out and caught up with Lord Neferkara in the elevator. They shared a brooding silence as the lift sealed with an electronic humm and began to descend. A porthole gave flickering, blue-tinted glimpses of the lower floors of the palace.

"You would do well to quit feeding my brother lies and false hopes, soothsayer," Neferkara finally spoke.

"One man's truth is another man's lie... and vice versa."

"Do you mock me?"

"Of course not. You are formidable, Neferkara. Your cunning and magic are clearly superior. It would be a fool who challenges you." The prophet tipped his hood ever-slightly, revealing a set of ventriloquist's lips, flat and unflinching. "However, consider yourself warned. There are two fools yet who live today, and they will mean the end of you."

Lord Neferkara screwed up his brow with a flash of anger. "Do you mean to frighten me? Verily, that will be a grand feat, when fools of any sort take me on with hopes to win. And more the fool he is to think that I would be intimidated by the word games of a trick magician. You should mind your words around my brother, or know my wrath. I am not the one to be so easily swayed by fear, glory... or death."

The prophet absorbed the outburst, ever-inscrutable. "We know our places well, then. I am a mere servant of Bahamut. I shall leave you to your ends, until we must meet again."

The elevator ground to a purring stop and opened. "Yes, servant of Bahamut," Neferkara agreed that far, "So we must work together, for now." He stepped into the forum, where the select public meshed with bureaucrats from all over C'tarot--neiphiti, human and alien alike. The Grand Forum, in more senses than the literal, was the foundation of the Archmage's palace. The hall was a noble carnival, decked in garish banners, awash with regal costumes and always bustling with high-class affairs. Even though it was secluded from the common world by the castle's outer walls, security was stringent, a sentry from the elite Peacekeeper Corps stationed at every niche.

"Long live the dragon king," was Neferkara's parting shot, before he disappeared into the crowd.

The prophet lingered in the threshold of the lift, considering the oath from many angles. "...Indeed."


"Darkness?" Jerad wondered, "What is that?"

"You've never heard of it," Myshu didn't even ask.

He sincerely shook his head. "No. Can you explain? If I'm going to be tagging along, I'd like to know exactly what we're after. What Phoenix? What Darkness?"

"Nice to see you finally taking initiative, nerd-runt." Myshu turned another page, absently browsing scripture as she elaborated, "The Darkness is..." She looked ahead into glazed nothing for a moment, her thoughts congealing into words. "Do you know the elements of magic?"

Jerad scratched his nose. "Ah, well... Yes, yes, something about that. I took a course on medieval magic theory, once."

"It's no theory, kid."
"Kid! You don't look any older than I do!"
"Don't interrupt your elders. Now, I don't know what you learned about magic on this backwater planet--"
"--but I assume you've heard of the different types: water, fire, wind and blah blah--"
"There's only three, and wind isn't one of--"
"What did I say about interrupting? You want to learn somethin' or not?"
"...Yes, carry on."
"Anyway, you got all the elements, and then you get shadow magic, which is a bunch of the types mashed together..."

Magus harumphed at her crude lecture.

"And then there's holy, which is magic's base form, the purest you can get. Shadow and holy are at odds, as you can guess. They're powerful shit; only the best magicians can make good use of 'em without blowing themselves up. They can cancel each other out, or repel each other, or react all kinds of badly, depending on what you're doing. But anyway, I'm telling you all this so you won't confuse shadow with the Darkness. Just like shadow is the opposite of holy, the Darkness is the opposite of magic."

"Anti-magic? Do you mean it's nothing, or something that negates magic?"

"It doesn't just cancel magic out. It consumes it. Any place there's magic, the Darkness creeps in and sucks it all out."

"This is bad, then? We need magic?"

Myshu flexed her clawed hands at him in exasperation. "Is everyone on this planet as thick as you?"

"Hey," Jerad defended, "All history has taught us about magic is that it gives too much power to the wrong hands! The old Mystic Wars in the Middle Ages showed us that. Our civilization has gone pretty far without magic, thank you very much!"

"You think your friend Ramezia didn't have a wrong hand in magic, then?" Magus interjected.

Jerad held his tongue, reconsidering himself. "Not... I mean--"

"That doesn't even matter," Myshu jumped back in, "The point is that you're an idiot for thinking humanity on this world or any world can get by without magic. Magic isn't just about shitting fireballs or making dumbass holes in time, kid. It's about /life/."


The wizard and the dragon began to explain in tandem.
"Magic as you know it is the by-product of the lifestream, something every planet has. It's like its spiritual blood."
"Magic is more than the effects you can see. It is a part of all living things."
"It's a part of your soul, the very essence of your life. And if something like the Darkness takes a big ol' chunk out of your soul..."
"...It wouldn't be pleasant."

Jerad thumbed his chin. "Okay... This magic, the true magic you guys are talking about... it's inside everyone? Even me?"

Magus nodded. "Even you." He gave a slighting shrug. "Not much, granted."

"People need souls to live, correct? So, if magic is a part of the human soul, would taking magic out of the equation be enough to... kill?"

"In your case?" Myshu postulated, "No, probably not. You don't have enough magic for it to make much of a dent. Most humans don't have to worry. Not at first, at least."

"What do you mean?"

She brushed the cover of the T'torlan. "They call the coming of the Darkness 'Ragnarok.' It's an old word for the end of the world, basically. What it really means depends on who you ask. From what I can tell, all magic-based life will fall first: faeries, demons, ethereals..." One of her digits twitched. "...dragons. Their souls hold too much magic for them to survive without. Those who can't use magic likely won't feel a thing. I'm sure the loss will be little more than a nuisance to them. The planets they live on will feel differently, though. The Darkness will cripple their lifestreams until they wither away. Then nothing new will be born, and the cycle of life will crap out. It will happen to planet after planet everywhere, until the whole universe stops living."

Jerad swallowed and remarked with incredulous dread, "That's... a terrible thing to consider, that all life in the universe will just wither away someday."

"Actually," Myshu corrected their tense, "It's already started. And that's why I want to find the Phoenix."

"The Phoenix can stop this? This Darkness?" Jerad deduced. To follow her nod, he asked, "What is it, exactly? I've heard it's a mythical bird of flame. There's a legend on this world about phoenixes and the power of rebirth."

"It is the esper of fire and light, yes. It's said to be able to restore life, on certain conditions."

"Magic creatures, ethereals."
"I... see? So what about this Phoenix? What's its connection to the Darkness?"

"I'm trying to figure it out, to tell you the truth. The T'torlan is a little scrambled about it. As far as I can tell, the Great Esper Phoenix is the weapon that will vanquish the Darkness. It's just a matter of finding it, which... Well, I won't be the first to admit it won't be easy."

Before Magus could insert criticism, Jerad commented innocently enough, "It sounds like you're chasing a fairy tale."

The wizard snickered. "Heh, doesn't it?"

The scientific mind genuinely wanted to know, "How do you know any of it is real?"

A strained look passed over the half-dragon, as if she were quarrelling with urges to shut the book in her lap, throw it, punch the nearest person in the face, or any combination thereof. Jerad prudently retreated a step, in time for her to lash out loud, "The Darkness is real, damnit! I've seen its work. I've seen what it's doing on C'tarot, my homeworld, and even on this world. I've seen what it's doing and what it can do. If the Darkness is out there, the Phoenix has to be, too!"

Jerad tried to moderate her temper with his logic. "Okay, okay, I see. So if A is real, then B must exist as well?"

Myshu squinted at him. "What? We're not singing the fucking alphabet, kiddo."

"Kiddo? I'm twenty-four!" Jerad shook off the pejorative. "Look, I'm just saying your logic doesn't necessarily follow."

"So you're not following us either, huh?" she retorted. Jerad couldn't decide if the expression Myshu adopted was a smirk or a pout--he noticed the former in flying colors on the wizard, though. Why did he agree to this party, again? Was this his idea?

"Oh, uh... what?" Jerad blinked at the strange ultimatum, confounded on all sides. "No, no, I'll still come along. Just, ah... never mind."

Myshu's composure evened. "Right, whatever. I'm not asking you to believe in what I'm looking for. I'm actually not asking you to do a damn thing, except stay out of my way."

"O-of course," Jerad quietly assured, "I just want to learn more about the gates."

"Speaking of, found anything yet? I don't want to sit here all night," Magus pressed.

"Gimmie a few, ya damn buzzards," Myshu grumbled and began to pour over the book with renewed intensity. In the meantime, Jerad fished a piece of fruit from his scrap-heap kitchen and offered some to the wizard, who expectedly declined.

"I think this is it," Myshu eventually announced. The other two crowded around the page she opened, to behold an illustration of a crystal ball in a nest of flame.

"That's the Dragon Tear," Magus confirmed on first glance. "What does it say about it?"

"Have at it." Myshu plucked loose (Jerad grimaced at the vandalism, but said nothing) and offered up the passage, which Magus accepted with a glint of amusement, recalling her admission days before that she could only speak the common language, not read it. If she were wise, she would have given him the book to browse in the first place, but he happened to revel in her exhausted pride. She'd gotten far enough looking only at the pretty pictures, anyway.

"Hmm..." Hawkish eyes studied the translation. "...That makes sense."

"What? Spit it out."

"For it to grant your request, the Dragon Tear needs to be used in conjunction with a relevant artifact."

"Bwuh? Fuck--what artifact?"

More fluently, Jerad figured, "An item related to what we're looking for, you mean?"

Magus nodded. "For us, we would need a relic connected to the Phoenix."

The half-breed snarled at the crystal ball left in Magus's chair. "Motherfucking rock, you think you're damn slick with your catches! If we knew how to get a piece of the Phoenix, we wouldn't need you to find it!" She chucked the T'torlan at the crystal ball, which stoically took the blow. Jerad, unnerved by the violence, kept careful distance from Myshu as he walked around the sofa to collect the book.

The wizard frowned. "As entertaining as your tantrum is, it's not helpful." He reached into the hidden pockets of his cloak. "More to the point, it's unnecessary." A gilded feather appeared in his hand. "I believe this might be useful."

Jerad brightened. "Of course! A phoenix pinion! That's the one you brought to me earlier, right? If that's a real phoenix pinion, it would be perfect for the Dragon's Tear's, uh, requirements."

Myshu locked a critical glare on the relic. "Where did you find that?"

Magus returned coolly, "Does it matter? If you must know, I found it in an abandoned house near here, under a magic seal."

Jerad hopped forward, so eager he nearly dropped the book. "So let's try it! I mean, uh, however this thing works." He passed an open glance around the room and asked apprehensively, "You guys know what you're doing, right?"

Myshu stood and soberly demanded, "Gimme it. I want to try."

Magus didn't stop her. She took the relic and squatted on the table across from the Dragon Tear. The wizard and scientist watched with respectively morbid and anxious curiosity as Myshu balanced the feather on top of the ball, set her hands on the sides, bowed her head and closed her eyes.

Jerad's fretting broke the silent trance. "What's she doing? Is she trying to communicate with the Dragon Tear? Is this magic?"

"I'd shut up," Magus advised him.

"Yes," Myshu concurred, "It's not going to hear my prayer if you keep running your mo--"

The three quieted to the howl of an eerie, shadowy draft as it invaded the apartment and crawled up the walls. Electric bulbs sputtered and hissed as they were smothered like candles, pitching the room into midnight. Jerad recoiled with a cringe and yelp as the lamp nearest him exploded with a dainty pop. The Dragon Tear's alluring blue glow drew everyone's focus while the miniature tempest spun around them, kicking up loose papers and food wrappers.

Speechless, Jerad watched a map of the heavens project from the ball's core. A panorama of stars encircled the feather, which twirled in open air inches off the Dragon Tear's surface.

Myshu, enraptured by the display, whispered wickedly, "Yes. Show me where."

The star-specks shivered, warped and then coalesced into eight archaic characters. Magus read them flatly, "Fire, Shadow, Wind, Earth, Tex, Cron, Nil, Omega."

"Gate coordinates," Myshu realized, and on that note the vision blinked into a line and greyed away, like switching off an old television. The Dragon Tear returned to its deceptively inanimate state, the surviving lamps restored light to the room, airborne tissue paper settled over the furniture and the phoenix pinion slipped into a crack between chair's cushions.

In the ensuing calm, Jerad managed to speak, his voice drenched in awe. "Magic... You guys are real magicians."

His guests drilled him with patronizing stares. "For a brainiac," Myshu criticized, "You're pretty slow."

Pointedly ignoring the insult, Jerad snapped the book in his hands shut and declared, "That's it! I'm definitely coming with you guys! For magic... and science!"

Magus gave a smoldering sigh. "Are we ready, then?"

Myshu rolled to her feet, stretched her back and scooped the artifacts out of the chair. "So ready I could piss."

Jerad nodded and turned towards his bedroom. "Yeah, just let me get my shoes and--"

Before he set another foot forward, Jerad's world evaporated in white.
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