Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Prince of Thieves

15. The Festival

by Myshu 0 reviews

The Festival

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Freya Crescent - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2007-11-01 - Updated: 2007-11-02 - 3585 words - Complete

15. The Festival

The morning air was charged with some weighty static that roused Luth earlier than usual. He gazed out his balcony at the steely sky and had a feeling--a premonition, like... like anything could happen. He wasn't sure if it was a festering emotion from the night before or just a change in the weather, but he didn't want to sleep through it, at any rate.

He had his usual breakfast at the café and then paced around the office until Boss burst in, whistling a merry tune. "Goooood morning." Not skipping a beat, he greeted Luth with a jaunty hug, glided over to the desk and started bundling papers.

"You're in good spirits today, sir," Luth noticed, a little taken aback.

"I should be! I had a few."

Luth rolled his eyes. He thought he smelled something like port on his mirth. "It's not even noon, sir. Is there any way to improve your mood without drugs or alcohol?"

Boss quirked his brow. "That's funny; Sheryl asked me that, too. Probably not!" He passed a roll of tickets to Luth. "Here's some love letters for you, by the way. I hope you didn't make the mistake of telling her you like filing."

Luth peeled off the rubber band and skimmed the workload, mumbling, "I don't mind it."

He received a finger-wag. "That's the kind of answer that gets you into trouble."

Not meeting that remark or even looking up, Luth brushed by Boss and took the desk, getting down to business without him. Boss stiffened a bit at the cold shoulder, shrugged and then turned his attentions to a video game.

The rest of the morning passed in frigid half-silence, Luth overlooking the sundry quips and distractions Boss tossed his way. He didn't really want to be rude, but he wasn't in the mood to deal with Boss, either--and he was almost certain why, except he'd rather focus on cataloging than think about it.

Luth's hand was forced, however, once Boss grew tired of being ignored. The Genome pushed his toy aside, crawled around the desk and draped himself over the back of Luth's chair, playfully tangling his fingers in Luth's mop of brown hair. "Y'know, when I'm depressed it's one thing. When you're sulking, that's a bad sign. What's eatin' ya, rookie?"

Luth recoiled from the petting and noiselessly crossed his arms over his chest, shutting him out. Boss looked as if he was slapped in the face, and his waggish act was instantly dropped. He stood up and circled the chair, trying to confront Luth's veering gaze. "Are you mad at me?" he pried, worry tingeing his voice.

The Burmecian sighed and laid his palms flush on the tabletop, giving in. If he was going to settle anything, he was going to have to be direct. "Have you been teaching me how to run the office lately because you're going to leave soon?"

Boss startled, stepping back. It took him a moment to find his stubborn old bearings. "I told you not to worry about that."

Luth's gaze met him, pinning him down, petitioning. "But you'll warn me before you do something like that, won't you, sir?"

Boss's smile was more of a flinch, eyes not quite connecting. "Of course."

Luth could have called his bluff right there, telling him everything at the expense of confessing to eavesdropping, but before that plan could congeal Boss rapped his knuckles on the desk restively. "Anyway, go ahead and wrap this stuff up early today, so we can make it down to the park after lunch."

The Burmecian perked his ears, intrigued. "You mean Artania Park? What are we doing there, sir?"

Boss threw him a farcical shrug. "We're going to shoot pigeons, what do you think? It's the festival, Lu."

He started, pleasantly surprised. The Festival of the Hunt had completely slipped his mind. "It's today? Really? You have tickets?" he prodded, not hiding his excitement well.

The Genome thumped his chest smugly. "Please, look who you're talking to. Of course I have tickets. We're going to meet Gribbo and the guys on the boardwalk."

Luth's moody countenance melted with a smile. "I can't wait. I've always wanted to see it in person, not just on the TV."

Happy for Luth's change of heart, Boss folded his arms and cocked a grin of his own. "Well, here's your big chance."


The Genesis Building was the tallest freestanding building in Lindblum--in the world, actually. Only Lindblum Grand Castle dwarfed it in total height and majesty. It was a sleek crystal obelisk, its edges dressed in blades of turquoise and its smooth glass sides catching the sun at all angles of the day. It overlooked the immense fountain-lake of Artania Park, throughout which animal cargo trucks were pulling into strategic positions, preparing to unleash their payload for the day's competition.

A serpentine brick wall known as the boardwalk semi-enclosed the park, and upon it hundreds were gathering early to get a good look into the grassy, neatly forested grounds that would soon be swamped with monsters. Those not fortunate enough to have a spot reserved on the boardwalk were settling into the watchtowers cornering the park, as well as the arena on the south end that typically hosted other sports--now it was a meeting ground for competitors, stragglers, festival staff and film crews. A laser hologram pyramid spanning over a hundred feet was fired up in the middle of the field for the bleacher-bound to watch, its display covering every nook in the park that a camera could safely chance.

He had an eagle's view of everything from the second-tallest building in the area, a perishing old high-rise that was only remarkable because it stood on a hill. It was his perfect vantage point, deserted and aloof.

His pale, heavy hands were knobby and sharp like the feet of a hawk, though they didn't detract from the beauty of the large garnet between his fingers. Its every facet was perfectly polished, and even under the grey skies it shone with a deep, unquenchable fire.

"Can you feel the pulse of the planet?" he serenaded it, the bitter wind an instrument to his murmuring, dulcet tones. "Can you feel its beating heart, in our deepest memories?"

He held it high, admiring it in place of the sun, and a grin slithered across his narrow visage.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it, Bahamut?"


"We're going to be late, sir."

Luth was watching the pre-festival parade on the office's clunky, antiquated TV set while he waited for Boss to... find the last treasure on Chocobo Hot & Cold. The Genome squatted on his toes on the edge of the sofa, wrestling with the buttons on his GamePocket.

"Shuddup, I almost got it," he grunted.

Luth quaintly shook his head and turned back to the news, where a man in a blue, zigzag-striped suit was raving over the weather.

"Happy Friday, festivinos! No bright, shiny sun today, folks, but chances of rain are slim--good news for our festival today. A slight breeze and all the clouds are gonna take the edge off that summer heat, but you unfurries still be sure to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. That said, we'll now go to our field reporter, Miss Julia Knickoff."

He felt a funny squeeze in his gut as the scene switched to a crowded city block. People were corralled onto the sidewalks by rudimentary gates while decorated cars, hoverboats, giant balloons and a marching band cruised down the road at a leisurely clip. Small bodies scurried and squealed around their parents, pointing at the flowery floats with tiny, candy-sticky fingers. The reporter stood off to the side in the foreground, softly beaming at the camera.

"Thank you, Jim! I'm on Tanner Street right here outside Artania Park, where the festival parade is in full swing. You can see some of the floats behind me, and they're just enormous. The children are especially enjoying them--that's Eddie the Flan passing by right there.

"Earlier I was in Daller Stadium, speaking with some of the upcoming participants in the hunt. We have almost fifty entrants this year, so it's bound to get really heated. Something interesting about the festival every year is the sheer variety of weapons the participants bring into the park. As you know, firearms are banned within city limits here in Lindblum, but every other kind of weapon under the sun is acceptable for this event. I've been meeting the contestants and finding everything in their arsenal from throwing knives and darts to huge swords and spears--one will even be using a bow and arrow. Using these antique weapons is part of keeping the spirit of the festival, a tradition that dates back over seven hundred years, to the founding of the city.

"Once the parade is over, the hunt will officially be underway. We'll be covering the event from inside the stadium, while the animals and contestants are going to be released in the park. When I asked how many monsters we will see this year, the beastmaster just assured us that there will be plenty of meat for the banquet, so we can all look forward to that!"

"Phbt, pussies," Boss interjected with a haughty snort, his eyes still glued to his game. "Back when I was your age, the whole city was fair game. People just boarded up their doors and windows and tried not to piss their pants."

Luth crumbled into a fit, holding the bridge of his nose as he chortled, "Hehehehe, hee!"

Boss put down the GamePocket, flexed his shoulders and shot him a puzzled look. "It wasn't that funny."

He quelled his humor with a gasp. "Oh, no sir, I was just thinking about something I read in Lady Freya's diary, about the time she competed in the festival with you."

Boss received the memory with a roguish grin. "Heh, what did she have to say?"

"She said you cheated, sir," Luth said with a smart smirk, and Boss fell backwards into the cushions, kicking and laughing hard.

"Hahaha! Oh...!" He tumbled out of the sofa, landing cat-like on his bare feet. "Hey, we ready to go?"

Before Luth could say, the whole building shuddered in tune with an explosive shriek, one sounding in the great distance. Both paused and spun wary looks around the room.

Boss scratched the back of his head, perplexed. "The heck was that?"

"Thunder, maybe?"

"I don't think..." Boss's speculation tapered off as scaled the sofa to look out the window. Meanwhile, on the TV, Luth glimpsed a parade balloon rocketing into a row of streetlights, a streak of fire tearing it asunder. The answer to this was an outbreak of screams from the audience, which scattered beneath its flaming descent.

"Oh my God!" Julia's voice rose over the wails. "There's been a terrible accident; one of the balloons has ignited and fallen into the crowd. It was almost like a fireball just fell out of the sky and--"

Another cloud-shattering roar. The camera jerked upwards, revealing a bat-shaped blot against the unfocused sky.

"Oh my God, what is that?" Not even the reporter had a clue. Before the cameraman could nail the sighting, it jetted off screen, only to reappear seconds later as a speck fluttering towards the horizon. The apparition stalled over a distant spire, and zooming in brought its sinister features to light: massive leathery wings; a ponderous, plate-ribbed tail; thick claws on stringy limbs and handlebar horns crowning its hooked beak. Its skin was molten obsidian and its cry was like a thousand birds of prey dying in unison.

Luth was gawking at none other than a dragon. Julia rambled on in some semblance of professionalism.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what we're looking at! I think it's a dragon, a very large one. It just attacked one of the floats with a fireball, and it's--oh my God!"

Boss was leaning over his shoulder, likewise gaping at what unfolded next. The flying serpent circled the world's tallest freestanding building just once before rearing over it and spitting a twinkling magnesium bulb dead onto its peak. As Luth watched the hot ball plunge, all he could think about were the signs on airship decks warning people not to drop coins off the side, lest they plummet hundreds of feet and strike glass or a person's head and cause injury--or worse, and this was worse, worse than any penny ever imagined, and it didn't merely strike its mark; it phased clean through it, blotting out the tower's flagpole and sinking through the roof as if nothing were there. Windows and steel beams and splintered and blew outwards, showering the surrounding blocks in scorching debris as a column of fire billowed down the building's spine. Eventually--impossibly--mind-bendingly slowly, the whole edifice vaporized in one slow, fluid pulse, like a lazy-spring collapsing into itself.

Within seconds, nothing remained in its spot but a cloud of dust and smoke. A dreadful, shocked silence filled the airwaves, and then seemingly the entire world. A child started crying, a man swore mightily, and the moment was broken.

People started pushing each other over, rushing in haphazard directions as Julia continued narrating, "I don't think this is part of the festival, I don't think this is supposed to happen. That dragon is out of control; it's destroying everything in its path. It just attacked the Genesis Building, it's gone now, there's nothing left--ladies and gentlemen this is not a joke, this is a crisis. I'll try to keep recording as long as I can..."

Luth finally remembered to breathe, though the wave of nausea he had to blink back wasn't from lack of air. "Oh dear gods..."

"Holy shit on a spit," Boss cursed. "That's no ordinary dragon! That's Bahamut!"

"What?! An eidolon?"

"It's a goddamn eidolon!" Not wasting another second, Boss threw open the door and stormed out. "Son of a bitch! Let's go!"

Luth bolted after him, stumbled a bit in the hall as he composed his actions, and then decided to raid his room for arms. His travel pack was pasted quick to his side and his fingers were just brushing the grip of his halberd when he hesitated, something more powerful reaching out to him from the corner of his eye.

He wet his lips and approached the Dragon's Hair in the opposite corner, kneeling before he dared take it. One hand delicately closing around the gilded shaft, he closed his eyes and whispered, "Great dragon gods, hear me. Help me do the right thing. Lady Freya..."

He didn't finish the prayer; Boss's tearing invective from down the hall jarred his thoughts and got him back on his feet. He was standing inside the Genome's door in two beats, watching with curious anxiety as Boss burrowed headfirst to the bottom of his wardrobe. He was already wearing sneakers and a pair of daggers on his belt.


"Wait, wait--wait wait wait." His tail hacked at his heels in a tantrum. "Geez, where the fuck is it?"

"Um, sir, we have to hurry--"

"I know, just hang on! I know something that can help. She can help us."


Boss slammed a cardboard box against the wall and it blew up, a spray of beads, buttons and baubles tinkling across the room. "Shit, it's not here! Where did I...?" He jumped up with a spark. "Ah damnit, the vault!"

Luth followed him through the fire escape and down the stairs, trying his best to mentally assemble the puzzle while sliding down the handrails.

"Um, are we looking for a person? In your closet?"

"Milda! She's an 'Ancient'--that's what she'll tell you, anyway. And she's in the vault, not my closet!"

"What??" Luth was utterly confused.

"Remember those people I told you about who live practically forever? Milda's one of them."

They jumped down the steps so fast they hit bottom before they could even see it. Boss sprinted through the dark maintenance corridor and skidded into the blind corner sheltering the hatch and lock.

"You should install lights down here, sir," Luth panted.

"Well, I don't exactly want people finding this, Lu."

"Do we really have time for this?" he questioned while Boss fumbled with the key.

"No, but we can't afford to go without it. It's worth it, trust me."

The door gave with a cranky groan, and Boss darted down the pitch stairs before Luth could respond. "...I trust you, sir."

Luth made his best effort to keep up, but the flimsy wooden steps weren't that courteous, and eventually he gave up and waited for Boss to find the light switch. One conspicuous click later, the chamber buzzed into sight, and Luth approached Boss next to a chest laden with glittering gems.

The Genome sifted through the booty until his hand snagged the real treasure within. "Aha! Got 'er." Boss showed it off for all of a second: a lurid red ball encased in shard of green quartz, nothing bigger than the palm of his hand. Not waiting for the imminent queries, Boss took off with it, back the way he came.

"Where are you going?" Luth chased him.

"Up! Com'on, to the roof!"

Luth was grateful he'd worked up enough wind to make it back up the nine flights of stairs without breaking their pace--and if Boss was worn out, he didn't show it, either. They came to halt on the gritty pavement capping the building, right where Luth usually stood in training--he could point out where his old halberd left scratches in the cement.

"Okay," Boss huffed, holding the treasure shard at arm's length and leveling an intent gaze on it. "Here goes nothin'. You might wanna stand back."

"Um..." Luth complied a step or two. He had no idea what to expect, so he could only observe.

He could see Boss mouthing something just out of ear's reach, due to the persistent rooftop gale. The transparent shard began to glow, ethereal green tendrils fanning out of its core, and then it started floating skyward, the light turning iridescent and growing more intense by the second. With a sudden, heart-stopping crack it then erupted, coils of light and color pouring free and coalescing in a silvery cascade. The formless plasma painstakingly took shape, a giant molding forth--scarlet-tipped feathers; bulky shoulder blades; a silky tail; a proud chin beneath a prominent snout; dark, glistening pits for eyes; a barrel trunk; meaty legs; elegant claws and a pearly hide, emerald-shaded.

Luth, awestruck, didn't realize he was sitting on his rump until it was all finished. The summoned creature towered over the two witnesses, ruffling its wings experimentally. It lowered a needling look at Boss.

He threw his arms out in an enthusiastic greeting. "Milda! Long time no see."

Gradually the stern gleam to its eye faded, its strong muzzle crinkled warmly, and it dipped its neck slightly to nod. From the depths of sound, past the ears and straight into the mind, it spoke with a mother's soothing grace. 'Hello, Time Bender.'

"I know it's short notice," Boss beseeched, "But think you could give us a hand?"

'With what, child?'

Boss dramatically waved past her, where not even six streets away, Bahamut was ripping bodily through a water tower. It gushed and teetered until its spindly supports snapped into useless twigs, dropping the entire structure onto a stack of aircabs. The explosion of water and fire crackled over the ensuing screams of panic below.

'I see,' Milda flatly acknowledged the carnage. 'I will do what I can.'

Boss clapped in relief. "You're the best." He spun to face Luth and indicated the guest with a broad wave. "Com'on Lu, Milda will give us a ride."

Luth picked himself up, stammering, "She will?! But that's a... it's a..."

"She's a silver dragon, yeah."

Milda steadily corrected him, 'This is just my corporeal form. I am an Ancient.'

Boss made sure his back was to the Ancient when he rolled his eyes at that. Returning to his dragon-skittish partner, he patiently explained, "She won't bite you. She's here to help. Milda is awesome."

She bowed, wings stooped accommodatingly to the ground. 'Come with me, Dragon Knight of Gaia.'

Luth blinked, shook off his apprehension and took Boss's lead up to Milda's side. He was going to trust Boss, right? They were going to stop Bahamut... somehow. They were going to save the city. They were going to do something absolutely crazy and probably get killed.

"All right, then." Boss swung onto the silver dragon's shoulders as if they were as easy and comfortable as a chocobo's back, it was impossible that he was not the King of Thieves again, two hundred years and born anew. He offered Luth a hand up, and the Crescent couldn't resist. He wiggled in behind the Genome, getting a grip on Milda's thick ribs and trying not to stick his feet in the downy web of her wings.

"Let's go kick some ass!" Boss whooped, and Milda took off on cue, her great feathery wings heaving against the city updrafts.

As they took flight into the pandemonium, armed only with some daggers and an antique polearm, Lady Freya's words sprang into Luth's mind, ruby and sapphire and brimstone, clear and cracked and perfect.

We followed him into Valhalla. We followed him into Hell. We had all lost our minds, and it was glorious.
Sign up to rate and review this story