Fool's Errand

On the day the world fell apart, tens of thousands of voices were mercilessly silenced; millions of dreams were torn asunder.

How cruel a fate these people hath met, Cyan Garamonde thought to himself as he hung at the edge of town, gazing from the stone overhang at the listless crawl of the village. And how admirable that they had returned so quickly to this parody of normalcy, hurry-hurry-hurrying along on personal business knowing how suddenly and without warning their worlds could be upended. There was no way they could not know, having once shared a continent with the Imperial city Vector, how quickly change could come about. He didn't doubt that many of Maranda's sons and daughters had already been lost, if not to the Empire's cruelty, then to its service.

He still wasn't quite certain why he'd come back to this place, knowing that.

Cyan thought he ought to have felt lucky merely to have escaped the disaster with his life, and yet he could not, instead more wracked with guilt than ever at the very real possibility that he might have been the only survivor of the crew aboard the Blackjack. He'd awoken, dazed, on the shore not far from the Western town of Jidoor, an area that had been relatively unscathed by Kefka's Light of Judgement, but even those high-class aristocrats that had turned up their nose at his dirty skin and torn clothing had earnestly warned him against what might happen if he left the safety of their town. Jidoor was a place of high culture, they repeated, as though trying to convince themselves as well as the samurai. You are safe here, for even the cruelest of villains need people like us to pass on their legacies. Their infamy. Cyan couldn't help but notice that the residents always hurried for the shelter of their buildings, and urged him to change into more fitting clothing as soon as possible. They would house a Returner (No, thought Cyan, there are no Returners now, only survivors) and yet these people would never fight beside him. This was a stopping point and nothing more.

Weighing the possibilities of moving north to Zozo and south to Maranda, Cyan had almost immediately come to his decision, notwithstanding the rather inhospitable atmosphere of Zozo even before Kefka's intervention. As soon as he'd learned that the restructuring of the continents had brought Maranda just southeast of Jidoor, he knew it was there that he must go. Why, exactly, he was unsure.

Just a feeling. Just an unsatisfied curiosity, he told himself. Passing through the small town with the others - it seemed like an eternity ago, Cyan thought, but could only have been a month or two - he had taken a liking to Maranda, and thought in particular of one citizen who might still be waiting there. I wonder if that soldier in Mobliz survived, he had thought, that promising young man who had been so gravely injured before. Surely Miss Lola is not still waiting for his letters?

Idle curiosity was a habit no man of his profession should fall prey to, Cyan knew, and yet he could not resist at least inquiring as to the welfare of that girl and her sweetheart. The concept of fate was something he believed in, and so when he could not discover whether Mobliz had been spared, he gave in to his compulsion and prepared himself for the journey southeast. On foot it took two full days, but chocobos were scarce even in Jidoor, and Cyan wished time to himself to meditate as he walked.

'Tis a fool's errand, he finally realized on the second day, no more than six miles south of the Opera House. I ought to have chartered something to South Figaro or Albrook. I won't find Sir Sabin and the others here. Still he kept on, quashing those doubts and trying to also put aside thoughts of his late wife and son, waiting for him on the Other Side. Perhaps they're all dead, too. Perhaps I'm the only one left fighting here.

What sort of hell hath I been abandoned to?

These thoughts Cyan had been dwelling on for hours when he finally spotted Maranda's outline in the distance, and, grateful for the distraction, he began to think about how to proceed from here. From the outside, the town looked largely unharmed, despite its rather unfortunate position, just west of the spot where the final battle for the world as Cyan had once known it had taken place. He soon realized that the skyline was blurred by smoke here and there, as though fires had been smoldering still in the weeks since the disaster. Perhaps, as the people of Jidoor had suspected, Kefka really was destroying cities for his own amusement. Approaching the outskirts of the small village, Cyan prepared himself for the worst, and was intensely relieved to find that there was still movement among the people of Maranda, however stilled it might appear.

This was how he came to be standing atop a broken stone staircase, gazing down into the heart of the town in wonderment. He saw a scruffy man and what he thought could be a monk, the former rushing about the grassy area below the mezzanine, the latter calmly strolling in the shadows. Across from him, on the opposite parapet, Cyan witnessed another man approach the overhang and then pull back, moving toward the armor shop, whose storefront was mangled and sported burn marks from top to bottom. So Maranda has been attacked as well, the samurai thought to himself. And just as quickly, they have fallen back into the illusion of normalcy. What a strange place this world has become.

He paused only briefly, asking all three men whether they knew of the movements of his comrades, and when he received a negative, he walked away disappointed. He hadn't really expected the others to be lingering in a place such as this, but that faint tug at his heart back in Jidoor had led him to believe he'd find direction here.

On the east side of town, he paused outside a house that was largely unharmed, save for the gaping hole in its roof. Carrier pigeons nested near the opening and flitted back and forth to a nearby grassy overhang, obiediently waiting for their next assignment. They looked as ragged and drawn as the villagers they served. Forcing through his numerous doubts, Cyan knocked to alert the inhabitants of his presence, and entered the house without waiting for acknowledgement. Even so, in that brief pause between call and answer, someone who had been patiently waiting for just such an interruption flew to meet him at the door. "Oh--!"

"Hello," Cyan said gravely, suddenly forgetting what he'd originally come to say. The answer to his question was clear from her excitement and the disappointment that had instantly taken its place. "How art thou, Miss Lola...?"

"I'm fine, thanks. Won't you come in?" She looked just the same as she had when Cyan and his friends had last seen her; his first thought was that perhaps she was the only innocent thing left untouched in the entire village. Dressed in a simple blue skirt and white blouse, she seemed to be as a moment frozen in time, exactly as they had left her.

Exactly as before. He shivered.

What are you here for, coward? Speak!

"I..." Cyan paused, his mouth dry. "I was merely passing through looking for my comrades. I thought perhaps I would inquire as to thy health."

"Oh yes," she said quickly, as if to assure him that she hadn't forgotten who he was. "I'm still so grateful for what you and your friends did for me. I hope they're well."

"As do I."

The conversation stilled here, and for a moment Cyan regretted ever coming. Yet here was a kindred spirit; he could so easily imagine Elayne's sleepless nights when he was away from home, praying by the bed for his safe return. She was not unlike Elayne, in appearance or in spirit. But he, Cyan, was so very familiar with the feeling of separation from his loved ones that he was struck by that blind hope in her that he had so often sensed in his wife's correspondence; the need for reassurance that all was well. He wished that Lola would tell him about her dear boyfriend's safe return. Even the knowledge once and for all of the young man's fate might have been near enough to quell the terrible feeling in his stomach.

Over her shoulder, he could see the oaken desk where Lola's heart lay; battered envelopes to the left, fresh white ones to the right. In between the uneven piles there were heaps of silk ribbons in a dozen colors, spilling over the writing space and dangling above the floor like so many grasping fingers. He didn't have to ask to know her answer. But I must. "Thy he still in Mobliz?"

"Yes." She averted her eyes. "I haven't heard from him in a while, but he's probably very busy. I heard that Mobliz was one of the towns hit by Kefka's Light of Judgement, so I'm sure he's doing his best to help the citizens there, after they cared for him for so long...I still write every day, to cheer his spirits."

And she knows. "I see," Cyan replied hollowly, aware that there was little more he could say without breaking the thin layer of security that still remained between them. "I'm glad to hear that thou art still supporting him so steadfastly. He..." He swallowed, trying not to choke on the lie. " doing his duty, I am sure."

"I'm sure," she echoed.

Cyan backed away before he came completely undone. "Well, Miss Lola, I had best be on my friends are probably looking for me as well, and I mustn't delay." If they weren't, he didn't want to know the truth. "Pray take care of thyself."

She smiled a little more brightly at his obvious concern. "You too. I hope you find them."

"Thank you." He showed himself to the door, and when it had closed softly behind him, he leaned heavily against it, grateful for the support. It seemed almost silly how something like this - a man missing in action, and a maiden waiting breathlessly by the window for his return - could tug at his heartstrings as fiercely as his own demons did. Even worse, he knew this girl was in denial. Her sweetheart had been recovering steadily and would not in good conscience have left her letters unanswered. He knew what he would find, if he went to Mobliz from here.

But I still want to help her.

How? Cyan paused when he felt he could finally stand without the help of the sturdy wall at his back. She's just denying the truth, he realized. We have something in common, she and I. We abhor facing the inevitable.

Sometimes though, he thought, living a lie was much more attractive than reality. Such an attitude wasn't befitting of a samurai, of course, but he could not deny how he felt, merely work to change it. Regardless, I have ultimately failed at everything I have ever aimed to do. I could not protect my liege or my family...I swore oaths to them, and still they died when a moment's intervention from me might have stayed that villain's hand. Even the friends who supported me could all be dead, and here I am unaware of their fates...Sir Sabin, where art thou now? Sir Gau, be thou well? And even General Celes...

No...Lady Celes...I dearly wish I had not thought to harm a single hair on thy head. Accept my deepest apologies, all, for I should give the world merely to see a glimpse of a smiling face again...

He must not break; he must not wear his heart upon his sleeve, inviting the enemy for an unshielded blow. It wasn't befitting of a man of his position to cry, Cyan told himself fiercely, forcing his head up. And there, appearing through his clouded sight as though the answer to all his unsaid prayers, was Gau.

"Mr. Thou!" the wild boy yelped, assured of the man's identity at least. "It you!"

"It me," Cyan repeated bewilderedly. Surely this could not be an illusion! "Sir Gau, wherefore did...?"

"Saw you come in!" Gau crowed, looking very pleased with himself. "Thought it was Mr. Thou, and it is! So happy you OK! Gauuuu~!" He scampered up to Cyan and wrapped his wiry arms around the samurai's armored waist. The action was so unexpected that Cyan froze in shock again, staring down at the ragged child for a moment before returning the hug.

"I am glad to see that thou art well, also!" he said, recovering himself. "What of the others? Be they unharmed?" He felt a rush of gratitude, as though some higher being had heard his prayers at last and granted him a single moment of relief.

"Dunno!" Gau answered in singsong.

"Ah," Cyan sighed, disappointed.

Gau's spirits simply could not be dampened, however, at the prospect of their party's loss. "They strong! They fight! Sure everyone is OK. When flying bird crash, we spill all over, so they sure looking for us too."

"Yes, that's true," Cyan agreed at length.

"Gau is going back to Veldt," the boy then informed him seriously. "Training to get stronger, stronger! Gau not strong enough yet."

"A warrior's training is never over," Cyan laughed, his heart warming to the child's high spirits. Why assume the worst? They were all capable fighters; they had made it off the floating continent alive, had they not? He was suddenly much more sure of the abilities of the group, even his own, which had seemed until then to be as dull-bladed and dinged as his battered katana.

Gau searched Cyan's face with his wild violet eyes. "Mr. Thou come too? To Veldt?"

"No..." He wanted to follow Gau, sure that with someone behind him to defend once again he could settle both doubt and debt. Even so, he felt that he needed to turn all attention to the plight of that girl. Cyan glanced back over his shoulder at the ramshackle little house and its mangled roof. "I have something I need to do here first."

Gau nodded importantly. "Find Gau when done. Gau train hard to fight Kefka together, OK?"

"Okay," he agreed with some amusement. Fight Kefka? His optimism never seems to end.

"Yes! I see you! Good-bye, Mr. Thou!""

Cyan raised a hand in parting, fighting back the growing dread in his stomach. It seemed as though he really was destined to move on alone yet again. "Fare thee well, and good luck. We'll see each other soon, I'm sure."

"Gaaaaaaaau~!!" Howling his farewell, the boy scampered down the stairs on all fours and disappeared into the limp trees clustered at the southeast corner of town. Cyan could only watch Gau's receding back with his mouth open, unsure of what to say. Gau is going off to become stronger, and here I am growing weaker by the moment. What's happened to my iron will?

Taken from me in the airship crash, it seems, along with the only people left I had to protect in this world...oh Elayne, Owain, what would you think of me now? I should be fighting to avenge you. What a coward I am.

A coward taking the coward's way out, he realized bitterly, turning away from the spot where Gau had vanished and returning to the parapet where he'd seen the well-dressed man. He hated to admit what he was planning, even to himself, but again he was inexorably drawn there, and standing under the bleak red sky he paused again, not in hesitation, but in certain preparation. There was a shop here, for armor, and a weapons shop on the lower level - of course, no armor or weapons could protect him from himself. He eased the door open and pushed aside his reservations; this was simply a day for ignoring one's good sense, it was clear. "Excuse me, good sir. Hast thou any silk products for purchase?"

"Uh." Cyan couldn't be sure if the shopkeeper was more offput by his appearance, his speech or his absurd request. "Silk? Well, we sell Oath Veils...and I might have some scarves from old stock..."

"I would be much obliged."

The man disappeared into the back and Cyan was left battling his misgivings once again. This is a mistake, he told himself.

And what of it? One more shan't hurt.

The shopkeep returned with an armload of silken wrappings in various colors; red and purple, white and green. "Had quite a few, but they won't come cheap, sir. These kinds of items are hard to come by nowadays."

"The people cannot afford such self-indulgence nowadays," Cyan told him quietly as he took out his coin pouch, disregarding his own hypocrisy opposite the man's sudden frown. "Hast thou paper, ink and quills?"

"You can have them, if you're buying silk," the shopkeep said unsteadily.

"Then I shall take it all."


A half-dozen bouquets of carnations handmade from imported Figaro silk had been placed carefully on the rock ledge near the cave ceiling, several feet above Cyan's head as he sat. They were crafted with the utmost care, a skill the samurai had been taught by Elayne, whose nimble fingers were naturally drawn to such elegant projects. She had been the most proficient flower arranger in Doma, and her origami work was unrivaled. In comparison, Cyan's hands seemed clumsy and ill-suited to delicacy, more at home around a sword than anything else, but still he had learned, and he had brought forth the memory of Elayne's teachings to create the unique flowers. With the state of the earth as it was, the real flowers were all dead or dying, he thought with no small amount of regret.

Surely I am doing the right thing...and when the time comes to confront Kefka once again, I will be sound of mind and body, and it will be either his life or mine. I must prepare myself.

The quill paused over the blank paper; it was not too late to stop, it was entirely too late to stop. The ink splotched disagreeably and Cyan crumpled the sheet and replaced it with a fresh one, hovering above the unwritten words, uncertain whose voice he should speak in. She would know, no matter the disguise, that he was not the man she wished for. He didn't think it mattered right now, as long as the facade was in place.

My beloved Lola,
We're still busy trying to rebuild this town...

An hermitage was what he needed, Cyan had decided after bypassing Jidoor and starting well into the long journey to Zozo. If Mount Koltz had moved here as well, then surely this must also be fate. At the top of the mountain he had paused to look down at the resplendent valley below, spoiled by neither man nor magic. This was the place, he knew. He would meditate, and train his spirit, and try to make it up to himself later. Supposedly, noble is the heart of man...I only wish to help someone in need. This is not selfishness.

He knew it was. But if it brought a smile to at least one person's face, he thought maybe he could sleep a little better that night.

(If all goes well I'll be able to come home to you soon...)


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