Exile of Light Part 1, Chapter 1
By Ephraim Glass
Seven months have passed since Zeromus invaded. Seven months since the genocide of the summoned monsters. Seven months since we abandoned our home. My husband, Cecil, remains optimistic, but I have nearly given up hope. The crystals have guided us this far, but their power is fading. Each day their light dims - a larger portion of their remaining energy is drawn just to keep us alive in the cold emptiness of space. Their sight is failing and they have not yet found a new home for us. They warn that they will fall silent in ten days time and that they will die entirely in no more than thirty. Just one month until we die along with the Guardian Crystals of the Earth. We have no time left.
I will begin with Leviathan, who warned us of the invasion and helped us to prepare the evacuation. He burst into the throne room of Baron Castle. His robes were torn and he was clearly in great pain. A cloud of sylphs surrounded him, carefully tending their master's wounds. Pushing aside courtiers and petitioners, he advanced upon the thrones, misery apparent on his face. "They're all dead," he moaned. "Titan and Chocobo - gone! Even Bahamut has fallen and Ashura shall soon join them. Only I and the sylphs managed to escape."
Stunned, Cecil hastily cleared the court and sent for a seat for the Master of the Summoned Monsters. "What has happened?" he asked once Master Leviathan had been seated. "How could such a tragedy befall you and your people?"
"Zeromus," he spat. "We thought him dead, but obviously we were wrong. His minions invaded the Land of the Summoned Monsters by way of a bridge of sorts that Bahamut had constructed in his youth. Their numbers are not impressive; they only barely outnumbered us, but the power they wielded was beyond measure. Only Titan, Ashura and I were able to defend ourselves, but even we were beaten back to my sanctuary beneath the library. Titan was slain defending Lady Ashura and myself. My Queen made possible my escape. The Land of the Summoned Monsters is now sealed by her life force and within it are the servants of Zeromus." As he spoke, great tears rolled down the cheeks of the King of the Sea. "She shan't die quickly," he said softly, "and so she suffers for our sakes."
Cecil seemed to be lost in thought and so I spoke up. "Leviathan, we are sorry, and we are hopelessly grateful for your warning. But if the forces of Zeromus are so powerful, what can we do with the time Lady Ashura has bought us."
"Fly." he instantly urged. "Gather the most valuable people you can and escape from this world on that ancient ship the Lunars left as their legacy."
"The Great Whale," Cecil murmered. "You are right. We must flee. I hope that the Whale is sufficient."
"It will serve," Leviathan assured us. "The crystals that now power it are many thousands of years old, far older and less potent than the gems that now rest in the tower of Bab-il. Use the Crystals of the Earth to power the Great Whale and it will carry you far."
"I will send out my lieutenants with airships. One to retrieve the crystals and twelve to gather a thousand each of the most promising people they can find." Cecil paused then. As I was about to break the silence, he asked the question that I also felt needed to be asked. "How long can lady Ashura hold back Zeromus' army?"
"She has promised us ten days," Leviathan said quietly. "Beyond that, there is no certainty. I urge you to make the preparations with all haste. The sooner we can depart, the less she must suffer before dying." Cecil's jaw was set and his eyes damp as he stifled his tears. I was less capable and found it necessary to dry my cheeks.
I stood and said, "We'll begin immediately," sounding bolder than I felt. A tug at the bellpull between the thrones brought my husband's valet from the hall. "Call for the Captain of the Dragoons. Tell him to bring with him his twelve most judicious men." I commanded him. "Be swift."
Within hours, Kain and his men had been dispatched. Kain was to return by nightfall on the following day with the Crystals retrieved from the tower of Bab-il. The lieutenants were to be back six days hence, each bringing with them nearly a thousand people from throughout the globe that they felt would be most useful to us wherever we found to resettle. Only the airship bound for Mysidia and Silvera had not yet departed. Cecil and I would join that delegation so that we might return to Baron aboard the Great Whale.
"Are you ready, Rosa?" Cecil asked as he pushed aside the curtain between closet and the bedroom. He was dressed not in his robes of office, but instead of the glittering, crystaline armour that he had brought back from the moon.
I nodded. "Yes, darling," I replied. "At least, I'm as ready as I can be for explaining to so many people that we can only save a thousand of them." I bit my lip to prevent the tears from returning.
Cecil's resolve quavered for a moment. "Are you certain you want to go with me?" he asked. "I cannot turn my back on this duty but...You have always been more the Chief Healer than the Queen of Baron. You don't have to come."
I shook my head, steeling my resolve. "I'll go," I said. "It would be cruel of me to make you do this alone and it won't be any great comfort to me knowing that I'd avoided my own responsibilities.
Cecil sighed. "You're a strong woman, Rosa," he said, embracing me. "And you always have been. No, I would not expect you to do otherwise. I have never known you to avoid a confrontation that I was willing to face." He kissed my cheek and sighed again. "Let's go," he said. "Cid told me he'd be waiting at the hangar with the Enterprise."
I nodded and tightening the silver, rope belt that kept my white robes from tripping me up, followed after Cecil. Our walk through the palace was marked by silence broken only by the striking of our feet against the stone floors. The corridors were empty - the hangers on and functionaries having been sent home to their families. Arriving at the hangar, we were met by an unusually somber Cid. "To Silvera first, right?" he asked. "And then to Mysidia?" Cecil nodded, offering Cid a weak smile. The old engineer knew exactly the flight path we'd be taking. I think he was asking just to try to make conversation.
We boarded in silence and proceeded toward the island of Silvera where we intended to pick up the most promising of the young silversmiths and the most resourceful miners to take with us. Once underway, Cid spoke a little. He was nervous about something; it was the last thing I'd expect from the man who'd leapt from the deck of an airship, strapped to a bomb. "Is there something on your mind, Cid?" I asked him finally.
He swallowed a lump in his throat and then noded soberly. "Yeah, Rosa. There is. I didn't figure I'd be able to keep quiet about it long." He paused for a moment, moistening his lips. "I'm glad you kids were thinking of me. I mean, I'm grateful to be invited to escape on the Big Whale, but I won't be going with you."
Cecil's eyes widened and I couldn't supress a gasp. "Oh, Cid! You can't be serious. You'll die if you stay here, or worse." Cecil placed his hand on mine.
"Be reasonable, Cid," he said. "We need your expertise. There's no finer airship builder on the entire planet."
Cid cut him off with a humourless chuckle. "I'm old, Cecil. Edge knew it years ago and told me so. I wouldn't admit it then, but he was right. I'm not strong, like I used to be. My apprentices know everything I know. Take them, instead. I'll stay behind. Maybe I'll take the Falcon and go fight with the dwarves. I don't reckon we'll be able to stop Zeromus, but it's like Rosa said - death ain't the worst thing that can happen to a guy."
Cecil's face grew stony and when he spoke, his voice wavered. "I could order you to go," he said quietly. "But I won't. You've been a fine friend, Cid." It has been a very long time since I last saw Cecil cry, but he did that night, as did I. Cid seemed rather embarassed as he tried to comfort us but I think he was more relieved than anything else.
We reached Silvera that evening and hastily assembled the locals, informing them of the imminent. I think the looks on their faces when we told them that we could only save three or four hundred of them is the most painful thing I've ever seen. During the night there were fights all over the city and dozens of people were killed in a riot near the east wall. We probably could have stopped them, but we let them carry on. They, like us, are frustrated and terrified. Very soon, we feared, the living would envy the dead. By sunrise the next morning, the city had calmed. The people had exhausted themselves and no longer had in them the will to challenge fate. We set about the grim task of selecting those who would go with us. We tried to be as accomadating as we could, but all to often, we were forced to issue them the choice: Leave your family or remain here with them. Many chose to leave.
By sundown the following day we had gathered all we would from Silvera. Boarding the Enterprise with those who by the end of the week would be refugees, we ascended from among a crowd of wailing villagers and set our course for Mysidia.
The process was easier there. The people of Mysidia train in discipline, besides which, we had dispatched an emissary along the Serpent Road to explain the situation in advance. We found that the Elder had drawn up a list of the most promising magi of the city. Cecil was gratified to find that Palom, Porom, and Porom's husband Elgar were all on the list. Thus, we were ready to depart from Mysidia at sunset on the day following our arrival. All that remained for Cecil and I was to reactivate the Great Whale and return with it to Baron.
We travelled with the twins and Porom's husband to the foot of Mount Ordeals where we had left the Great Whale. There we found the ancient spacefaring ship of the Lunars which had been so instrumental in what we had believed was the defeat of Zeromus.Although it was somewhat overgrown with bracken, it did not take us long to cut our way to the entrance. Cecil advanced purposefully, moving through the ship as though he'd only yesterday left it here. We followed him to the Bridge where he placed his hands on the smooth, obsidian panel by which one controlled the ship. The lights on the bridge flared to life and we knew that throughout the ship the same thing was happening. As the ship lifted off, Cecil brought it about so that we could see Mysidia and the Enterprise to the west. Cid, watching for this, ascended the airship and proceeded back toward Baron with us following close behind in the Great Whale.
So passed the first five days of the ten days of safety Lady Ashura had bought us. By the time we returned to Baron, eleven of the other twelve airships had also returned. The last ship, which had been sent to visit the villages and hamlets that owed allegiance to none of the great cities, was expected to be back within a day.
The next sixteen hours were spent in an orgy of labour as we strove to make the interior of the Great Whale as comfortable as possible for the twelve thousand people who would dwell therein for a length of time we could not possibly predict. Provisions of dried meat, canned fruits and vegetables, and a great quantity of hard tack were stowed away. Bedding was brought on board as well as a few makeshift bunks that would simultaneously serve to increase storage space and to offer increased comfort to the ill and the pregnant, both of which were already present among the twelve thousand and both of which we were prepared to gain during our exodus. While we did this, Cid and his engineers installed the Crystals of Earth, which Kain had brought back from the Tower of Bab-Il.
By the time the final airship arrived, all necessary preparations had been made. The only people left to be boarded were aboard the thirteenth ship. Cecil and I remained outside until the last of the passengers had boarded. Cecil looked around the plains surrounding the Great Whale. There was no crowd gathered here to send us off. They knew that they had four precious days in which to enjoy life, after which they would know only war, death, and enslavement. I hated myself for being selfish and for not giving up my place aboard the Whale to another. But my skills as a healer were indispensible, besides which, I did not have the courage to face the coming darkness without Cecil. Silently, we too climbed the ramp that led into the ship and surveyed the plains beyond until massive door sealed shut. As the Great Whale began its ascent - away from Baron, away from Earth, away from our comforting sun, not a porthole on the ship was unattended. As we soared past the moon, every soul aboard chilled for a moment, knowing that the cause of our exile lay there. I turned my face to the glass screen at the front of the bridge and surveyed the expanse of stars that lay before us.
And so it was that seven months ago, we left behind the Earth and its doomed inhabitants to confront fate among the stars.