Second Thoughts Chapter 2

By Kaeru

Arian and Aarek descended the stairs and gasped. Fifty people filled the main room of the house. They were talking of horses, merchants, kings and queens, wine and cheese, and the latest fashions. The clothes they wore were made of fine silks, satins, lace, and their jewelry was golden and plentiful. Many of the women wore gems on their hands that cost more than the boys had ever seen in their lives. As they came down the stairs, Rhien announced, "Here are our guests of honour!"

The guests looked at Rhien, then at the boys. They suddenly moved over to the boys and began to ask them all sorts of questions.

"I can't believe I am actually meeting you! The prophets of Ivalice!"

"You're a bit younger than I expected."

"Should I invest in corn this year, or will there be a drought?"

"Am I having a boy or a girl?"

"How can I find happiness?"

Aarek opened his mouth, but no words came out. This certainly wasn't in the deal. Desperately, his eyes searched the crowd. He caught Rhien's eyes. "Play along," Rhien mouthed silently. Aarek looked helplessly at Arian, who had a half-smile on his face. He scanned the crowd, glanced at Aarek, winked, and began to speak.

"Silence, infidels!" he announced. "Indeed, we are they. We are the prophets of Ivalice! We demand the utmost respect! Despite our appearances, we are wise, wiser than your feeble minds can comprehend! Questions herein shall not be answered! If too many are asked, we will cease to make any predictions." Arian looked at the awestruck crowd and chuckled to himself. Aarek glanced up the stairs and saw Kayuko, silently peering from behind the banister. She seemed even more surprised than Aarek at Arian's speech. He looked over at Rhien who was grinning intently. Things were going exactly as he had planned.

"I shall make predictions!" Continued Arian, his face turning red. "There shall be turbulence among the people of Zeltennia this year! On the western coast, vegetables will grow very well this summer! But, most importantly, the thing you all want to hear tonight..." Arian paused for maximum dramatic effect. "One person in this house right now will die by the end of the night."

This caused a buzz among the crowd. Rhien's jaw dropped at the announcement, and he glared at Arian. Arian realized what he had just said, and finished his speech with a quiet, "that is all." The crowd of people began talking anxiously and excitedly amongst themselves. Rhien made his way directly to Arian and Aarek and pulled them to the side.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" whispered Rhien. "You aren't real prophets, you can't make predictions that big! My place in this city will go down the gutter! Unless..." Rhien thought to himself for a moment "Unless we... make your prediction come true."

"Are you suggesting..." Aarek asked quietly, "that we kill someone...? Tonight?"

"Not you, boy. That would seem to obvious." Rhien pondered the idea. "We must... make someone die suddenly." He motioned for Kayuko and Zalmo to come to him as well. "This is what you will do. Kayuko, go to the kitchen immediately. Take the back door and go to the alchemist. Give him this money -" he handed her a bag of gold coins. "- and tell him to give you a poison that will take an hour to kill its victim. Hurry, go!" Knowing how harsh the consequences could be if she disagreed, she took the money and left as discreetly as possible. "Zalmo, you will engage in conversation with Mr. Dorado. During this conversation, you will put the poison in his wine. Whatever you do, don't tell your mother about this. She's too fragile these days, I want her to believe that this party went without a hitch."

"Father, you want me to kill Mr. Dorado?" Zalmo said, worry coming over his face. "I don't know if I -"

"You will do it," replied Rhien, "or you will find somewhere else to live. I will blame you for all of tonight's mishaps. The people will believe my word over your own. I will say you lied to me about the prophets, brought me two fakes. The town guard captain is at this party. If he is angry with you, he can have you put in jail at the drop of a hat. Do you want to live the rest of your life hated by high society? It's all there is, boy. Once they put you out, you're a failure."

Zalmo looked at Mr. Dorado, who talking to the banker about the exchange of goods from Zeltennia. He sighed deeply, looked his father in the eye, and said "Very well, father. As you wish." He headed upstairs, and his father, as if nothing was wrong, continued to talk to his guests about how hard it was to get the prophets to come to this occasion.

"Arian, you idiot," growled Aarek. "I can't believe you said that."

"Man, who cares? We got some of our money already. Who cares if he doesn't pay us? We run with these clothes, maybe grab a candlestick or something on the way out, we live another few months off the cash that gets us. That's the important part."

"The important part is that you've stuck a bunch of people into a situation that they can't escape," Aarek continued, looking Arian in the eye, "and now they have to kill to get out of it. You made people kill, Arian. You are the real murderer."

"These people are the ones who make it impossible for us to eat," said Arian, raising is voice ever so slightly. "These are the fools who waste their money on useless gems and trinkets while they watch people like us waste away on the streets. These are the people who murder people like us. Think of it as kill or be killed." Arian stopped talking as Rhien announced loudly, "Come everyone, sit at the table. We shall eat this boar now!"

* * *

Kayuko dashed back to her master's residence with the clear vial in her hand. The alchemist told her she couldn't so much as let a drop touch her. It could mean the end of her. She crept in the back door of the house and saw the other servants eating their bread and water. "Where were you, Kayuko?" asked one.

"I haven't time to explain," she replied. "I'll be back shortly." She tried to look relaxed as she walked in to the dining room. Everyone was finding their seats around the large table. Rhien looked greedily at the boar as he began to carve it. People were still talking excitedly about the predictions that Arian had made.

"Someone tonight? I don't believe it. It's preposterous."

"I hope it's not me."

"I've got too much to live for!"

"The west coast, eh? Looks like I shall be importing my vegetables this summer."

Zalmo approached Kayuko and sighed. "Do you have the vial?"

Kayuko nodded and quietly warned Zalmo. "Don't touch any of it." Zalmo merely nodded at this. He made his way over to Mr. Dorado, slipping the thin glass container up his sleeve. Mr. Dorado grinned as the young boy nodde to him politely. "What is it, Zalmo? I hope you brought appetizers, your pitiful excuses for servants haven't brought any out yet!"

"No, sir," Zalmo replied hesitantly. "It's not that. I just... umm... came to congratulate you over your horses' win at the races last week."

The lean man laughed cruelly. "All you need for a race winning horse is a good budget, good parents and good discipline." He thought to himself for a moment, and added, "not unlike your parents have with you! Have you thought about horse raising? I'm sure you'd be great at it! I could help you with --"

Mr. Dorado seemed to drag on for hours. Zalmo continued to nod as he popped the cork from the poison, pouring it into Mr. Dorado's red wine. The wine became slightly darker, taking on the color of blood. Zalmo, when done, muttered his thanks to Mr. Dorado for teaching him about horse racing. Before he could be corrected, Zalmo was at his seat at the other end of the table.

Arian, who was sitting beside him, leaned in inconspicuously. "Did you do it?"

"Of course I did it, you no-good liar," Zalmo said bitterly. "For that I hope you burn in beggar's hell."

"Beggar's hell?" asked Arian, lifting his chin. "Is that some sort of shot at me? Do you even believe that you are so high and mighty that you'd have your own hell for people who are RICH? Sorry to disappoint you, but God hates you and your kind as much as he does mine!" Arian scoffed loudly enough for everyone to hear and went back to his sherry. Zalmo muttered something under his breath and stared at the boar.

"Red wine?" mused Mr. Dorado. He looked at Leanna and said quietly, "I don't mean to bother you, but your servants gave me red wine when I SPECIFICALLY asked for white. You should really hire new servants, yours are nothing but annoyances."

"Oh dear," replied Leanna quietly. "Do not tell Rhien. He will beat them again or worse. Here, I have white wine. I haven't touched it. Have you touched your red wine?" Leanna switched the glasses discreetly and sipped the poisoned drink. "Well, this bottle seems much more rich than the last bottle we had. Odd." She sipped the drink thoughtfully, looked at her son Zalmo, and smiled.

* * *

Six courses later, the guests began giving their compliments to the cooks. Suddenly, Leanna began to cough. Zalmo and Rhien stood up immediately and made their way over to her. She began to cough more violently. Flecks of blood spattered across her empty dessert plate. "Someone help!" Zalmo cried, but everyone just looked on in disbelief. "Someone go get the town doctor!" Kayuko cupped a hand over her mouth and sped out the front door, straight towards the doctor's residence. Leanna's nose was now bleeding as well as her mouth, and she was only making things worse by coughing violently. "I'm... sorry..." she muttered, between breaths. "I ruined dinner... I must have you all again... come... back soon..." With that, she gave one lasting heaving cough and fell into the remains of her apple pie.

The guests, who were watching in disbelief, took this as their opportunity to get up and leave the house. They rushed out, some yelling things about the plague, others covering their face. Kayuko and the doctor rushed in. He took her pulse and lay her head back. He shook his head. "She's certainly dead. Whatever killed her, didn't take long." Rhien, who watched the entire escapade with panic in his eyes, now turned to Zalmo. "You! This is your fault! You poisoned your mother! Get out! Get out of my house!"

"Father, it was you who --"

"Out!" Rhien dropped to his knees and began to weep. "Oh, why did my son have to kill my wife? What did we do wrong?"

Arian looked at Aarek, who only shook his head. Arian nodded in retaliation and walked over to Rhien. "I did my job. Where's my --"


"He is acting quite delirious," the doctor said quietly. "I don't know what this is about poison, but I think you boys better come with me to see the town guard captain until we can figure out what happened here."

Zalmo recognized immediately what was happening. The doctor believed his father's story, or at least gave it some recognition. "I won't go with you!" Zalmo yelled, walked briskly for the door. Aarek and Arian were hot at his heels. Once out the door, the three of them bolted from the scene of the crime.

Final Fantasy Tactics Fanfic