By Alicia Godin

Bevelle... the spiritual heart of Spira. I've known it well since my birth. Childhood was so simple for my brothers and myself. The most we ever needed to concern ourselves with was the presence of Sin. Just as the rest of the people of Spira would wonder... Would it ever come for us? Would we ever even live to see it, and to find our beloved city in ruins? No matter how often I was assured by my parents, and the monks who taught me, that this would not come to pass, it still failed to assuage my fear. Once all the machina cities had been wiped from the face of the world, where else would Sin go? Logic would dictate that the remaining lesser cities, and the lands that hosted the Temples of Yevon would become prey to its insatiable hunger for destruction.

The only hope I found arrived in Bevelle ten years ago. Lord Braska, the summoner. He was one of many, but his resolve was unshakable, I could feel it. I could see it in his eyes, on his face, borne on his shoulders like a noble cloak, rather than as a world's worth of burden. Despite knowing where his life would lead him, the travels, and how it might end, when I saw him he was always peaceful and cheerful. He never once allowed his fear to show, or his sorrow. And still, today, I can't help but feel inspired by him. He was a god, second only to Yevon in my eyes.

I am Isaaru. I am.... was.. a summoner. Since meeting Lord Braska the first time, I've always wanted to be like him. He became my hero. I wanted to be so courageous, so faithful. I wanted to become a beacon of hope for the people of Spira, just like he was. It was shortly after his passage through Bevelle that I made up my mind. I -would- follow in his footsteps. I didn't care about the consequence, I threw myself into it and began studying with the monks at the temple.

The only things I really had to dissued me were my two little brothers. Little? What am I saying? Maroda may well be younger than me by a year or two, but he is surely the bigger of the three of us. Tall and muscular, he would become one of my guardians once I finally convinced him that my mind could not be changed. Frankly, I think the idea of all of it scared him to no end. I can't say I blame him for it, but in the end, that fear for my life became his weapon, and my strongest defense.

Pacce... Indeed he is my -little- brother. I feined the idea of having him along with Maroda and myself. His birth, alone, was almost enough to make me forget about becoming a Summoner. Where, in my childhood, had I forgotten the value of my own family? Pacce was precious, always bringing a ray of light and joy into our hearts, and his energy was more than enough to keep us all going.

Sometimes... too much.

I never wanted to include him in my pilgrimage. I knew it would be difficult, and I wanted him to enjoy his childhood, rather than head to the world outside of Bevelle so soon, and experience the horrible fiends that dwelled there. Boisterous and gentle Pacce... you only wanted to be with your big brothers. You didn't want to be alone. Neither did I.

It was only with much protest that we three departed Bevelle when Sin began its rampage anew. Mother and Father didn't want Maroda or Pacce to go, but especially the little one. They had faith and pride in me, and generously supported Maroda for attending me, but it took a lot of convincing for Pacce. He wouldn't let go of me, and wouldn't let me leave unless I took him along. I'd never seen him cry and scream so much.... but.. it worked. If they wanted a prestigeous Summoner for a son, they would need to let us all go. It was the only way.

My pilgrimage officially began at the Temple of Saint Bevelle, the center of worship for my beloved home. The priests greeted us warmly. They spoke of Lord Braska, by then named a High Summoner, and granted his own statue within each of Yevon's temples. Hearing the name of my childhood hero added to my determination. I would see to that the next Calm would be brought by my own hands.

I spent a few days with the priests to prepare for the Cloister of Trials. It took a lot of meditation and mental preparation before I was ready, but soon enough I ascended the steps, and followed the path to the Fayth. What seemed like forever was a span of mere hours. The Fayth asked many questions, ones which were seemingly simple to the shallow mind, yet reached to the core of the psyche. If I had failed, my journey would have ended before it ever truly began.

I left the temple exhausted, mentally and physically. The pact with the Fayth of Spathi had been completed. Of all the challenges of the Temple, that was the most mind-wrenching. I spent the next day and a half resting, and spared little more time before we moved on.

After that, to the high lands of Mi'ihen, and the Temple of Djose that existed among its chasms. Were it not for the Crusaders, those that had been excommunicated from the faith of Yevon for their sacrelegious application of machina, I might have truly considered it a place of beauty. The place was green, ripe with life, and the canyons were lovely. A fine sight, soiled by unbelievers. And they were everywhere that day - on chocobo, and even riding some of the machina. There were even a smattering of Al Behd present. All I could do was turn my eyes away and focus on the task to come. Djose awaited, and within the hallowed walls of the Temple, the next Fayth.

At first, I thought it to be some crude jest. Nothing existed but mounds of stone where the temple should have been. I approached, nonetheless, disappointed at this finding, but as soon as I moved to its front, lightning began coursing about the outside. Fingers of brilliant electricity lifted the boulders away from the ground and revealed that there really did exist a temple in that place. This time, however, the Cloister of Trials took more time than my visit to the Fayth. I soon understood why only the wisest succeeded as true Summoners.

As we prepared to leave the Temple, we were met by a seemingly ragtag group. I thought little of it at first, until I found out who the Summoner among them was. Lady Yuna... daughter of High Summoner Braska. Meeting her was an honour unequaled by any previous experience I had had. The only living remnant of Lord Braska's legacy stood before me, sharing the same path I had chosen. How could I ever expect to beat her? To be the one to defeat Sin? Surely his talents were in her blood. I could only aspire to be her equal.

The best I could do at the time was warn her and her guardians of the fate of other Summoners. During our wanderings, Maroda had heard that others had disappeared... vanished into thin air like smoke on the wind.

We departed next for Kilika, and to Besaid after that. And to this end, I am thankful that this portion of my pilgrimage was largely uneventful. It wasn't until we left the temple of Besaid that we found out, first hand, exactly what was happening to other Summoners.

Some of the Al Bhed from the highroad had followed us, and they seized the first opportunity to grab me. I found myself locked within some sort of barrier, unable to call upon my Aeons, let alone cast any magic. Poor Maroda and Pacce were helpless to stop them. They held onto me, refusing to let me be taken alone, and after much struggling they, too, were carried off with me. Pacce was completely terrified, no matter how I tried to assure him ("Pacce, it's alright. If they wanted to hurt us, they would have done so before now.")

I knew nothing of where I was being taken, or what fate had in store for me. I was too tired to put up a struggle, an action which would have been futile anyway. So, I allowed myself to rest. Sleep overtook me, and when I awoke next, it was somewhere beneath a machina city. I was surrounded by Al Bhed, and the cold walls of a vast chamber. The "Summoner's Sanctuary"... or so it had been called by one of the few who spoke the common tongue. This is where I learned of their true intentions. They hadn't meant to cause me, or any other Summoner, harm. They merely wished to protect us, to stop the futile spending of our lives for a seemingly lost cause. All these years, all the horror stories I'd heard as a child about the 'wicked' Al Bhed... I felt so ungrateful.

I soon found myself in the company of another Summoner - Dona. Was that... Bella-dona? Prima-dona? Somehow I think the latter was more fitting. I think she wasn't so much a Summoner as a pampered princess. At least, that is how she presented herself. She did little more than complain. "You expect me to eat this?" "All these machina, and I can't even get a manicure around here?" She might very well have driven me mad after a while, though thankfully, and sadly, the opportunity was not afforded her.

There was a commotion above. Explosions, the wailing of men and beasts. The sounds of a battle. We could do little or nothing until the Al Bhed rushed in to surround us.. only to sacrifice their lives protecting us against the hordes of fiends that had flooded their Home. In return for their protection, Dona and I both came to agree that the least we could do was to Send those who had fallen for our sake. We fought back those monsters that penetrated into the sanctuary, calling upon our Aeons for assistance. We were soon enough aided by Lady Yuna's guardians, as well.

The young man, Tidus... He never once suspected what was in store for Lady Yuna, if her pilgrimage were successful. It was clear how he felt about her, no matter how he tried to hold it back. I felt, once more, that I should be the one to defeat Sin, not just for the people of Spira, but to spare Lady Yuna, and her guardians the grief of losing her precious life. He was so pale when he found out, so angered that the others had not told him. But the fate of a Summoner is not always an easy one to comprehend. One can either support the person whole-heartedly, or try to deny them that one choice, in which case that person becomes lost. The would-be Summoner is then without his or her path.

I know this all too well...

In one final act of grace and chivalry, the Al Bhed led us all to one of their most amazing machina. An Airship, the called it. It was... verry much like any sea-faring ship, were it not for the fact that it sailed the skies instead. It was a sight to behold, and one of many experiences that would be hard to compare. I felt ashamed for setting foot on it; I felt I had betrayed the most basic of Yevon's teachings by becoming involved in any way with the machina he had so expressly forbidden. But were it not for this, I wouldn't be alive now to tell of it. For that, I am grateful.

After fleeing the Al Bhed Home, I and my brothers parted from everyone else. We were left in the Calm Lands. By now, I had heard of Lady Yuna's impending marriage to Maester Seymour, and this news filled me with both elation, and sadness. It was wonderful news for Spira as a whole, but I could only remember, and wonder what Sir Tidus thought of it all... how he must have felt about it.

In a way, I couldn't help but share the disappointment that he must have encountered. I can't begin to explain why, frankly. But either way, theirs would be an honoured pairing. The daughter of High Summoner Braska being wed to a Maester of Yevon - I couldn't even begin to guess what her father might have thought.

Maroda, Pacce, and I moved on, only to return to Bevelle, our home, eventually. We spent some time there with mother and father, and filled them in on many of the details of our adventures, many of which they praised, and others, naturally, they considered with disdain. Mother still wished that I had chosen a different path. Oh, how she wanted her eldest son to settle down and marry eventually. It wasn't a wish that I could honour.

Regretfully, we couldn't spend too much time, for no sooner had I arrived than did the Maesters send for me. In their message, they had sent word of a traitor and asked that I be the one to execute her. She - the traitor - was named as none other than Lady Yuna. The news was horrifying enough that I felt my heart tear in two. I couldn't allow myself to believe it. It couldn't possibly be true! The High Summoner's daughter, a traitor? But would the Maesters of Yevon lie? She had killed one of them, Lord Seymour. Bringing the death of a Maester of Yevon... is unforgiveable. I could not disobey the orders I had been given, no matter how I felt about it.

Pacce, naturally, protested the thought of being left behind, but the safest place for him was with Maroda, and mother and father. The Via Purifico is not a place for such a tender spirit, and even I was terrified of the prospect of going down there.

This was the last time I saw my brothers.

I waited. Fiends roamed the dark, empty corridors of the tunnels. This wasn't someplace I wanted to be, the task was not something I wanted to think about. I could only pace anxiously and wait for Lady Yuna, then try to end it quickly. Spathi seemed like the best way to go, for his power was unmatched by any Aeon I had ever witnessed. I swore to myself, gritted my teeth, still not wanting to believe what the Maesters had told me. I branded her a traitor, just as everyone else had, in spite of myself. I betrayed her without blinking. I betrayed her father without a second thought.

I betrayed myself.

Still, I could not win. She had proven herself worthy of her father's legacy. She had his strong will, and his talent. She was everything I could not be, and better in every possible way. I thought, then, only of saving face. I could not face the temples now, or the Maesters with my failure, nor could I return home or even face my brothers. My pilgrimage ended that day, and I had lost myself. I was no longer fit to be called a Summoner, and with this realization, I felt the Aeons leave me. I was completely alone in the silence of the Purifico.

I left... It was the only thing I could do. There was much rejoicing throughout Spira some days later when word came of Sin's final defeat at the hands of Lady Yuna and her guardians. It made me happy on some level, even moreso knowing she has survived the encounter. She had surpassed even her father. He must have been smiling at her from the Farplane that day. As for myself, I merely smiled.

And now, I wander. Since then, I have taken to further studying white magic. For the spells that Pacce knew, he was well versed, and I have a long way to go before I am anywhere near his level of talent in casting, but the spells do come in handy. Especially now, especially here.... which is... where exactly..? I have no idea where I am, for the world is an entirely different place without Sin.

I can only hope that I may find some way to redeem myself for my transgressions, though I'm not sure I can face Lady Yuna and look her in the eye if I ever see her again. I have done her wrong, and my trespasses cannot simply be swept aside. I pray that she might be able to forgive me... yet, I don't expect her to, either.

Pacce, Maroda.. I'm sorry for failing you. I may yet return to you, my brothers, once my conscience is clear. And maybe now, I can start thinking about the rest of my life, rather than an early grave.


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