Your Pilgrimage Ends Here...
By: Alicia Godin

The court of Saint Bevelle. This is where the Maesters would convene and make all of their important decisions. It is there that those accused of defying Yevon's teachings are brought, tried, and sentenced. I had been called there by the Maesters themselves, for reasons I could not even begin to imagine. It was a summons that no wise person would ignore, and thus I, myself, as a Summoner was obliged to respond.

Yet that day, there were only two present. Maesters Kinnoc and Kelk Ronso were absent. This left me in the company of Maesters Mika and Seymour, still enough of a presence from the two to carry the weight of delivering an important task to my attention. Had I any idea, at all, of what they had in store for me, I might have ignored their summons, and risked my own excommunication. They had me trapped, and I never once saw it coming.

"Summoner Isaaru," Maester Mika addressed me as he gazed down upon me from his balcony, dark eyes deepset 'neath a wrinkled forehead. He had always reminded me of... a vulture, the way with which he gave regard to some people and tasks. Tepid was his demeanor that day, and soon I came to know why. "I apologize for calling you away from your pilgrimage, but please understand, that we wouldn't do so without just reasoning. A Summoner's pilgrimage is a sacred undertaking, thus, I can only ask that the task we place on your shoulders be carried out swiftly."

I could only greet them in the one suitable way appropriate to encountering any of the Maesters. A step, a crossing of one's arms, and a deep bow - the blessing. "I'm honored to be of service, Your Grace. Though, I must admit, I am curious as to what could be so urgent." Indeed it was genuine curiosity, for it wasn't everyday that a summoner was called upon by the highest deciples of Yevon's doctrine.

Both of the Maesters, in turn, granted me the blessing in greeting. This brought relief enough that I could feel the tension in my shoulders fade. But only until Seymour took his turn to speak, locking onto me with eyes which could freeze a flame. That knowing smile of his... something about it just made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

"I assure you, Summoner Isaaru," he said, "That which you have been called for is a task which can be handled only by a skilled Summoner such as yourself. We have arrested Lady Yuna and her guardians, and they have been found guilty of crimes against Yevon. This cannot go unpunished."

"L... Lady Yuna??" Was it even possible? High Summoner Braska's daughter... Though we had only crossed paths briefly, first at the Temple of Djose, then within the Sanctuary provided us by the Al Bhed, her intentions never felt anything other than genuine. Her devotion to the teachings, and to defeating Sin, were equal only to -- no, it surpassed mine, and all thanks to the sake of her father. I was certain that my own ears had betrayed me.

"With all due respect, Maester Seymour... Maester Mika... As she is High Summoner Braska's daughter, I can't..." Wouldn't. Shouldn't believe, "I can't begin to fathom this. It's inconceivable!"

"However, it has been done," Seymour, ever calm, nodded a slow assurance to my due concern. He showed no sign of even sharing sorrow over this turn. "You task is to eliminate her. Will you do it?"

Mika stood by, of the two, the quietest, and obviously feeling some disdain for the matters at hand. He lowered his head, and I watched those dark eyes slide closed as a sigh rustled the fine white hairs of his moustache. "Summoner Isaaru, I share your discontent. But what is done is done. Lady Yuna and her guardians are responsible for the murder of one of the Maesters. We cannot simply let this go."

His words, as much as I am loathe to admit it, made perfect sense. Murdering a Maester of Yevon is unforgivable. It was then that I took my eyes away from them, and focussed on the segment of floor in front of me. "You are asking me to interfere with Lady Yuna's pilgrimage," these words poured quickly from my throat, hoarsened with all the restraint I could muster. "Is that not also against the teachings?"

Seymour's eyes narrowed. I didn't see it, but I could feel that stare like two daggers boaring into the top of my skull. "Receiving an order from the Maesters is as good as an order from Yevon Himself. Are you going to defy the task we're giving you?"

"No, but I--"

My protests were cut short by Mika as he spoke again, not nearly as aggitated as his comrade, yet still with the authority granted him by our deity, "It would be a simple matter to just have her eliminated by anyone, however, with consideration to her service to the Temple in the past, and her status as Lord Braska's daughter, the Maesters have chosen to give Lady Yuna an honorable death." There, he paused, and I held my breath, awaiting the fall of the other proverbial shoe.

"This is why," he continued finally, "We are asking you to face her in a final summoner's duel. However, this time it must be a duel to the death. There is no room for error."

"But why ME??" My ire had been sufficiently raised by now. Representatives of Yevon, or no, could I allow them to dictate how I would direct the life, or in this case, the death of another summoner? "Why - when there are so many other Summoners out there, many of whom are probably far more skilled than I - have you chosen me to kill her?"

Seymour's hateful smile broadened only moreso when I heard two voices behind me which filled me with nothing but cold, baleful dread.


"Big Brother!"

Maroda. Pacce. I spun around, and there they were, in the custody of a pair of guards. Maroda had been bound in iron shackles, while Pacce had been more thoroughly tied by thick rope.

"It would seem that you have very little choice in the matter, Isaaru." That voice. That evil, heartless chuckle that accompanied those words. Seymour had personally arranged the capture of my brothers as insurance for my cooperation. The trap was a perfect one. Would I even consider weighing the lives of my siblings against that of Lady Yuna?

I couldn't breath. My chest ached, and all I could do to ease some of that was to dig my teeth into my lower lip. Pain to dull pain, an ironic but effective tactic. "Damn you!"

Mika, the old goat, again forced an empty apology from somewhere in that ancient structure he called a body. The more I looked at him, the more he and Seymour looked the same to me. I no longer stood before the Maesters of Yevon, but a pair of fiends dressed in the skins of man. "I wish it hadn't come to this, Isaaru. But now, you see, you must comply with our request. We can't afford to have two Summoners against us."

"If you don't," Seymour chimed in, "Then I'm afraid that will leave us no choice but to kill them. Should you succeed, then you and your dear brothers will be released to resume your pilgrimage if you choose to do so."

He allowed the subject to hang, another grin creeping into his expression with the pondering of another 'what if'. "And, should you fail, then fear not. I will personally see that they receive a proper sending."

And so, the final strands of the web had been cast. I had fallen blindly onto their chessboard, and been made a pawn before I ever knew it. Taking my brothers as insurance sealed the entire game - Live or die, they would pay for my defiance, or my failure. Checkmate.

"Then I truly have no choice," I saw the end of my pilgrimage long before I ever decended into the Via Purifico. The path I had walked my entire life became my downfall as a Summoner. I had succumbed to cowardice, all for fear of my brothers' lives. "Very well. I will comply with your wishes. Pacce... Maroda... I promise, I will return for you."

With nothing more to say, I departed from the court, and moved on to the fiend infested pit where I would meet Lady Yuna for the last time.

"Lady Yuna... Forgive me..."