"Forgive my Absence..."

By: Garrett Lieberman (SteelPhoenix)

Chapter 1 - The End is Merely the Beginning

As the wind blew out over the treetops in the dense forest surrounding Mt. Ordeals, Kain felt a chill run up his neck when the gust breezed through his blonde hair and tickled his scalp. Looking out over the forest seemed to clear his mind and give him some measure of inner peace. It gave him time to reflect back on his heroism and treachery. The pain he relieved and the pain he caused. The times he helped his friends and the times he betrayed them.

His friends realized that he was being manipulated by the fiend Zemus, and were quick to forgive. But he refused to forgive himself. He had been manipulated... no... He had ALLOWED himself to be manipulated. Even though the powerful Lunarian Zemus was at fault, Kain insisted on taking the blame himself for he could not fathom the thought of anything being SO powerful that it could cause his mind to not be his own. He was convinced that something deep down inside of him allowed himself to be an easy target.

Golbez had mentioned that his "soul was stained with evil for Zemus to use". Did that mean Kain's soul was similarly blotched? Wouldn't that be irony? Kain, the leader of the Dragoons, symbols of freedom and justice in Baron, marred with evil? The very thought made his stomach clench. He grew angry with himself for allowing such premonitions to enter his mind and kicked a small rock off the edge of the cliff. Watching the rock careen of the cliff's surface as it fell reminded him of the downward spill that his honor was taking. Each time the rock came into contact with the natural stone wall below him, he winced with a memory of the evil deeds he had performed as an unwilling servant to Golbez.

Now uncertain whether to feel pain, anger, sadness, or remorse, he decided to take his mind off the subject for a moment and head a little further up the mountain. Donning his helmet once more, he readied his White Lance and turned to head toward the next station of the mountain.

Along the way, he came into contact with several skeletons, red bones, and zombies. Fighting them made him think of his best friend Cecil and his journey up this mountain to become a paladin. I wonder how difficult it was with the dark sword? he mused, He probably would have had better luck with his own fists! He chuckled to himself at the thought of Cecil burying an iron-clad fist into the skull of the skeleton he currently faced.

Finally reaching the next station of the mountain, he looked out over the horizon once more. Taking off the helmet and allowing the sweat to dry off his blonde mane, the only things on his mind was his friend, Cecil and his childhood love interest, Rosa. They're probably in the middle of the wedding ceremony right now... he thought to himself. How he wanted to keep Rosa at his own side...

Kain and Cecil had been feuding for her love since 4 years before the pair of them departed Baron to the Valley of Mist. Kain did all in his power to impress the lovely Rosa with his skill and roguish good looks. Cecil, on the other hand, was quiet and reserved, though secretly powerful in his own right. Rosa had chosen to pursue the silver-haired man in dark armor because she was enamored to his demeanor. But Kain would never give up. Not even at the time of the fateful mission that would end up being only the beginning of the most incredible and unbelievable journey he'd ever made. Kain had actually seen this mission as an opportunity to prove to Rosa that he was BETTER than the blindly loyal dark knight.

It wasn't finally until Cecil had come to the Tower of Zot to rescue his love that he had realized that fate had brought these two together, and neither Hell nor high water would ever divide them again. Kain remembered wanting to keep her close to him at Zot and how he was able to use Zemus' hypnosis as an excuse to do just that.

Zemus' hypnosis. His mind wandered back to the reason he came to this undead-ridden mountain in the first place. To rediscover his lost honor. Was it lost? Or just damaged? No. It couldn't be lost. He HAD helped his friends to save the world, didn't he? As many times as he restated this to himself, it still did no good.

Some inner voice had drawn him to this mountain, forcing him to believe that the answers lay upon its summit. The mountain had offered Cecil clarity when he climbed it, maybe it would do the same for him. Kain knew he was expecting quite a bit, and will be prepared for a let down when, at last, he reaches the top.

Kain began to gather his helmet and spear again then stopped once more as he thought about the people he helped save. He knew this issue needed closure before he could set his mind at rest. He had been told many times by the Mysidians that Cecil had been the only person to climb Ordeals and live. Knowing that he may not return, he wished there were a way to say a final farewell to the people he had come to know, respect, and even love. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he sent out a message to the wind in hopes that its swirling currents could carry the message to Baron:

"Cecil Rosa Forgive my absence. I must strengthen myself to be a true Dragoon before going back. Until then"

Chapter 2 - A Mountain with Answers

Kain was beginning to run low on the cure potions he'd stocked up on to battle the undead monstrosities on this mountain. The White Lance was quite effective against the undead, but the strong winds coursing through the crevices of this majestic slate of rock made it nearly impossible to execute effective Jump attacks. Throwing the spear was out of the question on such narrow cliffs. He stopped at the 5th station to rest a moment before continuing.

As he sat trying to think of new ways to combat these lumbering piles of rotting flesh, he twirled the spear, and it flashed white. Of course, he thought to himself, the spear casts White! Confidence renewed, he set out to climb a few more levels up the mountain.

The White spell of the Lance proved to be quite effective against the revenants and zombies, so he saved the cure potions for his own wounds. Walking through a doorway, he felt the winds stronger than he ever had. He had reached the summit. Gazing out over the forest below the mountain, he realized he could see even as far as Mysidia and Silveira. He took a moment to stand in awe of the scenery, then turned around to face a horde of undead hulks approaching.

"Damn!" he muttered. Don't these fools EVER give up? Tearing into the fray, spinning and slashing with the Lance, he thought he saw a golden flash of light from the northwest corner of the summit. Suddenly, all of the undead encroaching upon him fell in a heap. Kain stood quite confused over what had happened, but then shrugged, and decided to search for the source of that golden light. He approached a small structure after crossing a rickety suspension bridge, and began to inspect it. He spied the outline of what appeared to be a doorway, but through all his efforts could not pry it open.

"C'mon Budge!" he mumbled, frustration dripping from his voice. Kain finally gave up using brute force to open the door, and began speaking out loud hoping that perhaps someone inside would hear.

"I saw that light. Was it some kind of sign?" Kain inquired. "You wouldn't just help a random traveler, would you? Cecil obviously wasn't a random traveler. Are you trying to tell me something? Can you hear me? I need your help." There was no response to his questions, and he became frustrated again. "IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, PLEASE ANSWER!!!"

As if on cue, a voice was heard in his mind: "Enter."

Kain looked puzzled. "How? I can't open the door."

"Have faith. Enter."

Kain nodded, somehow understanding. He reached a hand to the door and was quite surprised to see the surface of the door ripple and allow his hand to penetrate its surface without moving. He had never seen matter penetrate matter in this way before, and he found himself unable to suppress a smile of wonder. Kain continued to push the rest of his body through and to his amazement, he found himself standing in a room with walls, floor, and ceiling made entirely of a reflective material. While marveling at the sight, the voice spoke to him again.

"So, Kain, what brings you to my recluse?" The voice echoed.

Kain deduced that the voice was emanating from somewhere within the room itself and not his mind, so he spoke aloud, "I seek answers."

"You question your honor and loyalty."

Kain stared blankly for a moment trying to figure out how the voice had known his purpose. He shook his head and responded, "Yes. I feel that I have failed my friends."

"In what way? You assisted Cecil in accomplishing his task as Paladin. You helped to bring calm and serenity to your people. All of your significant deeds have been selfless and enriched with honor. What have you to question?"

"I did what I did to atone for my failures and heinous acts. My blood courses with evil."

The voice chuckled lightly. "You really believe that, don't you?"

Kain peered quizzically at the mirror in front of him. "It's true! Isn't it? Can't you feel it?"

"I sense no such thing. Except doubt. Why do you doubt yourself?"

"The wrongs I have committed. They plague my mind endlessly. They need to be cleansed. What shall I do?" Kain looked down at his feet in shame.

"You soul shows a bit of wear from corruption, but you are not evil; not by any means or measure. You have already atoned for your wrongs, although it seems I must remind you that you were not in your right mind when these events occurred. You were under hypnotic suggestion," the voice said matter-of-factly.

"I was under hypnosis, yet I remember EVERYTHING I did. There had to be some conscious activity. Some deep down urge."

"You seem so determined to defeat yourself. Very well, I see that I have wasted my time. Go."

"Wait. I admit it. I did exaggerate a bit," Kain mumbled, "But my feelings do not change. I failed to contest against the evil. My soul IS tarnished. Can you prove otherwise?"

"Kain, look at the object in your left hand." If this voice had eyes, they would have seen Kain looking at the White Lance. "That lance is a symbol of truth, light, and the general good. If you were evil, you would not even be able to hold it, much less be able to cast its spell."

"Yeah It seems to have accepted me. It's very lightweight. Easy to Jump with" Kain said, trying to ease his mind from the task at hand for a moment.

"Kain, nobody's perfect. I've seen the most evil sorcerers help a child in danger. I've seen a dark knight come to the aid of a bird nest in a falling tree. I've also seen a white mage try to kill his best friend. A former Paladin from eons ago once tried to overthrow a village for himself."

"A Paladin would try that?!" Kain interjected.

"He almost succeeded, too. In the middle of his rampage, he looked about himself and saw the destruction he was causing. What he was destined to stop, he was trying to create. He called off his troops, and fled the city. He finally worked up enough guts to return there a year later and assist with the rebuilding. I believe the village's name was Mist."

"Mist? That village sure has had a miserable run of bad luck. I helped to destroy it a year ago."

"Intentionally?" the voice inquired.

"No. I was sent with Cecil to deliver a package there. It had Grenades and Bombs in it."

A light chuckling was heard in the air, "I suppose you considered this one of your 'evil' deeds?" the voice mocked.

"No fair!" Kain smiled at the playful insult.

"Kain, what exactly is it that you seek from me?"

"Clarity," Kain answered straight-faced.

"Allow me to soothe your wounds." A twinkling light surrounded Kain and relieved his pain. "You will have to fight this 'evil' side of yourself. Whichever is stronger will defeat the other and become dominant. Is that fair enough?" Without waiting for an answer from Kain, a Shadow Kain attacked.

Kain raised the White Spear to attack the Shadow, but halted. The Shadow brought Kain to his knees with one strike. As the shadow raised its spear to finish him, he yelped out, "NO! Why must everything be settled like this?"

The voice sounded amused, "Like what?"

"Everything seems to end in violence and anger. I've seen and caused enough bloodshed to last the rest of my life. Violence is not the answer, whoever you are. If that's how this Shadow wants to kill me, in cold blood, then so be it. But the name of Kain the Dragoon dies with me."

"HA! Understanding dawns!"

Kain was completely puzzled.

"Justice is not the only right in this world. You will see that someday." The Shadow vanishes into thin air. "Kain, you have succeeded. How do you feel?"

Kain stood motionless for a moment, deep in thought. "Clear. My mind is clear. Yes, I do understand now. How foolish I've been. Thank you."

"You found the answer yourself. It was within you the whole time. Buried deep under your guilt and anguish."

"Heh. You opened the door, I just had to walk through it, huh?"

The voice laughed. "Yes, something like that."

"One question."


"Who are you?"

"I was once called KluYa. I am was Cecil's father."

"Cecil's father. That figures."

"Kain, I leave you with a gift: Enlightenment. Close your eyes."

Kain does as he is told, and a strange light convalesces about him. When he opens his eyes, his armor is changed from dark blue to silver, and his gauntlets are engraved with a crest that he's never seen before but still seems familiar to him. He also noticed something else. He noticed that his vocabulary had been increased.

Kain practiced saying a few of the new words he'd learned, and then jumped back in shock as a small blaze appeared in front of him. "Did you do that, KluYa?"

"No. You did," KluYa replied stoically.


"Yes, Kain, magic."

"I thought I was incapable"

"All you needed was peace of mind and control of your inner thoughts. Anyone can use magic. Do you ever notice that some evil mages always seem so smug and calm in the heat of battle?" KluYa waited for Kain to nod. "Now you know why. They are at peace with themselves." Kain nodded again.

"Am I limited to Black Magic?"

"No, but you are limited to low and medium level magic."

"No Meteo, Nuke, or Fatal, huh?" The young Dragoon smirked as he spoke.

"No. No Cure4, Life2, or White either," KluYa added matter-of-factly.

"I have no problem with that. So what next?"

"That is for you to decide. With a clear mind, you can do anything."

Kain nodded solemnly. "Thank you, KluYa."

There was no reply. Kain casually exited the small room, and then cast Exit to get off the mountain. Once he had left, KluYa thought out loud to himself. "No Kain, thank you for taking care of my son." Kain heard, and smiled.

Chapter 3 - The Dragoon Empire

Ten years had passed since Kain journeyed to Mt. Ordeals. He had traveled the world over, visiting the small villages and large towns, assisting where he could. When asked who he was, his reply was always the same; just a laugh, a re-assuring smile, and a quote that became famous: "Just a wandering do-gooder."

At Kain's urgings and talks with the elders of Mysidia, people had begun settling around Mt. Ordeals. The abundant life and resources promised a bright future for the blossoming towns. Many of the former Eblanians had settled at the east end of the continent claiming their own country of New Eblan. They had made peace and trade agreements with the Mysidians early on in their existence. A few scuffles here and there from Mages who believed the Ninjas were encroaching on their land did occur, but were quickly laid to rest with no bloodshed. Just beyond the west side of the forest surrounding the great mountain, a castle was being constructed in Kain's honor, albeit the lack of an official kingdom. Magical wards had been placed at the base of the mountain to prevent any of the vicious undead from invading nearby towns. Under the cover of the forest, some colonies of dwarves used the dense foliage to shield them from the sun and conducted research of the upper world.

Kain himself lived on this continent in a small village named Asuria after the Queen of Monsters, Asura. He had never returned to the country of Baron in all of his travels. He had never gone to check in on Cecil and Rosa. He had never gone back to his old room in the Castle Baron to gather his belongings. He had decided to forget about his past, and live out his days in peace. He was a prominent member of his community, and wouldn't trade it for anything. He kept up to date with current events, but would not allow anything to corrupt his peace. Things stayed this way for eleven years.

* * * * *

Eleven years after his journey up Ordeals, the castle west of the forest had been completed. The locals and masons demanded that it be Kain's new home since it was built in his honor. Kain complied with his fellow citizens and moved into the majestic structure. It was quite beautiful and was significantly larger than Baron. The citizens escorted him to the throne room and asked him to sit in the throne. Kain was adamantly against it. He wanted to live with them, not above them. The elder of the first town to be built on the continent stepped forward.

"Kain. It is time," He spoke solemnly.

"No. I will not. I am your friend, not your superior," Kain replied.

"Kain, it is because of you that we found this great land to settle upon. It is through your guidance that we trained to become great warriors. It is through your efforts that we have complete peace with the Mysidians and Eblanians. We all envy you and look up to you. We do not think of you as superior, but instead as a great leader. Lead us, Kain. Lead us into an age of prosperity, and we shall not fail you."

Important figures from the rest of the unaffiliated towns and villages stepped forward as well. "We wish to follow you, Kain," said the Asurian representative, "Let us create a new empire with what you've taught us."

Kain looked into the eyes of the elder and saw the look of devotion on his face, he knew they would not take no as an answer. But he had to think fast. "All right. Then let the Dragoon Empire, defenders of freedom and justice, be born. The castle in which we now stand is Castle Dragoon. I will now appoint a high council. The ten of you now standing before me showed great initiative and diplomatic skills. I would like you to be my high council. Do you accept?"

Each of the representatives nodded their heads in agreement. The elder spoke: "We would be honored."

"So be it. Let the legacy of the Dragoons begin!" Kain's enthusiasm was quite contagious as the entire crowd let out a deafening roar of approval.

Over the course of the next year, two more towns, Kain's Honor and Dracon, grew and prospered. The Dragoon Empire quickly flourished and became quite powerful. News of this empire's growth spread far and wide. The remaining Dragoons in Castle Baron who heard of this went to join the empire named for them. The lord of Baron watched floods of the Dragon Knights leave his halls and did not know what to make of it.

* * * * *

King Cecil picked up a copy of the local news report to read the headlines. When he caught eye of the front page, he staggered and almost fainted. Dashing to Queen Rosa to share the news with her, he caused a great deal of panic in the soldiers he passed. The soldiers ran after him thinking something was terribly wrong. Once he finally found her, he stopped to catch his breath and then exploded out the news to Rosa.

"Rosa look! I'd heard about a new empire doing quite well for itself, but I never dreamed KAIN would be LEADING IT!"

"WHAT?!" Rosa's reaction was quite expected as she looked at the paper.

"He IS alive! Rosa, we have to visit. I'll prepare the Enterprise immediately." Cecil dashed off leaving Rosa with the paper.

Cid came around the corner to find out what all the noise about. "What's all the hoopla?" Cid no sooner got the words out of his mouth than he had to catch a fainting Rosa. "Rosa! Are you okay?" Cid then caught sight of the paper. "WHAT THE?! I have to find Cecil!"

Chapter 4 - The Visit

Kain was doing his usual rounds and visits. Stopping over in Asuria to see how his hometown was progressing, passing by the farming town of Sudara inspecting the harvest for this year, visiting Kain's Glory to an overwhelming welcome, and meeting with the blacksmith of Dracon. The peace treaty with New Eblan had led to great prosperity for both countries. Many of his townspeople asked him for advice, battle tips, and why he wasn't sitting on the throne.

He hated that throne. Kain couldn't stand the thought of being stationary longer than 20 minutes. Even when it was raining outside, he'd stroll through the gardens of Castle Dragoon.

He loved those gardens. Their beauty rivaled the lush foliage of Toroia itself. Over 30 gardeners from many different countries painstakingly maintained them. It was originally started by three women from Sudara, but when news of its beauty had spread, a mob of gardeners, men and women alike, wanted a piece of the action.

Kain was thinking about the gardens as he was returning home. He decided to take the route through the forest and maybe fight a few Needlers and SwordRats. About halfway through the dense forest, he swore he had caught sight of a large propeller about a quarter of a mile away. He figured it was probably the messenger from Fabul reporting the progress of the steel mining at the nearby grotto. Kain continued along quietly and casually.

Passing citizens were able to hear various incantations echoing through the forest, but unable to comprehend them, they did not know they were, in fact, spells. They only knew it was their Emperor's voice and rushed to see what was happening. Soon Kain had a circle of his people around him as he fought bravely against hordes of monsters. Using his newfound magic ability, he was able to char, jolt, and freeze his opponents. His subjects watched in awe as their Emperor commanded the elements so brilliantly and easily. His fighting instinct hadn't dulled with age or inactivity and it was always a pleasure to see such an incredible warrior fight. Kain lived to fight, and there was a time when he fought to live. Remembering the old days battling against the Fiends and Zeromus, he entered a more comfortable demeanor as he spun his lance and fired off another barrage of ice shards.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at Castle Dragoon, Cecil, Rosa, and Cid were climbing down out of the Enterprise. Chancellor Gordon greeted their arrival and told them how pleased Kain would be to see them for he talks about them all the time. The trio looked at each other with puzzled expressions wondering why Kain never visited them if he thought so highly of them. The Chancellor led them to the antechamber of the great hall where the three of them were greeted warmly with valets and servants bearing refreshments. Cecil took a glass of water, Rosa raised a hand to refuse the offer, and Cid grabbed a handful of pastries and plopped down on the regal-looking couch. The Chancellor began talking with them.

"Welcome to Castle Dragoon. Any friends of Emperor Kain are more than welcome here," the Chancellor said with a smile, "Do you have a purpose for your visit, or are you just visiting?"

"Just visiting," Cecil replied solemnly. Then I'm gonna wring Kain's neck and ask him why he never told us about all this!

Rosa nodded in agreement. I wonder if it has to do with Cecil and me?

"Well! We figured that since that buffoon never visits us, we might as well visit him!" Cid said while rubbing his sore shoulder. He and Cecil had collided when trying to find each other.

"CID!" Rosa and Cecil shouted in unison.


"No, no, I understand," the Chancellor spoke in low tones, "Emperor Kain has never voiced his reason for a lack of visiting you, but it has always been a sensitive subject. He often wonders if this empire would exist if he had returned to you. The Emperor truly believes it is better this way."

"Whatever the reason, it will be good to see my best friend again," said Cecil, feigning a smile. Rosa smiled weakly as well. Cid guffawed.

At that moment, Kain walked into the antechamber and froze in place when he saw the Baron trio. Everyone else in the room rose to their feet. Cecil walked to Kain with Rosa and Cid close behind him. All three wore grim expressions. Kain had one to match. Cecil stood a foot from Kain and looked in his eyes. The situation was very uneasy for the surrounding servants. The Chancellor looked on with a great amount of worry on his face. Then Cecil spoke: "Kain."

"Cecil," Kain replied evenly. The two stared into each other's eyes for several seconds making the Chancellor quite nervous. The Chancellor almost stepped in to say something when Cecil and Kain both let out a yell and gave a hearty shake. The two embraced briefly, as a man would with his long lost brother. They had been as close if not closer than brothers, and it was overwhelming to be reunited again after eleven long years.

"Kain! You old dog! It's great to see you again!" The Chancellor let out a deep breath and the other servants found themselves able to breathe again as well. Cecil smiled at Kain while Rosa giggled and Cid laughed at the top his lungs.

"Cecil. I suppose I should welcome you to Castle Dragoon," Kain abruptly turned his back, "but I don't think you deserve it!" he said in a light-hearted tone.

Cecil reached forward and grabbed the emperor by the neck holding him a headlock. "Do I deserve it now? Huh?"

Kain writhed to try and get loose, laughing all the while, "No! You are too weak! You are not worthy of-ACK!"

Cecil tightened his grip and started giving Kain noogies, "What was that? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you!"

"Okay! Okay! I yield! I yield! Leggo!" Kain shouted in between laughs. Cecil released him and they both shared a laugh. Cid was rolling on the floor, unable to control himself. Rosa held a hand over her mouth trying to suppress giggling but not succeeding.

Hours later, the four were just enjoying each other's company, talking, drinking, and listening to the minstrels play in the antechamber. It seemed that they had run out of subject matter abruptly and the roomed echoed with silence.

"Kain?" Cecil said, penetrating the quiet.

Uh oh, here it comes "Yes, Cecil?"

"Why why didn't you ever you know, visit us? We hadn't heard from you in eleven years. We all never gave up hope that you were still alive. So I mean um we know you have your empire to look after, but in this time of peace, you've had ample opportunities. Can you explain?" Cecil looked guilty after speaking, but Kain was completely distraught.

"I really don't have an answer for you, Cecil. I felt like less than a man after leaving you. I went to Mt. Ordeals, and spoke with a spirit at the summit, and he showed me confidence again."

Cecil's eyes widened at this. "You spoke with the spirit? Was he my father?"

"Yes," Kain replied evenly, "To thank me for being such a great friend to you, he offered to help me regain myself. I accepted, and he told me what I had to do. It was then that I realized that going off by myself and abandoning you in my selfish search for honor was in fact the betrayal, not my past deeds."

"Kain, we all knew you were under hypnosis," Rosa said comfortingly, "Even while under control, you still wanted to protect me. And so what if you may have done evil deeds in the past. The fact remains that your deeds are what allows this planet to still exist to this day."

"I did not do it alone."

"No, but your support and dedication helped drive us through it. Please, Kain, stop blaming yourself. You deserve as much credit as I in the defeat of Zeromus."

"I I didn't"

"Kain. Hush."

Kain hung his head for a moment. Then started laughing. "Do you know how hard it is to climb Mt. Ordeals? Not too hard after you remember that your spear casts White!" The rest of the group laughed with him although Rosa was still concerned. But Kain was happy. She needed nothing more.

"Come!" Kain shouted suddenly, "Allow me to show you the magnificent gardens of this castle! I guarantee you, these flowers will rival even your beauty, Rosa."

"Somehow I doubt that, Kain!" Cecil replied loudly.

The four of them journeyed to the side of the castle.

Epilogue - Progress (8 years later)

Kain now journeyed to Baron for regular visits. He also decided he could face his other friends if he was able to face Cecil. He spoke with Yang and offered military support to Fabul. He ventured to Damcyan and had a talk with King Edward, and before the day was done, 50 botanists were to be sent from Dragoon to assist with irrigation efforts for Damcyan. Toroia was next on his world tour where he spoke with the eight clerics and invited them to his castle to enjoy his gardens. Kain next made his way to the rebuilt Eblan to converse with Edge who spoke of nothing but Rydia. Kain borrowed the Falcon from Edge and ventured into the underworld where he visited Rydia in the land of summoned monsters. Rydia was finally convinced to meet with Edge, and Kain gave her a lift to get there. Within months the two were married and had a child on the way.

Kain had accomplished so much in his travels, caused so much happiness in the people he'd met, and started an empire of his own. He'd found redemption in the eyes of his friends and that was his true goal.

Kain reached the summit of Mt. Ordeals. He crossed the bridge and walked to the small structure at the northwest end. He looked up at the sky and smiled. Following him was his wife of 4 years, a laborer and council member from Kain's Honor named Alanna, and his 3-year-old son, Cecil. Alanna hugged her husband and their son clung to Kain's greaves, smiling up at him. Kain continued to gaze at the passing clouds.

"KluYa" Kain said to the mountain air, "Thank you. Thank you for the guidance, and helping me to rediscover my confidence. Look. This is my son, Cecil. Almost looks like him, doesn't he? Well, I have to be off. I'm meeting YOUR son Cecil tonight for dinner at Baron Castle. It'll be good to see little Ruby and Golbez again. I'm sure you're very proud of your son. I am too. He found it in his heart to forgive me, and for that, I am always grateful. Rest in peace, KluYa. And thank you"

Kain and his family departed the mountain via Kain's Exit spell. Yet, had he stayed one minute more, he would have heard that familiar voice once more.

"I'm proud of you too, Kain. And thank you."

~ ~ E N D ~ ~

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