"What could he want from me at this hour?" Rydia grumbled irritably to herself as she hurried through the halls of Castle Baron.
The mint-haired young woman made her way through the castle towards the royal apartments, answering the unexpected summons from Cecil. Moonlight shone through windows, illuminating the hall with pale blocks of light. It was quiet in the castle; the only sounds were her own soft footfalls and the gentle swishing of the narrow skirt of her pale blue evening dress. She frowned as she strode purposefully towards the stairwell that led to the upper areas of the castle where the royal study was.
She had been sprawled in a large overstuffed chair enjoying a book she had bought at the large fair in town. Cecil's coronation and wedding had taken place almost a full week earlier, however the people of his Kingdom saw no reason that they should stop their celebrations. The book, a history of Baron and some of the surrounding kingdoms, had been purchased while she had been returning from a long day of eating, drinking and dancing with Edge. He had left her upon their return to the castle, to meet with Cecil and some of the other monarchs who were still at the castle. After briefly resting, she had changed into the dressing gown she now wore, and settled sideways into the chair, her legs draped over one of the armrests and started reading the heavy, leather bound volume.
Time had passed quickly and she was well into the book, and the night for that matter, when a knock had pulled her regretfully out of her chair. She had opened the door to reveal the King of Eblan who, had given her an outrageous bow.
"I hate to disturb you my Lady," he had said expansively, earning a disapproving frown for his trouble. "But the King of this castle wishes to speak with you."
"Right now?" she had asked in surprise. "Doesn't he know what time it is?"
"Were you asleep?" he had asked her, giving her slightly rumpled dress a glance.
"Well, no," she had admitted. "But it's still late! What's this about?"
She hadn't been sure, but she thought he had paused before shrugging. "He just said that I ask you to meet him in his study." He had stifled a yawn, before turning and striding down the hall. "I'm going to bed, it's far too late. You should get going, I think whatever he wanted to talk to you about was important."
Which is how she found herself nodding to the guards who stood at watch outside the entry to the royal apartments. She was well known to them, and they let her pass. She went straight for the heavy oak door that marked the entry to Cecil's private study. Yawning, she rapped once on the sturdy wooden surface.
"Come in," Cecil's quiet voice called out.
She let herself into the neat, organized world of the young King's study. The room was small, but one wall was dominated by a bookshelf filled almost to bursting with thick volumes. A small, round table surrounded by a few chairs sat in a corner of the room. The King himself sat behind a large desk, covered with neat stacks of papers. He looked up and gave her a warm smile, and motioned for her to take a seat.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you so late," he apologized, putting the sheet of paper he was pouring over aside.
She waved him off, giving him a smile of her own. Despite their dubious beginnings, she was very fond of him, and knew that he felt the same way about her. "I hadn't gone to bed yet," she explained. "So there's no need for you to apologize. You should be in bed yourself though, especially if you've been in council since this afternoon."
Rubbing a weary hand over his eyes, he sighed. "Rosa has already threatened to lock me in the bedroom for eight hours a day if I don't start getting more sleep. It's just that there is so much to do."
"You don't have to do it all your first week," she chided gently. She was the younger of the two, but not by nearly the margin that she should have been. That didn't stop her from admonishing him though. "Besides," she added giving him a wicked little smile. "I would think your duties as a husband would be more interesting than all this." She gestured at the piles of papers stacked up in front of him, and laughed merrily at the flush that suddenly appeared in his cheeks.
"Ah, the reason I asked you here," he went on hurriedly, "was to talk with you about the council meeting we had this afternoon."
Her eyebrows lifted. "What about it?" she questioned, a puzzled expression on her face.
Pulling a thick sheaf of papers from a particularly large stack, he glanced down at them. "We've started organizing relief efforts to help the countries that were ravaged by the Crystal War," he started. "Not everyone could be here for the discussions, but we've begun compiling the amount of aid that's going to be required for the various countries. The numbers are staggering." He shook his head. "Eblan, Damcyan and Fabul are going to require significant resources to get back on their feet."
She nodded, although she was very confused. "I'm sure they will, Cecil," she said slowly. "Just as I'm sure you are all capable of handling things. But why are you telling me all of this? I'll certainly do whatever I can to help, but I don't understand why you had to tell me tonight."
"Because there's one group of people who probably needs more aid than anybody else on or under this world," he told her. "But none of us know how to approach them, or what to say to them. We thought it would be best to ask you."
Realization dawned on her. "The summoners?" she asked, startled. "You're sending aid to Mist?"
He nodded. "I would like to, Rydia. But, I don't know how it would be received. I...did them a great injustice. I would like the chance to make it up to them." He reached out and took her hand. "I'd like to make it up to you."
She stared at him. They had hardly spoken of the circumstances of their first meeting, outside of Rydia's few, somewhat hysterical, remarks when she had awakened in Kaipo. "You don't have anything to make up to me Cecil," she said shaking her head earnestly. "I'd say you've already done more than enough to make up for it."
"Nothing will ever be enough," he muttered to himself. She felt his grip tighten on her hand. "I killed innocent people Rydia, killed your mother in cold--"
"Will you stop that?" She had to fight to keep from shouting at him. She cared about Cecil, but sometimes his silent suffering made her want to strangle him. "What do you think would have happened to me if you had let those soldiers take me in Kaipo? Do you think they would have taken me to Baron?" She shook her head to emphasize her point. "I don't doubt they would have simply cut my throat and dropped my body somewhere in the desert! You saved my life, and you went on to save the lives of everybody on this planet." She softened her voice slightly. "You don't owe me anything Cecil. If you're going to send aid to the people of Mist, you'll have my gratitude, but do it because it's the right thing to do, not because you think you have anything to make up to me."
He gave her hand a grateful squeeze. "Thank you Rydia, I certainly appreciate what you're saying. However," he continued, releasing her hand. "The other people of Mist probably don't feel the same way you do. They might look at any large group sent to the village as something hostile."
Rydia's gaze became thoughtful. "I suppose that's true," she admitted. "You probably aren't very popular there, are you?" She looked at him and shrugged. "I'm sure you'll be able to explain it to them though."
"Actually," he said slowly. "I was hoping that you could explain it to them for me. I'd like for you to go to Mist as my representative."
"Back to--you want me to go back Mist?" she repeated. Mixed emotions boiled through her. She had buried the memories of the small mountain village where she had been born ever since the fire had destroyed it. She had thought that she had put the event behind her, but sharp pangs in her heart were telling her otherwise. "Cecil, I'm not sure I can do that," she said hesitantly.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, sounding suprised. "We all thought you would be happy to return to Mist."
"We all? You mean you all talked about this during that meeting?"
He nodded. "We decided it would be best if you were the one who went to talk to the summoners. It's your home, and you haven't been back there since--for a very long time. We thought you might like to go home again."
"I don't think you understand what you're asking me, Cecil," she said dubiously. "I don't really consider Mist my home anymore. When my mother died, all my ties with home were severed. There's nothing left for me to go back to. I'm dead to them, and anybody I knew when I was there is either still a child, or they didn't survive the fire."
"Don't you want to at least return to visit though?" he pressed her. He hesitated before asking, "Don't you want to see who did...survive?"
"Of course I do!" she snapped at him. Her emotions were taking control of her, and she forced herself to calm down. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bite like that. This is just very sudden. I've trained myself to not think about home for so many years, it's just an automatic reaction now."
"I understand," Cecil said to her. "It's quite alright, I just wanted to ask you about it. We can appoint another person to go."
She shook her head. "Let me think about it first," she said. "I've been hiding my feelings about what happened in Mist ever since that fire. I thought staying away would be the best thing, but now I'm not sure. Let me think about it tonight and I'll tell you tomorrow."
"Very well," Cecil said to her. "Thanks for at least considering it." He stood to lead her out of the room. At the door, she grinned impishly and gave him a deep curtsey. "If Your Majesty will permit me my leave?" she asked.
"Now you stop that," he said firmly, waving a finger threateningly at her. She laughed and gave him a brief embrace before heading back to the lower levels of the castle.
A little more than a half hour had passed, and Rydia was no longer tired. The more she thought about what Cecil had asked her, the more troubled she became. Could she really go back? For her, it had been over ten years since she had last been in Mist. Who survived the fire? What happened to her friends? Did any of them survive?
She hadn't realized her destination until she stood in front of Edge's door. Her relationship with the ninja baffled even her. He infuriated her with his outrageous flirting and overwhelming ego, but she was nonetheless drawn to him. They argued frequently, and their fights were approaching legendary status, and were often filled with very colorful words. But she couldn't deny that he stirred some very strange feelings within her.
She had to knock three times before the bleary-eyed King answered the door. "Do you know what time it is?" he complained, his words interrupted by a large yawn.
"That didn't stop you earlier," she reminded him. "Are you going to let me in or just let me stand in the hallway?"
He grumbled something inaudible, but stepped aside to let her pass. When he closedthe door, she whirled on him. "Why didn't you tell me what he wanted to ask?" she demanded.
He dropped onto the bed. "Because he wanted to talk to you personally," he shrugged, yawning again. "Would you really have wanted to hear me ask you about it?"
"You still could have told me," she muttered at him, sitting in a chair near the bed.
"Stop being silly," he told her flatly. "Cecil told me about what happened in Mist. That's got to weigh on the man, Rydia. He wants to make up for it, and part of that is dealing with you. The other part is dealing with the rest of your people. You're his friend, and you haven't dropped any flaming rocks on his head or turned him into a pig, so I take it that means you've long since forgiven him. That still leaves the rest of the people in that village." He looked over to where she was brooding in the chair. "Are you going to do it?"
"I don't know," she said with a sigh. "There's no real reason I shouldn't. It's just I've put what happened there behind me. I don't want to deal with it anymore."
"You haven't put anything behind you," Edge said with a snort. "You've just run away from it so long, you can't see it anymore."
"Do you work at being an insensitive jerk in your spare time?" she said acidly. "Mist isn't my home anymore, there's nothing left there for me!"
"Then don't go!" he said, exasperation creeping into his voice. "Go back upstairs, tell Cecil you won't do it, and let me get back to sleep." He looked at her angry expression with a direct one of his own. "You wouldn't be here if you didn't have doubts Rydia, unless my charms have finally won you over." He ignored her derisive snort. "You're obviously thinking about going back. So why don't you tell me why you wouldn't want to?"
"I told you--"
"The real reasons Rydia," he said tiredly. "It's late, and we don't have time to dance around the problem. Don't give me your rhetoric about not having anything to go back to. You've made that up and you've been saying it so long you might actually believe it yourself. What are you really afraid of?"
She glowered at him, angry with him for his words--rhetoric indeed!--but also angry because of the truth they held. "Fine," she muttered. She told him about being afraid to face the realties of what had happened in her home. The fire had decimated the summoners. She had heard the screams of people trapped in burning houses, people she had known. Those screams had haunted her dreams for years after the fact. Her mother had collapsed in front her, dead even before she hit the ground when the bond between her and the guardian mist dragon had been so violently severed. She didn't know who was alive or who had died, and because she never had the chance to really grieve over the lives that were lost, she had never really recovered from what happened.
Everything came pouring out. The conversation turned to her life in Mist, before she had been ripped away. She told him about her close friends as a child; Jediah, Devin, Marin, Lucia. Growing up in Mist had been fun, children having dreams about their first summoning, right up until the day they actually were able to summon a creature from their domain in the Underworld. Her first had been a yellow chocobo, that had almost run her over after she had called it. She went on for hours, until the sound of a bird chirping startled her out of her tale. She glanced out of the window and was shocked to see pale light beginning to fill the sky.
"Edge, I'm so sorry!" she said, standing hastily. "Why didn't you stop me? I've kept you up all night!" The dark haired King had listened to her and not interrupted, except to ask a question or two.
"Don't worry, I'll make you repay me for it later," he said with a tired grin. The smile faded into a serious expression, and he put a hand on her shoulder. "Did it help?" he asked.
She nodded. "I'm going back. I have to. I didn't think there was anything left for me, and I was so wrong. All of those memories..." she shook her head. "Thanks for helping me see that."
"I just listened. I'm not always an insensitive jerk you know," he said jokingly.
"No, just most of the time," she countered. There was no anger in her voice though.
He walked her to the door, a yawn cracking his jaws. "Get out of here so I can get some sleep," he said.
She gave him a considering look before leaning up and kissing him softly. Her actions seemed to take him by surprise, and she pulled away before he could recover. She grinned at him and winked once, before sweeping off down the hallway, feeling his eyes on her back until she finally made it around a corner.
* * *
She slept until late morning, and awoke not feeling very refreshed at all. Fortunately, the chambers she had been given had their own bathing facilities, so she spent the better part of an hour luxuriating in the warm, soapy water. Feeling better, she donned a comfortable gown in her customary green and went in search of Cecil.
She found him in the throne room, fighting to stay awake as a representative from the merchants in the town, a tall, shrewd-faced man, droned on about taxes and levies and all manners of things she had no interest in. Judging by the slightly glazed look in Cecil's eyes, neither did he. "Pardon your Majesty," she interrupted, dropping a slight curtsey. "But I have to speak with you regarding the matter you summoned me about last night."
"Of course Lady Rydia," Cecil said, unable to keep the relief out of his voice. He gave the shrewd-faced merchant an apologetic, yet distant smile. "You'll excuse me my good--?"
"Trent, Your Majesty," the man said stiffly, obviously not pleased at being dismissed.
"Trent. Of course. I'll not forget again. I must speak with the Lady, and I'm not certain how long it will take. If you wouldn't mind taking this matter up with my chancellor, I'm sure you can reach some accord." He didn't wait for an answer as he turned to Rydia. "If you wouldn't mind following me?" he asked her.
When they had left the throne room and entered a small meeting room that lay a few doors down the hallway, he let out a breath. "Are you sure I can't offer you a title and make you a part of my court?" he asked her. "One more minute of listening to him prattle on about merchant taxes and I believe I would have thrown something at him."
"I don't think you'd want me in court," she laughed, settling into a chair. "I don't have a lot of patience, and I might turn somebody into a frog if they annoyed me."
He looked speculatively back towards the throne room, then looked back at her, eyebrows raised hopefully.
She wiggled her fingers at him in a mock imitation of a wizard casting a spell before laughing again. "I wanted to tell you that I'm going to make the trip. I'll go to Mist for you."
"That's wonderful Rydia," he said gratefully. "I'm happy you decided to go. We have already begun compiling a list of what we plan to send to the nations. I'll need your input to decide what needs to be sent to Mist."
She nodded. "I'm going to go there myself first. I need to see the village again."
"You're going alone?" he asked, surprised. "Wouldn't it be better to take some people with you?"
Shaking her head, she answered, "I don't think so. We don't know what's been happening there. I may be a summoner Cecil, but I'm not the same person that left there a little over a year ago. I'll have to convince them of who I am, and that's not going to be easy. Plus," she added. "There are some things I have to deal with on my own. Things I haven't dealt with all these years."
He paused, before nodding. "Of course. Very well, is there anything that I can provide? When will you be leaving?"
"As soon as I can gather the things I'll need," she replied. "Some traveling clothes, supplies and a lot of food and water. I don't know how things are up there, but given the destruction that's taken place around the world, I want to be prepared with extra supplies. No more than I can carry though."
"I'll see that it's taken care of," he assured her. "It shouldn't take more than a few hours. Will you leave today?"
Nodding, she stood up. "I'll start packing now. Have the supplies sent to my room as soon as you can."
He also rose from his chair. They left the room and he resignedly turned back towards the throne room. "I suppose I have to go back in there," he said to her.
"You could always come with me," she suggested with a smile. "I could use somebody to carry my bags for me."
Glancing into the throne room again, he shook his head. "Don't tempt me." Squaring his shoulders, he marched resolutely into the room. Grinning, she made her way back towards her chambers. There was a lot of work to do.
* * *
The preparations were completed with surprising quickness, and by the early afternoon, Rydia had started her journey to the mist filled cavern that led to her home. She had donned a dark green tunic and deep brown trousers that were loose fitting and comfortable. A brown cloak hung around her shoulders and a large pack was slung across her back. She had grunted slightly at its weight when she had hefted it, looking accusingly at Cecil, who had come to see her off.
"You said you wanted extra food," he had said, sounding defensive.
"Not enough to feed all of the animals along the way too," she had grumbled at him. She had shouldered the satchel though, and was now taking the well worn path through the great forest that lead to the cavern of Mist.
As she walked, she felt a keen sense of anticipation, and not a small amount of uncertainty. She was going home, but she had no idea what to expect. According to Cecil, nobody had made the journey to Mist recently, with all the troubles that the Crystal War had brought. There was also the problem of her identity. Who was going to believe she was the same seven year old girl whom they thought had been killed just over a year ago? She did not have an answer for that troubling question yet, but she hoped to not have to worry about it for awhile yet.
The cavern was not far, and the land was not nearly as perilous as it used to be. After a couple hours of hiking and she found herself approaching the cavern of Mist. She noticed, alarmed, that the usual thick strands of mist that should have been coming from the cave were no longer there. A few wispy tendrils drifted out, but nothing compared to what it should have been. A startling thought popped into her mind, one that she had never considered before. She was now the guardian summoner of the village. The responsibility had passed to her with her mother's death. In fact, she probably could have summoned a mist dragon the instant her mother had died. Without a guardian dragon in the cave, of course the thick vapor that usually filled the cavern would have dissipated with time. She felt a gentle tugging at the back of her mind.
"Not yet," she murmured for the benefit of the huge white dragon that was reaching its awareness out to her in a silent plea. "It isn't time for that yet." The tugging ceased reluctantly.
She paused outside the entrance to the cavern a moment, composing herself. It would take a little less than hour to pass through the cavern. Perhaps less since she wouldn't have to pick her way through as carefully as she normally would. Less than an hour until she was back in her home.
Taking a breath, she plunged into the darkness. She went ahead quickly, wanting to get away from the light of the cave mouth. After a few minutes, she held her palm up in front of her and whispered a few words of power. A ball of flame appeared above her hand. She raised her arm above her head and added a few more words before she lowered her arm. The contained fire remained hovering above her, pushing the darkness out a little farther, and casting flickering shadows against the rough walls.
The cavern was a natural thing, carved out of the belly of the mountain by the tireless wearing of the elements. She carefully picked her way though, noting with dismay how little of the distinctive mist that had given the cavern and town its name actually remained. Rock formations jutted up from the floor and stuck out from the walls at odd angles, and although she could not see all the way to the ceiling, she was sure they hung from there as well.
After more than a half hour of careful going, she spied a dim light far ahead. Encouraged, she increased her pace, and the exit into the Valley of Mist grew close enough that she was able to extinguish her hovering light. She didn't hesitate as she reached the cave mouth, but instead leapt out into the quiet valley that had been her home for the first several years of her life.
The valley sloped downwards towards the small village of Mist. It was quiet, except for the chirping of a few birds in a small copse of trees that stood halfway between the cavern and the village. Her eyes slid right over the trees and a large patch of flowers and came to rest on the village that stood at the end of the valley.
Mist seemed even smaller than she remembered it. She wasn't sure if it was because of all the places she had been as an adult, or if there were houses that hadn't been rebuilt after the fire. She saw, with a twinge in her heart, that there was a burned husk still standing that had not been cleared away. She was slightly puzzled at that, over a year had passed since the fire, why hadn't the debris been cleaned up?
There didn't seem to be anybody moving among the houses in the village. She began walking down the gently sloping valley, but stopped quite suddenly as she passed the large patch of wildflowers she had seen from the cavern mouth. It was not merely a large growth of flowers, but they had actually been planted and carefully organized into neat rows. Each row was marked with small wooden signs, spaced evenly apart, and each with a name engraved carefully in the center.
Rydia shrugged out of her backpack and knelt in front of the simple memorial. She counted the number of markers. Three rows total, ten markers in all but the row closest to her, where there were only seven. Twenty-seven people. A large lump formed in her throat. She didn't know how many people lived in the village when she was a child, but twenty-seven seemed an awfully large number.
Her eyes scanned the names on the markers. Some of them were unfamiliar. As a child, she had paid little attention to most of the adults, although because Mist had been so small, many names tugged at her memory. Tears began forming in her eyes as she saw the names of friends she remembered from her childhood. Jediah, who used to bring her flowers in the morning, then blush when she would giggle at him. Mara, one of the older girls who had always taken care of the younger children during the day. Devin, with his mischievous grin, who used to get her into all kinds of trouble around the village. All of them, gone.
Then her eyes fell on a name that caused her heart to lurch. It was the first name in the middle row, and she unconsciously reached her hand out to touch it. "Mother," she whispered. The lump in her throat had returned, bigger this time. Tears were making her eyes glisten in the late afternoon light.
"I miss you, Mother," she said quietly, stroking the tiny marker lovingly. "More than anything in this world. When I was in the Land of Summons, I thought about you all of the time. I wished I could just be your little girl again. Sometimes I still do."
Her voice was giving out on her, but she went on. "But I can't. As much as I wish it I can't! I can't change what happened. I love you Mother, I love you so very much. You're the reason I came back. I wanted to say goodbye."
Finally, her emotions overwhelmed her and Rydia buried her face in her hands and wept. Ten years of sorrow and grief came pouring out of her, as her shoulders shook with sobs. She didn't cry only for the loss of her mother. She cried for Jediah and Devin and Mara and all of the people whose faces she couldn't remember. For the first time, Rydia allowed herself to grieve for her people.
As her sobs subsided, she sensed somebody next to her. Her head snapped up, her eyes red and her face tear streaked. The brown-haired little girl jumped back as she looked up, and looked as if she was ready to bolt back to the relative safety of the village. Her eyes were huge dark pools that seemed to glow and she couldn't have been more than eight or nine years old. Rydia almost cried out in relief. She recognized the little girl instantly.
"Marin? Marin it's you, you're alive!" she said, without thinking. The little girl looked at her as if she had sprouted wings.
"Who are you?" she said in a voice that sounded far too old for the small frame it came from. Her head was cocked to one side and she was giving Rydia a puzzled look. "How do you know who I am?"
"I--" Rydia started before pulling up short. She couldn't say it! She couldn't just come out and tell the girl who she was...could she? "...am an old friend," she finished, angry with herself for lying. "I was here a long time ago, and I remember you."
Marin edged closer to Rydia. "Why were you crying?" the girl asked. She looked down at the marker she was kneeling before. "Did you know her?"
Rydia nodded. "Very well," she said quietly. She looked at the little girl more closely. She wore a faded blue blouse and a worn pair of brown trousers with wide patches at the knees. The blouse was a little too small for her, and the sleeves stopped well short of her wrists. The outfit wasn't shabby, but it was obvious that she was in need of new clothes.
"You're a summoner too," the girl stated with certainty. Marin had always been a very intelligent child, and Rydia nodded at her. The girl smiled sadly and looked down at the small wooden markers in front of her.
"She was the guardian of the village," Marin said quietly. She pointed to another marker at the end of the last row. "Her daughter was my best friend in the world. She died in the great fire too." There was sadness in the girl's voice, but also a quiet acceptance that pierced Rydia's heart. Unbidden, her gaze fell to the last name in the list.
Oddly, she felt a strange kind of detachment as she looked at the marker that bore her own name. In a way, she had always considered herself dead as far as Mist was concerned, and it seems that the villagers thought of her that way as well. She looked back at Marin's sad expression, and noted the small batch of flowers the girl held in her hands. "Were those for her?" Rydia asked quietly.
Marin nodded and walked over to the small marker. "Rydia always liked flowers," she said as she put the small wrapped bundle in front of the marker. "One of our friends used to give them to her all the time. She liked him very much, I think." She pointed at Jediah's marker. "He died too," she said, that same acceptance from earlier in her voice.
"She did like him," Rydia said quietly. She couldn't conceal her identity anymore. Not from somebody who had been her closest friend as a child. "She liked you too, Marin. You're very special to her."
Marin looked at her again. "Did you know Rydia?" she asked with some surprise. "Who are you?"
"I am Rydia, Marin," she said. "It's me. I wasn't killed during the fire."
The girl's eyes grew to saucers. "Th-that's not true!" the girl stammered. "You can't be Rydia, you're grown up! She was the same age as me!"
"I know," Rydia went on in the same quiet voice. "I was taken away during the fire, by one of the men who came here. The fire...it wasn't supposed to happen, they didn't know what they were doing."
"You're lying!" Marin shouted at her, backing away, her eyes full of hurt and anger. "Why are you doing this? Rydia was my friend!"
"Please listen to me, Marin," Rydia pleaded with her. "I know you thought I was dead, but just give me a chance--"
"No!" she shouted again. The little girl lunged at Rydia and starting flailing at her with her arms. Her eyes flashed, and tears were falling steadily down her cheeks. "I hate you!" she repeated over and over.
Rydia easily fended off the child's savage attack, although her heart ached. She had known it would be difficult to prove who she was, but she hadn't expected to try and convince somebody so young. Suddenly, she wondered why no other adults had come to see what was wrong. She had to convince the little girl before the situation was blown out of control.
Grabbing a hold of Marin's wildly swinging wrists, she pinned her arms to the side of her body. The child squirmed in Rydia's grasp, fear creeping into her eyes as she realized she couldn't escape from the older woman's grasp.
"Look at me Marin," she said clearly to the struggling girl. Her only answer was to struggle harder to pull away. Rydia sighed. "If you won't look at me, at least listen to what I'm saying," she went on, still firmly holding the wriggling little girl.
"Why didn't you summon your basilisk?" Rydia asked her. The girl's struggling stopped momentarily and she looked up at Rydia in teary-eyed shock. "He could have helped you quite a bit you know."
"How did you know about him?" she asked, her voice slightly creaking slightly.
"Will you listen to me now at least?" Rydia asked. "Please? If I can't prove to you who I am, I'll leave, and I'll never come back."
She considered that for a moment before quietly saying, "Ok, but you have to promise you'll leave if I don't believe you." Rydia nodded and released the child's arms. She stepped away from Rydia, but she didn't run, as Rydia had feared she would.
"How can you be Rydia?" Marin asked her. "She was the same age I was, and you're all grown."
"I was taken to the Land of Summons," Rydia explained. "You should know what that would do to me."
Marin's eyes widened a moment, but she shook her head again. "I still don't believe you," she said stubbornly. "You could have found out about my basilisk, and you can't prove that you went to the Land of Summons." She looked accusingly at Rydia. "Why should I believe that?"
"Because it's true," Rydia said simply. She sighed. "Ask me anything Marin. Anything that only Rydia would know. Would you believe me if I could answer your questions?"
The little girl tilted her head to the side again, her dark eyes wary. "Ok," she said after a moment, and settled onto the ground facing Rydia. "What was the first creature Rydia ever summoned?"
She smiled. "A bright yellow chocobo," she replied. "We named him Kweh. I don't think he liked it much tough."
Marin's looked surprised for a moment, but went on to the next question. "How old was Rydia when she disappeared?"
"What was my brother's name?"
Rydia smiled. The girl was shrewd for her age. "You don't have a brother, Marin. Only your sister, Nediah."
Her jaw dropped slightly. She crawled forward on her hands and knees and gently reached out to touch Rydia's face. "Rydia and I made a promise when we had both turned seven," she whispered. "Where did we make it and what was it?"
Rydia took her friend's hand and placed it over her heart, then took her own hand and put it over Marin's heart. "We were in the grove of trees over there," Rydia said softly. "We promised that we would get married on the same day, and that if we ever had children, we would name them after each other."
Marin's hand shook against Rydia's chest. "Rydia?" she whispered. "It...it really is you. It really..." She swallowed hard and wrapped her arms tightly around Rydia's neck. "How?" she whispered, and Rydia felt wetness on her neck. "How is it possible?"
"It's a long story," Rydia answered softly, fighting to keep her own eyes dry. She held her friend tightly as the girl's small body shook with quiet sobs. "I'm sorry, Marin. I should have come back sooner. I shouldn't have stayed away."
"It's ok," Marin sniffled, pulling away and wiping at her eyes. They were red, but she wore a ragged smile. "I'm just so happy you're alive! I cried for a long time when they told me you had been killed. I told everybody you were alive, because we couldn't find you after the fire. But everyone thought..." She paused, and rubbed her eyes with her sleeve. "Let's go to the village," she suggested. "Everybody will want to see you!" She jumped up, but Rydia stood and took hold of her wrist.
"Wait," she said, biting her lip. She had to know. "Marin, how many people are left here?"
The brown-haired girl turned around slowly to face Rydia, although she never raised her eyes. "There are twenty people left," she said quietly. "There were more, but some people went away. They just left one day. Lucian says it hurt to much for them to stay here."
A cold numbness settled on Rydia. "Twenty?" she whispered disbelievingly. "That's all?"
Her friend nodded silently, looking up, her eyes still sad. "There are a lot of other children," she said. "And only a few grown-ups. Most of the people are younger than Lucian."
Rydia remembered Lucian. A sharp-tempered boy who was probably about sixteen now.
"What about your parents?" she asked. Marin's silence was more than enough of an answer. "Nediah?"
Marin shook her head. "They were trapped in the house," came the soft answer. "I was in the trees, looking for you." Her voice trembled for a moment, and she started tugging Rydia's arm, compelling her towards the village. "Let's go to the village, everybody will want to see you." Rydia didn't answer, but bent to take hold of the straps of her backpack before letting her young friend pull her towards her childhood home.
As they drew closer, she could see that most of the debris from the fire had indeed been cleaned away, and that only the charred remains of one home still stood. One wall had collapsed in on itself, and the roof stood open to the elements. A few empty lots stood where houses should have been, but as they passed the edge of the village and began passing between homes, waves of nostalgia began washing over Rydia. She could remember playing in the wide path that cut through the little cluster of homes, running with her friends under the close supervision of the blonde-haired Mara. A huge tree stood at the far end of the village, and Rydia noticed with relief that it had survived the destruction. The children had gathered under that tree to study under old Umi. She smiled, remembering the times the old woman had scolded her for inattention.
She stopped outside a large structure Rydia remembered as the town gathering hall. "Wait here," Marin told her, before she dashed off and disappeared into the double doors built into the side of the house. A minute went by, then two, finally three. Rydia began getting nervous, but after four or five minutes, the doors opened again and a crowd of people emerged from the house. There were far more children and teenagers than there were adult-sized figures in the group. In fact, Rydia could only see three people who qualified as adults. Marin was leading an older man with brown hair graying at the temples. Or rather, she was quite effectively dragging him. The older children and the adults were giving her dubious looks.
Several of the faces were familiar. The graying man was Lenn, and he had been a member of the small village council that had overseen Mist. The tall woman with dark blue hair and a slightly tilted nose was Rynn, the mother of another of her friends. A friend who's name she had seen at the memorial. Lucian was there, frowning at her, and the children were all looking up at her with puzzled expressions on her young faces. She saw Corwin, Myrriam, Myra and several of her playmates. The rest of the faces had been lost to time. "Is this really everybody who is left?" Rydia asked Marin, when everybody was gathered around her. She nodded, even as Lenn stepped forward, a stern expression on his face.
"I hope you can explain what this is about young lady," he rumbled at her. "Marin seems to be convinced that you're Rydia, a child who was killed here over a year ago."
"She is Rydia!" Marin said stubbornly.
"Marin," Rynn said gently. "Rydia was your age. How could this grown woman be her?" She gave Rydia a hard look. "I don't know what you told Marin to make her believe that," she said tightly. "But you had better have a very good reason for coming up with a lie like that."
"It wasn't a lie," Rydia said, forcing herself to meet the shocked looks they were now directing at her. "I am Rydia."
"That's not possible!" Lucian burst out angrily. "Rydia was killed during the fire."
She sighed in frustration. This was going to take some direct means or they would never believe her. Looking up at Rynn she said, "Your daughter's name is Jayla. She was a little older than I was when I was taken from the village." Rynn's eyes widened, but Rydia had moved on to Corwin, a sunny-haired little boy with bright blue eyes. "You're Mara's little brother," she said with a sad smile. "I'm so very sorry, Mara was like a sister and she meant a lot to me." The boy looked at her with a confused expression.
She went on, speaking to each person she could remember, dredging up memories that only she could have had. With each person, she saw a little bit of doubt fade from the eyes of those who were looking at her. Finally, she had run out of things to say about the villagers that stood before her. Marin was beaming, but Rydia still saw doubt in the eyes of the adults and even the older children. An idea came to her quite suddenly, and she almost laughed at the simplicity of it.
"My mother was a guardian summoner," she said finally. "My family has guarded Mist since we first formed this village. When she passed away, that right was given to me." She had already begun the spell that would summon her ultimate proof, and now she gave herself over completely to the magic. She was dimly aware of the villagers moving hurriedly away from her, as a light green aura formed around her. She opened her mind to the spirit of the dragon, and its life force flowed through her, coalescing into her upraised palm in the form of a glowing green globe with a leaping tongue of fire caught within. Thrusting her arm high into the air, she released the restraints on her creature, and the ball in her hand shot off and spiraled into the air.
A whirlpool of mist formed as the globe exploded far above their heads. A screeching cry echoed across the mountains accompanied by the sound of flapping wings, too loud for any bird. The great white dragon circled slowly in the air above the heads of the astonished villagers, slowly descending until it landed with an earth-jarring thump behind Rydia.
She looked fondly up at the dragon, who snaked its long neck down so she could stroke its pointed beak. "This is my Mist Dragon," she said quietly. "I am Rydia."
The villagers, all save Marin, gaped at the huge beast that towered over her. Her friend came forward and Rydia knelt to give the little girl a warm embrace. Marin pulled away, and nodded at her, before turning to look at the shocked villagers.
"Do you believe me now?" she asked in a voice filled with childish triumph and being right.
The initial shock of having the truth so vividly brought before their eyes wore off quickly, and the villagers all moved forward with cries and welcoming embraces. Lots of tears were shed, by Rydia and her fellow villagers alike, as they truly welcomed her back to her home. It was getting dark, so the group moved back inside the meeting hall, and Rydia began telling them of her adventures after she had been taken from Mist. The summoners had little contact with the world beyond their mountain home, and the news of Golbez, Zeromus and the Crystal War brought suitably astonished gasps and murmurs from the villagers.
When she finished with Zeromus' defeat and her return home, the questions began. "So why have you returned now Rydia?" Lenn asked her.
"I was asked to come," she replied. She saw another question on his lips, but hurried on. "I should have come back earlier, but I didn't know what I would say. I wasn't sure you would believe me if I did come back." Marin, who had hardly left Rydia's side for a moment, squeezed her hand.
"I returned because Cecil is trying to repair some of the damage that was done when Golbez took control of Baron. He's sent aid to several other nations that suffered because of the war. He wants to do the same thing here." Lucian stood up angrily at her words.
"We don't want any help from him!" he spat. "If it wasn't for him, none of this would have happened!" He gestured around the room. Rydia's revelation that the man who had set fire to the village was the same one who had saved her life had been greeted with no small amount of resentment.
"If it wasn't for him, it's likely we all would be dead!" Rydia shot back. "I know that isn't a comfort at all, but if Cecil hadn't been forced to bring that bomb ring here, he might never have broken away from Baron. He would never have been in a position to save this world."
"Do you think that's going to bring back your mother, Rydia?" Lucian ranted on. He pointed at Marin. "What about Nediah, or Marin's parents?" His arm swiveled violently around the room. "Or anybody's parents or brothers or sisters? What about them? What does he have to say to them?" His gaze turned back on Rydia, accusation burning in his eyes. "How can you possibly forgive him for what he's done?"
"Enough Lucian!" Lenn barked at him. Some of the children looked hurt, even frightened by the young man's outburst. The red-haired boy glared at Rydia, before sullenly sitting back in his chair. Rydia felt Marin's hand trembling in her own. She opened her mouth to refute Lucian's words, but was cut off by Lenn.
"No Rydia, don't bother," he said resignedly. "I've no doubt that, despite what he may have done in the past, this Cecil of yours means us no harm. Tell him that we'll accept any aid that he's willing to offer." Lucian stood up angrily, but Lenn went on before he could speak. "Look around you Lucian. We can't even clear away a charred pile of debris. We can barely provide clothes that fit the children! Do you want them to grow up like this?"
Lucian glared at Lenn, then Rydia, before stalking outside, slamming the door after him. Rydia sighed and looked at the older man. She had been afraid of reactions like this, although she was secretly surprised that others hadn't followed Lucian. Rynn had remained quiet the entire time, seemingly willing to follow Lenn's lead, and the children just waited to see what the adults would decide.
"He was going to ask Mara to marry him," Rynn told her quietly. Rydia looked back towards the older woman. "He loved her very much."
"I didn't know," Rydia answered, surprised. Now that she thought about it, the young man had often been present while Mara had been watching them. No wonder he had been so angry with her.
"What will you do now, Rydia?" Marin asked her suddenly. She too, had been quiet for quite some time, although she had stayed close to Rydia.
"I have to return to Baron to help Cecil arrange things. I'll need to talk with you." She glanced at Lenn. "About what exactly you need here the most, and what we can do to help. Once I have that information, I'll return to Baron and the help can start coming immediately."
Lenn nodded, but Marin spoke up again. "That's not really what I meant," the girl said. "Are you going to stay here again? I mean, you're not going to leave forever are you?"
The question caught her by surprise. "I don't know," she replied after a moment. "I haven't really thought about it." The more she thought about it, the more she realized that other than Mist, she didn't really have a home. The Land of Summons was nice, but if she spent too much time there, she would age too quickly. She couldn't stay in Baron forever. Quite suddenly, the image of her and Edge kissing just outside the door of his room, popped into her mind. She blushed furiously. Where had THAT thought come from?
"What is it?" Rynn asked her, noticing the crimson in her cheeks.
"Nothing," she said quickly. She looked down at the hopeful expression on Marin's little face. Biting her lip, she said, "Mist is my home, Marin, I could never leave here forever. But the world is a lot bigger now, and I don't know if I could live here for the rest of my life."
"So you won't be staying?" Rynn asked her.
"Of course I'll stay for awhile," she said, her words sparking a smile on Marin's face. "The only question is how long. But we don't have to worry about that right now. For the time being, I'm here." She looked at Lenn. "I'd like to talk about what is needed here in Mist, if you wouldn't mind."
Lenn nodded, and stood, clearing off a small table that sat in a corner. He, Rydia and Rynn all sat together at the table. Rynn whispered something to Marin, who disappeared for a few minutes. She returned, dragging a protesting Lucian with her.
"I don't want any part of this," he muttered angrily.
"Well that's too bad," Rynn said to him. "You're the oldest of the children, and we don't have time for you to be sulking off in the corner somewhere. You've spent most of your time caring for them so you know much about what their needs are." She softened her tone slightly. "Mara would appreciate that."
He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before muttering something unintelligible, and plopping down in a chair. They spoke well into the night, working out the details of how much clothing, food, building supplies and manpower would be needed to rebuild the tiny village. Lucian was sullenly silent at first, but Rydia gently prodded him with questions about the children, until the two of them were almost completely dominating the conversation. The children sat and listened for awhile, but soon grew bored, as children do, and began preparing for bed.
It was much later that Rydia stifled a yawn. "I think we've covered just about everything," she said tiredly. "We can wrap up any details tomorrow, and then I'll have to return with a report to Cecil."
"Do you really trust him, Rydia?" Lucian asked her. The young man no longer seemed angry with her, but his feelings about her friend had not changed much.
"I'd trust him with my life," she said without hesitation. "He's saved it once already. He's a good man Lucian, and I hope you'll at least give him the chance to prove it to you."
He shook his head. "He had ten years to convince you of that Rydia, don't expect me to believe it in one day." He yawned himself. "I'm going to check on the children in the other houses, then I think I'm going to sleep myself." He stood up, then leaned down and embraced Rydia. "I'm sorry for the things I said earlier," he said to her. "And I am really happy to have you back."
"He's really a good boy," Rynn remarked, when he had left. "He's very watchful of the children. I think at first it was a way to keep his memories of Mara around, but he's actually very fond of all of them now."
Rydia nodded absently as she stood up and stretched tired muscles. Marin stirred from the small pallet near the table where she dozed. The little girl had pulled it from a corner of the room and dragged it close to where Rydia sat. She sat up now, rubbing at her eyes.
"Where'd everyone go?" she mumbled.
"To bed," Rydia said pointedly. "It's very late, and we all need to get some sleep." She looked at Lenn. "I have a sleeping roll, I'll just sleep in here tonight. I want to head out to Baron as soon as I can tomorrow."
Lenn nodded, and he and Rynn stood to leave. Both hugged her before quietly leaving the room as to not disturb the others who were still asleep. Rydia hauled her sleeping roll out of her pack and spread it in a corner of the room, motioning for Marin to bring her own small pallet close. The child curled up next to Rydia and after a few minutes, her breathing slowed into a deep, regular rhythm that marked her slumber.
It took Rydia a little longer to doze off. Her mind was occupied by all of the things that would have to be done to repair the village, and more importantly, repair the lives of its inhabitants. It would take time, she knew, but she would devote as much time as it was required in order to make the people happy again. Her thoughts began to grow fuzzy, and she closed her eyes and let sleep overtake her.
* * *
The following day, Rydia spent a few hours working out a few last minute details with Rynn, Lenn and Lucian before preparing for her journey back to Baron. There were several disappointed protests when it was announced that she would indeed be leaving, but she eased some of their fears.
"I'm not going to be gone long," she reassured them. "But I have to go back to Baron to tell Cecil what needs to be done. I'll be here to make sure things are being done properly. And to make sure that nobody is able to ever do something like this to us again." She looked pointedly at the burned timbers of the house to her right.
A commotion near the back of the group gathered in front of her suddenly grabbed her attention. The people parted to reveal Marin pushing her way forward. The brown haired little girl had a worn bag hanging on her back and a determined expression in her large eyes.
"Marin, what are you doing?" Rydia asked her, eyeing the pack warily. She already knew the answer though.
"I'm coming with you," she said, her eyes daring anybody to tell her otherwise.
Rydia looked up at Lucian and Rynn. Both of them shrugged imperceptibly. "Do you really want to?" she asked the girl.
Nodding vigorously, Marin said, "You're still my best friend, even if you are old. I don't want to lose you again."
Frowning over the first part of Marin's statement--she wasn't that old!--Rydia relented. There was no real reason to deny her request. Marin's family had all been killed, and she had probably lost most of what she had owned during the fire. "Alright," she said. "You can come with me." She smiled at the surprised look on the child's face. Apparently, she had been expecting more of a fight.
Rydia and Marin said a few more goodbyes, most of them slightly teary. Rydia left the extra food she had brought with her with Lenn to see that it would be put to good use. She had no intention of lugging that pack with her! The villagers walked the two of them to the entrance to the cavern, and after a few more goodbyes, the two disappeared into the darkness of the cave.
They pressed on quickly, and were soon blinking in the sunlight on the other side of the tunnel. They rested a few minutes before beginning the trek back to Baron. Rydia kept an easy pace, stopping frequently to give Marin's short legs a break. The girl was obviously not used to long travel on foot at all, and she didn't want to tire her out. Just past midmorning, they stopped at a wide pool brimming with fresh, cool water. After refreshing themselves, Rydia pulled out some of the food she had kept, splitting it between the two of them. As they ate, she noticed Marin's gaze falling on the path back towards the tunnel to Mist.
"Homesick already?" she asked.
"What?" Marin said around a mouthful of bread. Swallowing, she shook her head. "No, it's just that I've never been past the cavern before. This is the farthest away from home I've been." She looked at Rydia, as if she was going to add more, but sighed and ate the rest of her meal in silence.
When they were finished eating, they continued their journey to Baron. By mid afternoon, the tall spires of the castle were visible in the distance, and they hurried to close the distance. A little over an hour later, they were in the castle, using damp towels to wipe the travel dust from their hands and faces, preparing themselves to meet with Cecil.
When they were refreshed slightly, Rydia kneeled down and put her hands on Marin's shoulders. "I know this is going to be hard," she said, holding the child's gaze. "But remember, Cecil regrets what happened at the village. Try not to hate him without giving him a chance." Marin nodded, albeit somewhat sullenly.
They were ushered into the meeting room where Rydia had met with Cecil prior to her trip to Mist. Within a few minutes, Cecil himself appeared, dressed in the purple and white garb of his position.
"I'm sorry you had to wait." His quiet voice sounded frustrated as he motioned for them to sit. "There always seems to be somebody who needs to have the King solve his problems for them, even if they already know the answer!" Shaking his head, he looked at Rydia. "How did things go?"
"As well as could be expected," Rydia replied. She briefed him on the situation in Mist, providing the sheaf of notes she had taken regarding the supplies and personnel that would be needed to help rebuild her home.
"This is very well done Rydia," he complimented her, leafing through her notes. Suddenly he looked up, apparently seeing Marin for the first time. "But who is this?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at the brown-haired child.
"My name is Marin, Your, err, Majesty," Marin said awkwardly. "Rydia was my best friend when she was a little girl, and I wanted to come with her when she came back here."
Cecil put the papers he was scanning down. "You must hate me for what I did," he said quietly after a moment. Rydia grimaced to herself. Didn't he ever stop?
The girl's head was tilted to the side as she looked at the young King. "No," she answered after a minute. "I don't think I do. I didn't even know who you were until Rydia told me. But you saved her life, and a lot of other people too, and she said you didn't know what that package would do." She looked up at Rydia, before continuing. "I trust Rydia, and she says we can believe you, so I do."
"Thank you, Marin," Cecil said to her. "Your words mean a great deal to me." He looked up at Rydia. "There's a certain acquaintance of ours who has been anxious to see you," he said with an almost boyish grin on his face. "The twins are still here, I'm sure they can entertain Marin here long enough for you to go talk to him."
"Does he mean Palom and Porom?" Marin asked excitedly. When Rydia nodded, Marin grinned. "I'd like to meet them, Rydia told me all about them!"
The three of them stood up and Cecil summoned a servant to escort Marin to the garden where the children were playing. After a brief admonishment from Rydia to stay out of mischief, the little girl was led away.
"Where is he?" Rydia asked Cecil when Marin was gone.
"In his rooms," he responded, giving her an arch look. She only winked at him before hurrying off to the guest quarters where both she and Edge were staying while they were visiting.
It took only one knock to bring him to the door. He was dressed in a simple blue tunic and trousers, although she noticed the royal crest of Eblan was embroidered in silver on his left breast. She thought she saw his eyes light up for a moment when he saw her, but in a flash, he was all cool chauvinism.
"Welcome back, My Lady," he said grandly, kissing her hand with a florid bow. "I trust things went well," he continued, although he made no move to let her pass into his room.
She raised an eyebrow, but let him play his game. "They went well," she replied. "The aid is going to be arranged soon, and Cecil promises me that it won't take long to rebuild the village." She tried to peer past him into the room. "Are you just going to stand there?" she asked, slightly irritated. Cecil had said he had been anxious to see her. If so, why was he keeping her standing in the hallway?
"Actually," he said smoothly, stepping into the hallway and closing the door behind him. "I was hoping you would go for a walk with me, and give me more details about your trip."
"What are you up to?" she asked suspiciously, peering up at him through narrowed eyes.
He didn't answer, but extended his hand towards her. She frowned at him, but took his hand in hers. As they walked, she told him about finding the memorial to the summoners who had been slain, meeting Marin and the other villagers, and the state of Mist in general. She didn't pay much attention to where they were going until she found herself blinking into the late afternoon sun. They had apparently climbed high enough to reach the battlements of the castle, and now stood looking out over the town. The wind was blowing, but it wasn't cold, and ruffled her hair softly as she moved to peer out over the wall, at the town far below.
"So what now?" Edge asked from behind her, where he leaned easily against the rear wall. "What will you do?"
She shrugged, still looking out over the town. "I don't really know," she confessed. "They want me to come back to the village, but I don't know if I can do that." She smiled wryly. "I don't know where I belong anymore, but I don't think I can spend the rest of my life in Mist."
"You could...always come to Eblan," she heard him say. There was only the briefest hesitation in his voice when he spoke. She looked over her shoulder in surprise. He was giving her a sidelong, speculative look, the same cocky grin she remembered on his face. His eyes though, were completely serious.
"I might like that," she said slowly, her earlier surprised look melting into a warm smile. "But I can't. Not yet anyway. I promised Marin and the other summoners that I would stay in Mist long enough to make sure the rebuilding efforts were being carried out properly." She turned around again, looking back out over the town. The sun was partially behind the mountains to the west now, and shadows were beginning to fall over Baron.
She felt his hands on her shoulders, and she turned around to look up at him. She didn't protest when he gently cupped her face and touched his lips to hers. In fact, she reached out and wrapped her arms around his waist. They broke apart after a few moments, but she left her arms where they were. He absently brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes.
"I suppose I'll have to get used to airship travel," he remarked. "It's a long trip from Eblan to Mist after all."
"I don't know how long this is going to take, Edward*," she warned him. He blinked at her use of his real name, and she smiled at him. Might as well keep him a little off guard, she thought to herself. "It could be months. It's going to take a long time to rebuild the town, and the villagers are going to need my help. They're going to have a lot of my attention for awhile and I--"
"Then I'm glad Cecil is offering to help restore our airship fleet," he interrupted her. "Because it's going to be getting a lot of use. You're not going to scare me off Rydia, I'm perfectly willing to wait as long as it takes. Besides," he added. "You don't have to do this alone. Cecil isn't the only one who can provide help."
She reached up and kissed him again, rather enthusiastically, then took his hand and walked over to the wall again. He placed his arm around her and she burrowed into his side, enjoying his closeness. For the first time in years, the burden of what had happened to her home and to the other summoners no longer weighed on her, and she felt an exhilaration that she hadn't experienced before.
They stood silently on the battlements until the sun set, then Edge took her hand and together the walked back into the castle.
Author Notes and facts:
*- Edge's real name is Edward Geraldine, a fact you don't really learn in the normal course of the game. It is not, in any way, a reference to Edward, companion of Cecil, King of Damcyan, and all around spoony bard.