The Stained Ground
The wind blew hard on the snowy ground. The snow in the air flew around and around, like some winter fairies out of a bedtime story. Echoes of pain and rage were blown around by the wind, intermingling with the clash of weapon against weapon. These were just memories. But one thing remained. The snow was stained red.
The battle was over and bodies laid all around the outlaws' fort: Knights, Archers, Mages of both colors, and most of all, Squires. Young men and women with puddles of blood pooling around their fallen bodies. Young people that would never see their families again. They would never see the next sunrise, feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, feel the tingling sensation of a kiss, the weight of their child in their arms.
Such are the wages of war.
Who am I? Colin Bonaparte at your service, formerly a Hokuten knight employed by the Beoulve family, but after the battle at Fort Zeakden I couldn't fight for them anymore. I had already begun to question Lord Dycedarg's orders concerning this whole situation. I didn't understand why he was sending so many men to take out a small outlaw fort. It wasn't like the Death Knights were a big threat to the Beoulves; they were just ex-knights wanting equal rights. But what I saw at the fort made me shudder and question my beliefs and myself.
We arrived at the fort and what followed was a terrible battle. No mercy was given and none was expected. Young men and women were cut down by trained soldiers like they were fields of wheat.
Brutal, the only word I can think of it.
I watched in horror as Algus, with permission from Zalbag, shot Teta and smiled. I watched in helplessness as Delita attacked Aglus and killed him viciously. The fort blew apart from the dynamite and in the dust and confusion Ramza and Delita disappeared, along with the small squad that had traveled with Ramza, some of his closest friends. When the dust had cleared Zalbag looked around for his brother, but he found no trace. He turned his back on the fort and began the long trek down the mountain. We had gone halfway when I noticed something.
We were leaving the dead unburied.
I asked Zalbag, "Sir, shouldn't we take our fallen with us, or at least bury them? They deserve at least an honorable remembrance." I hoped he would remember and go back.
But no, with a sad look on his face he denied me my request. I stopped walking and watched the troops file by, one by one. Off to another battle where more deaths awaited them.
I didn't follow.
I had to take the climb back up. Through the howling winter wind, I climbed. Several times the mountain almost defeated me, but I wouldn't let it, I couldn't let it beat me. My comrades deserved something better.
Whatever the history books will say of this victory, that this was the turning point in Ramza and Delita's lives, that the true rebellion began at Fort Zeakden with the death of Teta. Whatever the books will say. I will know one thing at least.
Blood stains white snow red.
I met Ramza when I first began training at the Military Academy. The young Beoulve was only about 14 then. I remember the first time I sparred with him. He had such a look of innocence that only the young noble could have. But yet he knew I was a commoner and treated me as an equal. I think that in being with Delita he had seen some of what the common man goes through. Ah, yes, Delita. The aggressive, volatile young man that was to become a great warrior for freedom. I met him the same time as I met Ramza; he was practically Ramza's shadow. Through the years of training I began to know the mind of this young noble and his very unusual friendship with a commoner. I learned the history of his family and of Delita's. Several times on vacation I went back to Igros with him and met his sister, Alma, and Teta, Delita's quiet sister. Zalbag and Dycedarg ignored me; I wasn't important then. I really didn't care what they thought at the time. I was a young man, almost a knight, and until I was what Zalbag and Dycedarg did really didn't matter to me.
Then Algus appeared.
I was one of the newly graduated knights that helped Ramza rescue this noble. He was caught on the Mandalia plains by some goblins. He would have died if we hadn't saved him.
I wish we had let him die.
I remember being the first to approach him and reached out my hand and clasped his. He looked at me and asked, "What family?" I answered, "Colin Bonaparte, of Igros. And you are?"
I will never forget the coldness in his eyes as he told me, "Never touch me again you commoner scum. As far as I am concerned you don't exist." He took his hand away from me and walked to Ramza. That scene will never leave my mind because that was the first time I had experienced discrimination because of my blood. Throughout the trip to Igros, Algus either acted like myself and Timothy, a commoner chemist, didn't exist or expected us to serve him like servants. Several times Algus and I almost came to blows. And at nights Timothy and I had to have a separate campfire; the one time we did try to join theirs Algus looked at us with such repulsion that Timothy and I made our own. Ramza came over later that night and apologized, but the damage was done. After I arrived at Igros I joined a company of knights at the castle and parted ways with Ramza until Fort Zeakden.
The fort was destroyed; rubble was all that remained. Morning had come upon me when I wasn't watching. The sunrise greeted me as I looked down upon a young squire's face. I knelt down beside him to read his name on his armor. Davin Worthi. From Igros. The kid couldn't have been any more than 16 years.
So here is my question. Why, if we paint such a pretty picture of war and the heroism it creates and the legends it begins, do we leave out the actual stories and colors? The pale faces that match the snow, the red on white.
Victory is bought with stained ground.
What victory though? This fight had been something personal between Delita and the leader of the Death Corps that had his sister. Then later between Delita, Ramza, and Algus after Algus shot Teta. If this was true and it was something between three men, then why did Davin Worthi stain the ground? Why did Lyta Cabarel, White Mage, stain it with hers? Or Jake Holmane? Or Harry Ull? Or Alyssa Tully? Why did innocent people die for the sake of a hatred between three men? Was it because they loved these men and followed their command no matter what? Or maybe they were just doing their duty. I have no doubt Ramza's friends do love him and follow him because of that, I believe that the troops under Algus' command followed him because they had to. I among them.
The most dangerous war we fight is not a war of weapons or blood. It is a war of ideas.
I buried the dead myself with help from a few other soldiers from Algus' company. One by one we opened a hole in the ground and laid forever a person there. Someone who used to have dreams. Someone who used to laugh and smile and love.
We set up a piece of the broken fort and inscribed the names of the dead. Theirs, and ours it didn't matter. For the first time in my life I had seen there wasn't a difference between nobles and commoners. All 134 people that died at Zeakden were just that, people. Above it was put these words, 'These are the fallen. The price of victory. Never forgotten.'
I will never forget having to walk away from that place with a heavy heart. The dozen or so that followed me looked to me to lead them somewhere else.
And so I did. And everywhere we went we reminded people of the price of war and victory. With our hands we buried the dead and made places of remembrance for them. Some began to call us graverobbers or the walking dead. But the ones that understood who we were and what we did called us the Knights of Tears. I liked that.
Rebellion brings change and sometimes for the better. But either way it is paid with the same thing in the same way, blood on the ground.
I hope and pray that someday we will realize that we are the same, nobles and commoners alike. I am a commoner-turned-knight. Algus was a noble. Ramza Beoulve was a noble too, but he is the first of his kind. A noble that cares for and loves the commoners. I understood Ramza and his love for people. But I also understood the thinking of Algus, just by watching him. We, being the commoners, were beneath him; anyone without noble blood isn't fit to spit on his boots. But does having noble blood make you more righteous before God? Or more fit to wield a sword in someone's service?
I believe no. What is the difference between noble blood and common blood? After a long time I have finally figured it out:
And I believe that Ramza has discovered this as well. That blood is blood and the only difference between nobles and commoners is in the head. He knows in his heart that we are the same.
Maybe one day he will teach the world this belief and the meaning of the stained snow. Because he understands it. And he believes in it too. But until then, I will never forget the fallen soldiers. And somewhere, on Mount Zeakden underneath the snow there is a small cross with the name Teta Hyral, 'The price of victory.'
It isn't worth it.
Author's note: Thought I would try a FFT fic, one that dealt with the thought of a commoner. Hope you guys enjoy. Oh yeah, this fic is dedicated to David for his love of the game, thanks Dave for introducing it to me.