05 May 2014

C'mell and the Armor of Doooooom!

This is Fan Fiction based on the world of Final Fantasy X|V.  All settings, places, and concepts from the game are used in accordance with the licensing agreement contained within the game.

It was night.  In Central Coerthas.  In the winter.  I had wall patrol, though the snow was howling so badly I couldn't see more than two dozen yalms in any direction.  I was standing by the brazier, near the gatehouse, looking out, when Ser Ophelie approached.  I came to attention, saluted.

"Stand easy," she said, returning the salute desultorily.  "Anything to report?"

"Quiet night," I said.  "Ser Nogeloix's patrol hasn't returned yet.  I hope they found someplace warm to hole up."

"Sergeant Meurise is aware of the situation," Ser Ophelie said.  "She's taking care of it."

"Taking care of it?" I said, dumbfounded.  "How?"

There was the sound of a shod chocobo in the gate tunnel below us, and I leaned forward, looking over the parapet.  Through the snow I could make out a blue-haired Miqo'te on a chocobo, dashing out, into the white oblivion.  For a moment, I would have sworn the chocobo had antlers.  "Is she mad?" I gasped.  "Her chocobo will freeze before she reaches the first road marker!"

Ser Ophelie chuckled quietly.  "Care to make a friendly wager?" she asked.  "I'll bet three nights of wall duty that she's back before dawn... riding her chocobo... and leading the lost patrol in, to boot."

I opened my mouth to take the bet, then hesitated.  If there's one thing my disreputable Uncle Bertennant had hammered into me, it was that if a bet looks like a sucker's chance, the other person knows something you don't.  "No," I said, slowly.  "No, I don't think so."

Ser Ophelie chuckled again, and reached out to the brazier.  "Smart man," she said, wryly.

"What do you know that I don't?" I asked.

"I know who that was," she answered.  "C'mell."

I turned to look into the snow, in the direction she'd gone.  "C'mell?" I echoed.

"They call her the 'Last Sentinel of the Pard,'" the Knight said, looking to see if I recognized the title.  I didn't, and shook my head.  The Knight shook her head in turn.  "Did you see that very shiny armor she was wearing?"

I thought about it.  "I noticed she was wearing armor," I said.  "I was more concerned about the fact that she was heading out of the castle."

"It's made of mythril," Ser Ophelie informed me.  "You know how she got it?"

"She went to the local armorsmith?" I guessed.  I knew it wasn't a good guess... it would take a master armorcrafter to work mythril.

"She went to places it would make you soil your fundoshi to find yourself," she said.  She turned her back to the brazier.  "You know that I was of House Dzemael, before I married Ignemortel, yes?"

I nodded, not seeing the connection.

"A few years ago, I was part of a garrison that got sent out to oversee construction of a new stronghold for the House," she explained.  "I was only a squire then.  The cave... well, caves have been around since forever, I suppose.  And there were legends about this one, but nothing had happened with it in a very, very long time.  So when the City started keeping its gates closed, the House looked around for a place to build a stronghold... and saw the caves."

"I heard something about this," I said.  "North and west of the Observatorium?"

The Knight nodded.  "We took stonemasons and bricklayers, and we began work.  The cave seemed ideal... the temperature was comfortable, most of it had light-giving crystals sprinkled through it already, and best of all, it had fresh water flowing through it, year-round."

I nodded.

"But there was a flaw... somewhere, down below, the caverns were open to the void.  I was there the day the darkhold fell.  Voidsent such as I can not describe faced us.  I do not mind telling you, I felt fear that day.  Fear such as I have never felt before... or since.  And My Lord made the decision to abandon the cave, and lock the gates, and keep a watch on them so that nothing came from inside."  She was silent, thinking, lost in memory.

"I was stationed at that gate," she said, after a long moment had passed.  "For two long years. And then, one day, she walked across the river and up to the gate."

"She?" I asked, to make sure we were reading from the same hymnal.

"C'mell," Ser Ophalie confirmed.  "She had with her three others... V'lenna, a black mage; Rotscy, a Brother of the Fists of Rhalgar; and Lyra, a white mage."  She paused, as if reviewing the scene in her head.  "She didn't have the armor, then.  At least... not all of it.

"You see, the order to which she belonged had been based in a fishing town in Northwestern Thanalan, on the coast.  At Cape Westwind.  After the Empire came, there was no more fishing town, and no more Sentinels of the Pard.  No one knows what became of their armor.  Maybe the Imperials took it home; maybe they melted it down and used the mythril for something else.  Whatever they did, it wasn't available to a young squire who had just passed her initiation test."

I shook my head.  "So how'd she get it?"

"I'm getting there," Ser Ophelie said, turning to face the brazier again.  "It was during the Fifth Umbral era... twenty-five hundred years ago... that the Miqo'te Sun Seeker tribes crossed the ice to Eorzea.  And I imagine, C'mell's little fishing town was settled somewhere around the time the ice broke.  Over two thousand years of Sentinels of the Pard going out from that little town, providing services, proving themselves the bravest of the brave, proving their worth to pass on their names."

I nodded.

"Not all of them succeeded," Ser Ophelie said.  "Some of them died trying.  And some of those who died, died in places where it was beyond difficult to recover their bodies."

I nodded again, beginning to see the light.

"C'mell worked," Ser Ophelie said.  "She worked hard, selling her services as a caravan guard, as a bodyguard, as... well, not to put too fine a point on it, as an adventurer.  No job too big, or too small.  She saved her gil.  And then, she hired a sage.  She asked the sage to tell her where every one of her great-aunts who had fallen and not been recovered were."

"So when she came to the darkhold..." I said.

The Knight nodded.  "She was seeking.  She had the legs... sabatons, greaves, poleyns, cuisses.  Beyond that, she wore good steel.  A hauberk, not that different from our own.  Stout leather gloves.  An antique sword of goblin make.  A round shield, embossed with the Sun of Ul'dah.  And most important, she carried a letter, counter-signed by the lords of House Durendaire and House Haillenarte, saying that I should open the gate, and let her... and her friends... into the darkhold."

"Four of them?" I asked, to be clear.  "Against things that sent... how many Knights of the House scurrying?"

"Many," she said.  "I do not know what she'd done to put them in her favor," she went on.  "But they'd signed the letter, and it was more than my knighthood was worth to question them.  So I let them in.  And I waited.  I was sure I'd never see them again."

"Clearly you did," I said.  "Since she just rode out of here."

"I did," Ser Ophelie agreed.  "Three days later, as the sun was setting.  The four of them, looking tired, and dirty, and burnt around the edges, came back up.  She was carrying a set of arms... rerebraces, couters, vambraces, gauntlets.  She said that the rest... was beyond salvage."

"Mythril doesn't rust," I said, puzzled.

"No," she answered.  "But it burns."

I shuddered.  Our House's elite, who fought against flaming dragons, wore mythril because it would not melt in dragonflame.  I wondered how hot flame would have to be to melt it... to burn it.

"Aye," Ser Ophelie said.  "Like that."  She was silent, and I was silent, thinking about it.  "I don't know where the other pieces came from," she went on.  "But I tell you this, and tell you true... you don't bet against that woman.  She'll be back, before dawn, with that patrol."

And she was.

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