Dasim's life was naught but service to the mighty Power Xeren. As he was skilled in the art of war, Dasim quickly rose to become one of the highest commanders of Xeren's forces. His rank and devotion did not go unnoticed by Xeren, who allowed him to be one of the few who could speak to his god at his leisure.
While Dasim was aware of the great abilities Xeren possessed and his apparent invulnerability, he was still concerned that his god would go out into the field. He did not bring this up to Xeren for quite a long time, but eventually, it became too great for him to ignore. Dasim finally brought the matter before Xeren at one of their meetings.
In response, Xeren got up from his throne. "Dasim, there is something I must show you."
The Power led Dasim from the throne room to a part of the palace which was rarely used. It was a large, spacious room that held a great collection of weapons. Bows, arrows, swords, and axes were all hung up on the walls. Xeren directed Dasim to a particular longsword. It was unremarkable in design, only distinguished by the crown etched onto its hilt.
"Why have you shown me this, my lord?" Dasim asked. "What am I to learn from seeing this sword?"
Xeren took the sword and held it. The steel blade abruptly turned into rocky soil, which could not maintain its shape. A sharp, icy interior was revealed beneath it. Xeren switched hands. The ice turned to smoke, then into a burning flame. The fire became something Dasim could not quite make out. He felt a pain in the back of his head when he tried to squint at it.
"This sword is Ahriman," the god explained. "You asked what would be done if I were to be defeated in battle? The answer is simple: I would begin the next battle with this in hand."
The search party had been vigilant, but for the twenty days that had passed, their search had gone cold. They elected to learn more about Charles, before Florence contacted all of them with what they had all been waiting for, a new lead.
"Evening. Any word on when the others will get here?"
"Should be any minute now," replied Aaron, and one by one the group arrived.
Stepping out of her car, Lisa slammed the door shut and stepped over to Aaron's. "What have we been called here for? What lead does he have?"
Aaron looked over to Florence for an explanation. "Ladies and gents, welcome to Deep Cover." He feigned a smile. "It's a club. Gang hideout." Florence gestured across the street towards a white building with numerous neon signs in various languages. "This is where I was told to meet my contact. He said it makes him feel safer."
Savannah rolled her eyes. "Can't say I share his taste. Who even is this guy, anyway?"
Florence smiled again. "He's our star witness. Dyson Pointer, Alchemilia chairman and he's likely to know more than anyone where our guys could be."
"How did he witness it?" Charles asked.
"I'm sure he'll explain it himself. Let's go." The detective crossed the street, leading the others to the front door of Deep Cover. As he opened it, various sights and sounds bombarded the search party's senses. Psychedelic music, colorful lights, and what sounded like hundreds of conversations at once.
Jordan glanced at many people around the establishment. "Hmm, do you see him? What does he look like?"
"No. But he has white hair. Mustache. That's, uh, all I've got." Florence mumbled. "Look out for him." Many of the gangsters had their eyes on the party, and one wolf-whistled at the group.
"Quite the social circle this guy's got, huh?" Aaron scowled.
Dexter turned away from a ghastly sight: an unconscious man at a table with a needle sticking out of his shoulder. His arms were covered in tattoos depicting rats and snakes.
"Yeah," Dexter muttered. "We're in good company here."
"Then let's keep moving," Lisa said, pushing ahead into the crowd. "I doubt he's among this filth."
Florence opened his mouth to speak before a young man sitting at a booth snapped his fingers at the group.
His face was intensely familiar, if one would disregard the numerous symmetrical tattoos across it, and he was wearing a bright orange suit with multiple gold necklaces.
"You're the ones Mister Pointer was meeting with, right? You're late." He squinted his amber eyes at them. "You don't look like much. I'd advise you don't try anything. He's in the backroom." He said, gesturing to a door behind him.
Again Florence tried to speak before being cut off. "Where you're going, you'll need these." The boy scribbled something onto two napkins in front of them, and held one in each of his hands, towards Lisa and Savannah.
Savannah saw a phone number written on the napkin. She looked to the boy, blinked twice, and said nothing. Lisa gave a disgusted look, crumpled her napkin and tossed it onto the floor.
The young man winked at Lisa, smiling arrogantly. "Go on in."
Florence obliged, walking past the boy and through the doorway behind him. The others followed, met with the sight of a well-dressed gentleman with a thick mustache and a bottle of wine next to him.
"So... are you Dyson?" Jordan asked, standing further back than the others.
The man grimaced. "We're not on a first-name basis. I would prefer Mister Pointer." Dyson poured wine into his glass. "Your friend, Investigator Carnation, has paid me a generous sum of phoenixes to give you this information, but it is not to be taken lightly. Can I trust you?"
"You will be able to trust us," Charles replied. "I am Wellington Robotics Android #1, or Charles, if you will."
"Per Charles. Can you tell us what you know?" Savannah asked.
"As I'm sure Investigator Carnation has explained to you," Dyson continued as Florence shot a nervous glance to the others, "It would be most regrettable were you not to find the Port City Eight. Fortunately for both of us, I have the location of the Hummingbird that I am certain they escaped on."
Florence spoke, "Yeah, uh, Mister Pointer here has a theory on what happened to them, don't you?"
"They fled to Muné, of course. One of the only places that they could be sure they wouldn't be found. Any rational person would head to Aiola, to safety, but the Hummingbird seems to have crash-landed outside of a town called Headre." Dyson paused, taking a swig of wine. "I don't expect you to head straight to Muné. There's a coastal city in Aiola, Nirvana, that has a ferry known to be the safest travel there. From that point, with proper transportation, you should be able to make it to Headre in a week or so."
"Not to be rude, but how do you know this?" Savannah asked. "I can't imagine anyone in their right mind would flee to Muné, of all places."
Dyson glared. "Because they know that we'd look everywhere else."
"If we're dead set on going to Muné, I think my time as part of this group is over. I've heard terrible things about that place, wild demons and Coalition thugs. I'd rather stay with my family," Aaron suddenly stated.
"Are you serious?" Jordan asked. "But what if we need your help?"
"Jordan, I trust you'll do just fine without me. I'll let your parents know you're okay, everything will be fine. Trust me," Aaron replied.
"If this is it, I wish you good luck in your future," Dexter said, reaching his hand towards Aaron.
"Likewise," Aaron said, shaking his hand. "Bring them home."
As the sun slowly set behind the mountains, the covered wagon went down the road, debris flying in its wake. Pulled forward by large birds, it continued on its path, the road between the mountains tightening with time.
At the reigns sat Samuel, with Atticus and Marshall on either side of him. The rest of the group sat inside, asleep, or keeping watch from the back. After descending a rocky path, Samuel pulled the chicaro to the side, bringing the wagon to a stop. They had left the mountainside behind and were now in a snowy nook, a majority of the view ahead of them hidden.
"Only a few more hours ‘till we're outta this continent," Samuel stated, as he got down from his seat and untied the birds, leading them over to the side.
"Where even are we?" Marshall asked. "In case you didn't notice, everything looks the same here. The plants are all the same. Everything is covered in snow. It's just trees for miles around."
"There's a village close by, you can't see it from this view though. Kaipo is the name. Tomorrow, a few of us need to go there and get some resources," the older man replied.
Climbing down from the back, Chris got on the ground and walked towards the other three.
"I am thrilled to leave that thing," he said. "It's quite late now, maybe we should camp here for the rest of the night?"
"That's what I was thinking," Samuel responded. "Let's get some firewood."
With a fire set up and night surrounding, the group scattered around the area. Samuel sat near the chicaro, with Atticus seated near the wagon. Li, still healing due to his wounds from the encounter in the Blackwell Forest thirty days earlier, sat near the fire with Zade Santello. Blossom and Chris, deep in conversation sat across the fire, with Marshall and Blackmore off in the distance.
The conversations continued before the campfire for the next several minutes, mostly about what lied ahead and the events since arriving in Muné. It slowly died down as people broke off and prepared to sleep.
Samuel walked toward the chicaro carriage, where the two large birds had now closed their eyes. He noticed Atticus nearby, sitting on a log and poking at a rock with a branch. Before Samuel entered the wagon to rest, he approached the boy.
"Hey, Atticus," Samuel started.
"Uh, hey," Atticus said, dropping his branch. "How's it going?"
"Good," Samuel replied. "Have you been holding up well?"
"Yeah, decently. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," Samuel replied. "We've been through so much I'm not sure if it really has been thirty days. When Fontaine proposed this mission, I expected we could've been killed, captured, or maybe caught by the authorities. Not this," he paused for a moment. "Do you think you were forced into this, Atticus?"
"I..." Atticus paused, before continuing. "If you want an honest answer, I'm not sure. I was against the idea originally, but I joined because it felt like I was needed."
"It was quick and sudden, right? Knowing what Fontaine had told you and seeing how everyone was joining him, maybe you didn't want to feel left out," Samuel scratched his head and laughed awkwardly. "Sorry about that. Shouldn't be assuming things."
Samuel walked over to the log and sat beside Atticus. "Do... you remember when you first came to the laboratory? The dream everyone had?"
"The one with the barn and all that? Yeah, I do," Atticus replied. "This might sound weird, but I've never stopped thinking about it. It's almost always on my mind."
Atticus' comment slightly surprised Samuel. "Wasn't expecting that. Guess we see eye to eye, then," he responded. "By any chance, do you remember how it ended? Those seven or eight figures that appeared in the grass? The one that talked to you?"
"Yes. Is there any reason you're asking all of this?"
"Atticus," Samuel cleared his throat. "You can choose whether or not to believe what I'm about to say. Since one of those things came up to you, I'm going to try and tell you first."
"I was forced to come here. This was never supposed to be my fight. When Fontaine made his offer, I left the room. As much as I think the actions during the mission were necessary and just, and as much as I say I would have done it again, I would never partake in something like this."
Atticus remained silent.
"After Fontaine laid out his plans, I left you all and went upstairs. I wanted to rest, and I was still concerned about what happened last night. I turned on the Allucinor and started a dream — and then I saw it. The things in the dream, one of them appeared in front of me, it spoke to me," Samuel explained. "You know what it did? It killed me. It spoke to me and then killed me."
"But I didn't die," Samuel continued, slightly choking up. "Trust me, I was dead, but I was very much alive. The next time I woke up, I was with you all during your training. But my movements weren't my own. That thing — I couldn't walk, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't scream, I couldn't cry. And this continued for three months, only ending the day after we got to Muné. The one who helped train you all, the one who flew you out of Remnant Rock, all of that was not me."
After several moments of silence, Atticus finally spoke again. "I understand. My own experience is much different from yours, but I understand."
"It began right after that dream," the boy continued. "The first vision I had was odd and seemed real, I saw myself inflicting violence on Blossom. Later on, when we were seated with Fontaine at your table, I had another one. I saw him as the figure that spoke to me in the dream. He asked me if I wanted to join him, and then the other group members surrounded me before things returned to normal."
"After that one, I didn't have one for several months. But when they came back, they were different. They were obvious visions and seemingly prophetic. I saw how people were going to die before it happened. Before we left for Remnant Rock, I had a vision involving Steven's death. I didn't know what to do and I kept quiet about it. It happened, of course, and I've felt awful about not being able to save him all this time. I haven't been able to tell anyone."
Atticus continued telling Samuel about his other visions and thoughts on them, before finally finishing.
"But lately, my dreams have been different. They keep calling to me, calling me an apostle and similar things."
"I believe you," Samuel slowly said. "I believe every last bit of what you're saying. I don't know why, but these things — they seem to want something to do with us, specifically."
"I had that same feeling," Atticus nodded. "But I don't understand why."
"Since I was 26," Samuel started. "I've been researching these things. Past historians have given them all sorts of names. One book I have calls them 'Dream Eaters,' documenting their existence as far back as 12 TP. The others... need to know about all this. We have to tell the others once they get back from Kaipo tomorrow."
Taking in the view before her, Blossom stood at the large, spiked wooden gate. It was the entrance to the village of Kaipo and they were going to most likely have to catch the attention of some guard before it was opened. Her companions, Blackmore, Chris, and Marshall, stood at her side. As planned, the four of them had been sent into Kaipo, under disguise and aliases, to gather resources before the group continued their journey to the Smithson-Reed Ferry.
Pausing, Blossom quickly ran her fingers along her crown-braided hair and looked towards the other three. "How do I look? Different from my usual self?"
Getting the clothes from a previous village, she was dressed in the traditional Munese green robe with zig-zagged patterns and wore a faded brown satchel over her right shoulder.
"Yes, very different," Chris agreed. He was wearing glasses, a blue t-shirt with a skull on it, and baggy yellow shorts. "Who will ask to open the gate?"
"I'll do it," Blossom said. "I probably don't need to remind you guys of this anymore, but remember, my name right now is Alaina Fain. Please make sure to remember your names."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Marshall said, waving her off.
Finished, Blossom turned to the gate and began to call out in a broken Munese language, taught to her by Li. Eventually, the gate opened, with the guard behind dressed in armor. He waved for them to continue onwards.
As the group made their way, Chris looked around at the different buildings. "Okay, we should be careful. The place we go shouldn't be anywhere noisy. I think I see a grocery store over there, that can help us find resources."
Blackmore flicked his hair out of his face. "The longer we spend here, the higher we run the risk of being caught. I'm getting antsy."
"We need to get some more shit. We're low on everything," Marshall commented.
"Then let's get some things," Chris said, trying to keep his voice to a whisper. Walking in a way that would not cause people to think they were a unit, Chris led the way and they hid in the back alley behind the grocery store. Once the coast was clear, the group made their way inside.
Keeping her eyes on the other shoppers, Blossom opened her satchel and swiped apples, oranges, and other fruits off their wooden racks, dropping them into her bag. She followed suit by adding various pieces of wrapped up meat into it. Once finished, she walked by Chris, who was stationed at the other side of the shop by himself. Blackmore and Marshall were in similar positions across the store, grabbing accessories they deemed needed.
"Let's go find some new clothes," she remarked.
The party continued gathering clothing, making sure each to leave at a separate time, and pay for at least one item each. They made sure not to spend more than ten phoenixes and later gathered outside to make sure they still had enough to pay for a trip on the ferry.
"Good, good," Blackmore whispered. "This is just going splendidly. Are you all ready to-"
Unfortunately, it seemed their money had attracted some unwanted attention. Marshall felt a cold hand on his shoulder and felt an undoubtedly demonic presence.
"You piece of shit!" he shouted, swinging his bag to hit the creature in the jaw. It fell, hitting the ground with a heavy thud as Marshall and Blackmore began to kick it in the sides. Blossom closed her eyes and sighed to herself.
Immediately, she began to join in, stomping on the attacker's stomach vigorously.
"Wait a second," Chris said, "This isn't a demon! That's just some man." A groan escaped the unconscious man's lips.
"Hey!" A man's voice bellowed out. "What are you all making all that noise for?"
Looking up, the group noticed a guard standing nearby, holding a small pistol in his left hand. Spotting the man on the ground, the guard lifted the gun and pointed it at them.
"Stop right there! You're all under arrest. Any sudden moves can and will result in deadly force being used."
Blackmore approached the man calmly, showing his hands before grabbing the man's shoulder and whispering something to him.
Chris turned to Blossom and Marshall and nodded, motioning for them to run along. Chris followed, and once they had finally hidden behind a tree, asked, "What's Blackmore even doing?"
After an exchange of words between the two, Blackmore turned and caught up with the others, obviously faking a grin with anxiety in his eyes. "Let's get the fuck out of here," he spoke, between clenched teeth.
"Come on, the entrance is this way, hopefully, they haven't already closed the gate!" Blossom shouted, running ahead of Chris and pushing her way through the assembled crowd.
After various turns, they finally noticed the gate in the distance, still open. "Do you think it's safe?" She asked, turning to the others, slightly out of breath. "There could be more guards."
"We're good," Blackmore responded. "Just get out of here soon and we'll be safe."
"Did you pay them off or something?" Marshall asked, chuckling. Feeling confident, he started walking towards the gate first, watching his surroundings. Without trouble, he crossed to the other side and waved for the rest to follow him.
The group returned to the wagon shortly after without incident. Each person was able to take a bit of what Marshall, Blackmore, Blossom, and Chris had recovered from Kaipo, with the chicaro getting a small portion of meat and fruit as well. The four that had gone to the village briefly shared with the others what happened.
Li munched on a blue apple. "I love Muné's culture. One delicious fruit. I pick up a bag of them every time go down to Munétown in Silivia."
"I wouldn't say I like it, exactly," Chris replied. "Some places we had quite a rough time, as you've heard. But we should probably head out soon enough."
"The next time we get on the road, it'll be a straight trek to Remania. I heard it's pretty nice," Samuel began. "But before we do, could Atticus and I talk to you about something?"
"What's up?" Blossom asked, setting her plate down near the fire. "Is it important?"
"Say it, guys," Marshall said impatiently. Everyone closely watched Samuel as he started to speak.
"If I told you the man you knew for half a year wasn't me, would you believe me?"
"Would you believe me if I said all my life's work, my vision, culminated into being possessed by some phantom? Because that is what happened," he tried to explain further, but no words came out. "Atticus, are you able to explain?"
"So some ghost just possessed you and you've been Ghost Samuel since we met you until now?" Marshall asked.
"He's speaking the truth," Atticus said. "The same goes for John Fontaine. The one we knew wasn't the real one."
"I stand with Samuel and Atticus on this. Samuel has been my friend for years, and in that time, I have known him to be a reliable man. I noticed something strange when I saw him on the day I met you all in the laboratory. I'm sure Blossom felt it too," Li stated firmly.
"Yeah. Yeah, I guess," Blossom said, looking down at the ground. "I noticed something was off about him for the longest, but just ignored it because I didn't know what."
Resting over in a corner of the camp, Zade could be seen getting up. Completing such, he slowly walked towards the rest of the group.
"Sorry for my absence; I needed some rest, that was all."
The man then realized he was facing the wrong direction. "Oh, sorry." Zade turned around, regrouping his surroundings.
"What is going on here? Am I interrupting something?" Zade asked, in a curious tone upon hearing the conversation.
"Can you step aside for now?" Atticus asked, folding his arms. "This is a private conversation. It won't take much longer, of course. Blackmore is keeping guard on the other side of the camp, you can join him there maybe."
"Very well then, I won't interfere." Zade then stepped aside and went over to find Blackmore, going out to join him on guard duty.
"All of this is the truth," Samuel pleaded. "What we saw in my laboratory, those things, one of them came to me, they stole my body. 'Dream Eaters,' that's what scholars like to call them. I've studied them for years," he coughed.
"These things have names, they're real, they can think. They want something to do with us; they've terrorized us. What I can tell you is that one that stole my body is named Yaakov, and whatever shared the body of John Fontaine was called Xanvi. For some reason or another, they have made us our enemies."
Several hours later, with dusk settling, the group stood near the Ares port. The large shadow of the Smithson-Reed Ferry loomed over them as they prepared for the next part of their trip.
"So, we've finally made it," Atticus remarked, standing at the side of the parked wagon and petting one of the chicaro.
"There it is. Our ticket to salvation," Li sighed as he held his cane happily. "I'll be back here again someday." He wiped droplets of sweat from his wrinkled forehead.
"It is quite the sight," Chris said, staring in awe at the ferry.
"I hate boats and I hate the ocean. Let's just get it over with," Marshall whined.
"It's as nice as they say," Samuel spoke out. "But I won't be boarding."
"What do you mean, Samuel?" Chris asked. "Don't you think it's a little dangerous, any of us staying in one place by ourselves?"
"What?!" Blossom blurted out, turning from gazing at the ferry to face her former employer. "You have to come with us. You can't really be thinking about staying here?"
"I am," Samuel said. His speech was quick. "You will all continue without me."
Blackmore stepped towards the boat and stopped. "Let me guess," he spoke, looking away towards the sea. "...You don't want to run away. Well, I'm not going to be a righteous idiot."
"Doctor Samuel Brownlee, in the years I've known you — you've been a generous, intelligent, and hardworking fellow. I am grateful to have known such a man as you and hope nothing but good things to flow your steep, steep way. Perhaps our paths may cross again someday, old friend."
A tear dripped from Li's face. He smiled at Samuel and hobbled past him, patting on the back. Li's cane clicked as he walked along the pavement towards the ferry.
"You've always been such a great mentor to me," Blossom began. "Ever since I started working at the lab, you taught me so many things. And especially since we began this journey. Take care of yourself please."
Crying slightly, she quickly hugged Samuel.
The man looked down at her. "You have courage and passion, Blossom. I saw it when you worked with me, and I know how quickly you partook in the mission that led us all here. You'll get through this," he quietly said, patting her on the shoulder.
Samuel looked up and faced the others. "The ones who took down that thing at the manor, the ones who killed the demons in Headre and drove us out, the ones who always went into the fire," Samuel told everyone. "Have been all of you. I'm supposed to be one of the adults here, but what have I done? I can't let myself lag you all behind. I will remain here, and I will accept my ticket with fate. You've proved yourselves capable, and I trust you will continue to do so in Aiola."
"Thanks, man. For everything you've done for us. And — you can keep the knife. Godspeed," Marshall said proudly. He ran and caught up to Li, dragging most of the group's luggage along. A faint "you think I could stay with Samuel instead of going on the goddamn boat" could be heard from the boy, followed by some chuckling.
"I respect your choice, Samuel. And good luck in your next adventure and make sure to take care of the chicaro," Atticus commented.
Samuel waved to everyone as he turned and started to walk away. He only had a small hint of sadness as he took a look at Atticus, giving him a silent nod that the boy returned.
Chris waved at the man and shouted: "Goodbye, Samuel!"
Wiping her tears away, Blossom turned to face Zade and Blackmore. "Are you guys coming with us?"
"That's my only option." Blackmore pulled his bag over his shoulder and stepped onto the ferry first, turning his head and giving Samuel a two-fingered salute. "Come on," he said to the others. "Let's get going."
"Absolutely. I owe you guys one after all for helping me get out of the Blackwell Forest." Zade then raised his hiking stick, marching forth.
Watching as the Muné shore slowly disappeared and blended into the golden-orange ocean, Li leaned against the railing at the back of the ferry. "I'll miss him. Glad he's happy."
Feeling at his back pocket, he grabbed something. A map. The old man unfolded it, the back showing a large green, stylized 'A.' The one he had found at Remnant Rock. Briefly scanning over it, he folded it back up. Looking out at the ocean, his mind buzzed with a thought. He realized what had occurred.
I did it. Decades of my life to stopping it. I never thought there was enough time for me to make up for the pain I've caused in my life. But I did it. I can finally be at peace with my past. Alchemilia Corporation is no more. But I didn't do it alone. Thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for inviting me to breakfast that day. Thank you for getting us through this. Getting me through this. Thank you, Samuel.
Feeling the crinkled, worn-out map one last time, he inhaled, throwing it far into the sea.
He was free.
|Season One:||Catching Smoke • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Ceasefire • Hide & Seek • The Hounds • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Primo Victoria • Don't Fear the Reaper|
|Season Two:||Crumbling Castle • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better • Riding the Wave • Centuries of Damnation • House of the Rising Sun • The Master • Everybody Plays the Fool • Loyalty|