LoJ: Part III, chapter 5B (Pearl V.)
by The Mana Priestess
PART III: PEARL (Pearl Version)
A hero's dream burns blue
The people sleep forever
- The Wanderer of Time (Final Fantasy: Pray).
Chapter 5B: Burning Blue: Dreams
The man clad in pale, flowing robes sat inside
the hot blue evening, his gaunt figure bent over some parchments. He was
writing, his emaciated hand clutching a white quill between its bony fingers,
the thin, spidery scrawl flowing steadily over the cream-colored paper. The
darkness was alleviated only by the ghostly glimmer of a candle, but it was an
insufficient relief, and served nothing to illuminate the man's features.
Instead, the light seemed to throw them into greater shadow, deep within the
hood of his cloak.
The darkness moved, the blue heat
intensified a little. The man seemed unaffected by it. He continued writing, and
only said, in a soft, unpleasant voice:
A figure stepped from within the shadows; a
tall, thin man, with long hair falling onto his shoulders. From his silhouette
it could be gathered that he was an archer, the bow and arrows slung at his left
shoulder. His figure remained swathed in darkness, a shadowy outline.
"He's yet to be found," he said, in response to the
pale man's calm inquiry. His tones were even, his voice emotionless.
The man in white paused in his writing, seemingly in
response. But after a moment, he dipped the pen in ink, and continued to write
without appearing to regard the archer's news as important.
"I have seen him in town only a few days ago," he
said, his soft voice unruffled. "How it is that you have managed to lose him?"
"He vanished, Sir," the archer answered, with a
similarly detached, cool tone. "It appears that his decision to leave the town
was made in haste, and upon impulse. We were not prepared for it, and so we lost
"Unfortunate," remarked the man in
white, without pausing in his task. "And yet, it seems to cast a definite
suspicion upon him. Almost as if he sensed that he was under surveillance."
"That, Sir, I cannot tell," responded the archer.
The man in white finally halted in his ceaseless
toil. He leant forward a little and tapped a thin finger against his desk,
apparently in thought.
"He could not have known
about me," he said, meditating. "Unless he was deeper into Sandra's confidence
than I suspected. From his reaction to the mention of her name in that bar, it
seems that he was surprised at the news that she was at large."
The tall archer said nothing. The man in white
directed his gaze towards him.
"It's vital to track
him down again," he stated. "You, man of the forest, would be best for this
"I would be sir," said the archer coolly.
"And yet, we've much on our hands lately."
in white waived his thin hand.
nothing," he answered. "What could be more important to me, pray, than finding
The archer was silent. The man in white
tapped his finger on the desk again, then dipped his quill in more ink, and
resumed writing on the crisp paper scroll. As he did so he spoke in a smooth,
"I wish you to track down this man,
and report to me of his movements. I want a full, precise, and detailed account
of his exact doings. This might be the key that will aid me to gain the upper
hand on Fox and that Sandra of his."
His silky voice
was now peculiarly venomous. "That little bitch Sandra had once aided the Fox to
set me a trap, that almost betrayed me to the Authorities. I will not forget
this little trick of theirs any time soon. I am determined to find the Jumi
jewel before Sandra does. If she is as keen on it as she's rumored to be, I
think that she will go to some pains to regain it from me. And I have a peculiar
feeling that this man might be the key to knowing more about Sandra and her
goals; perhaps even about the Jumi jewel. But first I must find out more about
The archer bowed.
"I will do as you wish, Snake," he said. "Expect a
full report as soon as possible." And upon these words he turned and left.
The man called Snake continued his scrawl upon the
paper parchments, a thin smile pulling his mouth. It was a rare occasion where
he was proven to be wrong. He knew that his instinct would not err this time;
but only when he finds this man, Elazul, he would know the exact truth for
The hot evening deepened into an equally hot
night, and in the city of the Jumi, the light of the jewels acquired an eerie
glow, their rich aura bleeding into the hazy atmosphere.
In the towering southern spire of the royal palace
the glimmer of a soft orange light at one of the windows denoted that the
occupant was still awake. This person, a slender little woman clad in white robe
of silk, was standing by the window. She was framed on either side by the lacy
wings of a gauzy curtain that stirred lightly in the warm breeze that
occasionally drifted past the open shutters. The trickling orange light came
from a sparse oil lamp, its light turned low.
woman stood motionless for what seemed like a long while, contemplating the hot
night and the misty beauty of the winking jewels spreading on levels upon levels
of the gracefully curved balconies below. She seemed to be waiting for
something, or someone, and time seemed to stand still around her, as inert as
her own motionless figure, absorbed into her stillness.
Then the door opened, slowly and quietly. The wait
ended, and the hours of the night once again slid into motion.
The woman turned to regard the man who stood in the
doorway. She was clad in her night's robes, but he was wearing his costume of
duty. He had been apparently working into the small hours of the night.
"What news?" asked the woman.
The man stepped into the room, for a moment not
answering. He approached the woman and came to stand near her, by the window.
"I thought you were asleep," he said. "It's almost
"I know," she answered. "The news,
He seemed to sigh, but he read the poised
intensity of her body, and answered without ado.
"He's dead, Diana. Murdered by Jumi hunters."
She was silent, but then said, her voice steady: "I
suppose that's what I expected, as we haven't heard from him for this week and
"Another emissary dead," she added after a
pause. "Risks taken, lives lost to no avail. It baffles me, how one woman
managed to so thoroughly fool us all."
"At least the
children are safe," Rubens remarked quietly. "Our most careful inquiries did not
yield news of a Jumi Core which might resemble their cores on the Black Market."
He approached her, laying his hand on her shoulder.
She stood motionless, her gaze fixed ahead of her- it seemed to him as if she
had not attended his last remark at all. "Come, Diana," he said with great
tenderness. "Please sit down. You must be fatigued."
She shrugged without seeming to notice his concerned
gesture. "Fatigued? Me?" she said, over her shoulder. "And what about you, who's
been working ceaselessly for days now?"
He made no
answer; and she nevertheless obeyed him, seating herself into a great chair not
far from the window. Rubens took a chair of his own, pulling it close to hers
and sinking into it gratefully.
"I must admit that
you are at least partly right," he said, since Diana remained silent, staring at
her hands, now folded in her lap. "Ever since the rumors about Sandra begun the
situation became much more difficult. I suppose that it's lucky that Jumi
children leaving the city had been previously unheard of. It's the reason they
"Sandra," Diana echoed, the name
drawing her attention. Her voice was laced with bitterness. "This hateful- this
vile little tramp- this Sandra. Something inside my heart had warned me about
her from the very beginning, Rubens. I knew that she would be our bane."
"Do you believe the rumors, then?" asked Rubens
softly. "That she is hunting for Jumi jewel? It's monstrous, Diana. I won't
believe it. It must be a mistake. Someone must have heard that she is associated
with Jumi, and drew the wrong conclusion."
"I do not
put it above her to do anything by now," answered Diana, her voice cold now.
"After all that she has dared, I think that she is capable of anything. But the
poison she had set loose eats deeper than her rebellion."
Her gaze was still concentrated on the darkness, and
she did not shift it to Rubens; but he sensed that her thoughts finally gained a
"Her rebellion is unprecedented,"
Diana said. "She has defied us all, sought to make us fools by flouting the
city's rules. And now some call her act a daring and spirited gesture."
Rubens remained silent, and Diana continued: "But
suppose the Alexandrite's rebellion is forgiven, as some would have it. We must
next consider her taking away of the Clarius in the middle of a severe plague.
Is there any honor in this act? No. It has caused many more deaths than we would
have suffered otherwise. And the blame for every life that had been lost since
then lies at the Alexandrite's door."
countered, but very quietly: "True, but please consider that she wished to save
But Diana continued relentlessly:
"Yes. Some even say this. Then let us heed their voice, and suppose that this
act of hers is forgiven. We must then consider her next deed, Rubens. Whether or
not Sandra is truly hunting for a special Jumi jewel, the mere rumors about her
doing so caused the Jumi hunters to re-emerge. Several of our emissary knights
died at their hands. Their deaths, Rubens, is Sandra's fault, as surely as if
she herself killed them." She paused another moment in morbid meditation, but
then she said, her voice harsh: "And thus, Rubens, with every additional
consideration of each of the Alexandrite's actions, more deaths weight on her
soul, and her deeds amount to unforgivable proportions. I cannot, I will not
forgive her! I will blame her, Rubens, blame her for all she had done, whether
or not she intended the results."
She halted in her
severe stricture, and became silent. Rubens said nothing. After a pause, Diana
"And as for her love for Florina, her excuse
for that so-called rescue, I cannot accept such a strange and distorted
affection from one woman towards another, that precludes everyone else. As in
all else, it makes the Alexandrite a strange, perverse creature, one whose mind
works in ways that I care not to divulge or understand. She should reserve that
kind of love for a man."
Rubens finally interrupted
Diana. "She is not in love with Elazul?" he asked. "They were such close friends, I thought that.--"
Diana made a gesture of dismissal with her hand.
"Perhaps," she answered, not appearing particularly interested in the
answer. "Though if this is what people call love, I pity Elazul for being the
recipient of it. She never treated him with any kind of kindness or
consideration. She was attracted to him, I suppose; but I would hesitate to call the
attraction that they had for each other love. In my opinion, she did not love
Elazul any more than he loved Black Pearl. No; the only love I could perceive in
her- that true, consistent, supportive kind of affection- was reserved only for
"As for Elazul," continued Diana, "it's
doubtless that he was attracted to Alexandra; but that attraction was not love
either. The hold that she had over him, the kind of attachment I perceived
between them, was a fascination born of a mutual purpose, a similar nature. The
Alexandrite, for Elazul, embodied the spirit of rebellion he possessed against
the city. You may say that he molded her so she could act his secret wishes out.
This is why he trained her to become the best knight of their generation except
himself. He recognized that they both shared the same spirit of defiance. A
dangerous, destructive sympathy.
though," Diana said, after a short pause, "that at least one of them fancied
himself or herself to be in love with the other, for at least a little while.
Which one of them it may be, I care not to know. I do, however, pity Elazul for
his toleration Alexandra's callous treatment of him. The affection she bestowed
on him was not the true kind of love."
felt it to be so," Rubens suggested.
Diana answered. "But then again, his father was such a man that I suppose that
he eventually learned to tolerate hurt from people he is attached to, perhaps
even taught himself to accept it."
wearily, "Elazul is not like his father, Diana. His father was a fine knight,
but a hard man. I always thought that he is more like his mother."
"In physical appearance, certainly," answered Diana.
"Or in coloring, at least, he is very like his mother. And he is certainly much
better-looking than his father ever was. But I always thought that he inherited
his father's personality. He displays the same reserve, the same unyielding
stubbornness, the same quick temper his father possessed.
"Certainly," she continued, after a short
reflection, "he is much more capable of true affection than his father. But it's
his mother's memory that keeps him this way. A softening nostalgia, you may say,
that causes him to control, or perhaps even deny, that hardness that he had
inherited. I have heard him speak of his mother with love, of his father with
something akin to loathing. I can understand the reason, but I think that his
father had been a greater influence on him than he cares to admit.
"And as for that Alexandra," added Diana, a barely
concealed loathing in her voice, "she is an exact replica of her own father as
well. Not physically, perhaps, but her personality is of the rebellious,
mendacious thief that her father had been. We should have never have let 'Alex',
the dissenter's child, continue on his quest to knighthood; but, alas, we needed
all the knights available, and we relaxed the rules too much. I suppose that we
did not expect such gross deceit and dissimulation among our own kind. It was
Black Pearl who decreed that justice must allow the dissenter's child to be
accepted back into the city, no matter what the sins of the father may have
"It's strange," she added, after further
meditation. "I had always thought Black Pearl's notion of strict justice odd;
it's at once severe and impartial, so that it possessed a strangely fair side to
it. As in this instance: let not the child suffer from the sins of the father.
And yet, it was that very fairness, that generous side of her severe policy of
justice, that brought her downfall."
that Diana sounded unusually acidic and unforgiving that evening, and it was a
side of her that he did not like. He leant forward and placed his fingers on her
folded hands, caressing those cold little hands, a soothing gesture.
"Let us leave the subject of Alexandra aside for a
while," he said gently. "And as for Elazul, if he indeed resembles his father
but would not follow his father's conduct, then he merits our respect for
refusing to submit to the worse part of his nature."
Diana finally looked at him at this quietly
reproving remark. Unexpectedly, she smiled.
deserved that," she said. "I haven't been easy to deal with lately, have I, my
Rubens returned her smile, his own
possessing the characteristic warmth and kindness that flowed through Diana's
soul like a rich draught, soothing and warming the cool, empty spaces of her
heart. She had surprised even herself at the vengeful loathing she felt towards
Alexandra, of which kind she had never felt towards anyone. But Rubens' natural
ability to forgive always mellowed the poison, diluted the rancor.
Would it that I could stay this way, she thought. If
I ever lost Rubens, I would lose that better part of me. I do not wish to know
what would happen then.
And she wondered, as she did
often before, why is it that I hate the Alexandrite so much? Is it because she
exposed my own inability to act upon my guilt regarding Florina's predicament,
because her actions made me feel almost equally as guilty as I know her to be?
At her side, Rubens spoke.
"I'm afraid that your mood of charity with me will
not last for much longer this evening, Diana," he remarked, his tone somewhat
wry. "I have been accosted by several councilors about a very particular
proposition, and they insist that I discuss it with you."
Diana suddenly straightened in her chair, and became
very still. "What is it?" she asked, cool and rigid again. "I have heard of
these murmuring among them. Yes, you must speak of it now, so I can dispose of
Rubens watched her as she sat thus, her
gaze fixed on the darkness, looking like a statue of white marble, inflexible
and unyielding. He had anticipated this reaction, and he reflected that the
council would never succeed in convincing Diana. It must fall to me, he thought,
to find the middle-way solution to satisfy them all, to prevent a breach.
He proceeded to speak, with a carefully measured,
"I will not say that I perfectly agree
with their proposition myself; but it must be discussed, Diana. It's about the
ill Jumi. The plague may not be as bad as it used to be, but, as the councilors
pointed out, we've had periods of relief in the past. It might come back with
renewed force at any time. They wish to find a way to increase the number of
healers before the Core Waning returns."
conducted a thorough search," replied Diana with terse, clipped accents. "There
is no healer is as good as Florina. Even Sapphire's help, had she not been lost
to us, would have been meager in comparison to Florina's powers. Florina was our
last true healer."
Rubens said softly, "Out of the
adult Jumi, Diana."
She became even more straight
and rigid. "No," she said. "I won't hear of this outrageous proposal, Rubens."
"A middle-way solution would suffice, Diana," said
Rubens quietly. "As some of the councilors proposed, we can tap into the healing
powers of the younger Jumi. But on a very limited basis, without choosing a
Clarius, even if one of them is sufficiently strong for the position. A limited
participation by everyone would suffice to afford relief for the ill Jumi."
"This is how it will begin," answered Diana. "But
it's not how it will end. Can't you see, Rubens, that if I allow the council to
do this, they may propose something even more drastic next, insist on pushing
that participation by younger Jumi even further? And how can I allow them to do
this, without knowing for certain what future effect it might have on those
children? What if such a burden reduces their life-span, or their ability to
have children? The harm caused in the long-run will be greater than letting the
ill Jumi die."
Rubens said nothing for a moment.
Then, very quietly, he answered,
"I cannot say that
I do not agree with you, Diana. But you must prepare yourself to what the
council would say."
"Without Black Pearl's support,
you mean," said Diana with a bitter smile.
did not respond to this remark. He watched her, a still, white form in the blue
evening, the gauzy wings of the pale curtains flowing around her in gentle
ripples. She sat thus for a while, a rigid, inflexible figure. Then,
unexpectedly, she lowered her head.
had I felt how much my powers depend on Black Pearl's support," she said, with
unusual softness. "The council grows agitated because of her strange absence.
They say that the Alexandrite and the Lapis Lazuli, either by themselves or
together, had managed to kill her. They dare to defy me… how dare they! But when
she returns, order will once again be restored to this city."
And Rubens, watching her, thought, stricken with
sudden remorse, it is I who aided Elazul to escape. I don't believe that
Alexandra by herself could have hurt Black Pearl, but with the aid of the Lapis
Lazuli, perhaps she could- but no, Elazul would not let Alexandra kill Black
Pearl, he thought at once; I do not believe it. Yes, he could not regret this
action of releasing Elazul from an unjustly harsh punishment. And still, Black
Pearl had not returned; and if his actions resulted in an unforeseen damage, it
was him who must remedy it.
And then he knew what he
must do to repair it.
"Diana," he said quietly, "I
am going to leave the city and look for Black Pearl."
Diana raised her head with a sudden movement, fixing
her eyes on Rubens.
"The dangers, Rubens," she said,
quickly. "Do you think that…"
"I can withstand the
dangers," he interrupted. "You forget, Diana, that I had once been a prized
Since she said nothing in reply, he added:
"We sent some of our finest young knights, and they have been murdered. We need
someone older, skilled in the way of the world. I know the human world, Diana. I
shall know what to do, and I am well able to defend myself. Do you think that I
will fail to survive, where the youthful Lapis Lazuli had succeeded? The only
one that can kill me, Diana," he added wryly, "is Black Pearl herself."
Diana shook her head, and her hand shot out and
gripped Rubens' in a forceful grasp.
She knew that
he was doing it because he knew that she needs Black Pearl for the city; she
thought, he is doing this to restore me to my previous position, he is doing it
for my sake, for me, and me only…
thought occurred at once to Diana. If anything happens to Rubens, she knew, it
would be the result of her own ambition, her need for power. As always, he was
allowing her to use him for her own purposes, because of his love for her.
And she knew that if she said only one word to
detain Rubens, if she pled to him to stay, to support her, instead of sending
him on this mission, he would comply and stay.
Diana also knew that Rubens was the one person who will be able to succeed in
this mission, to find Black Pearl and restore her to the city… thereby restoring
her, Diana, to full power.
And so, Diana clasped
Rubens' hand between her fingers, quietly savoring the warmth and strength it
And said nothing.
The atmosphere of the dark blue night flowed in
warm ripples, sultry and almost unbearably hot. It was only two hours to the
Elazul had not managed to fall asleep. After
he retired from his nightly duty he lay in his bed, half-dreaming, too fatigued
to either stay awake or fall asleep, swimming in a world of warm blue shadows, a
world where ethereal shapes and forms took life and meaning of their own.
Eventually he rose from his bed and walked down a
corridor of the inn, walking inside dim, warm shadows. Slowly, after what seemed
like a long stretch of time, he realized that the corridor seemed to continue
endlessly on. He then realized that he was no longer inside the inn, but inside
a strange, misty blue world.
He could see that he
was inside a great palace, whose long, narrow halls swam in flowing, hot blue
mist, and he knew that he was looking for someone, though he knew not who or
Gradually he realized that vague forms of
people were walking past him in the corridors, misty shades, their features
indistinct, jewels glimmering on their breasts. These bright jewels were the
only distinct objects in the burning atmosphere; and Elazul knew them to be
Jumi, and felt that he had dreamt this dream before.
He walked past the great library again, and he saw,
as he somehow expected to see, the figure sitting there, a little more distinct
than the others. He now knew it to be Snow, and he also knew, though he knew not
how, that the reason that Snow was identifiable rather than a vague shadow was
that he was closer to death than many of the others, because of his illnesses,
and his flawed jewel…
He continued towards the exit
of the Palace, still seeking that unknown figure, and as he expected, when he
came to the garden, he could see Sapphire standing inside the flowing blue mist,
her figure clear and distinct, its brightness a damning beacon that indicated
her damaged core. She stood leaning against a hedge, looking at nothing, and he
passed her quietly, recalling, somehow, that she would not answer him even if he
spoke to her. And still, he could not help stealing a glance at her and, greatly
to his astonishment, he could see that her eyes were focused upon him, as if she
could identify him. But she said nothing, though her expression seemed sad; and
he passed her by, not attempting to speak to her despite it, knowing that it was
not she whom he was looking for.
He advanced further
into the maze, and the feeling that the object that he sought was in the middle
of this garden intensified. Another turn through the labyrinth, and another, and
then he was in the middle of the garden, near the flowing fountain, whose water
sparkled clearly amid the blue mists, like tiny dewdrops.
But the dais was empty, and the figure he expected
to see, the ethereal, burning form of the angel, was not there.
Elazul knelt, his head hung low. He knew that he was
reiterating something he had done before, but the gesture was empty, one of
defeat instead of reverence. He knelt listlessly, not knowing what to do, and
remained sitting still for a long while- he could not quite tell for how long.
Then a voice spoke, quite clearly, recalling Elazul
from his lost reverie.
"Lost," said the voice
softly. "Gone… lost."
Elazul raised his head.
Sitting at the bottom of the dais was a pale, ghostly form of a girl; and all at
once he felt that she was familiar, that he had seen her before. And somehow he
knew that she was the one that he had been looking for.
He rose to his feet and approached her. Her features
were pale, indistinct; but as he watched the long, waving hair flowing down her
shoulders and back, he finally identified her, and knew who she was.
"Why are you lost?" he asked, quietly, seating
himself at her side. "Why? Tell me."
The girl sat
with her head hung low. She replied to his question, speaking with a strangely
empty, sorrowful voice.
"I cannot tell you."
"Please," Elazul said, trying to peer into her
lowered features, struggling to see them clearly. "Please speak to me. Please-
let me help you."
But she only shook her head.
"You cannot. I have failed. You must not fail. You
must do as you were bid, turn your thought to the heavens, forget the earth and
its creatures. I could not, and so, I forgot what the heavens had bid me. But
you must not forget."
"You… you are the failed
messenger, aren't you?" Elazul asked softly. "The one the angel spoke of."
She seemed to tremble in response. After a moment
she only said, her voice immersed in sorrow:
matters not. I cannot find my way anymore. This is my punishment."
"Please," said Elazul quietly. "You cannot continue
this way. Let me help you."
"You cannot," she
answered. "Please… please do not speak to me anymore. The angel… the angel, it…"
"What?" asked Elazul. "What is it? Please tell me.
Where is the angel?"
"It's… it's with us," said the
girl. "Once we are imbued with its essence, we cannot escape it, not matter how
much we try…"
To Elazul's amazement, the girl's form
begun to dissipate slowly, to vanish into mist. His heart aching for her, he
leant forward, trying to catch her in his arms, before she disappears
completely; but she was as ethereal as light, her figure insubstantial. Only her
last words flowed sorrowfully towards him.
"I did it
for my people, but I have failed them because of my pride, and now many sleep in
death. But you must fulfill your destiny, lapis lazuli… so you will not become
Elazul jerked awake. A dream, again. He had
fallen asleep, he knew not for how long ago, though it seemed for no more than a
A warm, flowing spring dawn greeted
him. He watched it wearily, thinking of his dream, knowing that it had recurred
not only once, but many, many times. Somehow, he could only utter one word when
he tried to recall it, one name that floated up from the rapidly vanishing
traces of the dream…
Comment: I am stating the obvious here, but Snake, the thin man in
white, (Fox's rival) and his band are invented plot device characters. He was
the figure cloaked in white in the bar, in PIII/Ch2, who watched the fight
between Elazul and the four men, and then asked the bartender if Elazul knew
Interestingly enough, Rubens is wrong. In the fight of Black Pearl v. Elazul
and Alex, Elazul was mostly useless, and it was Alex who managed to seriously
injured Black Pearl, and would have killed her, if Elazul did not intervene.
That part of the fight actually kind of bothers me, now that I think back on it.
I made it too easy for Alex to hurt Black Pearl, even though it was due to an
element of surprise, because Black Peal did not expect Alex's core to resist her
runic magic. Still… I suppose Black Pearl just shouldn't have been THAT easy to
Someone commented upon the time scheme in the story, so I think that perhaps
I didn't make it clear enough how long the story takes, though I am usually
careful about marking down the time period of a chapter.
To put it in perspective: the entire Parts I and II span exactly one year.
Alex meets Elazul in late December or so in Part I, chapter 1. By the end of
chapter 1 it's Spring, i.e. March or April. The summer tournament occurs in
chapter 2. From there on many events occur in the few short months of the
fall/winter, especially November and December, in Part I, chapter 3 to Part II,
chapter 2 (with Amber, Sapphire, etc). Then Black Pearl returns; chapters 3 and
4 of Part II occur within a few days, and Elazul leaves the city in the last day
of the year. Part II, Chapter 5 is about 2 weeks later, in Mid-January. Thus,
Parts I and II span a little over 1 year, December to January.
Part III begins in March of that year, 3 months later, and continues to the
middle of May. Part IV is going to span only the last two weeks of May; and Part
V will occur in the first two weeks of June. The whole story occurs during a
year and a half.