KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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FFIV/FFX -"Once a Guardian"

Title: Once a Guardian
Fandom: Crossover, FFIV and FFX
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 3625
Characters: Auron, Rydia, Leviathan
Spoilers: Yes, for both games
Notes: Written for the Alphabet Fic Meme, to first_seventhe's prompt "Children/Childhood - FFIV cast". In her original request, Sev gave me an option: I could write about any FFIV character(s), or I could write about Auron. One day, as I was turning ideas over in my head (while taking a shower; I tend to get my best/wackiest inspirations in the shower), it occurred to me: what if, instead, I wrote about an FFIV character and Auron? Thus was the concept of this story born. Thanks to [personal profile] justira for beta help! This is my first time ever writing in FFIV canon, so feedback on that aspect is especially welcome.

Auron had never seen this part of the Farplane before.

He had thought, by now, that he knew all its hidden places and byways: the beach where most of his friends and companions resided; the fields of wildflowers by the endless cataracts; the acres of silent green forest; even the twisted paths of stone that Vegnagun had once called home, which he and Jecht had visited a few times. The Farplane held few secrets, even as Auron found himself wandering farther and farther afield in his meanderings, seeking solitude and a change of scenery. But nothing had prepared him for this place, a strange scene that bore no resemblance to the forest he'd been walking through a moment before. He had been following a small brook as it wound through the trees, chattering around curves and across stones, deeper into the woods; he'd expected the stream to lead to the rivers that fed the cataracts, as all the others did. Instead, after passing through a particularly thick stand of trees, he had emerged here, into a dark and barren landscape of rock, strewn with boulders and, most incongruously, streams and pools of molten lava, glowing red and throwing off heat.

It was not hospitable in the slightest, and Auron was about to turn away and find another path through the forest when he heard something in the distance: the high, thin sound of a crying child. "Here?" he muttered to himself. He turned in the direction of the cries, and peering into the distance, he saw a small figure, clad in bright green, sitting next to a stumpy tree. For a moment, he debated with himself, but how could he leave a helpless child to their own devices? Besides, he had come seeking a new challenge, and this landscape certainly presented a change, at the least. It would be poor sport to turn back now. So he went forward, toward the sound, leaving the forest behind him.

It was a treacherous walk, picking his way around the rocks while avoiding the pits of hot lava -- although he was unlikely to suffer permanent damage here, experience had taught him that slipping and falling still hurt, and he didn't want to learn the hard way that he could still burn. His passage was silent but for his own footsteps, the distant cries, and the occasional sizzle of grass slipping into the lava. No animals, no birdsong, not even any wind to break the static air, very different from the gentle eddies of breeze that wended through most other areas of the Farplane. The stillness made Auron uneasy, and he found himself looking over his shoulder more often than strictly necessary.

It was a few minutes before he reached the child. By now, he could see that she was a young girl, no more than seven or eight. As he had observed from the distance, she sat at the base of one of the only trees Auron had seen since leaving the forest behind; it was shriveled and brown, and he wondered how it survived here. The girl's knees were drawn up to her chest, and her back heaved with sobs. With only one more lava stream to cross, he paused, hesitant to startle her. Auron had seen similar scenes a few times before: young arrivals to the Farplane, alone and afraid, unsure what had happened to them. Braska dealt with them quite well -- he always seemed to know what to say, how to reassure and explain. Auron was much clumsier at it. Taking a deep breath, he stepped over the fissure, and knelt down next to her.

"Hello," he said, in as gentle a voice as possible. "Are you all right?"

The girl looked up, twitching back and away from him. Her eyes opened wide, and her mouth fell open. "Who are you? Where did you come from?"

"My name is Auron, and I came through the forest." He gestured vaguely behind him, in the direction of the trees. "And I'm here to help you, if you need it. What's the last thing you remember?"

"I was on the ship. We were sailing... and the skies were clear... but then the sea monster attacked us! Cecil tried to save me, but the waves knocked me off the ship, and then... the monster..." She shuddered and began to cry again, covering her face with her hands.

The words were like a kick to Auron's gut, and he had to will himself not to reel away from the girl. Attacked by a sea monster... had Sin found some way to return after all? Had all his sacrifices been for nothing? He closed his eyes for a moment, and took a slow breath.

But no; perhaps not. Time did not always flow at the same rate in every part of the Farplane. Perhaps the girl had arrived here years ago, by his reckoning. Reassured by this possibility, he placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Your ship was attacked by Sin," he said.

The girl shook her head. "Sin? What's that?"

The words were so unexpected that all Auron could do was rock back on his heels, his hand slipping from her shoulder to his side. No matter the rate of time's passage, surely he had not been gone from Spira long enough for Sin's name to have faded from memory. "Sin," he repeated, unable to think of anything better. "The scourge of Spira for a thousand years."

Her brow furrowed, confusion staying her tears. "I don't know where Spira is. Is it one of the southern islands? I've never been south of Baron. We were on our way there, from Fabul. Then the monster attacked our ship. But it wasn't Sin, whatever that is. It was Leviathan. I know, because my mother told me about him. She said he was jealous of the summoners, and I should be careful if I ever went to sea, but it was so long ago, and I forgot."

Auron had no idea how to respond to this extraordinary chain of statements. He knew nothing of either of those places, nor of any Leviathan. And this little girl, a summoner? A summoner who knew nothing of Sin? It was all quite impossible. And yet the girl did not seem to be crazed or lying, only upset, and she would not be the first confused soul Auron had seen on the Farplane. Perhaps Braska would know what to do with her.

"Would you like to come with me?" he asked. "I know a place much more comfortable than this, where you can get some rest." He stood, brushing the dust off his knees, and then held out his free hand to the girl. She took it, and pulled herself to her feet.

"Thank you," she said. "Oh, my name's Rydia."

"All right, Rydia. Let's see about..." Auron turned around, and frowned. While they had been talking, a dense mist had sprung up around them; he could no longer see the forest, could in fact no longer be certain from which direction he had come. "Hmm."

"What is it?" Rydia, perhaps reacting to the concern she heard in his voice, drew closer to his side. "Where did all this fog come from?"

Auron shook his head, frowning. For a mist to spring up, as if from nowhere, was strange behavior, especially for the Farplane. Also curious was its flat gray color; he would have expected to see pyreflies here. Whatever its cause, this development did not bode well. "I don't know. We will have to tread carefully. Stay close to me, and watch where I step -- this ground is treacherous."

"Okay." Rydia removed a small whip from her belt; she turned away from Auron and cracked it, as if to test its reactions, then wound it up into a tight curl before replacing it on its hook. "Let's go." Already she seemed a different girl from the one who had been crying on the ground, and Auron breathed a quiet sigh of relief that she seemed reasonably able to take care of herself, delusions or no. He turned, and started making his way back across the lava field, in what he thought was the direction of the forest.

As much as possible, he tried to keep his steps small enough that Rydia could follow, testing every rock and ledge for solidity; a few times, he looked back and noticed that she had to jump over a stream or a pool. Her footsteps and landings were steady, though, and so his concern for her lessened. For a long time they continued on. Too long, Auron thought with a frown. They should have reached the forest by now. The mist had gotten denser, to the point where it could only be described as heavy fog, and the terrain had also changed -- the ground was nearly solid rock, the lava pools having all but disappeared, and there was also a change to the ringing of their footsteps, an echoing sound as if from a roof. Auron would have thought they were underground, perhaps in a cavern, except for the fog, which he had never known to penetrate a cave like this. He tested the ground, prodding it with his toe - it was solid rock all right, not dirt, and the already-sparse plant life had all but disappeared.

"Are we in a cave?" Rydia echoed Auron's thoughts; then the sound of her voice bounced back to them, confirming the hypothesis. He looked down at her with a shrug.

"So it would seem."

"But how?" Rydia squinted into the distance, back the direction they had come. "We didn't pass through an entrance."

He could only shake his head again. "I don't know, but--" A scraping sound from their right stopped his words, and he caught Rydia's eye, holding up his hand for silence. She nodded and stepped backwards. Then he turned to face the direction from which the skittering noise came, putting himself between it and Rydia. As he drew his sword, a fiend that resembled a gigantic spider emerged from the fog, its clawed feet clattering against the rock.

It squealed and lashed out at Auron, the front leg coming straight at him. He parried, then jumped forward, thrusting the tip of the sword forward. With a sickening crunch, the blade hit the carapace. The fiend squealed again and jumped back before striking a second time. The spiky leg caught Auron across the shoulder, nearly scraping the side of his face.

"Get down!" Rydia's shout came from behind him, and without thinking Auron obeyed her command, ducking and stepping sideways. He looked back to see Rydia raise her arms over her head. The familiar tingle of magic filled the air as blue light gathered itself into a sphere between her palms, then shot out in the form of a beam of ice, which encased the fiend, then shattered. One last gasp, and the fiend was down, collapsing on its suddenly-stiff legs and falling to the ground. The legs twitched one more time, and were still.

Auron stood, rolling his shoulder to check that it wasn't injured; it was a bit sore, but it would do. Then he turned to Rydia.

"You are a mage," he said. Just one more surprise in a day filled with them, never mind the appearance of a fiend on the Farplane. But he was growing steadily more convinced that he was no longer on the Farplane.

She nodded. "And you must be a knight."

"Not a knight." He lifted his blade up, and examined its edge, which was stained green with the fiend's ichor. A quick glance around showed that the thin patches of vegetation that had dotted the lava field were totally gone. Auron sighed, and then gave his sword a cursory swipe against his coat. Then he met Rydia's wide-open gaze. "I am a guardian. A guardian of summoners. And so I will guard you, if you will have me."

Rydia grinned and curtsied. "Thank you."

"Good." Auron checked the blade one last time before sheathing it. "Now, where am I guarding you to?"

"Good question." Rydia looked around, nose wrinkling. "Where are we, anyway?"

"I do not know," Auron answered with all honesty. He glanced over his shoulder and noted that the fiend's body was not fading into pyreflies, but lying solid on the ground. No, this was not the Farplane. In all likelihood, it was not even Spira. "What I do know is where there is one fiend, there will be more, and so we should seek shelter."

"Right." Rydia responded with a single, solemn nod, then closed her eyes and held out her arm as though to concentrate. Slowly, she turned around, pivoting on her feet; when she had just finished a half-turn, she opened her eyes. "That way," she said.

Auron peered in the direction Rydia was pointing; he could see nothing to set it apart from the rest of the landscape, but he had no better plan. "Lead on, then. But get behind me if we are attacked again."

Rydia took a deep breath, then removed the whip from her belt. "Okay. Here we go."

For some time, they walked together through the ever-thickening fog. A few more of the spider creatures attacked, and once a fiend that reminded Auron of the Evil Eyes of Mount Gagazet. But they dispatched each opponent easily enough, taking no injuries. After cleaning his sword once more, Auron thought he noticed a faint glow in the distance; he pointed it out to Rydia, who nodded.

"Yes," she said. "That's what's calling me, I think. I hope it's safe."

Auron lifted his sword and sheathed it on his back. "It is as good a destination as any. How much further, do you think?"

"Not far." Rydia started walking again, and Auron followed. The cool blue light diffused through the mist before intensifying and finally coalescing into a diamond-shaped crystal almost as tall as Auron himself. Rydia stopped, standing stock still, her eyes wide and round. Then she started moving toward it, swaying with each step as though in a trance.

For a moment, Auron froze, too, watching her hypnotic motions, until Rydia's hands lifted up from her sides and she reached out toward the crystal. "Wait!" he shouted, "we need to--" but it was too late: her hands were on the crystal's surface, and she started to shimmer with the same blue light. Without thinking about it, Auron ran to her and reached out -- to stop her? to come along? As his fingers closed around her shoulder, he was blinded, his vision enveloped in pale blue nothingness. The world wrenched, then slowly faded back into focus. Auron blinked a few times, and found himself in a very different kind of place.

The mist was gone, along with the rock floor, the lava pools, and any evidence of a cavern. Instead, he was in a sort of town: gray stone buildings connected by bridges and stairways. He stood next to a half-height wall; looking over the edge, he could see another level of the city, and beneath that a roiling sea of fog. Above him was more gray, although it was hard to tell whether he saw dense clouds or a far-distant roof. A few people walked about, all shrouded in cloaks, none close by. Rydia was standing next to him, huddled against his side, her eyes still wide but no longer entranced; instead, she seemed terrified, and Auron freed his hand from his coat to rest it on her head.

"Do you know this place?" he asked.

"No." Her reply was almost a whisper. "At least... I don't think so."

"Well." He awkwardly patted her soft hair, then tucked his arm back into place. "It seems safe enough. Let's take a look around."

Her nod was barely perceptible, but she still took a step forward, then another, looking around her all the while. Auron let her set the pace, keeping just behind her and alert to possible dangers. Down the streets they walked, speaking to no one, until they reached a grand stairway leading into a building marked "Library". And there Rydia stopped, staring up at the door. "There," she said, the word hushed and reverent. "That's where I need to go." She swallowed, then started her way up the steps, Auron following. The door atop the stairs was open, no locks or guards to bar their path, and so they went in.

Bookshelves lined the walls, reaching to the ceiling. The books on the shelves were dark and heavy, some of them wrapped in metal bands. Complete silence reigned; even their footsteps thudded dully in the stale air. Rydia walked through the stacks, head swinging from side to side as though she were looking for something familiar. Auron followed her past the shelves and down a large stairway. He ran a finger along the dark wooden banister, and it came away thick with dust. At the bottom of the steps, another heavy door awaited them. This swung open at Rydia's touch; after only a tiny hesitation, she walked through. There, on the dais, were a man and a woman, sitting on thrones and looking down at them. The woman stayed in her place, expression serene, but the man stood with a rustle of his blue robes and bowed his head in a respectful nod.


The girl gasped, then rushed to the edge of the dais, her mouth gaping open. "You... you are--"

"I am Leviathan, and I have brought you here to the Feymarch, the land of the Eidolons." He stepped down from his raised platform, holding out his hand, and Rydia took one look at it before slapping it away. She stepped back and glared at him, fire in her eyes.

"You!" She pointed a finger at him. "You attacked our ship, and you hurt my friends! How could you do that? Why did you take me away from them?"

"I promise you, all of your friends are safe now." Leviathan spread his arms in apology. "Regrettably, Edward was injured, but he will recover."

She gasped, eyes widening. "Oh, no! That's terrible. Why did you hurt him?" Her hands tightened into fists, and she stepped forward, jaw clenched as though she were ready to attack. Auron stood at attention, ready to draw his sword if needed, while marveling at her spirit. Rarely had he seen such determination and self-reliance in one so young, and he wondered what had happened in her life to bring her to this point.

Leviathan did not move or look away. "I apologize for the necessity, but it was the only way to bring you here."

Rydia shook her head, hard enough that her hair bounced. "I don't want to be here. I want to be with Cecil and Edward, and the others. I want to fight Golbez and free Rosa. How can I do that here?"

"Because here you will learn to be a summoner. You are already a powerful mage, but with the Eidolons under your control, you will be a far more formidable opponent to Golbez and his allies." Leviathan bowed his head. "I would rather not have taken you from your friends. But your training must be accomplished here. With the attacks on Mist, you are one of the last summoners remaining. And I fear there are few left who can teach you."

"Oh." Auron thought Rydia's expression brightened slightly, but then it darkened back into a scowl. "But how will you train me in time to help Cecil save Rosa, and keep the crystals safe?"

"Do not worry, my child." Leviathan reached his hands forward again; this time Rydia hesitated, then took them. "Time does not pass here as it does in the world above. Though you will spend many years here, only weeks will go by in the Overworld. You have my word that you will not return too late."

Rydia bit her lip, and then she nodded. "All right. I'll stay with you so I can learn. As long as you keep your promise and return me as soon as I'm ready to fight."

Leviathan smiled and pulled her into an embrace. When he had let her go, he looked up at Auron. "And you, too, are welcome here, Sir Auron, though how you found us I do not yet understand."

Auron started. He had thought his capacity to be surprised long gone, but the idea that this man could know his name, not to mention a title he'd never even shared with Rydia, seemed preposterous. "Nor do I," he said dryly. "But how do you know who I am?"

Leviathan bowed, stepping closer to Auron. "All the summoners of all the worlds are known to us. You have been guardian to two High Summoners of Spira, have you not?" Auron could only nod. "Some of our number have been very much looking forward to seeing you, ever since they realized that you had entered our realm. In your world, you would know them as the fayth of Shiva and Ifrit. Here, they are called Eidolons, and if you will stay, perhaps you will come to know them as such."

"Please stay." Rydia turned to look at him, smiling. Auron had to think only a moment. Perhaps this was not his place, but nothing ever changed on the Farplane. Perhaps a new challenge would ease his restlessness. Finally, he nodded.

"All right."

Leviathan smiled. "Very good. Let me call your friends, and then we will show you to some quarters. Welcome to the Feymarch, Sir Auron."

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/509126.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.
Tags: ffiv, ffx, fic, meme

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