This is something that I’ve been writing on the side. It surged from an aborted Fanfiction about a certain Tactical RPG. The concept I came up with is good. Too good to waste on a fanfiction. So, years after that fanfiction’s original incipit, I recently decided to turn it into its own original story.
Of course the inspiration is still clear. This will have a few of same themes, and one name in particular will sound purposely familiar to the afictionados, but everything is 100% Original.
This is the prologue. I have more. I will post it at not scheduled intervals when I have enough. If you leave a comment with thoughts, suggestions, flames, criticism, anything at all, that will expedite the posting process. 😉
Enjoy The War of the Kings.
“How do I look, Jusso?”
“You look beautiful, mother.” She offered him a bright smile. The small gaut of her cheeks became more noticeable.
“Beautiful for someone headed for the chopping block?” She was still full of mirth. His lips twisted.
“Don’t you think it’s an ill-suited situation for your brand of humour, mother?”
“Oh, my, on the contrary. It’s the perfect situation for it, Jusso. And I’m running out of any situations at all, anyway.” She sighed, her cheerful smile now gone for the sake of a childish pout. She stared down the spoil stone walls of the cell. “Bricks are a terribly tough crowd.”
“… I’ll tell dad and Nurva that you were a stuttering mess desperately latching onto life.” The young boy shook his head, the angles of his mouth raising despite himself. “I say they’d rather be grieving than terribly confused.”
“What’s there to be confused about?”
“Don’t you care at all, mother?”
“Silly boy, of course I do. I really don’t want to die.” His small smile disappeared. “But there’s no use in focusing on it. No use in worrying about it.”
“No use-!” Jusso gasped, his blue eyes going wide at the declaration. “Mother, how-“
“If you can do something about it, there’s no need in worrying. If you can do nothing about it, there’s no use in worrying.” She cut him off. The teenager looked as if he wanted to say more, but his mouth slowly closed on him after a few seconds of staring. “And do you really think I didn’t already make peace with this possibility a long time ago?”
“… Why did you do it, mother?” Her smile became even wider than before. She raised her left arm, and started tenderly stroking his hair.
“My little boy… Always so bright. Always asking the right questions. The ones others do not.” She complimented him, cupping his chin with the other hand, chains chiming as they moved with her limbs. “Why do you think I did it?”
“Maybe… You didn’t love father anymore?”
“Honey, I still love your father with all my heart. Never think otherwise.” He bit his lower lip. “Try again.”
“I… Maybe…” She still loved dad. But if she still loved dad, why did she go to that other man? Do things with him that she did with dad too? She… He paused. “… You loved that man… Too?”
“Yes, Jusso. I still do. With all my heart.” That was when Jusso’s mother mask showed a crack, her eyes downcast and her mirth gone. If only for a few seconds. Because she had remembered that man’s fate.
“… You love them both?” His mother nodded. “… That… Doesn’t sound like a bad thing.”
“It doesn’t, right?” She cupped both of his cheeks with her hands.
“But it’s against the law.”
“It is. And your father wouldn’t have understood. That’s why I kept it a secret from him.” Jusso lowered his young frowning eyes at the ground, his hands now fists around the fabric of his pants. “Why are you angry, Jusso?”
“Because the law is stupid… Because dad is stupid.” His mother chuckled, and he raised his angry gaze at her. “It’s not funny! If no one got hurt, why do they need to-”
“Because it’s against the law, Jusso.” His mother chided him, reminding the chocolate haired boy of his own words. “That’s not the right question, is it?”
“Why do you have to die for something like this?! Why did they make that stupid law in the first place?!” He stood, throwing off his mother’s hands. His own balled into fists, which shook vigorously. “Why… Why didn’t you…” He sniffled, and his mother was quick to grab his hands again, rubbing their backs with her thumbs. “… Why didn’t you run?”
“That’s a silly question, Jusso… You already know why.” Yes, he did… But he still didn’t feel like it was a good enough reason. He didn’t care what-There was a violent pounding on his door. Then a gruff voice informed him that his father had come to collect him. He bit on his lower lip, and his mother stared at him, surprised. “… Jusso, you didn’t tell your father you were coming here?”
“Father wouldn’t allow me or Nurva to come see you. I sneaked out.” His hands started trembling again, and before he knew it he threw his arms around his mother’s neck. “Mom, I don’t want you to die! I hate dad! I hate this!”
“I know you do, sweetheart… I know.” She hugged him back, feeling his body rock with sobs. “But you can’t do anything about it. And I need you to be strong.” She gently pushed him back, until she could stare at Jusso’s tear-stricken face directly. “Jusso, I need you to do something in my place. Can you do it for me?” Jusso sniffed, rubbing the underside of his nose. He nodded. His mother leaned in, bringing her lips next to his right ear.
She whispered words to him, too quiet to be heard by any potential onlookers. As he listened, his eyes got progressively wider and wider. When his mother pulled back she was smiling sheepishly, holding a hand apologetically in front of her face. “Sorry to drop this on you like this, Jusso… I was going to tell you tomorrow, though, so I guess this timing is a little better?”
“… Just a little.” The pounding on the door echoed again. “… I should-I should go.”
“Be brave, Jusso. Take care of your sister. And keep on practicing your magic, alright?” She ruffled his hair, which did nothing to make his mood better. “You seem to have a talent for Illusions. They will serve you well.”
“Illusions suck. I can’t burn things with them.” Jusso muttered, staring at the bars of the cell’s small window.
“But you can make people think you did. And that can be even better.” She chuckled and leaned down, kissing the chestnut haired boy’s forehead. “I love you, Jusso.”
“I love you too, mother.” Jusso nodded and reluctantly turned around, pulling on the door’s handle. As he stepped through the doorway, he turned to his mother one last time. She was waving at him with her right hand. He closed his eyes, grimaced and stepped out of the cell, the heavy metal door slamming behind his back.
Jusso would see his mother one more time before her execution, but in the years to come he would go on to consider that private conversation in her cell their last meeting.
“I’m sorry, princess.” The young girl’s eyes were puffy and red, fat tears still rolling down her cheeks, curly corvine locks hiding her face as she held her head down. She observed a white bundle of cloth dirtied by blood as it rested on the small cot in the middle of the room.
“… Thanks, Magda.” The young royal sniffed, bringing her now ruined napkin to her eyes. She had been crying for a long time.
She wasn’t a stupid or naive child. She was brought up not to be. At first she had been elated, overjoyed when her baby brother’s first cries had started coming from her mother’s chambers. When none of the nurses came to announce the good news? That gave her pause.
When her brother’s cry suddenly stopped, that made her realize that she would never see him. “I’d like to be alone, Magda.”
“Of course, princess Riina.” The nurse bowed to her. “My deepest condolences.” The honey eyed princess gave no visible reaction, remaining silent and perfectly still long after the woman left the room. Then she slowly turned around, to the door leading to the adjacent room.
Her mother’s bedroom.
She walked to it, and slowly leaned her head and hands against it. Her ear got steadily warmer as her magic surged through her body and focused on her hearing apparatus. The silence from the other side of the heavy mahogany doors turned to a hushed buzz and then to clear, although whispered sounding words.
She couldn’t risk using more magic. Even if her mother was debilitated by childbirth, her uncle -her mother’s brother- was healthy and well.
“…was the Goddess’s providence that saved us.” The voice of the tall man was the first to become clear to Riisa’s ears. “It was a male. Had he survived-“
“You don’t need to remind me, Gernon…” Then came her mother’s voice. It sounded so weak, compared to her usual tone. She could just imagine her laying on her bed, her long raven hair sticking to her sweat-covered skin, glacial emeralds peering at her uncle. “This is the end… Of the royal line of the Randorr.”
“It is, Imhilda.” Her uncle’s tone betrayed a veiled enjoyment. Enjoyment of having witnessed a tragedy. “The future now belongs to our family.” But it wasn’t a tragedy. No more than her father’s death was. Riina had heard enough, her doubts solved.
She pushed herself away from the door and returned to the mournful wake of a brother she would never see grow up.
“Kusti, please don’t-“
“Yaaargh!” The blade shone with magical might as it cleaved cleanly through the soldier standing in their way, his heavy armour useless. Droplets of gore splattered the handsome features of a young man. His purple irises shone with fury under locks of gold. Before his enemy’s body touched the ground, he grabbed on the right hand of the older woman who shared his hair colour. “Quick!”
“Kusti, stop! It’s hopeless!” Her regal clothes, once beautiful, were charred and ruined. Their surroundings rumbled and the ceiling started coming loose around them. The assault on the citadel wasn’t relenting and it wouldn’t until it was razed to the ground or they were both killed.
“It ain’t so, mother! It ain’t!” The teen shot back, stepping around one of their fallen knights. They would get away. They would escape! They just needed to reach the hidden pathways, from the inside of their private chambers to the wilderness. They would lose their pursuers there and-
Kusti cursed, coming to an abrupt stop as the corridor behind the corner he had just turned was being stalked by a group of enemy knights, their black armour and weapons eerily reflecting the inferno of the burning castle. “Mother, stay behind me!”
“Kusti, no!” He didn’t heed her, and joined the battle with a battlecry.
The first knight fell immediately as Kusti’s sword punctured through helmet and bone. With a bloody curve, the knight on the right found himself privy of his sword-arm and then kicked into a group of his companions, in a mess of metal and billowing red cloaks.
“Hnn!” A mace found its way into Kusti’s unprotected back, sending him sprawling to the ground. Armoured boots headed his way. He rolled on his side, ignoring the pain as he rose back to his feet while swinging his sword. Curses and cry of pain followed his motion as three knights found themselves crippled. “O-Oooh!”
With a bellow, the teen threw himself at the last two uninjured knights. Pivoting to the side of the polearm trust at him, Kusti then chopped at the weapon rendering it useless and then stepped back to avoid a descending battleaxe, his left arm whipping to the side. A helmet still containing its ward soared through the air.
The last of the armoured fighters pitifully brandished his wooden pole as Kusti descended upon him with a scream. A loud slicing sound was the only warning before he fell, two neat halves which tinged red the teen’s falchion, perverting its blue light. The blonde swordsman stood among the carnage, panting, as if contemplating his work… His mother. “Mother-“
“Don’t move.” His strength almost left him. Standing behind his mother, a hand wrapped on her mouth and a dagger to her side, stood a less armoured opponent. His followers donned the same red vestiges as the man holding his mother hostage, with the addition of nose-high clothes. “I’m impressed. The rumours don’t do your prowess justice, Lord Kusti.”
“General Reijo…” Kusti gritted his teeth, his sword shaking in his hands.
“You could indeed become a better swordsman than your father… And the late Lord Gyro is a king slayer.” And that had doomed him, Kusti thought. His father had thought the war won after killing King Dacus. His biggest mistake was not realizing that the real mind, the one who really guided their enemy was the man standing in front of him.
The king’s death had only served to remove an impediment in Reijo’s way. “We will now discuss the terms of your surrender.”
“Surrender… I have a hard time believing you’ll let us just walk away, general.” The bronze-skinned teen gritted his teeth, thinking of something, anything he could use…
“And you would be right. But believe that it’s in our mutual interest to end this conflict. Here and now.” Kusti narrowed his eyes at the general. The bearded man remained impassive. “Your people are strong, and proud. Five years we’ve been at war with you. Five years we’ve been losing far more men than should be needed to take such a little country.”
“And a hundred more will pass before you defeat us! A hundred thousand more will fall to our blades!”
“I have no doubt of that. That’s why I have no interest in killing any of you.” Kusti’s blood boiled as the general pushed his dagger against his mother’s side. The woman sobbed. “What I propose is this, young lord Kusti: I take you captive and bring you back in chains to Ordonia. You do this and you both live.”
“You… Miserable cur…” Take him captive? Chain him for years to come, hold him hostage? Cull his people’s spirit? It was a slight worse than death. The sole thought made his stomach lurch!
And yet, his falchion fell to the ground, his finger no longer holding onto the weapon. He fell to his knees, his eyes remaining defiant as he stared upwards at his would be captor, who smiled thinly. “A wise choice.”
While his enemies restrained him and brought him outside, where he could order his people to lay down their weapons, he couldn’t help but think how disappointed his father would be in him.
More than his honour, more than his station, more than his country and its traditions, he valued his mother’s life.
In the wake of war with the Sehalattin sultanate, the execution of a woman for adultery passed unobserved, even if she was married into one of the most prominent among the noble families.
The five years war had cost the kingdom of Ordonia thousands of men. Among the fallen was King Dacus, who died with his personal guard at the hands of Lord Gyro, ruler of the Sehalattin, leaving the campaign in the hands of his personal advisor, lord Reijo.
The impact of this loss was exacerbated by the news that his second-born didn’t survive the first five minutes following his birth. This left the king without any direct male relatives, only succeeded by the first child born from the union with queen Imhild: princess Riina.
The law states that upon death of the King, be it that there’s no male next of kin to succeed him at the throne, the Queen shall be regent until the princess is of marriable age. The princess shall then choose a consort.
That consort will be the new king of Ordonia.
Hate it? Love it? Any spelling mistakes? Did you manage to understand which name is inspired by an actual word in Final Fantasy Tactics? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter or Facebook. 🙂
See you for the next chapter!