A long time ago, calamity began to strike the world. The winds died, the seas raged, and the earth decayed. Fire kept doing its thing because honestly, most of the time fire was already causing trouble anyway. Although the people despaired, they held on to hope because of an ancient prophecy. The prophecy foretold the coming of the four Warriors of Light, who would bear in their hands crystals which contained the power to restore the world to order. When these heroes arrived, they would undo the turmoil and save the land with their incredible powers.
The warriors of light arrived suddenly, without warning, and began their noble quest to save the world. But after running around in circles and fighting some goblins for awhile, they left again. The world watched in confusion. How was it that killing some goblins was going to save the world? A year or so passed and another band of heroes arrived, once again bearing the crystals. Perhaps these were the true warriors of light, meant to save the world from the decaying of the elements. They rescued a princess and traveled to a couple of towns, but before long they too disappeared. The world kept turning, and suffering, and no one was doing anything about it.
This became a normal occurrence. Every few years a new band of warriors of light would arrive – some came well-armed, some with potent magics, others in completely impractical combinations like four white mages in the same party. They would adventure for awhile, kill some monsters, occasionally restore one of the four crystals of light, and then disappear before the world was saved. Humanity learned to live with it, to survive in a world without the elements, and when a new band of warriors arrived, they kind of just rolled their eyes and went on with their normal lives. Everyone had given up entirely on the restoration of the world.
It was in this age of darkness that four new heroes arrived. Where they came from, nobody knew – particularly since they arrived on a small island totally disconnected from the rest of civilization due to the absence of the only bridge connecting it to the mainland. They were quite unimpressive to look at, armed only with a handful of knives and garbed with simple peasant clothes. They possessed no magic, no adventuring gear – only a fierce determination to finally be the warriors who saved the world after over 30 years of waiting.
As they approached the edge of the city of Cornelia, their scout kept her keen eyes open for any signs of trouble. Her blonde hair kept tucked beneath a bandanna, she pulled at the high collar of her green tunic as she scanned the line of trees near the city gate. Behind her, her allies broke down their camp from the night before. A mysterious figure in a deep blue cloak, his features obscured entirely beneath the dark shadows of a pointed hat, packed up a sack of ancient tomes written in an unusual tongue – along with a few issues of Islands and Plains magazine. Nearby, wreathed in the light of the sun shining through the branches of a great tree, a young woman cloaked entirely in white sat in earnest prayer. The red fringes of her garment created a striking pattern, her lips silently mouthing her words as a single tuft of blonde hair poked out from underneath her hood.
The scout then turned her attention to their leader, putting the finishing touches on packing up the camping gear. Garbed in a ridiculous red tunic with gaudy shoulderpads, at first glance he would not strike anyone as particularly impressive. Yet with each motion, his muscles rippled as he went through the process of packing with practiced grace. He wore his brunette hair a bit longer than the typical male fashion, sporting the mop hairdo currently popular among many of the minstrel troupes that played concerts in taverns around the world. As everyone finished their individual tasked, the leader turned to face his trusted scout.
“Sarisa, do you spy any danger which might prevent us from making it safely to town?” The scout shook her head and rested her left hand upon the hilt of her dagger.
“Nah boss, looks like we’ve got clear roads ahead.” Desh, the leader, nodded and looked over at the strange man in the blue robes.
“Homac, what did you say this place was called?” Homac jumped up with a start – it appeared he’d been thinking about something else – but he quickly collected himself with a clearing of his throat.
“Cornelia, the city of dreams,” he replied. “The annals of history have few things to say about it, historically-speaking. The most notable features of the town are the fact that the north bridge is always broken, and the local princesses are captured notoriously often.” Desh furrowed his brow at that.
“Unusual. If I had a princess, I would protect her fiercely, and if I had a bridge, I would maintain it so that everyone could travel north whenever they wished.”
“Well boss, that’s why you’re a warrior of light and those schmucks are peasants,” Sarisa said, a smirk on her face. “We should head to Cornelia Castle and see if we can get somebody motivated to fix the north bridge so we can head back to the mainland.” Desh nodded his head in agreement.
“Indeed.” He then turned to face the woman in white, her head still bowed in prayer. “Elia, I hate to interrupt you, but you’re now the only one not ready to get moving. Let’s get going, I’m sure the gods will still be there later.”
Elia didn’t respond immediately. She continued to mouth a few words silently to the gods, but after another moment of this she gave a small nod as if to say she was finished. After that, she rose up to her feet and gave an apologetic look to Desh.
“I’m ready now,” she said. Desh turned to face Sarisa and gave her a winning smile.
“Well then, my scout, lead the way!” Sarisa muttered something under her breath about how it wasn’t that hard to find a giant castle across an empty field, but led the march nonetheless.
Castle Cornelia was an impressive structure, glistening white against the blue sky with towering spires that pierced the very heavens. The interior halls had lush velvet carpets to cushion the footfalls of guests, and it added a comfortable warmth to the otherwise cold stone halls. Security was a bit lax, though, as no one really questioned the arrival of the four warriors. Upon entering the castle, Desh walked over to a nearby guard and spoke with him. It turned out that the king of this realm was waiting for the four warriors of light to arrive.
“They always show up here,” the guard said. “In thirty years we’ve seen a ton of folks just like you, carrying those silly crystals with them. Normally it’s a nuisance, but this time we actually need you fools.”
The guard escorted them down the halls of the castle and up a grand staircase to the second floor. This led to the throne room of the king. The floor of the king’s chamber was decorated with a scarlet rug with gold fringe, sat betwixt two statues of dubious design. Homac stared hard at them, trying to determine whether they were supposed to be chocobos or dragons. The walls were decorated with crimson tapestries, and the king’s coat of arms was displayed prominently on both sides of the golden throne. The king himself was decorated much like the throne room, a combination of red and gold that demonstrated excessive opulence. With the king was his chancellor, an older fellow with thinning hair but an excellent mustache. To demonstrate their identity, the four heroes took out their crystals and displayed them before the king.
“Ah, I see the new wave of warriors has arrived,” the king said. He propped his head upon his royal fist, bearing his elbow against the armrest of his throne. “It’s about time! The one time I actually need you and you wait longer than usual to arrive.” The chancellor nodded vigorously.
“Yes sir, very good sir, sick burn sir.” Sarisa rolled her eyes while Desh cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Your majesty, we have come from far away by unknown means to begin our journey to restore the crystals. What mission could you have for us that’s more important than that?” The king sat up and puffed out his cheeks in a display of dominance.
“My daughter, the princess Sarah, has been kidnapped,” he said. “One of my most loyal knights, Garland, suddenly absconded with her to the Chaos Shrine northwest of the city. I need you ruffians to go and teach him a lesson.” Homac stepped forward and gave a deep bow.
“Of course, sire,” he replied. “In return, we humbly ask you a favor of a most urgent nature. Our quest leads us north to the mainland, yet the bridge we would cross has been ruined by time and poor maintenance of infrastructure. Perhaps you have appealed to the masses by lowering their taxes, yet failed to collect enough to successfully keep the kingdom on its fee-”
“We need you to fix the bridge,” Sarisa said, interrupting Homac’s more roundabout approach. “Repair our path north and we’ll take care of this Garland bloke and bring your daughter back here.”
The king agreed to these terms and sent the warriors on their way. With a path north now dependent upon a quest, the heroes realized they would need to equip themselves with something other than kitchen knives. They pooled together their gil and determined that they had 500 pieces to spend on gear. The town of Cornelia didn’t have much to offer for wandering adventurers, but there were a few different shops that could provide for their needs. The warriors spread out to cover ground more quickly – Sarisa purchasing their weapons, Desh their armor, and each magician going to the appropriate magic store in order to arm themselves with spells.
Elia stepped into the white magic shop and took a look around. The store was well-lit with walls lined with tomes and religious icons. There seemed to be a sale going on right now – there was a particularly cheap trowel that once belonged to Saint Archibald that caught Elia’s eye, but she needed to focus on the matter at hand. She stepped up to the counter and rang the bell. A middle-aged man dressed in a similar cloak to Elia stepped up to the counter.
“Welcome to White-Out, the white magic shop,” he said. “We’re running a special on indulgences right now – buy one Seven Deadly and get the next one half price!” Elia shook her head.
“No no, that won’t be necessary,” she replied. “I’m here to purchase some spells. I have a quest which I must complete.” The clerk nodded and hefted a bag of books onto the counter.
“Here’s what we have. Cure is a popular one, great for healing scrapes and bruises. Used it just last week after my kid fell off the monkey bars at the park. Then there’s Blink, which makes it easier to avoid people you don’t like at parties.”
As the clerk gave Elia the sales pitch for the Protect spell, a particular book caught her eye. It was very old, and the depiction on the cover was that of a rotting monster. A magician in a white cloak held forth their hand and a beam of light shone down from heaven upon the monster, the creature’s dead flesh recoiling from the light of heaven. Elia reached out her hand and placed it on the cover.
“How much for this spell?” she asked. The clerk gave a knowing smile.
“Ah, now that’s the Dia spell,” he said. “You have a good eye. This one is perfect for fragile ladies going on a dangerous quest. It’s the best solution for monsters from beyond the grave. For you, pretty lady, I’ll sell it for a mere 50 gil.” Elia ignored his flattery and reached into her coin pouch.
“I’ll take that, along with Cure and Protect,” she said. With her spells purchased, Elia made to rejoin her companions at the town gate.
Desh had already equipped his new suit of armor, a silvery chainmail shirt that he wore underneath his red tunic. He then helped Sarisa strap into her padded leather armor, the brown leather matching nicely with her green outfit. Homac told Elia about the destructive spells he had purchased, explaining their origins and purpose while she listened quietly. Though they practiced very different schools of magic, the two had respect for what the other was capable of. Her armor now donned, Sarisa handed out new weapons to everyone in the group. Homac took up a wooden staff, perfect for weaving spells with dark magic. To Desh and Elia, Sarisa bequeathed mighty hammers, heavy and powerful for crushing the skulls of enemies. Desh looked curiously at Elia as she took a hold of her hammer, but the frail-looking woman seemed not to struggle at all to carry it. For her own weapon, Sarisa had chosen a narrow rapier and sheathed the blade at her hip.
“Are we ready to head out?” Desh asked. Elia and Homac both nodded.
“Then let’s get moving,” Sarisa said. “I’m ready to skewer this rogue knight for daring to lay his hands on an innocent woman!”
The path from Cornelia to the Chaos Shrine led through a few patches of forest along with stretches of grassy plains. Not particularly dangerous terrain to cross except for the monsters that prowled in the wild. Goblins roamed the grasslands, their mischievous laughs punctuating the ambient sounds of night while their rusty weapons glinted in the moonlight. Wolves, giant spiders, and even the occasional wild horse roamed the countryside and would attack travelers on-site. These foes were easily dealt with, though, and served merely as warm-ups to keep the party fresh and practiced.
Having the power of magic on their side made even large groups of foes particularly easy to deal with. In addition to more destructive magic such as Fire and Thunder, Homac had purchased the Sleep spell from the black magic store and used it to great effect in the wild. With a few muttered words he could lift his arms into the air and clouds of exhausting vapor would twist and writhe through the ranks of the enemy. The magic lulled many of their opponents into a state of sleep, giving the party an opening to simply crush their skulls or stab their throats while they slept quietly in the grass. Cruel, perhaps, but a necessary evil in the wilds of the world.
After perhaps a day worth of travel, the warriors of light arrived at last the the Chaos Shrine. It looked a mess from the outside, a mass of faded marble that looked as if the life and color had been sucked right out of it. Broken columns adorned the outside of the shrine, making it difficult to determine what exactly the building was supposed to look like. Perhaps once it had been grand and mighty, but in this ruined state it looked more like the bones of a great skeleton than the remains of a holy shrine. As they approached, Desh readied his mighty hammer and prepared to lead the party inside.
The shrine’s interior was dark and foreboding, though from inside it was a bit easier to tell that the place had once been lovely. Blue stone bricks composed the flooring of the shrine, but damage over time had ripped some bricks from their proper placement or formed cracks in the floor. The walls were grey stone with golden trim along the floor and ceiling. As Desh entered, he was greeted by a fearsome growl. Ahead, a trio of wolves ridden by goblin warriors waited for anyone to enter the shrine.
“Trouble!” Desh warned. The closest wolf rider charged forward, the goblin’s sword narrowly deflected by the shaft of Desh’s hammer as the wolf itself began to claw and bite at his legs. The fighter managed to keep out of the way of the attack while Sarisa slipped in behind him, spreading out to take on a second wolf-and-rider pair. She drove her blade right into the wolf’s flank, the creature howling in pain but not slain by the blow. The goblin rider struck at Sarisa, her leather armor absorbing most of the impact of the rusty sickle.
“Homac, perhaps you should blast the remaining rider with one of your spells,” Elia suggested. “You can attack from safety while Desh and Sarisa hold the entrance.” Homac shook his head.
“We must preserve our spells for the battle against Garland. I’ll fight them directly – you back me up if I need it.” Without more discussion, Homac charged forward to face the third rider. He delivered a forceful strike of his staff to the wolf’s body, leaving his torso open to an incidental slash from the goblin’s blade. Blood began to soak his blue cloak and Elia immediately began to speak the words of a curative spell. The goblin struck again, Homac raising his staff to block – and it was then that the warg wolf pounced. With a smooth and practiced motion, the vicious animal locked its jaw around Homac’s throat and tore it out with its vicious fangs.
“Homac!” Desh shouted. He parried another strike from his goblin foe and with one smooth motion, crushed both wolf and rider with his mighty hammer. Elia’s cure spell erupted from her fingers and healing light poured over Homac’s body, but it was too late. The black mage lay still on the ground as Sarisa’s precision strikes skewered the next wolf, leaving only two goblins and one mount left to deal with. Desh and Sarisa closed in around the goblins, Desh’s chainmail easily shaking off a slash of the wolf’s claws as he swatted the wolf aside with a hammer strike. Sarisa cleverly parried strikes from each goblin, her superior footwork and mobility allowing her to outpace each one and strike at their hearts with her rapier. The enemies slain, the three remaining warriors of light gathered around their fallen companion.
“What do we do?” Sarisa asked. “There are only three of us now. How can we restore light to the crystals without a full crew?”
“There’s still a way to save him,” Elia replied. Desh and Sarisa both gave her a quizzical look. “My white magic is not strong enough to restore his life, but a prayer offered to the gods on the hallowed grounds of a church could still accomplish what magic cannot. We must hurry and bring his body to the temple in Cornelia.
With that, Desh lifted Homac upon his shoulders and they began the long journey back to the city. The monsters of the wild could smell the scent of death upon the air and knew that the party was vulnerable. Desh fought as hard as he could with his hammer in one hand, the other holding Homac and protecting his slain body from further harm. Sarisa fought twice as hard, anger and grief driving her to take more risks. For her part, Elia continuously prayed over her allies to keep them healthy. Finally, they arrived at the town and made their way to the local temple.
From the outside there was nothing impressive about the place – nothing even to indicate that it was a temple. There was no clear sign posted nor a placard or banner marking this place as holy. Still, after exploring the rest of the town it was clear that this was the sole temple in Cornelia, so they ventured inside. Light poured through the stained glass windows and left beautiful patterns on the stone floor. Tall candelabras stood on either side of the carpet that led from the front door to the altar where a wizened priest stood waiting. Desh carried Homac to the altar and laid the mage upon it.
“Father,” Elia said, “this man has been slain by the forces of darkness. He is a warrior of light, and his continued life is necessary to saving the entire world. Please, can you pray for his soul? Can you work the miracle that not even magic can achieve?” The old man bent down over Homac and took off his pointed hat and bloodstained cloak. When asked later, none of the other warriors of light would be able to quite recall what Homac looked like beneath his clothes – but seeing him bared before them, mundane and very human, was perhaps even more unsettling than seeing him dead.
“He will live again,” the priest said. “I promise you that. For a simple payment of 40 gil, I shall return his soul to the world of the living.”
“Is it normal to charge for a miracle?” Sarisa asked, her brow furrowed. Elia put a comforting hand on the thief’s shoulder.
“It is a small price to pay,” she replied, “and a show of good will through a donation to the church is fitting tribute to the gods.” Desh rustled through his coin purse and then pressed the gil into the priest’s wrinkled hand.
With the payment made, the priest began his work. He first moved all the candles from the room until they formed a circle around the altar where Homac lay dead. Taking up a jagged knife, he then carefully began to carve symbols into Homac’s exposed chest. Elia cocked her head quizzically at the priest; Sarisa and Desh, knowing little of religious matters, did not question the unusual action. Once Homac’s chest was fully marked, the priest began to chant in a language none of them recognized. The candles all around him grew in brightness and intensity, the flames rising as the volume of the priest’s voice rose as well. Finally, with a single hand raised up to the sky, the priest then slammed his open palm down upon Homac’s chest.
The black mage sat up with a start, gasping for air through his still-exposed throat. The prayer had restored him to life but not restored his body to health. All the candles had gone out, leaving the room barely lit by the light streaming through the stained-glass windows. Elia quickly stepped forward and chanted white magic over Homac, a healing aura washing over him and knitting flesh back together. Sarisa picked up his clothes off of the floor and wrapped his cloak around his shoulders. Once he was once again robed, she placed the hat upon his head, once again shrouding his face in darkness.
“The gods have provided,” Elia said, smiling. “Thank yo-” Her words were interrupted by a gasp as she looked up to see that the priest no longer stood by the altar. In fact, he was nowhere to be seen at all. Desh and Sarisa noticed her distress and looked around the room, but there was nowhere to hide in the temple. The priest had worked his miracle and then disappeared entirely. Desh shook his head and turned to look at Homac.
“How do you feel, my friend?” he asked. Homac looked down at his hands, turning them over a few times to look at the palms and the back. With a single snap from the mage’s hand, the candles around the altar flickered back to life. He chuckled and then turned to Desh. The fighter could not see his expression, simply a glinting pair of glowing yellow eyes in the darkness beneath the mage’s pointed hat.
“Oh, me? I feel excellent.”
Will our heroes make it through the Chaos Shrine and defeat the wicked knight Garland? What happened to the priest who restored life to Homac? And what changes will come about as a result of Homac’s brief time in death? Find out in the next chapter of Finally Finishing Final Fantasy!