Log in

No account? Create an account
18 June 2007 @ 10:43 pm
(15 pairings) theme #4: practice makes perfect  
Title: out of the blue
Pairing: Black Mage/White Mage
Rating: G
Total Word Count: 14 654
Disclaimer: No part of FFIV belongs to me. All hail Squaresoft.
Note: You will find that the town of Mysidia has been significantly expanded, since the one in the game is as lacking in realistic detail as the sprites who inhabit it. Just roll with it. ^_^

* * *

Mysidia was a beautiful town at any time of year. Even the winter was temperate enough that the inhabitants of the mage-town seldom needed to use their arts to protect themselves from the weather. The reverse side of this good fortune, however, was that it became uncomfortably hot in the month or two spanning midsummer. Though everyone in town objected to the heat, the ones who were the worst afflicted by it were those who practiced Black magic. The dark, heavy robes customarily worn by a Black mage in the practice of his craft were not at all suited to the summer weather. Though the effects of the sun’s rays were somewhat lessened by the shade of the tall and wide-brimmed hat that was part of the traditional garb, it was not enough. There was always grumbling about how unfair it was that the White mages’ robes were so much better suited to the climate, but no change was ever seriously considered. Discomfort suffered patiently built self-discipline, and that was a quality sought by all who studied magic of any sort.

For some of the young mages still in training, self-discipline was a far less appealing concept than comfort. The mages’ training hall, more commonly referred to as mage school, was made of stone and blessedly cool. Mishaila looked forward to attending during the summer even more than in the winter: she loved her town dearly, but the summer was hard on her. It always brought out the worst of her temper, and the windowless depths of the classrooms were a great relief to her and her classmates. The eternal, largely friendly rivalry between the Black magic class and the White magic class found seasonal expression in the musings of some members of the former, to the effect that it was no wonder their own class was advancing faster; the relief at being out of the sun was so great that they studied twice as hard once inside, whereas the White mages, being attired more appropriately for the heat, had less appreciation for time spent in the classroom, and thus did not study as hard. It was nonsense, of course, but Mishaila laughed with the rest. It was too much fun to joke about the White class, especially when she was in an irritable mood.

The members of the White class were mostly girls who wanted to do their part by bringing peace and healing to the world in these troubled times. Peace and healing were all very well, but it had always seemed to Mishaila that someone was going to have to do some dirty work, too. It had surprised her parents when on her eighth birthday the Elder had declared that her talents lay toward Black magic. Her elder sister Rina had teased that it was because of her black hair, but their mother had black hair as well, and had trained as a white mage. Very few girls were inclined to the study of Black magic these days, apparently, and Mishaila was the only one in her class.

She got on well with the boys, for the most part; at home, there was only Rina, so her classmates became much like brothers to her. She knew most of the members of the White class by name – there were actually two boys in their number, one her own age and another six years younger who had just begun his training – but she was not close to any of them. The two classes mingled very little.

She was in her seventh year of magical studies when the Crystal of Water was stolen.

Mishaila walked to school that morning with her neighbour Mat, whose father owned the weapons shop. They were the same age, and had been best friends since they were four. The day was sweltering, and Mat, as was his custom, was bemoaning the restriction on frivolous magic.

“It wouldn’t take that much power,” he insisted; “one little Ice spell, think how much more comfortable we’d be!”

“A day of classes still leaves you almost drained,” she responded, raising an eyebrow. “There’s a reason they made that rule. Anyway, we’re almost there.” Mat was about to argue, but his attention was diverted by something in the northwestern sky. He tilted his hat back for an unobstructed view, and clutched her arm suddenly. She had turned her head to see what he was looking at; now she turned back to him, and was alarmed by the expression on his face.

“What’s wrong? Mat, it’s only airships,” she exclaimed. They were a rare sight, but they did pass over occasionally. Usually only one at a time, though, she thought, as Mat shook his head.

“It isn’t only airships, Mishi. Look, they’re headed straight for us. They never head straight for us. They must be coming here. Why would Baron be sending airships here? And why so many at once? This is… I don’t like this.” He shook his head again, violently, and jammed his hat back down. Mishaila was uneasy. Mat was right – Baron never bothered them, and suddenly, here they were.

“There’s nothing we can really do about it, though,” she pointed out, “and we’re going to be late. I’m sure if anything serious happens they’ll let us know.”

As it happened, the student mages and most of the rest of town had to rely on the grapevine, for the simple reason that most of the witnesses of that day’s horrors did not survive. A temple attendant, ashamed to be alive still, told his story at the Inn’s tavern, and by midafternoon it was all over town.

Baron’s elite had come for the Crystal. No one knew why; no one had seen it coming. The mages guarding the Crystal Room, caught flat-footed, had been slaughtered to a man; some of those who had opposed the invaders in the outer Temple had been captured rather than slain, but they were a minority. A quarter of the students had lost one or both parents. Mysidia was in uproar. It was not a town that valued mere physical achievements, but a place where the study of magic was prized as most worthy of dedication. Now, a large number of their most skilled mages had been completely defeated by the merely physically skilled. It was a blow to the convictions of the townspeople, as well as a crushing loss of life. Above all, the Crystal, that which had been entrusted to them to keep from the hands of those who would misuse it, was gone.

In the evening, the Elder called a town meeting in the square. He explained clearly what had happened – the story had already morphed through a number of patently incredible versions in the retelling, but the bare facts were bad enough – and then, after a pause, declared that the Earth was coming to a crisis. The separate safeguarding of the Four Crystals had been key to preventing abuse of their power. Anyone wantonly using even one of the Crystals would upset the Earth’s balance and open a path for destruction. With all four, the possibilities were almost too terrifying to contemplate.

So spoke the Elder of Mysidia, and the people listened in silence. No one doubted him. No one made an outcry. He was their Elder, and he had not finished speaking.

Mishaila, standing near the edge of the crowd, could barely hear him. She strained to make out his next words. Surely he had come up with a way for them to remedy the harm. The hope in the air was palpable. Then the Elder began to speak again.

“There is nothing we can do now except pray. This wrong we have suffered today is only one part of the whole. I cannot see how it will end, but I tell you that what must be done to save the Earth, must be done by a very few. Let us carry on as we have always done, and perhaps one day we may be of service to one of these few, for they will require the aid of many. Do not lose hope; do not become impatient. Pray that the few do not fail, and that the Crystal, and those of our people who were captured, may return to us safely.”

That was all. The Elder turned away, shadowed by the small orphaned twins he had taken in to train and care for; the crowd began to disperse. Conversation sprang up at once, but was conducted mostly in hushed tones, as though something sacred were being discussed. Perhaps that was the case – certainly some people would be talking about the Crystal – but what Mishaila wanted to say was considerably more profane. She was furious. After such an outrage, the loss of the Crystal, the loss of lives, the incalculable affront to peaceful, scholarly Mysidia, they were to do nothing but pray that a stranger recognised the fate laid on him? Burn that notion. Prayer was not the only weapon of the Mysidian people. But the Elder… the Elder was wise. The Elder had never in her lifetime guided his people astray. She had enormous respect for him, but she struggled with his words. His wisdom was folly in her outraged ears.

Barely seeing anyone, she stalked away from the square. Rounding a corner, she bumped into someone coming the other way. She regained her balance and apologized mechanically, vaguely registering that the other wore the robes of a White mage. She would have gone on and continued her seething – she wanted to get home and talk to her family about this; her father was ill and her mother hadn’t wanted to leave him, and Rina had gone in a group of her own friends – but the White mage touched her shoulder, startling her into stopping. She saw that it was the older boy from school, Alan, she thought his name was. His hair and eyes looked dark under his hood, but she was fairly certain he was blond.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but you seem very upset. Can I help?” At any other time, Mishaila would have been favourably impressed by his solicitude for a near-stranger. Now, however, she saw it as presumption, and resented him for not sharing her anger. His question was like a spark to a fuse, and she exploded in his face.

“Of course I’m upset!” she snarled. “Why aren’t you? Do you like the idea of sitting here and pretending everything’s fine when there are people out there who could destroy the Earth?” Alan looked taken aback.

“Is that how you see it?” He sounded genuinely surprised. “I think it’s very strategically sound. We can’t go running madly off to Baron and demand our Crystal back; we don’t have the numbers and we don’t have any airships. And consider the ancient Legends: they always emphasize a small number of fated heroes, sometimes even just one.” He had obviously thought through his position, which galled her. She was still running on gut reaction. He would have gone on, but she interrupted.

“I can’t just wait and pray! People are dead!”

“What would you do, then?” She opened her mouth, but no words came out. He was right, curse him. Mysidia alone… then she had it.

“Why couldn’t we join forces with the other places that guard Crystals?” she demanded triumphantly. “If we all stormed Baron together…”

“Do you know anything about military tactics?” He was losing his patience. “Of course not; Mysidians don’t make war. But I’ve read some old military journals of my uncle’s – he’s from Fabul, you know – and the organization of a campaign like that would be impossible. You have no idea how big the world is, or how dangerous. There are cockatrices roaming freely now; an entire army could be turned to stone, one man at a time, and you know how long it takes to brew a Soft potion!” She did know, better than some, for Rina was a journeyman under the potions maker. “And that’s just one species of monster out of the dozen or so that are roaming around outside our little town these days. We have no idea what’s out there in the rest of the world. You’re not thinking.”

“I am thinking,” she retorted, painfully aware that she was only thinking because he’d just forced her to. The Elder was right, after all; and she was wrong, and had just made a fool of herself in front of a boy she barely knew, and people were still dead and she was still angry and the Crystal was still gone, and she needed to be angry at someone. She lashed out blindly, clumsily, because he was there.

“I am thinking, and I think you’re a coward. You want to act like it didn’t happen so you don’t have to get your precious hands dirty, White Mage,” she spat bitterly. “Is this how you honour the dead?” His face darkened; he was truly angry now.

“My father was killed today,” he said, his voice tightly controlled. “How I honour him is no business of yours.” He brushed past her, leaving her standing dumbly in the street.

* * *

Chapter 2