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Love Her And Despair (22)

Title: Love Her and Despair
Chapter 22:
The Falcon Cannot Hear
Final Fantasy X
Auron, Isaaru, Maroda, Elma, Rikku
Word Count: 1700
Summary: Discussing the fallout from Yuna's sphere.
Navigation: Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
Map of Pilgrimage - Links to All Chapters

Our Story So Far: En route to the Al Bhed Home to ask Cid for aid, Isaaru's party learns the truth of the Final Summoning from a sphere left behind by Yuna. Maroda and Auron come to blows over the sphere's revelations, until Rikku intervenes.

"What have you done to them?" Isaaru hurried towards his unconscious guardians, stumbling over the hem of his robes. "In Yevon's name—"

"Calm down; they're fine!" Rikku said, tapping the back of Auron's head. "Funguar pollen: works better than a hammer on skulls like his. They'll wake in a few. You'd better sit down till your head clears."

The intercom crackled to life with a squeal of static. "Rikku, what are you doing to my ship?"

Rikku pressed her hands over her ears and wrinkled her nose. "Nothing, Gip. Maroda and Auron got into a fistfight. I hit 'em with a nightcap."

"Oh." There was a long pause. "Hull breach? Dents in the deck?"

"Ummm..." She lifted the legend's feet, first one and then the other, letting them drop with a clunk. "Nope!"

"Keep it that way."


"Sorry, Captain," Isaaru said, propping his knuckles on the wall to steady himself. A gesture of faith, that: he found himself leaning against Al Bhed glass and open sky beyond. Faith's ironies suddenly caught up with him, and he struggled to stifle a laugh that might offend. Apparently the pollen was making him light-headed.

"Apology accepted. Try to keep the Yevon love-fest under control, okay? Gippal out." There was another ear-stabbing pop, then silence.

Elma moved to Isaaru's side and slipped a hand under his elbow, falling back on familiar duties. "Funguar pollen, eh?" she muttered. "Could've used it at a few staff meetings."

"Thank you, Elma," he said. "If you would..." He nodded towards the fallen guardians. Leaning on her arm, he approached the pair and dropped to one knee to examine them. Rikku scooted out of the way, hopping to her feet and watching with hands on hips. He moved first to his brother, feeling for the pulse at his wrist, smiling at the Al Bhed woman's irritated pout. His smile drained away as he turned his attention to the older guardian. Isaaru reached out, hesitated, and slipped his hands into the man's collar, gently turning his head to a more comfortable position. Splaying his fingers over tufts of white hair, the summoner chanted a few verses of prayer.

"What's with him, anyway?" Rikku said, folding her arms. "He looked sick."

"I cannot be sure, but I fear that..." Isaaru pressed his lips together, the delicate pause masked by his deliberate manner of speaking. "Elma's guess may be correct. Sir Auron is not a young man, and he has faced Sin more times than any man alive. The toxin must linger in his very bones. It is a wonder he is still sane. Despair, perhaps, or the pain of memory triggered its effects. As for Maroda, I don't think we need blame Sin's toxin: he is worried about our missing brother, and has harbored doubts about Sir Auron since first he joined us."

"Smart guy," Rikku said. "Hey, Elma, you okay? You look like you ate a bug."

Elma, crouching next to Isaaru, was staring past his shoulder towards the drifting clouds. "Hm?" She came back to herself with a start and winked at Rikku. "Oops. Thinking: never a good idea. So, anyway. Are you all right now, sir?"

"Yes, better." Isaaru stood, boosting himself on her arm. "I should apologize, Commander."

"Sir?" she said quizzically.

"Lady Yuna's sphere." Isaaru touched her wrist in mute thanks and stepped away, smoothing out his robes. "I was somewhat braced for what we might hear. You had no warning. I know what ache you feel, Elma. Some years ago, I learned part of what you just heard. I realized then that the teachings of Yevon had arisen in the same way as the cult of Sin: rites meant to appease a fearful enemy. But I tell you, Elma, even if Yevon is not what we believed, a prayer from the heart is as true. The teachings are not Yevon-sent, but they are hallowed customs cherished, sanctified and passed down by our ancestors, a gift of wisdom to guide us in a world full of trials. Can you find some comfort in that?"

"Not really. But it doesn't much matter what I think, eh?" The dark-haired woman gave a crooked smile and dropped her eyes. "I'm sorry, sir. I'm just a soldier. Point me at a foe and I'll fight it. For now, you've got a spare guardian, until I find my troops and my general safe and sound. If you'll have me, I mean."

"It would be an honor. With my brother, Sir Auron, and Lucil's right hand to defend me, I need fear no fiend in Spira."

There was a groan from the floor. "Ugh." Maroda pushed up to his hands and knees, blinking. "What the hell?"

"Wakey wakey!" Rikku said, stooping over him and wiggling her fingers.

"Buzz off." Maroda glowered at Auron's red coat. "Jeez, did he knock me out?"

"No, I did!" Rikku said, skipping backwards hastily. "No more fighting, kids. Mr. Grouch could crack the hull if he loses it, and then we'd all be flying without a ship...straight down!"

"And we're supposed to trust this guy?" Maroda said, clambering to his feet and rubbing his neck gingerly.

Isaaru placed a hand on his shoulder. "Sir Auron's not the only one keeping secrets, remember."

"So?" Maroda said, giving his brother a jaundiced look. "I repeat: we're supposed to trust him?"

"Maroda, please. Trust me, at least. Sir Auron's bond with Sin may be a weapon we can use."

"Ha." Rikku shook her head and ambled back towards the ops console to check the readouts.

"Rikku," Maroda said. "Were Auron and Lulu lovers?"

"Ew, no way! Those two never had any fun. It'd be against the code of Grumpy Guardians or something." She jabbed at a few buttons irritably. "Besides, if he loved her, he'd never have gone along with her stupid plan."

"Not...necessarily," Elma said. She reddened under Rikku's incredulous stare. "You can't keep someone you love from doing her job just because it's risky, eh?"

"Lady Rikku," Isaaru said. "I beg you pardon, but one thing I must know. Why did Lulu's plan fail?"

"Oh." She flipped her braids behind her shoulders and applied herself to the controls, scowling. "Well, your precious Maester Seymour killed Tidus on Mt. Gagazet, so we were already short one guardian. We lost Kimahri when...when Yuna called up the Final Aeon. She told us to get back, but he tried to shield her. So then it was down to Wakka and me and Sir Auron, right? But Wakka, he...he just couldn't hurt Lulu. And I wasn't much into fighting friends either, especially when they're about fifty feet tall and dressed to kill with flames and lightning bolts shooting every which way. I know we should've tried, but...we didn't. Except for Auron. Like that worked really well. I thought she'd killed him too. Then boom, bang, major kablooie, and that's all I remember till I woke up on Pops' airship."

"She was too strong," Auron said hoarsely. "We needed aeons." Ignoring the heads swiveling in his direction, he stood and drew his arm back into his coat, leaning against the wall.

"Or maybe you didn't want to kill her either," Maroda said, the accusation muted.

"Better than becoming Sin."

"And so now you would be Sin in her stead?" Isaaru said, watching him with focused compassion. "Is that your plan, Sir Auron?"

Maroda's shoulders hunched. "Oh."

"If no better way can be found."

"But that won't help!" Rikku said, flapping her hands. "You kill another summoner, turn into Sin, and then we've got Sin Grouchypants instead of the Lady! What difference would that make, huh? Maybe that's why Lulu's been blowing up the temples, to keep you out of trouble!"

"She's destroying the temples to avenge Yuna," Auron said, "and all those killed by Yevon hypocrisy."

"Wow," Rikku said, scratching her cheek. "In that case, she should've left Baaj alone!"

"Hey!" Elma bristled. "What about my men? What've they ever done to Lady Yuna?"

"Lulu is still Sin, bound more to its will than it to hers."

"Sir Auron," Isaaru said. "I take it that Lady Yunalesca rejected you and chose your friend. That being so, what hope is there that she'll accept your offer this time?"

"Leave her no choice," Auron said, scowling. "Send your other guardians away before we enter the Hall of the Final Summoning. Yunalesca's running out of options too: Lulu's seen to that."

"So what?" Maroda said. "Rikku's right. All you're doing is buying us time, at the cost of Isaaru's life! Ten, twenty years from now, we'll have to start all over again."

"That is nothing new," Isaaru said. "All summoners accept that the Calm is only a fleeting blessing. But I may be a summoner in name only, by the time Sin is finished her work."

"You aren't one now," Auron said, earning another glare from Maroda.

Isaaru smiled. "No, not much of one. I am not Lord Braska, though I have tried to emulate his wisdom. I lack Lady Yuna's talent with aeons. But such as I am, I will help you see this through. We'll find a way, Sir Auron, I promise you."

The white-haired guardian clenched his fist, bracing himself against the wall. "I've heard this before, Isaaru."

"Yes," Isaaru said, soothing, "but perhaps my way will be different. If we can convince Elder Cid, we shall have machina to compensate for my missing aeons."

"Sir," Elma said. "Teachings aside, the Al Bhed's strongest machina couldn't puncture Sin's defenses at Operation Mi'ihen. They got creamed. I doubt they're eager for a rematch."

"Machina alone will not ensure victory, Commander. But machina, aeons and guardians, all Spira's powers united? Such an alliance may achieve what the pilgrimage cannot."

"Not likely." Rikku sighed. "Elma's right. On top of which, Pops hates how Yevon kills off summoners and guardians. He won't help you commit suicide!"

"He may make an exception for me," Auron said drily.

**Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction...

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Next Chapter: Chapter 23: Echoes of Woe
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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
So it *WAS* Auron's plan to become the Final Aeon this time around...

Talk about making the ultimate sacrifice...

I mean, he *KNOWS* what will happen to him if he does this; and it's still his plan to do it... :O


Auron is Unsent. Can an Unsent even become an Aeon? or would the Ritual to become a Final Aeon do something else to him instead..?

Just a few thoughts you've made me think of along the way...

Dec. 29th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow!
Exactly the right question.

The Unsent issue may be why Yunalesca rejected Auron. According to something Lulu said in the game, Fayth are created by taking souls from still-living bodies. Would that disqualify him?

On the other hand, as Lulu said in the last chapter, her personal bond with Yuna was stronger than his, so Yunalesca may simply have chosen the one best suited to be Yuna's Final Aeon. Hence Isaaru's question: why wouldn't Yunalesca choose one of his brothers rather than Auron?

Regardless, Auron won't say it, but he is counting on the fact that his Unsent status could present major problems for Yu Yevon. But first he somehow has to get himself turned into a Final Aeon.

And on the third hand, Auron knows Lulu is plotting something, and he's guessing she's still having to conceal her true intent. (The last thing he said/thought during that encounter: "I heard you, Lulu. I hope Yu Yevon didn't.")

Edited at 2008-12-29 05:30 pm (UTC)
Dec. 29th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
I'm not too sure Auron's plan would work...
Although there's a distinct possibility it *COULD* work. But, I think, if Auron *DID* get turned into the Final Aeon, he would probably make the most terrifying Sin of all...

I've always believed that the present Sin manages to keep at least a little of the personality of the person who became the Final Aeon...

For example, Jecht's Sin managed, for the most part, to stay away from inhabited areas. Kilika was an unfortunate exception; and Operation Mi'Hen was a whole case apart. But Jecht's Sin usually tried to stay away from populated centers...

Lulu's Sin is a whole lot more violent, and emotional, than Jecht's Sin.

Just thinking what Auron might be like as Sin is making me shiver. And I'm sure it's making him shiver too; at least a little...

Jan. 5th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
Funguar pollen arrrrgh. I'm on the funguar-heavy path in my replay. WHY WON'T THEY DIE IN ONE HIT AAAGH.

Moving on...

Another solid chapter. Feeling so frustrated, both at and with Auron. I can't imagine how he's stuck with himself for so long and resisted despair, knowing he's on his third pilgrimage, each with a slightly more spectacular fail, and this one looks to be another. Auron would be a terrifying Sin --when I first got into fandom, I read a story about Auron being transformed into an aeon by Seymour's pyrefly magics, and even if it doesn't fully work with known game mechanics, I always thought it interesting. I imagine Auron as Sin would be much, much worse. Lulu's bad enough.

I love all your dialogue here --it's accurate and distinct and gets the job done. Auron's final dour response to Rikku, haha. And my current replay only solidifies how impressed I am with your NPC characterization.

Looking forward to the next one.
Jan. 6th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Also, if you think it would help just to talk to through again, I've always got an open ear for stuck-chapterness!
Jan. 6th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
Oh good!

I'm not stuck on the next chapter, although I may soon get stuck and need a sounding board. It's just a bit of a monster because I have so much trouble writing dialog with more than three people.

The hardest thing is to balance the big story and Auron's.

I'm curious why in particular you're frustrated with him (or rather, I hope this seems believable for him).
Jan. 6th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
I'm totally your go-to sounding board. Anytime. I like talking shop.

I'm frustrated with Auron for the most in-character reasons. He's ever stubborn, ever self-sacrificing, even when it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Though he does seem to have some intuition that makes everything turn out all right in the end, even if he has to slog through death to get to it. Frustrated for the same reasons I love him, really.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 3rd, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
I am so grateful for your observations, for all your many thoughtful comments-- oh, you know how thrilled I am to see you clawing your way through the story, but in this comment, in particular, you're helping clarify and answer whether some of my tricks were working: particularly Elma's implicit commentary in this chapter and others.

I've been losing some of that subtlety in recent chapters and need to reach for it again. I was afraid no one was getting the subtexts, since a few of my reviewers are making comments showing they didn't even catch things I'd made quite explicit. This story is very complicated... I forget it's okay not to spell things out, and let some of it be hidden like easter eggs that can only be discovered by a close reading or a "replay of the game."

Also, I'm feeling less guilty about Elma turning into a bit of a Mary Sue, because you reminded me why she's there: to serve as the voice of the everyday Yevonite, as Wakka was in FFX, having to adjust as her beliefs get torn down, clinging to just one overarching truth in her life which she never voices directly to keep her going.

That was not a plotline I had envisioned at all; the character just snuck into the story, the way Faramir barged in when Tolkien was writing LOTR. But I think she was needed. Now if I can just keep all these other plots from eating the Auron/Lulu story that I began with!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
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