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Fanfic: Love Her and Despair (1)

Title: Love Her and Despair
Chapter 1: "Schism"
Final Fantasy X / X-2
Characters: Isaaru, Maroda, Pacce (this chapter), Auron. Later chapters include: Elma, the Crimson Squad, and Yuna's surviving guardians.
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2200

Summary: [AU] 13 years after Yuna falls in the Final Summoning, a Cult of Sin has arisen, Isaaru must resume his pilgrimage, and Auron must try once again to kill a friend before his time runs out. Maester Baralai, Paine and Nooj know a dire secret: Sin is not the greatest threat to Spira.

Thanks Where Due: To my many reviewers and critiquers who have given me the encouragement to keep going (I would thank you individually), but I'm afraid of missing somebody) and to FANARTISTS cumulus_castle, Ayrania-chan on DeviantArt and Schmutzige_Banane on DeviantArt. THANK YOU.

Story Navigation: Next Chapter | Map & Links to All Chapters

"In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!" (J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring)

~ "
The Lady's Face" by SchmutzigeBanane

Burgundy sails snapped in a fitful wind that set the sailors muttering. The sea-witch had her ways, they said, and owned both sea and sky. Ships plied the waves by her permission, or not at all. There had been frost at sunrise, great spears of rime coating the rails and ropes. The tropical sun had banished it quickly, but it was yet another sign of Sin's proximity. That, and the lightning's balefire dancing on the mast at midnight.

"Land ho!"

The call was hardly needed. All eyes not bent to shipboard tasks were fixed on the wisps of smoke billowing on the horizon, fading now like the last breath of a dying fire. The rising column veiled half the sky in a grayish-pink fume that stretched clear back to Djose. For six disquieting days, theS.S.Korra had sailed under that gray pall, seeing only an orange smudge where the sun should be. Flecks of ash came fluttering out of the sky, dissolving to powder wherever they touched. A stark whiff of burning hung in the air.

One of the harpooners began to sing the Hymn of the Fayth. The subdued refrain spread out in ripples from the ship's bow as roughened sailors' voices took up the chorus. On the railing above them, a red-haired man in priestly robes smiled and cupped his hands in Yevon's prayer. Neither he nor the pair of guards flanking him joined in the singing, however.

Footsteps clattered up the ladder behind them. Stepping onto the observation deck, a woman raised her arm in salute. "Your Grace. We'll reach Besaid by sunset."

"Very good, Captain. Tell your crew the danger is past. Sin is at least a day from here by now."

"With all due respect, milord," she began. Suddenly, she pivoted towards the man keeping watch before the mast. "Tatts, what's that thing you're wearing around your neck?"

The sailor's hands flew to the bone pendant that had slipped out from the bib of his overalls. "It's, ah, it's nothing, Cap'n. Just a carving of a pretty lady, y'know, that caught me fancy." His wind-scoured cheeks reddened.

"Sin!" she spat. Heads turned as the petite woman stalked towards him, sea-boots hammering the planks. "The Grand Maester of Yevon sails with us, and I have an idol-worshipper who wears Sin over his heart! Hand it over, or I'll throw you overboard with it."

The sailor blanched. Torn between duty and devotion, the wretched man drew the thong over his neck and dropped the pendant into her waiting palm. Raising her arm, the captain prepared to fling it into the waves.

"Please, let me see it," the maester said.

For a moment it seemed that she might feign deafness. Grand Maester Isaaru was a soft-spoken man, after all, and the sails boomed like a drum-head. However, his shorter bodyguard, a heavyset youth who looked too green for such an important post, was blocking her throw. Scowling, the captain held out the necklace. "I'm sorry, Your Grace. Sailors are too far from the temples, too close to the sea. And that one came close to meeting his unholy god six months ago. The toxin—"

"He survived a Sin attack?" said the second guard, an older man with dark skin and a hawk's profile, all angles where his younger counterpart was rounded like fresh dough.

Isaaru examined the bone charm intently. At a distance, its triangular silhouette could easily be mistaken for a shark's tooth. With economy of line, the stylized carving captured the shape of a woman's head and shoulders, square jaw and fine features. There was a haughty arch to the brows— or rather, brow, since the left side of the face was cut away at a slant. Empty space showed where the hair should be.

"The same face," he mused. "Always the same."

When he slipped the sacrilegious amulet into his robes, the captain stiffened. He chuckled at her expression. "Have no fear, Kiyuri. A scrap of whale-bone the size of a thumbnail is hardly likely to draw Sin's attention...or mercy," he added to the anxious sailor. "If it returns, we are all in equal peril."

"But, Your Grace—"

"Look after your ship, Captain, and let the maesters look after Yevon, no?"

"My lord." The woman gave a jerky salute, glared at the watchman and went below.

"Now," he said, turning to Tatts with a reassuring smile. "Perhaps you can tell us what you saw. We need to know all we can, since Sin has changed its ways."

"Aye, it has, me lord," the sailor stammered. "That is, She don't bother any ship that leaves her waters in peace. Stray not west o' Besaid if ye sail under Yevon's holy seal. The Al Bhed heathens live free of Sin's wrath, they say, all around the western isles. Me last ship, me captain tried to make the old run from Luca to Bevelle the short way 'round. Three days northwest o' Luca, the Lady put the ice to us till every sail and line were coated with it and men couldna walk the deck. Then the gale-winds came up and shattered the sheets. At the last, lightning struck the mast and split the hull right down into the water like roots o' tree."

"How did you escape?"

"Al Bhed ship picked me up, then, didn't it? Me and a few other souls. Dropped us off near the ruins of Old Guadosalam."

"And you saw Sin? What did it—"

"Your Grace," the younger guard interrupted, "with all due respect, can't we finish this later? You're too exposed up here. There may be sinspawn in the harbor."

"Just a moment, Pacce—"

The second guard cut in. "No, Isaaru, he's right. Yevon's your job, but ours is keeping you safe. You don't make it easy for us! Get under cover. I'll stay up here with our Sin-worshipper and find out what else he knows."

"All right, Maroda, all right," Isaaru shook his head. "Tatts, for all of Spira's sake—" he would have said Yevon, but this man clearly followed a different allegiance— "please answer my brother's questions as well as you can. May High Summoner Yuna bless you."

"Th-thank you, Your Grace."

A melancholy smile played across the maester's features as he descended the ladder. Sin and the church of Yevon might be scrapping for souls these days, yet oddly enough, no one had lost faith in the High Summoner, although her Calm was coming to an end.

Lost in thought, Isaaru was nearly flung overboard himself when the ship gave an abrupt heave. Lunging to block his fall, Pacce helped him down the last few rungs. Cries of Sin rang out. The harpooners leapt to their posts.

"I'll cover you, Big Brother!" Pacce said eagerly. He planted himself in front of Isaaru, shielding him as a wave crashed over the side. "The wheelhouse, it's closer!"

Isaaru shook his head and grasped a line, steadying himself. "Pacce, it's not Sin, it's—"

A flurry of scales and long fins burst from the waves in a surge of battering spray. Thudding onto the deck, huge fishy forms landed among the sailors and pounced upon them with terrifying speed. Pacce drew his sword with a yell and jammed it at the nearest one, twisting the blade in a gush of pyreflies.

Blood was already running over the boards. Sinspawn were tearing through unarmed sailors with cruel, snapping jaws. Before he could summon them, Isaaru's contingent of warrior monks came charging out of the wheelhouse, straight into the mob of fiends swarming between them and the ship's crew. Some monks started hacking through the living barrier with bayonets. Others raised their rifles, trying to pick off sinspawn threatening particular sailors, but the pitching deck and furious melee thwarted their shots.

Isaaru flinched at a shriek from above. Looking up, he saw Tatts pressed against the railing, trying to fend off two fiends with his arms crossed in front of his face.

Forgetting his brothers' admonitions, the ex-summoner raised his hands, letting fly a silent call to the aeon of Besaid. Pterya, old friend, we need you. He had not summoned in so long. Would she heed his prayer?

Everywhere was din, panic and chaos, yet to Isaaru's inner ear there was a hollow silence. No Hymn of the Fayth sang in his mind. No beating wings unfurled around a crimson-feathered spirit arrowing down from heaven's gates.

He watched in anguish as one of the sinspawn clamped down on the sailor's arm, another on his leg. Where was his brother? A thrusting spear answered his question an instant later, but it was one instant too long. Even as Maroda dispatched one of the creatures, the other leapt off the deck, dragging its screaming victim overboard.

Pterya was not answering his summons, and Isaaru saw with painful clarity that many lives would be lost if he left the warrior monks and Maroda to deal with the threat alone. But the deck would surely buckle under Spathi's weight, assuming there was even room for Bevelle's massive aeon. Pitch, rope and oiled boards were ill-suited for Grothia's fire, but Isaaru was running out of options. Shutting out the sounds of melee, he sketched a familiar series of gestures in the air that he had not needed in thirteen years.

Few here had seen an aeon, and there were more screams of horror when the flaming hulk burst from the deck with a defiant roar. Snarling at its master's command to refrain from flames, the ill-tempered spirit charged into the fray, pummelling and biting. Although these sinspawn had the edge in speed, there were so many that Grothia's swipes usually found targets. It slapped them aside like an ogre swatting wasps.

Gradually, the chaos died down as fighters and aeon gained the upper hand. Blades and spears flashed through eddies of rising pyreflies. Shielded by Pacce, Isaaru moved from one wounded man to the next, healing those he could save. He would send the others later.

When the battle was over, the ship cast anchor a league out from shore. The surviving crew set to work clearing the carnage and repairing the damage. There beneath a shroud of smoke and a bloody sunset, Isaaru performed his grimmest duty, sending the spirits of the dead before their bodies were committed to the deep. Tatts' corpse was not among them, but there were probably a few other closet heretics who would have been comforted to know that the summoner who sent them carried Sin's token in the folds of his robes.

*[A/N: In Final Fantasy X, Isaaru's aeons look just like Yuna's, but have different names: Pterya, Grothia and Spathi for Valefor, Ifrit and Bahamut. Perhaps each summoner has a unique name for his/her aeon that arises out of the bond between them.]

They spent a restless night in the lee of Besaid Island, huddled to the southwest where the air was clear of ash. At dawn they weighed anchor and headed towards the harbor, hugging the shore. Soaring green cliffs splashed with plunging waterfalls would have made an idyllic landscape, if not for the enormous, jagged gashes in the slopes of the jungle high above. It was hard to imagine a force that could shatter trees and blast away dirt right down to bedrock, a full ten fathoms above the waterline.

Obviously, there was no question of mooring at Besaid's dock; that much was clear before they reached the harbor. Rounding the point, the Korra encountered a grisly soup of bobbing planks, rope, snarled fishing nets and slats of boats, all thumping and scraping past the prow. To the crew's dismay, a few bodies were tangled in the floating debris. They heaved the dead aboard with nets meant for other kinds of catch. The warrior monks set to work wrapping the pitiful remains in funeral shrouds. At this rate, they might run through their stock even before they came ashore.

The beach had been scoured, its once-golden sands strewn with muck and dead fish. A fine layer of white ash coated everything. Beyond the beach, acres of blackened trunks made shocking inroads into Besaid's verdant jungle. Some of the trees still smoldered. A few carrion-birds circling the bluffs were the only signs of life— almost.

Robe blazing red in the dawn, a man stood upon the water. No, not on the water. One scrap of dock had escaped Sin's wrath, it seemed, forming a small platform out in the middle of the harbor. Excited murmurs spread across the ship, whispering a name— or, more often, a title.

The Legendary Guardian. He was back again, from wherever heroes were stowed when the world did not need them.

"It's Sir Auron!" Pacce was beside himself. "I don't believe it! It's really him!"

Maroda was silent. His thoughtful look meant that he and Isaaru would be having a difficult conversation later, out of their younger brother's earshot.

So, then: a brief detour to pick up a singular passenger. Isaaru ordered a dinghy to be lowered. The crew's fear had evaporated at the sight of the warrior silhouetted against the smoking treeline, and Kiyuri had to select rowers from among too many volunteers. While they winched the boat down to the water, Maroda argued vigorously with Isaaru. The spearman seldom lost his battles. A short time later, Isaaru and a frustrated, fuming Pacce were watching the small craft sculling across the harbor, shoving its way through debris-choked water.

Approaching the patient figure standing on the water, Maroda called out to him. "Sir Auron! What are you doing here?"

The response was inaudible to those left aboard, but Pacce would dig it out of his brother later. "Waiting for a ship."

Next Chapter: Memorial
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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2007 02:45 pm (UTC)
very interesting, but I don't agree with you
Dec. 27th, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Idetrorce
I was puzzled by this comment when I first saw it, and I'm still puzzled. How can one disagree with a piece of fiction? It's fiction, not a newspaper article.

Or did you mean you don't like it? If you're going to critique someone's writing, then explain what you don't like -- "I don't like it" isn't very helpful!

Also, after someone's taken this much time and effort to write something well for your enjoyment, it's courteous to use basic punctuation and capitalization. Not doing so suggests that you don't know enough about writing yourself to criticize anyone else's.

Edited at 2007-12-27 07:20 pm (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Re: Idetrorce
I was looking back over the old chapters to read what Mneme was saying about them --yes, she's just that an insightful of a commenter, when I noticed this. I googled the name and found this: http://digg.com/comedy/Who_is_Idetrorce

Ha. >>
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
seriously we're on the same wavelength lately. :D Just a couple weeks ago I was searching for my Besaid piece and the meeting of the new maesters. ^_^ I have no clue where I put it but I have a feeling its on my desktop (and of course I'm on my laptop). I've been having muses poking at me lately. :D

and you know I always loved this piece idea. ^_^ I'm still game if you are. :D

And I love this tidbit of them traveling to Besaid and finding Auron. hehe and his response, classic. :D

Edited at 2007-12-15 07:23 pm (UTC)
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
ok managed to find a portion I started writing here some time ago. but like I believed, I think the full version is on the desktop. now I'm intent on finding it. :p thanks :D
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
ok yay I found it. ^_^
Dec. 15th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
What I meant by "tear each other's hair out" is that it's awkward when I had come up with this story on my own, and it just so happened you were on the same wavelength and had been intending to write a Lulu-as-Sin story too, so now we're stuck trying to combine what I wanted to write with what you want to write, when they don't quite match. (E.g. the maesters... I haven't written that sequence yet, but I was gelling ideas about it... and your Besaid sequence is brilliant and beautifully-written, but it contradicts two key parts of my original plot, plus I'd wanted to write the attack on Besaid myself). I abandoned writing this story mostly because I could see I wasn't doing a good job of coping with this co-author business, and I was afraid we were going to end up hurting each others' feelings.

Ack. :/ *waves hands* I really don't know what to do with it anymore. I really want to write what I'd intended to write... but I don't want to deprive you of the chance to write yours!
Dec. 15th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
oh its no problem. :D actually I totally loved the way yours was developing more than my own and plus I had no real way or path that I would take with mine. I actual would look foward to co-authoring, some ideas work and some don't but I can always adapt ones that don't for other stories... done that on more than one occasion. I only started writing the maester part after we started throwing thoughts at each other. the besaid part can always be rewritten if you (ack ok don't mind typos cat wants the lap but the laptop has it reserved) are up for the co-authoring bit.
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
please forgive any grammar oopsies, this hasn't been touched or beta'd in a looooooong time.

The evening was warm, as was typical in Besaid, but not overwhelmingly stifling. Stars began to peek out from the curtain of dusk that was beginning to take the blue sky. The reddish-yellow sphere of the sun blazed like fire against the mirror of water it sank into on the horizon. Colors of purple and orange hues radiated outward and those who watched the bright orb fall out of sight could not remember a more beautiful sunset in all their memories. Remembrance was all that would come with the darkness falling upon the tiny island.

To savor the essence of the night, all of Besaid came out to enjoy the enticing climate and spend their time with family and friends in the village. The cries and laughter of children filled the night as the final glows of the sun disappeared, only to be replaced with warmth and radiance of the bonfire in the middle of village common. The long shadows of Besaid’s people danced along the walls of the temple, standing silent and cold as the stones of its making. Besaid Temple of Yevon, a pillar of the strength to those who scampered about below, stood prominently above them as a striking silhouette.

Beautiful banners of varying colors and shades adorned the temple’s walls and streamers blew slightly in soft, ocean breeze. The festival was but a few days away and it had become the biggest event on Besaid over the course of three and ten years. It was the day of High Summoner Yuna’s defeat of Sin and all on Besaid would remember it with the festival in her memory. Tales were told as the youngest of the children around the fire asked to hear again about the one who had brought the Calm they had been born into. Like her father, Yuna struggled through many misfortunes and still faced the evil spawn of hellish devilry. Yet, she had been so young to sacrifice so much for others. This forfeit of life had to be held high and worshiped to prove truth and faith could still reign through the most sinful of times.

However, the carefree cheerfulness emanating from Besaid’s inhabitants, along with the safety of the temple nearby, distracted them from what they had worried about returning for some time. The sky above became illuminated as bright as day and many began to wonder what it was that brought this change so suddenly. Holding their hands over their eyes all looked up in wonder to view what it was that brought the sun back so quickly. What once had been curious awe, hastily evolved into panic and fright.

Screams ripped through the quietness of the night as the massive fireball crashed down upon the temple from the heavens. Masses ran from their homes as several more flashes of light rained downward with the spheres of flame that crashed through the roof and walls of the temple, pounding away at it without mercy. The raining ash and blazes continued, now igniting the jungle around them and the huts closest to the temple.
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Fleeing was their only option of escape as Besaid’s inhabitants ran toward the beaches and ocean. Horror greeted them once more as colossal waves crashed on the shore, rushing toward them with an unseen force that was not of nature. The pummeling of the ocean’s tides became fierce as it tore and smashed against the cliffs and hillsides of the island. Hands and fingers clung for dear life to anything solid as the waters swelled around them, drowning all that they knew and built. The strength of the undertow and waves was too much for many and all some could do was cry helplessly as loved ones were swept out to sea and swallowed by the emptiness beyond.

You wear the skin of evil that another fallen friend also had borne. So the same in appearance yet so different than he. Yet, here I find myself again in the retelling of the story. Our story.

A dark figure watched stoically from the docks being thrashed but by strangely calmer waves than those that battered the island. In the winds that picked up, a red cloak snapped wildly from the unmoving form who could hear the echoes of sorrow and death carrying along the air. From behind dark-tinted lenses, his gaze moved to just beyond the reefs of the island where a shadowy hulk loomed ominously near the carnage being wrought. As if it were suddenly tired with the slaughter it had evoked, the creature turned away and taking with it the fury of the once angry sea. Stopping for a moment, it turned in the direction of the lone figure on the dock, as if knowledgeable of the single person who had observed all that had been done. With a final bow of its head, it dove below the surface and out of sight.
Dec. 16th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
I'm fascinated, and I can't wait to see what you do with it next!
Dec. 16th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Ah, brilliant!

Is this a rewrite of the earlier story? I'm really liking this as a multi-chapter and looking forward to the next installment. As always, your scenes are so lush and real. I especially like the individual voices of the deckhands and your descriptions of the battle. The Sin idol was a brilliant and intriguing touch, and you end your chapter with such a compelling stroke, agh!

I'm glad to see your muse has wandered back this way again.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 13th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, I didn't mean to prod you out of commenter-retirement, but I'm so happy to see you reading, enjoying, and giving me the yummy yet honest feedback you write so thoughtfully!

The aeons' names are an obscure tidbit, not my idea: during the boss battle in the game when Isaaru is doing Seymour's dirty work, dueling with Yuna to stop her from escaping the Via Purifico, the aeons he summons have different names: his Valefor, Ifrit and Bahamut are named Pterya, Grothia and Spathi on the game screen.

I suppose it's just as well he didn't summon his Ixion in the game, but as a fanfic writer it's annoying not knowing the name of that one! And of course I have to explain why on earth, er, Spira, he calls them something different.
Jul. 9th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
(First off, I'd like to apologize for not promptly getting back to you after receiving your message. Second, major major kudos for being one of the few left holding up the FFX fandom fort. :D)

I'm terrible at giving good criticism, so I'll keep it short: awesome genfic is awesome. :)

It's hard to write something that everyone can find appeal in; but in this fic, I think you are succeeding. This first chapter is exceedingly well-written, and you've really built another world, an AU Spira with a subtly altered culture to match its alternate history (as opposed to a lot of AU fics where just some situations are changed while the world remains static and seems to resist reflecting these changes). More key indicators that this is a good genfic: I was interested in reading your Isaaru, even though I'm not an "Isaaru fan"; moreover, I'm looking forward to seeing how you write the other FFX characters in this new Spira. Also impressive was how your original characters don't seem out of place (like many do in fanfiction) and are also pleasant to read.

Also ... Auron's (re)appearance was pretty epic. Loved the last line. ;)

Sorry if I haven't made much sense in this review--I have trouble expressing exactly what I think. But know that even from the first few chapters, I can tell this story is a great achievement not only because of what an obvious labor of love it is, but also because of its quality. :) I'll be reading more of this fic in my spare time, trying to catch up on your impressive 29 (!) chapters.
Jul. 9th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
Eeee! Hi there!
No problem; I'm glad you joined the party!

I thought I'd only spammed people who had replied to this story in earlier chapters -- I apologize for stalking you!

Note that my only completely original character is Jessik, who disappears rather swiftly. All the others are minor NPCs in the original game, whose name I know because they can be drafted as blitzball players. Kiyuri was a somewhat pushy sailor on the SS Winno. :)
Jun. 10th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
Wow just wow. Wonderful imagery right here. Great start.
Jul. 8th, 2012 04:26 am (UTC)
User mintywolf referenced to your post from Guardian saying: [...] writing the script and doing some research on Yevon symbology, I came across this excellent fanfic [...]
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