Luna let her hands run over the stone of the walls as they descended the steps, taking care not to cut her palms. The blocks were not in perfect shape, but she could see the quality in their workmanship. She would not be surprised if it only got more splendid as they proceeded within. In less than a minute, they were in a large circular entrance hall, the stone cracked and uneven under their feet, but otherwise solid; the same geometric designs that decorated the aboveground part of the tower had continued underground, also glowing with a dim, but comforting light. The walls were in excellent shape, and she admired the carvings as they continued to follow Cor and Prompto further into the structure. She had no doubt that had this been before the events at the Citadel, there would be daemons swarming around them, and she was thankful that this was no longer the case.
The second room also showed signs of damage, the floor tiles cracked and uneven, but what drew her eye was the lights mounted on the walls, lights that would not have been out of place in any electrified town.
“I don’t suppose they were installed later?” she asked to no one in particular, but it was Cor that answered.
“No, they were here when the building was still being used,” Cor stated with conviction, and Luna frowned.
“What powers them, magic, or technology?” she wondered aloud, and to no surprise, no one answered. “I guess we shall find out, then.” Seeing nothing of note, they continued on, coming to a wide open space in serious disrepair, the floor was nearly destroyed by what appeared to have been fallen rubble, and the hallway was looking precarious at best, the bridge only half in place.
“The bridge was partially restored with our song, but there’s too much missing for it to be fully repaired. We’ll just have to be careful,” Prompto said, and she nodded as they pressed forward one at a time over the chasm. The next room was a central descending ramp, looking near exactly like she was positive the tower above must have once looked like, and under the glow of the crystalline lights, they continued down the spiral, then through another hall, then down once more; this time the spiral ramp continued on for some time before terminating in a large round room, the red designs still slightly glowing as they progressed. The further they progressed, the better condition the structure was in, but there was still some serious damage, and they left the round room to find that the floor was all but gone, but something had carved a path underneath the fractured remains.
“Human, or daemon?” Gladio wondered, and both Cor and Prompto stared at the unfixed damage before shaking their heads. They didn’t know either. They continued on, the structure only growing larger and larger in their minds as they travelled through great halls, to massive spiral ramps, to tighter spiral ramps; she could see Ignis scratching down a basic map as they passed through, but she had no doubt that the halls would need to be transversed several times before any map could be called accurate.
“In the time of Solheim, these halls were brighter, and filled with life, people lived in some of these rooms, studied, even prayed; it was a refuge for pilgrims and travellers, and was also used as a defensive structure as it was believed that not even the astrals held sway down here,” Cor explained as they crossed a bridge that was in perfect condition, comfortingly, and descended one last spiral to come out onto a large, apparently final room in also perfect condition, with great cut stones inlaid into the floor at the corners of the room, glowing with the same blue light that had marked their way in, the same design that decorated the shrines they had seen in Galahd. The walls were much the same, but their glow was very faint in comparison. They all walked around the massive room and tried to figure out where to go next, Noctis flashing a smile to Luna as they followed their guides.
“I think this was where the general public’s access ended,” Prompto said quietly as he inspected one of the inlaid stones. “From here on out, it was probably only supposed to be those permitted by either the Dawnsworn or the priests of the Dawn Mother, but-” Cor nodded, walking up to Prompto and placing a hand on his shoulder.
“-when the Dawnsworn stopped being called, the priests gradually stopped coming down here, and by the time Solheim fell, many of the secrets of these lower levels had already been forgotten,” Cor added, then frowned. “Prompto.”
“Right.” Cor summoned his sword, and they both carefully cut their palms on it before letting the blood drip to the ground.
“Holy shit!” Aranea gasped as the blood flowed together and travelled across the room in a neat path along the grooves of the tiles before flowing into the carved stone in the northeast corner of the room, covering the light in a thin layer of red as they heard a loud noise coming from below.
“This the right one?” Nyx, who had been almost dead quiet the whole time, finally spoke up, and Luna was gladdened when Cor turned to his partner and nodded reassuringly.
“Yes, this is it. Everyone on.” The stone shifted and lowered, leading to a small room surrounded by the same blocks, Cor and Prompto took turns touching them, which caused them to move out of the way, revealing...even more of them.
“Are we going to be able to get out of here?” Noctis said aloud, and from the look on Aranea and Libertus’s faces, they both had similar worries.
“This is the correct path in a collection of twisting halls that were meant to trick those who attempted to proceed without permission; it was possible to make it through eventually without us, but it could have taken hours to work through the puzzle,” Cor commented, touching yet another stone. This one opened out onto a rather sizable fall, and he frowned.
“I’m guessing there was probably stairs or something here at one time,” Libertus said, and Prompto shrugged.
“Yeah, I think so, but for now, we’ll have to jump.” Luna didn’t even have a chance to bend her knees before Aranea had grabbed her around the waist, leaping to the floor below. The shriek that accompanied said leap had certainly come from someone else…
Nyx and Libertus warped in behind, Nyx with both Cor and Prompto in his arms, which made a fantastic image for a split-second before he released them, Noctis warping as well while the others came down the old fashioned way.
“See how we rate,” Gladio said with a smirk, and Nyx grinned and patted both Dawnsworn on the back before stepping away.
“Sorry, Gladio, but I had to,” Nyx explained, and Libertus rolled his eyes and groaned.
“I hate warping, why did I do that,” the Glaive grumbled, sighing as they all looked towards yet another stone. “How much farther do these things go?” Cor walked over and touched the next stone, and shook his head.
“Not much longer now.”
Two more stones later, it was Ignis, who had spoken little as he concentrated on sketching a map, who finally made the mistake of saying the dreaded words.
“You know, I expected us to stumble across some sort of beast, even if the daemons are gone-” Noctis immediately rounded on Ignis with a finger outstretched, and the advisor clamped his mouth shut.
“Iggy, you don’t mention how well everything has been going! You know what always happens after that in movies, right?” Noctis stated rather loudly, and Ignis actually cringed.
“You are right, Noct. My apologies in advance if we do stumble across something,” Ignis said to the room, and Luna chuckled behind her hand.
“Well, I’m certain we would have found this potential beast anyway, so do not blame yourself, Ignis. I was thinking much the same,” she said, and Nyx groaned.
“Thinking it is fine, princess, but actually saying it…”
A few more stones later (she still thought them elegant, but she was swiftly growing rather weary of seeing them,) they came out into a small circular hall with a central altar-type construction with what appeared to be a metal half-globe resting in the middle, metal rays embedded in the floor tracing towards it. The design from outside was repeated all the way down the walls, and Luna actually found the red glow of the walls reassuring as they moved towards the middle.
“I suppose we poke the globe, right?” Aranea asked, and Cor nodded.
“Yes, this should be the elevator to the main underground hall, and near what should be our goal,” Cor stated with authority, and Luna could feel excitement begin to truly take hold. What would they find below? Both Cor and Prompto reached out and touched the globe, and they began to descend; first with more of the same stone and decor as the main tower, then the walls turned to metal, with great panels and girders replacing stone.
“What in the world?” Ignis exclaimed, and she had to agree as they came down into a massive hall that would not have looked out of place in parts of Niflheim, she felt, and she looked up to see massive bronze contraptions that surrounded the lift they had just ridden, and massive rotating pieces of machinery that drew the eye.
“This is-” she began, and it was Aranea who answered, her arms crossed as she looked to the ceiling.
“This is magitek, Luna, not the modern stuff that Niflheim worked out over the last few hundred years, but I’m sure this is original Solheim-era magitek. It’s amazing it’s still running-” Prompto interrupted Aranea with a half-hearted shake of his head, and Aranea scowled. “Then what is it?” Prompto took another step into the large hall, his head craning up to take everything in.
“You aren’t completely wrong, this is a form of magitek, but instead of the stuff that Niflheim specialized in, which was powered by daemons, or at least their essence, this is powered by…” Prompto looked to the far wall of the room, his eyes growing wide. Luna turned to follow his gaze, but she wasn’t sure what he was looking at-
“Powered by you two, I’m guessing?” Gladio asked, and Cor nodded as he also turned towards where Prompto was looking.
“It’s not unlike the oracles with the havens, they have been kept charged by oracle after oracle reanointing them, but as the Glacian reminded us, it has been over twenty five hundred years since one of the Dawnsworn has walked these halls; the tech part of the magitek has managed to keep everything running, but only barely-” Cor trailed off, his sword coming to his hand instantly. “There’s something down here,” Cor said sharply, and Luna gripped her bident firmly and waited as Cor, Nyx, Libertus, Aranea, and Gladio all slowly walked towards the area that Prompto had first indicated, only to hear a bonerattling roar.
“Oh shit, that’s definitely the sound of a problem,” Noctis said to Luna’s right, and before she had the time to reply, a massive claw appeared at the edge of the platform, and she hadn’t even realized that the floor wasn’t attached to the walls-
“Is that a dragon?” Prompto shrieked, as the giant beast pulled itself from the void below, letting out another tremendous cry, and then there was no time to think. Luna dashed forward with the rest, stabbing her weapon into the dragon’s flank as Aranea leapt into the air, coming down on its neck; she could hear Prompto shooting at it as she dove to avoid one of its paws, rolling on the ground before scrambling back to her feet. Cor was in his element, as were Libertus and Nyx; all three men were setting into the creature in a whirl of light and blades, Nyx warping around the dragon so rapidly she could barely keep track of his location, while Libertus mostly kept to the ground and slashed at the beast with his large blade.
“Iggy, this is your fault!” Noctis yelled from mid-air, and Luna watched as Ignis dove out of the way of the dragon’s claws, his knives spinning in his hands.
“Logically speaking, the creature was here whether or not I said anythi-” Gladio grabbed Ignis and yanked him out of the way as the dragon suddenly spewed some sort of miasma, and Luna was forced to dive once again out of the way before she got caught in the evil looking smoke-
“Prompto!” she screamed at the sight of what looked like her dear friend turned to stone, and Cor emerged from the other side of the beast and said a few words that even Aranea raised an eyebrow at before he dashed over to his son, a small golden item appearing in his hand as he turned and smashed it against Prompto’s chest, a glow overtaking him for a moment before the blond reappeared, sputtering and staggering, and Cor pushed him behind him as the dragon came right towards them, its great maw wide open and ready to strike. Luna ran to Prompto’s side as she raised her bident, hoping to give him a moment to recover as the others all continued to assault the beast, blood running from its giant body onto the floor below as Prompto took a deep breath and summoned his gun once more; she couldn’t help but smile as Prompto positioned himself perfectly to shoot from right behind Cor, the marshal not even phased by the noise of the gunshots as they rushed in together, Luna by their side.
It took far longer than Luna ever wanted to remember, but after another ten minutes of hacking away at the magnificent creature, it gave one final bellowing roar before it crashed to the ground. Before they had much of a chance to ponder what to do with the corpse, the body began to glow slightly, then vanished as it had never been there at all (the blood on the ground put paid to the illusion, however) leaving behind a...crystalline sword floating in the air, massive and menacingly serrated, and Noctis moved towards it, a smile on his face.
“This is the missing arm, isn’t it? The one from the trashed tomb?” Nyx asked, then his brow furrowed. “Did that beast eat it?” Luna couldn’t stop the not so regal snort of laughter that followed his question, and they all met each other’s eyes in relief before Noctis nodded and turned back towards the mighty weapon, his arm outstretched; like the others, it floated up into the air before sailing towards the prince at high speed and slamming into his chest. The rest of his armiger sailed around him, and Noctis grinned.
“You know, I had completely forgotten about it with all the discussion and planning about travelling here, but hey, it works,” the prince laughed, rubbing at his collarbone for a moment before he sobered, and they all turned towards Cor and Prompto. “Is everyone okay?” Cor nodded immediately, and Prompto scratched at a scrape on his cheek, but followed suit. Nods from everyone else came shortly thereafter, and Noctis smiled. “Great. This is your show, you two.”
Luna could feel the atmosphere shift instantly, the two men straightening as they walked back to the center of the room and the platform, the rest of them starting to follow until Cor and Prompto both raised a hand, stopping them in their tracks.
“Cor?” Nyx said quietly, and Luna knew that his rather quiet demeanor during their trip was due to worry and concern, and she could hear it in his voice in that one word-
“We have to continue alone from here. We will return, although I can’t say how long we will be,” Cor responded, and Luna watched as Nyx clenched his fists for just a moment, betraying his real thoughts on the matter, before sighing and nodding.
“Good luck, you two. Don’t be gone long,” Nyx said, before stepping back and pinching at the bridge of his nose, which conveniently covered his eyes. She wouldn’t fault him for that. Noctis, Gladio, and Ignis stepped forward, nodding at Cor before turning to Prompto, their own expressions rather pensive.
“See you in a little while?” Noctis said hesitantly, and Prompto nodded to his partners before managing a little smile.
“Not too long.” They all stood back as the two placed their hands on the globe once more, watching in silence as the platform descended out of sight; everyone ran up to the edge and looked down, only to see them quickly disappear from view. Luna took a few steps back, heaved a deep sigh, and wandered around until she found a relatively clean spot to sit down, most of the others slowly joining her.
“It appears we wait, then,” Ignis said softly, and he sat down next to her, his expression more than a little torn; she dredged up a smile, then reached out and patted him on the arm.
“Have faith in them. While they’ve had a few bumps along the road, they have weathered them all,” she addressed the group, and received at least partially agreeable looks from all but Nyx and Gladio, who were standing individually off to the sides and looking rather sour faced. She tried to catch their eye, but it didn’t work, and she decided to let them be for now. The two had only been gone a few minutes, it was too early to worry, not when they themselves had seemed rather calm with what they had been about to do.
They could wait.
Ten minutes turned into twenty, twenty into forty, and there was still no visible sign of anything from below; Luna remained seated, but the others began to pace, some walking over to the edge where the platform had been, some simply doing laps around the room.
“What’s this glowing disc?” Aranea asked, and Luna finally got to her feet to walk over and look.
“I...wouldn’t touch that. Not unless things go poorly, and it’s not even been an hour yet. We can still hold,” she replied, and Aranea nodded in agreement, before finally turning back to the others.
“Hey, don’t give yourselves an ulcer, take a deep breath and relax. There’s no reason to panic yet, so don’t start pacing a hole in the floor prematurely,” Aranea said to the rest of their companions, and even Nyx finally responded, running a hand roughly through his hair and hissing in frustration.
“I have a feeling it wouldn’t end well for me to jump down there after them, would it?” Nyx muttered, and Luna sighed.
“Nyx, we don’t even know how deep it goes, you’d probably just end up killing yourself. Whatever they are doing down there, I’m sure they would not appreciate you splatting down in the middle of it.” Everyone was silent as she finished, and she looked around and frowned. “May I ask what the problem is?” Noctis smiled at her, small and sweet, and she closed her eyes as he moved closer.
“I think you’re worried too, Luna, I haven’t heard you be that...blunt in a while,” Noctis said, and she knew he was right. Opening her eyes, she met Nyx’s tired gaze and bowed her head slightly.
“My apologies, Nyx. Perhaps I am a little more concerned than I thought,” she managed to say, before doing a few basic stretches to calm herself down. No one else spoke, and she returned to sit where she had been before, closing her eyes once more and forcing herself to relax. It had only been an hour. As Aranea had said, certainly not enough time to panic. But as one hour turned into two, then into three, even she was having problems keeping her composure from cracking further as the others alternated between pacing and dozing, intermixed with the occasional tense conversation.
“How much longer before we can panic, Highwind?” Gladio grumbled, and luckily, Aranea didn’t take his tone personally.
“Let’s give them past four hours, then we can start to worry,” the dragoon stated, her own eyes betraying her own growing concern, but everyone seemed to agree with her time frame, and Luna returned to staring at the central opening in the floor, praying that they would see them soon, and in good condition. After awhile, she grew tired of looking down, and looked up at the rotating bands of metal that moved smoothly around the central shaft. She couldn’t help but admire their artistry, even if the design seemed somewhat stylized- wait. Luna’s eyes narrowed, and she looked even closer at the device, her eyes watching the rotation several more times before coming to a decision; she rose to her feet, drawing several looks as she continued looking up at the great generator thing, which was definitely speeding up. She really hoped this was a sign, it had been almost four hours-
“That thing is definitely speeding up,” Libertus said to her right, and they all watched as it spun faster and faster, Luna wincing at the groan and whine of metal as it continued to rotate, and just as she was beginning to worry for themselves as well, a very familiar voice seemed to come from all around them, humming a simple elegant tune as a great light began to flow from the floor; the humming turned to words, a oddly prophetic song that sounded like what almost happened to their world, but the last lines spoke of parting, and she felt her heart clench. The song was symbolic, not actual, it must be-
The lyrics faded to a strong voiced chorus, and they all moved close to each to each other as Prompto’s voice filled their ears, wanting to make sure they stuck together. The words grew only more somber, however, even as the light increased to the point that she was forced to close her eyes, and she heard what sounded like Nyx mumbling under his breath as they all huddled together, listening to Prompto’s beautiful voice. The last few words seemed hopeful, and the humming and vocalizing continued past where she thought the song might end, and she could hear metal moving as Cor’s voice joined Prompto’s for two final lines, and the light, which had been so bright that closing her eyes had scarcely helped, dimmed just enough that she brought up a hand to shield them as she pried open her eyelids, only to see the platform rising back into place, Cor and Prompto glowing as bright as any star with shimmering blue light as they stood straight and serene around the metal globe. Something was different about them, although they otherwise looked the same to the eye, and she actually hesitated for a moment before moving towards the Dawnsworn, who both met her eyes with a smile.
“Is the ritual complete?” she asked formally, and got no response but a slight widening of Prompto’s smile; Nyx and Noctis were at her back, but none of them could move a muscle as the two men stepped off the platform, walking across the floor over to that red- Luna almost gasped aloud when she realized that something had changed; every hint of red light was gone, replaced by blue as fractals of light seemed to trail in their wake as they approached the now azure-lit disc, both Cor and Prompto looking down at it before turning and beckoning them forward with a hand each. There was little hesitation, even though they hadn’t spoken once since they had returned, and once they had all joined the still-shimmering pair, the two men nodded and stepped on the disc together, vanishing from view; to no one’s surprise, Nyx was the next one forward, and he too disappeared in a burst of light. One by one they stepped on the disc, until they found themselves back near the entrance of the tower where Cor and Prompto were waiting, the whole building still luminescent as they ascended the stairs together and looked up to see all signs of red light gone aboveground as well; they had been in the tower all night, and the first hints of light on the horizon were beginning to show as they walked.
“The light that had been coming from the tower...it looks different,” Libertus commented, and he was right. The straight beam had separated into a starburst pattern, the beams of light spreading out as far as the eye could see in all directions, nearly blotting out the stars. It was stunning. The Dawnsworn began to walk forward once more, heading in the direction they had entered the premises through as little motes of light seemed to paint the ground behind them like a cloak brushing the stone; it faded after a few seconds, however-
“How beautiful,” Ignis said quietly, and it was clear everyone else agreed. They passed over the bridge, hemmed in by bright light that dazzled their eyes as they continued through, Cor and Prompto still silent and elegant as they seemed to all but float down the stairs, stepping outside the shimmering entrance arch and stopping. Luna could see the crowd, who were staring at them awestruck, and she could see the king and his companions as well, with much the same expression. She completely understood. Cor and Prompto both turned slightly, looking to Luna and the rest of them while indicating the king, and she realized what they were saying.
“Let us rejoin the king.” Nyx, Gladio, and Noctis hesitated the most, but they all eventually moved away, walking over to the king’s side. It was clear his majesty and the others wanted to say something, but they held their tongues as they all turned to look upon the two men, who had never lived up to their ancient reputation more than they had at that moment. Their eyes held power, their bodies divine magic, and they looked out onto the crowd for several long minutes before Prompto looked up to the sky, then turned and met Cor’s gaze, nodding as he shifted forward once more, his mouth opening.
This time there was no spirits at first, and only Prompto’s voice rang out beautiful and clear across the fields as he sung alone, his words invoking a quiet morning before a small group of spirits joined in, and Luna gasped as the lyrics took a very uplifting tone, singing of home and freedom as more and more specters appeared as he repeated the chorus, Cor singing as well as the light from the tower brightened exponentially as hundreds of spirits suddenly flooded around the outside walls, singing together with Prompto and Cor about home. After a rousing crescendo, they all began to sing very softly, the wondrous song coming to its inevitable conclusion as the light from the tower began to calm behind them, the great rays of light starting to dissipate as Prompto and part of his ghostly choir repeated the beginning of the song once more; Luna could feel the tears running down her face, but she paid them no heed as Prompto looked over at Cor one final time as they all sang the last line together, the radiance that enveloped them vanishing in a great burst of light as the spirits swarmed around them, then out to the crowd. She could hear yells and great sobs as they passed on through, and Noctis and Regis looked stunned as a woman with familiar features and beautiful dark hair flew up to them, reaching out and stroking their cheeks before vanishing, even Cid and Cindy had tears running down their faces as several spirits approached them as well; she turned back towards the crowd to see the specters disappear one by one, before a warm sensation on her cheek got her to turn around.
When her mother, luminous and beautiful as she was the day she died, winked at her and mouthed I love you before fading into the night, she fell to her knees and wept like a child. After what felt like an age, arms wrapped around her from behind, and familiar grey locks filled her peripheral vision as Aranea just held on and let her cry it out for a little while before gently bumping her temple against Luna’s.
“You know, when you think of the oracles, you never think of them having a sense of humor,” Aranea said quietly as Luna wiped at her eyes, watching as Prompto and Cor walked out towards the crowd, both looking a bit tired, but otherwise hale; then the dragoon’s words registered in her mind, and she barked out a surprised little laugh as she used a dusty sleeve to dry her cheeks.
“Mother could make everyone laugh, she only ever took things seriously if she needed to. While she had to portray herself a certain way in public, everyone in the manor loved her. It was devastating when she died, and not just to me and my brother,” she got out, and Aranea chuckled quietly, reaching up and gently pulling Luna’s hair away from her face.
“It’s clear where ever we go after we kick the bucket, she’s still got her sense of humor, Luna, so remember that.”
Aranea had an excellent point, and she nodded her thanks as the older woman helped her to her feet as she wiped the last few tears away. Cor and Prompto were walking through the crowd, Prompto doing most of the talking as they progressed, from all appearances, and she took a deep breath, smiled, and turned to Nyx.
“How are you, Nyx? Looks like it’s turned out well?” she said, her tone a tick uncertain, and Nyx ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.
“I sure hope so, they haven’t actually spoken to any of us since they went down the magic elevator, but they look….present, so that’s good,” he said softly, and Luna’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the man more closely. He was following them with a tired gaze, torn between awe and concern, and although her chest still hurt from her crying fit, she found herself wrapping her arms around the Glaive, her face pressing against his shoulder.
“They’ll be fine, Nyx. I know they will. Perhaps after this, you and Cor can just take a few days for yourselves, without all of...this,” she commented, and Nyx wrapped his arms around her back and squeezed, huffing a little sigh in her ear.
“That sounds like the perfect idea, Luna. Thank you,” Nyx said, then moved his hands up to her shoulders and carefully pushed her to arms length. “Are you okay? That...was your mother, right? I remember seeing pictures of her back in the day-” Luna nodded, remembering Aranea’s words and smiling.
“Yes, that was my mother. It was wonderful seeing her again, even for just a few seconds,” she said, her smile widening with the memory, and Nyx smiled.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Nyx asked, his expression finally relaxing a bit, and she nodded.
“Yes.” Luna met the king’s eyes with a nod and a smile as she turned back towards Cor and Prompto, who had almost disappeared out of view, and she frowned slightly. “Nyx, I certainly don’t wish to dictate, but might it be appropriate they have an escort or guard? We all know that neither of them do all that well with crowds, even if they are perhaps in the groove, so to speak,” she suggested, and barely refrained from snorting when the Glaive’s eyes lit up, and he released her shoulders and set off without a word, walking swiftly across the grass and joining the two as they headed out of sight. She could have good ideas sometimes-
“That was smart of you,” Regis said as he moved up next to her, his eyes soft and misty, Noctis coming up on her other side as well. “The captain seemed a bit torn about the whole situation.”
“They haven’t spoken to us since...wait, this last song, was that the only one you heard? Or did you hear one before?” she inquired of the king, and he nodded.
“Yes, a somewhat introspective one, it was actually rather concerning at first, but it seems to have been more of a what could have been,” Regis said, and Noctis nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, it was amazing, but we were all a little-” Noctis cut himself off and shook his head. “I want to follow, but this is really their show. Also, Nyx and Cor are public, unlike other people,” Noctis said under his breath, and Luna reached out and patted his shoulder in sympathy as her phone began to vibrate in her pocket. Who would be- Ravus. She held up her phone and stepped away from everyone, lifting it to her ear.
“Lunafreya speaking.” All she could hear on the other end was harsh breathing for a moment, but she could tell who it was. “Ravus? Are you well?” The next sound she heard was what sounded suspiciously like a sniffle, and her jaw dropped unbidden. “Ravus?” She heard her brother cough a few times, trying to compose himself, and she had no idea what was happening, but she would wait. After another twenty seconds or so, he cleared his throat with determination.
“Sister...I assume you are still at the ritual?” her brother finally got out, his voice still rough, and she hummed an affirmative, still waiting for Ravus to speak. “I understand that spirits join the voice in his songs, correct?” Ravus asked, and a bolt of lightning went through her chest. Was he implying-
“Brother, yes, you are correct, but why?” she asked and Ravus’s wavering breath shook her to her core.
“Because- because mother appeared here in front of myself and several servants, nodded to them, and then reached out and touched my cheek before smiling and vanishing like dust on the breeze. Did you- did you see her there?” Ravus asked, his voice still uneven, and it was what she had suspected, and she could not help from smiling once more.
“Yes, I did, and I am happy that the voice’s talents allowed her to visit you for a moment as well. Are you...alright, Ravus?” she queried, and Ravus barked out a laugh, the sound of which she had not heard in a very long time.
“Sister, I have not felt so well in many years. Be certain to tell the Dawnsworn that they are always welcome in Tenebrae, should they wish to get away,” Ravus said, and she chuckled.
“I have long extended such welcome, brother.” A oddly comfortable pause fell between them as they listening to each other breath through the phone line, before Ravus spoke up once more.
“Sister- Luna. I think...when you return, I should announce you as the queen of Tenebrae, as Gentiana has already named you. It is long past time, and you are the leader that is most suited in guiding us to the future, sister, not myself, a bitter man who nearly let his grudges and hates consume him when he could have been doing so much more,” her brother announced, and Luna could not speak for a long moment, her eyes wide and her mouth open as she fought to regain composure. She wanted to deny it, wanted to say that they should continue as they were, but-
“Brother, are you certain?” Ravus’s answer was immediate.
“I have never been so certain of anything in my life, Lunafreya.”
She got off the phone a few minutes later, her mind still reeling from the endless shocks, only to discover Cor, Prompto, and Nyx starting to work their way back towards them as a hand brushed her arm.
“Are you well, Luna?” So many times had that question gone through her mind in the last few minutes, and she turned to Ignis and gave a rather weak laugh.
“Mother appeared to Ravus as well before leaving,” she explained, and Ignis’s eyes widened in surprise. Before he could say anything, she looked out towards the tower, the last of its inner light nearly gone. “He said he wished to name me queen to the people upon my return.” Ignis’s answering smile was immediate, and he brought a hand to his chest and bowed slightly.
“Madame, you will be the finest queen Tenebrae has seen in many generations, don’t you agree, Noct? Gladio?” Ignis said, and she looked about her to see that the two mentioned had joined whilst they had been speaking. She hadn’t even noticed. But Gladio smiled and nodded his agreement, and Noctis reached out and gave her a hug.
“Let me know when the coronation is, alright?”
“Coronation?” A familiar peppy voice cut in, and they all turned to see Cor, Prompto, and Nyx standing behind them, the two men of the hour looking refreshingly normal. Luna shook her head and smiled, stepping forward and taking both father and son’s hands.
“I’ll tell you later, I feel we all need to take our rest for awhile. Unless there is something else left to do?” she asked, her tone lilting with the question, and the two looked at each other for a moment before meeting her eyes.
“No, we are done. The ritual is complete, and the tower has been reborn. Unfortunately, until a few creatures that dwell in the lowest levels are removed, it’s not safe for public access yet. That will need to wait for another time, however,” Cor answered, and Luna tilted her head towards the vague direction of the haven.
“Sleep, then?” She let go of their hands, and the marshal reached back and took Nyx’s hand, the Glaive trying and failing to suppress a soft (and continually relieved) smile.
“Yes, that sounds like an excellent plan.” The public left them alone as they walked slowly back to the haven, scaling the stone and nodding to each other before diving into their respective tents. When Aranea zipped up the door behind them, Luna was half out of her outfit before the woman even had a chance to get her boots off.
“I feel like I could sleep for a week,” she said, fatigue crashing over her like a wave, and Aranea snorted in reply, pulling off her armor.
“I agree, queenie. Sleep it is.” Luna didn’t even have the energy to respond to the dragoon’s form of address, instead dragging her limbs into her sleeping bag and tugging the small pillow to her head.
“There is much to talk about, Aranea, but later.” Aranea wiggled into her own sleeping bag with a grunt and a few smacks of the tent floor.
“Yeah, definitely. I wanna know what they were doing down there…” Aranea’s voice trailed off strangely, and Luna peeked over to find the woman out like a light. What a skill. Luna chuckled inwardly, then got herself comfortable and closed her eyes.
Luna slept for about six hours, got up, washed up, and ate a little something before returning to bed, with most of the others rising around the same time to do much the same; to no surprise, there was no sign of Cor or Prompto, and there was little talk beyond simple chatter as they all refreshed themselves before deciding to get more sleep. Regis seemed mostly amused by the half-conscious wraiths that seemed to be emerging at varying intervals from the tents, and when she dragged herself back to hers, he gave her a jaunty wave as she zipped the door closed. Regis always made her feel better; the man was hardly perfect, but his heart was true and he was so... fatherly. Her own father died when she was a baby, with even Ravus having very little memory of him, so it was easy to look to him as such. While Cor was also rather fatherly in his own way (even if it was usually both sweet and a touch awkward) but she saw him as more of a friend.
She just hoped that whatever he and Prompto did down in the depths of Sarras, it didn’t change them too much.
...and what did Cor mean about the lower levels being unsafe?
In the end, they all pretty much slept the full day away, with Cor and Prompto only emerging once the whole time for the call of nature and a quick snack before vanishing back to their respective tents. From she saw, the king spent the time talking with those who had stayed after the ceremony (most, from the sound of it) and informing the gathering that entering the tower was unsafe at this time, as there was more beasts in the lower levels, which she realized must have been a known thing about the tower. Perhaps it would be good for them to venture back down there. She’d have to talk to them when everyone was awake.
A full day after they emerged from the tower, they all dragged themselves from their tents one by one, taking a little more care to looking somewhat presentable due to their rather exposed location and the still remaining crowds before falling into the collection of chairs around the fire ring.
“So y’all are awake now, huh?” Cindy said to Luna’s right, and she turned and gave the woman a sheepish little smile.
“I admit, I didn’t suspect that we’d all sleep that long, but, well…” she scratched lightly at her cheek and sighed. “I feel wonderful, though, so I suspect that we needed it.” Cindy nodded in understanding before handing her a warm, full bowl and a spoon.
“Porridge for breakfast, with some fruit. Simple, but it’ll stick to your ribs. You need it after sleeping so long without eating more than a nibble,” Cindy commented, then the woman got to her feet and beginning passing out servings to the others as they emerged. Once again, it was Prompto and Cor who emerged last, and Luna finally was able to take a good look at the two with the gaze of the well-rested. While they still looked a touch tired, their eyes were clear and focused and their movements smooth and unhindered by any stress; while they both sat down by their respective partners, there was a feeling of unity she had when she looked at the two, and she ate slowly and thought over what she could sense. It was possible Regis and Noctis could also sense a change, as she could see at least the king looking between the two as well. There was very little talk as they all ate, and the feeling of anticipation grew as their meal came to an end. After Aranea dumped all of their bowls into the wash bin, the king turned to Cor and Prompto with a curious expression.
“Are you able to tell us what happened down there? I understand that once you reached one of the lowest levels, you two descended separately?” Regis inquired, and Cor crossed his arms and turned to Prompto, who bit at his bottom lip and met his father’s eyes before sighing.
“We can’t tell you a lot, we aren’t really supposed to...and honestly, it’s really kinda hard to explain. Is that okay?” Prompto asked nervously, and while Luna nodded immediately, it was Regis’s resigned smile and tilt of the head that relaxed the two men. Prompto looked over at Cor once more before facing the king, sitting up straight and putting his hands on his thighs. “So...yeah, we went down the elevator thing, and I couldn’t even tell you how far it went, but it was really deep, and then-” The blond paused, looking down at his fingernails. “-and then we spoke to the goddess. Unlike most of our talks, this one was super formal and ceremonial, and…” this time he trailed off entirely, and Cor nodded.
“All I can say is that it was a formal induction? Ascension? I’m not sure the term, but it is completed and…” Cor met Prompto’s eyes, a soft smile slowly appearing on his face. “It took care of much we had been concerned about. The concerns of our trip should be settled now.” Nyx, who had been sitting about as close as possible to Cor without actually touching him, leaned over slightly and bumped his shoulder into Cor’s.
“So...everything’s good? Including the whole reason for the original trip?” Nyx asked, and while his mouth was smiling, Luna couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the thinly veiled concern, possibly even desperation, that he was trying to hide in his eyes. Besides his one outburst after the teleporting temple incident, Nyx had outwardly been mostly calm in the face of Cor (and Prompto’s) divine duties and quirks, but his body language had been increasingly tense as time went on, and she had heard from the others that he had often been anxious and remote during the planning of the trip, no matter how much Cor and Prompto had apparently tried to reassure him. He had mostly calmed down by the time she had arrived, but he was no master at hiding his emotions. She could still see it in his eyes. Nyx wanted to hear that everything was fine, and would be so for the duration; she didn’t blame him one bit. Cor looked out towards the sun, his eyes focused on something she could not see, and the lot of them held their breath as Prompto did much the same, but instead looked down at the ground like it held the mysteries of the universe. “Cor?” Nyx asked again, his voice wavering the slightest amount, and the older man blinked and looked over at his partner, his eyes soft and understanding as he raised his hand to Nyx’s cheek in an unbelievably tender motion that the Glaive leaned into without hesitation, his eyes drooping closed for a moment. Luna looked away for a few seconds at the sight, warmth growing in her cheeks before she took a deep breath and looked at the two men once more.
“Yes, everything is good,” Cor said, his fingers slowly tracing the line of Nyx’s jaw before he let his hand fall to his side. “Even those damn teleporter portal things should be working now,” the marshal said wryly, and Regis sat forward in his chair.
“Teleporters?” the king asked, and Prompto cringed, bringing a hand to his back and rubbing absently at it before dropping the limb to his side.
“No one told you about those?” the blond asked, and Cor met Regis’s eyes and ran a hand through his hair with a sigh.
“It’s what it sounds like. They look sort of like mini temples, they repeat much of the same motifs that are seen here at Costlemark, just in miniature. We discovered several in Galahd, but they weren’t...functioning correctly. They appeared to be set up so we, and probably those we allow, were able to go great distances across the world. They appear to be all over the place, although most were probably either covered by overgrowth or simply thought to be ruins. When we stumbled across one, we were compelled to try it, which I now realize was Sarras trying to get us to return and finish the ritual, but it wasn’t working correctly. We took a very unfortunate tour of the planet before we were able to rejoin everyone else,” Cor stated, and Regis’s mouth twisted as he sat back in his chair.
“I’m guessing that was the bit in Ignis’s report that said something to the effect of found a larger temple, there was a complication, but all was resolved before moving on.” Regis said so drily that Luna laughed before she could stop herself. Ignis’s ears flushed a brilliant red, which promptly set the rest of them off as well as the future advisor tried to formulate a proper response.
“It was a sensitive situation, I was trying to be circumspect about it,” Ignis huffed, and Regis raised an eyebrow, but didn’t seem too unhappy about it.
“If this had been a report I had actually asked for, I would have expected some more detail, but since it was volunteered, I’ll not complain. But the concept sounds fascinating, Cor; do you think it is something that could be utilized for the future?” Regis asked, and the marshal crossed his arms, his expression turning thoughtful.
“I’ll have to scope the teleporters out, see which ones are viable or not; the problem that Ignis did not mention was that one of the ones we were dumped at during that debacle was west of Gralea in the middle of their infernal snowstorms, and apparently had been positioned on a cliff that had weakened over time. We appeared there, the ground gave way, and we fell for several seconds before the magic in the crumbling portal managed to finally send us back to Galahd. My back didn’t forgive me for several days, as the others could tell you,” Cor deadpanned, and Nyx nodded solemnly, his eyes lidded and a touch annoyed. Regis opened his mouth, probably to ask more questions, then snapped it shut without a word. Probably best. Cor looked up and met her eyes, and Luna gave him a little smile. “It was Luna who guessed how they worked, and why they weren’t working. You were entirely correct, your majesty. Because the tower had not been visited and reanointed in so long, the ancillary temples and whatnot had all largely fallen to ruin. As I said a minute ago, I think they were designed to default to here if they hadn’t been...recharged in a while.” No one spoke for some time as everyone shifted and tried to figure out what to ask next, and it was Cid, of all people, who broke the awkward silence and spoke up.
“That woman, the one you claim is actually the Glacian in disguise-”
“She is,” Luna chimed in, and Cid half-heartedly glowered at her for a moment before slumping forward in his chair.
“Fine. So, the lady mentioned something before you all went inside, and I was wonderin’ what she meant,” Cid asked, and Luna watched as both Cor and Prompto got to their feet, looking casually in the direction of the tower for a moment before turning to face the rest of them once more.
“The Glacian mentioned many things, Cid, which one are you referring to?” Cor asked as Cid got to his feet as well, shuffling over to the two men with a knowing look as he looked out towards the brightening sky, the last colors of the dawn dispersing into the morning light.
“...and let her heart be reborn once more,” the elderly man said softly, and Prompto laughed joyously, his freckles flush on his features as he met Cor’s eyes. The marshal smiled as well, a real grin that summoned Luna’s own smile like magic, and Cid looked between the two of them and barked out a gravelly laugh. “Well, I can tell you that the two sunrises since the lot of you got out of that tower were the most brilliant I ever saw, and I’ve seen a hell of a lot of them, so I’m gonna call it a success,” Cid stated, then looked up at both Prompto and Cor with a considering look. “Unless you two disagree, of course.” The blond looked up at the sky, humming a whimsical tune for a few moments before returning his gaze to the rest of them, his eyes dancing with a relief and a joy that Luna found herself in complete understanding with as he nodded.
“No, I think you are absolutely right,” Prompto said, his smile growing even wider, and Luna met his gaze with a grin of her own. “We need to come back here soon and finish clearing it out, but for now-” Noctis leaned forward, his own expression inquisitive.
“-but for now?” the prince asked, and Prompto tossed back his head and laughed before walking over and plopping back into his chair, which promptly fell back to such an extent that Cor and Gladio had to catch him from falling flat on his back. Luna grinned behind her hand. Even though they were so wonderful, so beloved by so many, there were certain things that would never change. After Prompto was done thrashing around and his feet were solidly back on the ground, the blond met Noctis’s eyes with a flustered little smile.
“Let’s go home.”