You know much.
“Are babies supposed to sleep this much?” King Regis Lucis Caelum asked in a nervous whisper, staring wide-eyed down at the baby - at his baby - fast asleep in the crib. Almost to answer his question, Noctis - barely a week old and tiny, so tiny - kicked and furrowed his brow, opening and closing a hammy fist before settling once more into a deep sleep. Oh , thought the King. Oh . He wasn’t a stupid man, per say. He even liked to think he was clever, most of the time.
But he didn’t know much about babies.
Queen Aulea laughed softly and gently brushed Noctis’ dark hair off of his forehead. “ You sleep this much. He gets it from you,” and Regis opened his mouth to argue - but the mischievous gleam in her eyes told him it would be a losing battle. He laughed quietly and shook his head before leaning over to kiss her cheek. Sunlight streamed in through the windows of the little nursery, dust motes dancing in the golden light.
Regis stroked Noctis’ cheek, and his infant son’s hand closed around his finger.
Regis’ heart soared.
Besides him, Aulea began to cough.
King Regis Lucis Caelum held Noctis - heavily swaddled in black blankets and starting to fuss - as he buried his Queen. His retinue besides him, Regis could not shake how... untethered to the rest of the world he felt now, had felt since Aulea’s hand turned cold in his. Numbness clouded his mind as he watched the final interment of his beloved.
But Noctis squirmed, and he was here, and he was very much alive.
He stared at his son, and when Noctis opened his eyes, he smiled his gummy little smile at Regis. Dark eyes, like his own. The future King.
Regis kissed Noctis’ forehead and whispered, “We shall walk tall, you and I.”
Noctis babbled his agreement, and Regis closed his eyes and said farewell to Aulea. He promised to do his best with their son, and held Noct tight against his chest.
He stayed there for a very long time, until Noct slept again. He stayed there until Clarus laid a comforting hand on the King’s shoulder.
When Noctis’ nursemaid held out their hands to take him back to the nursery for the night, Regis hesitated, and then shook his head.
Not even Clarus knew that Regis danced with his son in the early hours, the day after Aulea was buried. The lights of the city shone, even now, and Noct slept on in his father’s arms, content and warm and loved.
So, so loved.
Regis laughed as Noct - three and a half years old - scrambled over his lap to look out of the opposite window of the Regalia, little face pressed up against the glass and smudging it with a perfect impression of his wide-eyed excitement. Regis couldn’t help it - he knew that he should be corralling Noct into sitting still, but he found it hard to say no to that little face. It was Noct’s first time out of Insomnia proper, and as the new scenery flashed by, Noct inhaled and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Where are we going, Dad!”
Regis smiled, even though he’d answered that question half a dozen times already. “We’re going fishing, Noct!”
“Fissing!” Noct repeated, before breaking down in a fit of laughter like it was the funniest word he had ever heard. Regis laughed and grabbed Noct, tickling him until his son squealed. Noct had recently lost another tooth, and Regis adored the toothy smile with all his heart. “Fissing, fissing fissing!”
Clarus caught his eyes in the rearview mirror and raised his eyebrows. Clarus’ own boy, Gladiolus, was sitting in the back next to Regis. Though he kept his back ramrod straight, Regis could tell the six year old was already bored at the idea of sitting and watching two people fish - or, rather, watching Regis fish and watching Noct splash around in the water - and when Noct climbed over Gladio for the fifth or sixth time, it was clear that the older boy was quickly losing patience with the scampering little prince.
Regis bit back his smile as Noct pulled himself up by Gladio’s lapel and reached for his hair, Gladio obviously torn between wanting to swat his hands away and knowing he probably shouldn’t push a Prince away like he would an annoying younger sibling.
Regis decided to take mercy on the poor boy. “Hmm, best come here, Noctis - grumpy Clarus needs to focus.”
Noct laughed and copied the words, “Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy Clarus!”
Clarus narrowed his eyes at Regis but Regis heard the quiet chuckle all the same.
Regis bundled his son in his lap and told him to sit still, because it would help them get to the lake that much faster. Noct looked up at him with wide-eyed wonder and Regis smiled softly, smoothing Noct’s wild black hair as best he could. He leaned against the door and started pointing out everything he could see, Noct listening with rapt attention.
After ten minutes, Noctis turned to look up at Regis and patted his cheek. He grinned and declared, “Know so much!”
“I do know a lot, don’t I?”
“Yes! Fissing, too?”
Regis smiled and kissed Noct’s forehead. “Fishing, too.”
“You know much, King Regis.”
He recognized the voice.
The woman smiled at him, even though she did not open her eyes at his approach. Dark hair framed her pale face, and it did not take long for Regis to realize where they were. It was the environment that gave it away, like watercolor paintings that shifted ever so slightly in the gentle wavering light of the place beyond. A dream.
Or perhaps a nightmare.
The skin at the base of his neck prickled ever so slightly at the thought.
She was a Messenger. He knew that right away as he joined her at the edge of an endless field under a clear night sky. Starlight danced on the sylleblossoms that stretched towards a distant horizon, and for a moment they simply stood there. Regis thought he could see the towers of Tenebrae in the distance, and then she spoke.
“We greet you, Regis, King of Lucis.” Without waiting for a response, she turned back to gaze at the fields - though still Regis did not see her eyes open. “A beautiful sight, is it not?”
“The Oracle of the Chosen King favors these flowers. The King chosen by the Crystal to heal the land from the sickness of the star.”
Images began to stir in the mists that adorned the field. Images Regis did not understand.
Not at first.
Not until he watched Noctis - older now, a young man, not the five year old Regis had just cradled to sleep - summon the Armiger. Another image of his son, and Clarus’ boy Gladiolus, two others Regis did not recognize and a car he did recognize, driving over the hard-baked earth of a searingly hot desert.
The images pressed in on him, all vying for attention, and though he knew the Messenger was still speaking he could no longer hear her as the memories - no, prophecies, visions of what was to come - swirled around him like the wind. Cid. The Regalia, the stranger who had nearly beaten Regis, Galdin Quay, Cape Caem, Altissa -
and the kings of old encircling,
and weapons drawn,
and a young man closing his eyes as he tightened his grip on the hilt of a familiar sword and braced himself.
A horrible sound.
And again .
And blood dripping from the still body.
His family’s throne.
She angled her face towards him, and in a gentle, soft voice that belied the agonizing words, the words that broke his heart, she simply said, “It must come to pass.”
It took just a moment for the blunt syllables to register in his head, and then the world shattered around him. The sylleblossom field vanished like smoke.
He woke with a start, the Messenger fading while her words - her terrible, cruel, so unbearably cruel words - rang in his ears. He was drenched in sweat, his heart pounding painfully against his ribs, and though the Noctis that he had seen in his dream was older, much older, Regis needed to see his son. The woman had been a Messenger, he knew her words had to be true - and yet denial had already built a wall around his heart. He flung himself out of bed and threw open the doors with such a clatter that the guards on duty jumped.
Regis barely registered nursemaid’s confused and clumsy greeting as he barged into Noct’s quarters, quieting down only when he stood in front of the door that led to the bedroom. The nursemaid on duty began to stammer something out, but Regis’ only thought was for his son.
For his son, the Chosen King.
He opened the door and stepped quietly into the dark room.
Noctis slept on as his father watched over him, the little prince blissfully unaware of the bitter seed of sorrow already rooted deep in his father’s head.
Regis bit down on the urge to wrap his tiny son in his blanket and run, run far away - the King of Kings, the one who would… no, he couldn’t even bear to give thought to those words and their cruel meaning, could not stomach them and the way they sliced at his throat, at the way they howled in his head like a typhoon, he could not bear to think of them and yet he could not look away as the mantle of Noctis’ fate, his destiny and doom, almost shimmered over his little sleeping shoulders, a fate that had always been present yet unseen and now, and now -
Regis realized, with a start, that he was crying.
And suddenly, everything grew very still.
He crashed down to his knees.
Noct reached out across his sheets for his father.
Regis took his son’s little hand, and Noct smiled in his sleep, happy and unaware, and Regis’ heart finally, bitterly, accepted what the Messenger had told him.
I am so sorry.
He felt very alone.
And he knew what he needed to do for his son.
“He’s not waking up, Clarus,” Regis hoarsely whispered, his bloody hands gripping the hem of Noct’s jacket. “Clarus - he-”
“Blood loss, Highness,” his Shield answered tightly, and Regis felt the scream bubble up in his throat like shards of glass.
The scene had been carnage, and yet as the Marilith fled Regis wished he could have inflicted more onto the vile daemon that had hurt his son. He was being torn in two directions, his heart screaming for both: he wanted to chase that thing down and sever its arms, he wanted to make it hurt , he wanted to make it bleed - but once it had fled, once he had turned and seen the group kneeling next to his son, once he had seen the puddle of blood ever-so-rapidly expanding beneath Noct’s still body…
“His nursemaid took the brunt of the attack, her spine is… is severed… she died almost immediately, b-but the Prince still received a blow-”
Regis’ rage was so great that he could not even tell who was informing him that the blades of the Marilith had damaged his son’s spine.
All he could think about, all he could see, was Noct lying in a pool of his own blood. Dark eyes closed and very, very far away from him.
All thoughts of the daemon had fled as Noct’s eyes stared at him without recognition, and then closed. As though he were simply falling asleep. Regis bit back the primal urge to scream as his attendants tried to rouse Noct - and then, when it was clear his son would not open his eyes again, set to work on stabilizing him.
Regis was running on pure adrenaline now. Sweat from the burning wreckage of Noct’s retinue and from the effort of summoning the Armiger - the full Armiger, he had wanted to rip that thing into tiny bloody scraps and the weapons had sprung to life almost as eagerly - dripped down his forehead as Noct bled in front of him, and no amount of his shouting, screaming Noct’s name could make those eyes open.
He almost begged his son to open his eyes, please, please, I need to see your eyes, I need to see you, I need you to know I’m here, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry-
They’d seen the explosion in the distance, a burning sun against the black of the night. A nightmare.
Regis hadn’t even needed to say a word before Clarus slammed the gas and the Regalia shot towards the flames.
They had not been fast enough. Regis already knew, kneeling there in the mud and the blood, that he would spend every moment until Noct opened his eyes - and every moment after - wishing they had been just a little faster.
Noctis was breathing. He was soaked in blood, and he could not move, and he would not wake up.
He did not wake up for a long time.
But he was alive.
A tiny voice in the back of his head whispered for now.
You know it has already been set in motion.
You know much.
Regis shut his eyes, resisting the urge to massage his temples as Clarus read the note, the paper crumpled from the King’s grip. Regis had already read it several times; he could almost recite it from memory.
He had always been particularly good at memorizing things.
You asked me to keep a close eye on the Prince’s attitudes towards his various duties, as you suspected that the cumulative stress might begin to weigh heavily on Noctis. I regret to inform you that your prediction was correct. Last night there was a significant outburst.
Noctis has become more withdrawn as of late and when I expressed concern over the state of his apartment, as well as inquired after the results of recent exams, he became agitated and let his temper get the better of him. I admit my temper might have slipped as well, but any mention of his royal duties is met with the same hostility - quiet or otherwise. Gladiolus and I are doing our best to draw him out of this with increased training, but though he follows our instructions with little complaint, there is an exhaustion there that we are having difficulty breaching.
Gladiolus suspects this is a sign of major depression, very likely PTSD, from the attack and injuries he sustained as a child. We are consulting therapists and other such qualified professionals, and will of course keep you updated on our progress.
I am of the mind that it is also because Noctis finds his life at school very, very lonely.
His peers do not seem to know how to approach him - aside from one boy, a Prompto Argentum (Gladiolus has already conducted all the necessary background checks and is shadowing them for the time being; I have attached the findings with this letter) - and he is alone for most of the day. You asked me to be honest, and therefore I must stress that Noctis is struggling with the combined pressure of his royal duties as well as those of a “normal” life. We are doing our best to support him, and guide him as you asked, but we are his retainers and cannot yet fulfill the simple duty of being his friends.
He is increasingly unable to see us as such, as he believes it is only out of loyalty to our own duties that we remain by his side to support him. I am hesitant to get my hopes up about Prompto Argentum, but Noctis is lonely, and I fervently hope that they become friends.
Perhaps then, hopefully, Noctis will be able to see that he is not alone, and never has been.
Yours in faithfulness,
Clarus cleared his throat, and gently laid the crumpled paper back on the desk in front of the King. The last line of the letter had read like a direct accusation to Regis. Noctis is lonely.
And who made him that way?
“Reggie,” Clarus said quietly, and from the tone of that single word Regis knew that Clarus agreed wholeheartedly with young Ignis.
“Speak freely, old friend.” Gods, but he was tired. His leg ached, his head burned and thrummed from the constant manifestation of the wall. Some days he could barely bring himself to lift the hand that bore the ring. His heritage, his legacy.
His gift to his son.
“Your son misses you. Visit his apartment - or, hell, invite him back here for a week. He’s worried about you.” The unspoken and you about him remained in between the lines.
Do you know if you made the right decision, King Regis?
After all, Noctis is lonely.
“It is for his own good, Clarus.”
But the words felt as false as ever.
Had this room always been so empty?
Regis couldn’t quite remember.
The formal words had felt so… so empty.
Regis had known this day would come for nigh over a decade.
But he still had not been able to find the right words.
He had not known how to find them.
He had watched Noctis leave.
Twenty years old.
Had memorized his son’s face, his mannerisms, the way he walked. His voice.
Regis had sent Noctis away from Insomnia, for it was about to fall. Noctis’ fate had been decreed long ago. He knew what had to be done.
Noct would not fall this night.
Take heed on the open road.
But it had begun, and Noct’s own long night was fast approaching.
The marble of the Lucian throne was cold underneath him, despite the cushions. The chill soaked into his aching joints. He was alone.
He wished he could have held Noct one last time.
Regis was a clever man, a wise king, an experienced warrior.
He knew much.
And you know this much:
You cannot save him.
Regis buried his face in his hands and he wept.