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Novelization of Final Fantasy IX

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This is a fan made novelization of the video game Final Fantasy IX.
See the summary for more details.

Chapter 1, Part 1: Alexandria

Lightning crashed upon the dull sky like the crack of a whip, illuminating the squall about a lone boat being tossed mercilessly on the ocean waves.

The small boat, like a twirling leaf in a hurricane, groaned as the sail gave way to the belligerent storm.

A small girl, swathed in a damp cloak, lay pressed against the curve of the boat, her long brown hair shrouding her face from the biting winds.

Before her, a woman with flowing dark hair pulled back roughly on the ropes determined, yet in a losing battle with the sea.

The taste of blood and sea salt.. The ache which accompanied the fierce chill..

Suddenly gravity gave way as the boat was catapulted into the air, and for a moment they seemed weightless…

Princess Garnet awoke suddenly with a gasp, instinctively catching herself from falling on a nearby window seal.

She shook her head, disoriented, her heart pounding. The warm morning sun greeted her, in stark contrast to the dream which had seemed so real only moments before.

She remembered then where she was--safely in her bedroom within the royal castle of Alexandria.

“Again,” She thought, staring at the floor. “How many times now have I had that dream?”

She sat on her vanity chair, pushed up against the wall near an open window, a gentle breeze drifted into the room.

She rubbed her eyes with the back of her gloved hands.

“I must have fallen asleep here somehow…”She mused.

A small flock of birds sang as they glided through the sky outside her window, bringing her back to the present. She stood, pushing aside the window panes to peer down from the tower.

The beautiful bustling kingdom below was painted in the rich golden hues of a pleasant summer’s morning.
Alexandria stood proudly above the cliff tops of three large waterfalls, backed by a wall of mountains and a clear blue lake. The various houses and shops below were decorated with colorful banners. Clay roof tops, crooked clock towers and winding stone staircases were thematically sprawled across the kingdom.

The castle itself was a pearly white with a tall crystal pillar at its center--in stark contrast with the surrounding scenery.

Channels of water led from behind the castle, through the heart of the town below before disappearing over the foggy horizon beyond the grand cliffside.

Sometimes, if you closed your eyes and stood very still, you could feel the rumble of Gaia--the planet--beyond the edge...or so they say.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Through a sea of clouds, a stone mermaid drifted anchored to the ship prow of the Prima Vista--the luxury liner airship of the Tantalus Theater Troupe.

It’s propellers beat with a low hum as it glided effortlessly through the sky. The ship itself appeared almost like a castle, with its pointed roofs and circular glass towers. The belly of the ship was a rich chestnut wood, decorated carefully with ribbons of a deep blue stain.

Inside the ship, Zidane--a small statured, fit young man--slid down a steel pole from the storage unit above him, the metal buckles on his harness-like bolero vest clanking as he dropped to the floor below. He carelessly tossed his hair, for of the haphazard blond mane that framed his face, half of it would inevitably fall from the loose hair ribbon that sat below the nape of his neck. His hair perfectly matched a peculiar golden tail which playfully swished to the side of him as he walked, easily resembling that of a monkey.

The hallway he walked down was dimly lit by a pair of oil lamps on the wall, leading vision no further than a door to his right. This area of the airship appeared unfinished--broken set pieces and instruments littering the hallway. The ceiling here was in need of repair as it was missing beams and large cracks showed in the wood.

Zidane threw open the door, and stepped into the dark room before him.

“Sure is dark…” He spoke into the room. Silence followed him. “Guess nobody’s here yet…” He continued, stepping forward, searching in the dark with his gloved hand.

He felt the edge of a carpet meet with his boot. “Ah, there it is,” He thought, pulling a box of matches from his side pocket.

He struck a match and held the flame close to him, walking until he reached a small round end table with a candelabra upon it.

The room slowly grew brighter as he lit the candles. He heard footsteps behind him, followed by a familiar voice calling from behind the wall.

“Who’s there?!”

Zidane turned on his heel, swiftly defusing the flame on his match. “It’s me, Zidane!” He answered.

The door creaked open as three of his comrades stepped into the room.

To his left stood Blank--a man only slighter taller than he, with deep red hair which was held up by a thick leather headband--such a thick leather band in fact that his eyes could scarcely be seen beneath it. His body, while muscular and lean was also patched with a series of burn scars, one of which, covered half of his face.

To the right of him was Cinna, a strange looking fellow with pointed ears, a bulbous red nose and a beard which stretched from his upper lip to under his jaw in a complete ‘U’ shape.

Lastly, Marcus stood to the side of Cinna, a bandana pushed too far over his heavy brow, accentuating his fanged underbite and large, tattooed shoulders. He quite resembled a troll.

Zidane smirked, as the four of them raised their hands in unison for their customary greeting gesture.

“Hey, Zidane!” Blank called, a hint of playfulness in his voice. “You sure are late!”

Zidane chuckled, hooking his thumbs over his pockets. “Hah, Sorry. So, where’s the boss?”

“Ain’t here yet,” Cinna interjected.

As if on cue, the door behind Zidane swung open and a figure stepped out, wearing a blue dragon mask. Reflexively, the troupe swooped in to attack the intruder, who countered them with a weapon of his own. Blank brought his weapon down upon the intruder’s head causing the wooden mask he was wearing to fall apart, revealing their boss--Baku--underneath. He held his head, seeming stunned by the impact.

“Ughh! My head! Go easy, you guys!” He howled.

The three troupe members staggered back, appearing slightly winded. Baku fixed his belt and gloves, a teasing grin stretched across his face.

“Hey, fools!”

Baku walked over to Zidane and smacked him roughly on the back, nearly costing him his footing.

“You’re lookin’ a lot better!” He commented, laughing to himself as he strode over to the door opposite the entrance. He cleared his throat, wiggling his pig-like snout. “Alright! Let’s start this meeting already!”

He kicked the door open, leading the party into the next room. The meeting room held a single oil lantern, a round table and a few chairs, surrounded by clutter and engine pipes. Zidane took his seat, flipping his chair around to straddle the backside. On the table sat a model-sized replica of Alexandria Castle.

Baku slammed his hands down on the table, shaking the model, leaning forward as he spoke.

“Here’s the plan! Tantalus, the infamous band of daring thieves--that’s us--is headin’ to the Kingdom of Alexandria.” He waved an amateur ragdoll over the miniature castle. “Our mission: to kidnap the heir to the throne, Princess Garnet!”

Cinna stood up from his seat behind Zidane. “I’ll take it from here, so listen up! Our ship’s about to dock at Alexandria, and when it does, we’re gonna put on our costumes and perform, ‘I Want to Be Your Canary--the most popular play in Alexandria.” He nudged Marcus. “Break a leg, Marcus! Cause you’re playin’ the lead!”

“Leave the actin’ to me!” Marcus boasted. “Of course, the real kidnappers’ll be Blank and Zidane!”

“I’ll distract the audience from backstage with these little buggers,” Blank said, sliding a glass jar off of a shelf beside him and holding it out before the troupe. Inside the jar were a collection of large-eyed insects, similar to beetles--they made an obnoxious chirping sound as they hopped within their confined space. “Ugh,” Blank grumbled in disgust. “I can’t stand oglops… but I’ll manage, so don’t worry about me.”

He set the jar back on the shelf. “And that’ll be your cue, Zidane!”

Zidane grinned, his tail curling mischievously behind him. “Okay, so that’s when I kidnap the princess, right?”

“You bet!” Baku answered, “You’re gonna kidnap the most babe-ilicious beauty in all of Alexandria, the princess Garnet herself!”

---------

While inside the airship the tantalus troupe continued their schemes, on the ground below a very small and clumsy individual wearing a pointed, wide-brimmed hat was gathering his bearings after tripping on his own feet and falling face first into the stone pathway leading into the town center.

“Oww,” He muttered, dusting himself off. His blue linen jacket and striped balloon pants appeared slightly ragged, the fabric on the knees neary giving way, the cuffs nicked with dirt.

Suddenly, a gargantuan shadow enveloped him and a thunderous booming loomed close over head.

“Huh?” He looked up, seeing the large underbelly of the Prima Vista, flying low, where the sky once was.

His eyes were two shimmering beads of ornate light, shrouded by a face like a shadow or smoke--with no definite edges--like a drop of night sky beneath a steepled-hat. Around these parts however, a boy as odd as this passed easily in a crowd.

“Here!” Came a small voice beside him, breaking him of his trance. It was a little girl with rosy cheeks, her hair in twin-tails like floppy rabbit ears perched upon her head. “You dropped your ticket.”

The boy reached for the ticket which the girl held out to him, she smiled happily and cheered a ‘goodbye’ before skipping away.

Timidly, the boy trotted after her as people hurried by him through the arch way up ahead. Then, he felt someone crash into his backside. He stumbled, almost flattening himself on the ground again.

“Why you--” came a snobbish voice from behind him. “Get outta my way!”

Another boy, no taller than he, with the appearance of a hairless rat in red overalls darted out in front of him and disappeared around the street bend.

The boy in the pointed hat waddled to a ticket booth up just ahead. From behind the woven drapery, the Ticket Master appeared--a plump fellow with tired eyes and a long snout from which hung a row of pointed teeth beneath a cluster of whiskers.

“Can I help you, son?” His voice came, gruff but friendly.

The boy hastily pulled the ticket from his coat pocket.

“What’s this?” The Ticket Master said, craning his neck over the tall booth counter for a better look. “There’s something odd about this ticket...why, it’s another fake! I’ve seen so many today.”

“No…” The boy whimpered, feeling his chest ache as he swelled with dismay. He had been so hopeful when he had finally been able to get this ticket. But this...this was terrible news.

“Now, now. Don’t cry,” Came the Ticket Master’s voice, softer this time, “I know how you must feel. Here, I’ll give you these. Do try to cheer up now, hmm?”

The boy looked up through misty eyes at the large hand that extended to him from over the counter. Curiously, he reached for the handful of cards the man offered. They were playing cards--he had heard that some people used them in duels where the prize could be a large sum of money.

“Those can be really useful if you know how to play them. If you can find him, a person by the name of ‘Alleyway Jack’ should be able to help you. This is the most I can do. Good luck, lad!”

Swiftly, the boy thanked the Ticket Master for his kindness and turned, slowly walking down the street--wondering, the cards clutched to his chest, what he should do now. Maybe he should just enjoy the scenery of Alexandria? After all, even if he weren’t able to see the performance he came here for this kingdom was still quite famous and lively.

Beside him a group of children played jump rope while a merchant sold hats to passerbyers on the corner. Amongst all of the noise and the colors of the crowded town square, a daunting dark alleyway caught his eye. He felt afraid of it, of what he could not see beyond the shadows, but still some strange force beckoned him towards it.

“What about that alleyway person the Ticket Master told me about?” He thought to himself, staring at the cards as he walked. “Alleyway Jack…”

Too distracted to notice, he tripped on a misplaced cobblestone, hurtling face first to the ground.

“Blast it!” Boomed an angry voice.

The boy peered up at a hippo-like man, who stood atop a wooden ladder, glaring down at him disapprovingly. He huffed loudly, stomping down the ladder, his belt of tools clanking.

“Hey! You made me miss you little klutz!” He continued, shaking his fist roughly in the air.
The boy began to stammer out an apology as he clambered to his feet, fixing his hat, but the man had already repositioned the ladder and returned to his work.

He stared up at him, dumbfounded.

A few whacks later the angry worker, whipped his brow and grumbled something to himself about finishing his day’s work before climbing down from his perch again and leaving beyond the alleyway.

The boy, now alone in the dark alley, fidgeted with the small golden buttons on his coat.

“Hey, you! Shrimp!” A small voice came suddenly, accompanied by the pitter-pattering of feet quickly approaching him. A familiar face came into view--it was the rude rat kid from before. “You’re the one with phony ticket, aint’cha?”

The face the boy must have been giving the rat kid somehow prompted him to prod further.

“I saw the guy tell you it was fake!” He continued, almost accusatory.

A thought then occurred to the pointy-hat boy and he found himself asking a question before he could think better of it. “Are you Alleyway Jack?”

The rat kid looked offended. “Do I look like that loser!?” He spat, his hands on his hips. Then he relaxed, brightening, an impish smile stretching across his face. “But I’ll let you in to see the show if you become my slave! Well, whaddya say?”

The boy in the tall hat twiddled his thumbs, shifting his gaze away from the rat kid who was far too close to him. “W-well…” He began, timidly, “Alright…”

“Awesome!” The rat kid cheered, “Now for your first assignment! You go stand over there and see if anyone’s coming!”

The rat kid pointed towards the opening of the alleyway with his tiny clawed hand. His sense of urgency prompted the other boy to swiftly obey him, posting himself firmly before the entrance. He heard the rat kid shuffling across the cobblestone behind him. He wondered what he was planning.

“Is it all clear?” The rat kid called.

The boy did not see anyone coming their way. He turned around, nodding.

“Awesome!” The rat kid answered, grabbing the wooden ladder which lay against the wall. “Engage according to mission parameters!” He teetered unsteadily as he lifted the ladder--nearly twice his size--above his head.

“Let’s go!” He said, racing down the alleyway with the other boy at his tail.

The boy followed the rat kid through a winding road and inside of a tower with stained-glass windows that housed a very tall ladder leading up to a huge brass bell. “Now,” He started, “we’re gonna climb up this tower! It’s pretty dangerous...you go first!”

“Umm, okay…” The pointy-hat boy responded, nervous, but feeling like he had little choice in the matter. He waddled up to the ladder and gripped the side of it. Just as he moved to step onto the first rung, he heard a small mewing sound and the aggressive flapping of wings. He looked up right as a pink puffball landed on his face, knocking him over.

He heard the rat kid’s taunting laughter from behind him. “What the heck was that!?”

The furry little creature jumped off of the boy, flapping it’s tiny bat wings, “Sorry ‘bout that, kupo!” It chirped.

“That’s Kupo, he’s a moogle,” the rat kid clarified.

The moogle nodded and chirped in affirmation.

“And this is slave number one--” the rat kid continued, “try to get along, okay?”

“Kupo! Pleased to meet you!”

“Alright,” the rat kid interrupted, “time for some upward mobility!”

He strode over to the tall ladder, securing the one he had brought with him around his right arm. The moogle and the boy both watched him disappear up the tower, surprised at how effortlessly he handled the extra weight.

“Okay!” A voice echoed from inside the tunnel. “Come on up now, slave!”

The boy walked over to the ladder and gripped one of the bars in his red glove. He stared skyward and saw the silhouette of the rat kid--looking quite small--glaring down at him from a keyhole of light. With a trembling hand he took a step, focusing squarely on the wood grain of each bar as he climbed.

“Alright, the play’s gonna start if we don’t hurry!” The rat kid called, turning for the roof tops, leaving the boy no time to catch his breath upon reaching the top of the tower.
The boy followed the sound of the other child’s footsteps as he walked, not trusting himself to look up as he made his way across the uneven clay tiles. Then, suddenly, the tiles ended leaving only two narrow beams of wood that connected two rooftops. The drop below was dizzying. He found himself fidgeting with his coat buttons again.

“Come on! Get over here!”

The boy didn’t answer.

“Lemme guess...you’re afraid of heights, aren’t you? It’s okay!” He reassured him. “Just pretend you’re on the ground!”

The boy swallowed, hard.

“Just like on the ground,” He told himself in repetition, all the while silently begging his legs to stop shaking.

When he felt the ground level out beneath his feet again he sighed in relief, but the rat kid was far too distracted to care. “Come on already!” He shouted, “We’re running out of time!”

After a few moments the rat kid turned to face the boy sharply, nearly knocking him over with the ladder he carried. “Oh yeah,” he began, “I almost forgot--I don’t even know your name!”

“M-my name’s Vivi.”

“Vivi, huh? Kinda funny name…” He paused. “My name’s Puck! Pleased to meetcha!” He said with a toothy grin.

As they hopped over to the next rooftop and the next and the next, Vivi began to wonder just where Puck was taking him, until he stopped at a small wooden deck overlooking an opening in a stone wall.

“Whew...we finally made it!” He announced, bridging the gap between the rooftop and the deck with his ladder. “After this wall, we’ll be inside the castle!”

Vivi scampered after him as he vanished behind the stone wall.

----

“Wow,” Vivi thought, as they slipped easily beneath a crowd of very posh looking nobles.

Among the pastel gowns and silk ribbons, the prestigious suits and matching bow ties, Vivi and Puck certainly seemed out of place, but they were so quick and nimble that they managed to sneak behind a cluster of chairs, eyeing the brightly lit stage through the gaps.

--

Chapter 1, Part 2: I Want to Be Your Canary

Queen Brahne was not a pretty woman--this was an understatement. She had a bright blue face that was round like a toad, with bulging eyes that gleamed wickedly from under the shadow of her heavy golden crown that doubled as a complicated ornament for her puffy, straw-like hair.

Everything about her was gaudy--from her tacky mismatch robes, to her off-white fur collar, to the pinkish-purple makeup covering more of her face than it should have.

It was a wonder how, her daughter, who sat only a foot or so away, was as beautiful and not-blue as she was.

The princess had dense brown hair that was so clean and glossy, it reflected the stage lights. She had a narrow, pointed jaw and deep, sad eyes framed by a thick mass of eyelashes.

Princess Garnet sighed and bowed her head, clearly not as pleased with this whole production as her mother, who by contrast was already out of her seat--fan fluttering in excitement as she peered over the ledge from which they sat.

In the corner, to her right, stood Adelbert Steiner, Captain of the Knights of Pluto. With his feet firmly planted and his tall sword pointing upward proudly, he almost appeared like a statue--each inch of him decked out in a gleaming plate of steel. He glanced quickly at the princess, a pompous smile stretching across his heavy, broad face.

The stage shuttered, silencing the murmuring crowd briefly before fireworks sprang from the ground and cheers erupted from the audience. The stage began rising, doubling in size, as if decorative pillars grew from the very base of the Prima Vista from which it sat. Like magic, a full band appeared with the rising floor, followed by a spray of fireworks that revealed an even larger stage underneath.

Steiner stood, smirking at the bedazzling display. Certainly, this had already far out done the mundane vestiges of last year’s performance.

“And good timing too,” He thought, his eyes flickering back to the princess.

She remained with her head still bowed, eyes closed and eyebrows pinched, a frown tugging on the corners of her lips. Steiner felt his face fall at the sight of her dismay.
“Ahem,” A low voice began from the stage, “Ladies and Gentleman!”

It was Baku, the theatre production’s leader, standing in the spotlight of the small stage below. He was donning a long red and green robe with a bit of gold and fur trim around the edges--a petite crown was nestled between his pointed pink ears. His pig-snout twitched as he held a gloved hand to the audience.

Their applause waned.

“Tonight’s performance is a story that takes place long, long ago. Our heroine, Princess Cornelia, is torn from her lover, Marcus. She attempts to flee the castle, only to be captured by her father, King Leo. When our story begins, Marcus, having heard of this, crosses swords with the king. And now, Your Royal Majesty, Queen Brahne and Your Highness, Princess Garnet...noble ladies, lords and our rooftop viewers, Tantalus theatre troupe proudly presents “I Want to Be Your Canary”!”

He took a dramatic bow as the band above him bellowed out a foreboding piece. The spot light dimmed and the stage was plunged into blackness. Then, the music softened and several amber lights flickered on, revealing the empty stage set--a mock stone castle surrounded by an array of silk potted plants and iron candelabras. There was a burgundy velvet curtain in the far back of the center stage. The back splash was painted in the rich autumn hues of the sky where the sun had just set.

--
As silence swept over the room, Blank, still backstage called out in his loudest voice “Bereft of father! Bereft of mother! Marcus! Thou hast lost even thy love!”

Cinna stood beside him, Zidane kneeling at his immediate right, all behind the velvet curtain. “Fortune hath escap’d thee!” He followed. “For what end shalt thou live?”

Zidane pulled a meager sword from the shealth at his right, standing and pointing it toward the ceiling. “For the sake of our friend… Let us bury our steel in the heart of the wretched King Leo!” He finished.

The three of them plunged forward as the curtain rolled open. Great sparks of light shot up at the back splash, accompanied by instruments that mimicked the sound of a thunderstorm. They rounded on Baku, who was playing King Leo, guarded by two henchman in leather masks. Marcus, Zidane, Cinna and Blank stood before them, swords drawn.

“We shall back thee, kinsman!” Blank called to Marcus.

“Pray, sheathe thy swords! This villain is mine alone!”

“Nay, kinsman!” Cinna responded. “For I, too, have lost a brother to this fiend!”

The King lashed his fists out in anger. “What ho? Out, vermin! Away!” He drew a sword from his side. “Thou darest bare thy sword before thy king!?” He growled. “All who stand in my way will be crush’d!”

“Treacherous Leo, my kinsman’s suffering shall not be in vain!” Zidane spat. “For I shall instruct thee in his incomparable pain!”

In that moment, Zidane sped toward Baku, the rest of the troupe close at his heels. They engaged in mock battle, clashing swords loudly and dodging blows expertly. Marcus then delivered the ending blow to Baku, pretending to spear him through his side, causing Baku to cry out in pain and stagger backwards. The troupe stepped away, still crouching defensively, watching as Baku kneeled over and crept toward the staircase to the right of the stage.

He clutched his side, groaning, making his way to the balcony above. “Thou hast not seen the last of me, Marcus!” He warned from the landing.

“Come back here!” Zidane yelled, gripping his sword tighter and barreling for stage right.

Blank stepped to block him.

“Out of the way!” Zidane snarled, swiping his sword at the air. Blank avoided it, back flipping up a few stairs. The band above could be heard strumming the opening of Vamo’ Alla Flamenco.

“Consider this, Zidane! If Prince Schneider were to marry Princess Cornealia, peace would reign over both their kingdoms!”

Zidane’s eyebrows furrowed as he shook his head roughly. “‘Tis foolishness! If all were so easy, why, none would suffer in this world!”

Blank turned for the landing above the stairs, Zidane racing him up. Blank faced Zidane, a playful glimmer in his eyes too subtle to have been seen by the audience. He lunged his sword, low at Zidane who lept right over it, following with a swing of his own. The two of them continued in this way, almost as if dancing, one trying to best the other, both having thoroughly memorized these moves. Suddenly Blank jumped from the balcony, landing easily on the main stage below. He took off through the crowd with Zidane in hot pursuit, nearly tripping Marcus in the process.

Blank stopped, turning to face Zidane before the audience, now right before the barricade from which the nobles sat.

“En garde!” He called.

“Expect no quarter from me!” Zidane threw his sword at him again.

The crowd cheered and clapped, enthralled by the display. Zidane beamed and briefly allowed a grin to play on his lips as he threw himself into the air, twirling before clashing swords with Blank.

“Show off,” Blank sneered as Zidane met him, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Can’t help it,” Zidane responded under his breath, pulling his sword back, his face obscured by his long hair.

He could see a trickle of sweat beading from under Blank’s headband. His eyes darted to the right of him, tail swishing amusedly across the dusty stone floor. Blank got the hint.

“We shall finish this later!”

He turned, darting back down the walkway. They both ran, disappearing around a stone wall as the lights dimmed and the crowd slowly became quiet again, turning their attention back to the main stage.

“Hah.. nice segway,” Blank huffed, catching his breath as they slid behind a statue in the shadowy hallway. “Although, I wish we had rehearsed that last part before today.”

Zidane snorted before leaning his prop sword against the wall. “Yeah, the boss didn’t really give us much warning about the layout of the inside of the castle, huh?”

They both peered out into the hallway. It was dark and quiet, save for the murmuring of conversation around the corridor.

“Guards,” Blank whispered. Zidane nodded.

They both slunk out from behind their hiding place, scaling the wall until two castle guards, outfitted in plates of steel, came into view. The guards were chatting idly, completely unaware of what awaited them around the bend.

Zidane could barely make out Blank’s face beside him, glowing in the dim fire light of the next hallway over. He put a finger to his lips-- “shhh” --smiling as he backed himself against the wall opposite of Blank. He started to count down silently, mouthing the words.

“Three...two...one!”

At once they both lurched forward, catching the helmet-less guards from behind, arms wrapping tightly around their necks. The clanking of metal and shallow choking noises could be heard as the guards struggled in their shock before succumbing and slumping helplessly onto the floor.

---

“Ugh, this thing stinks!” Zidane groaned, tossing the guard’s helmet to the side.“Hasn’t this guy ever heard of a bath?”

Both Blank and Zidane stood clad in the guards’ armor. A few feet away, two men lay unconscious in their under garments, pushed up against a wall.

“Yeah, my helmet totally reeks,” Blank agreed. “My armor’s way too big and my back’s real itchy...the boots are wet and my gloves are all slimy…” Blank started to turn his pockets inside out, food crumbs spilling out.

“Okay, okay, I get the picture,” Zidane said, rolling his eyes.

He put his hands on his hips, looking at Blank expectantly.

“You still have them, right?” Zidane motioned to a jar, poking out from inside Blank’s over sized pants pocket.

Blank clasped his hand over the lid, narrowing his eyes slightly at his friend. “Don’t worry about me, I won’t screw up.” He assured him.

Zidane started towards the door, watching for passerbyers in the hall. He could see a wide stone staircase before him and hear the band playing softly upstairs, the sound distant in the spacious foyer. Blank moved beside him.

“Alright, they should be upstairs at the balcony overlooking the stage. The interlude is coming up, which means there’ll be a cart somewhere nearby with drinks for the royal family. I’ll pour the sleeping potion into their tea, after they’ve drank it we’ll have to act fast and take their guards out--quietly, before they have time to react.”

“Right,” Blank whispered back, pushing his headband up slightly, before they both slid out into the large hall.

As they crept up the long staircase, a thunderous roar of ‘awe’s’ could be heard from the audience just outside.

“Uh oh, sounds like the scene where Marcus sneaks into Cornelia’s chamber is about to start,” Blank said in a hushed voice. “We’ve gotta act fast.”

Zidane narrowed his eyes, hugging the cold railing as they rounded the top of the large staircase--the noise from outside growing ever louder as they climbed.
Just as the stone-tile landing of the second floor came into view however, Zidane heard a heavy thudding sound to the left of him that had him shrinking back behind the wide banister. He put his arm out, blocking Blank from proceeding as he followed the sight of a petite shadow skirting across the floor above.

“Footsteps,” He thought. “And a lightweight by the sound of it.”

The figure was obscured in shadow, thanks to a single candle-lit chandelier above them. They seemed to be moving rather slowly, carefully, as if not to disturb the silence of the room.

He leaned closer, daringly peering around the railing.

The figure was quite small indeed--they wore a long white cloak patterned sparsely with bright red diamonds near the waist where it was cinched in by a matching belt. He could see the outline of their narrow legs, extending from beneath the over sized garment they wore on top, ending in a pair of ruby-red short heeled boots.

“A woman,” Zidane silently corrected himself. He felt his unruly tail twitch from within his baggy pant leg.

Something strange seemed to possess him then, causing him to stand upright and move toward her in a kind of heady trance.

She gasped, stepping backward as Zidane suddenly approached her in the dark. A halo of candle light came over her face, illuminating it in a warm amber glow.

Her eyes were full and dark, catching each flicker of light like the water’s surface to the night sky. Her eyelashes, delicately curled, cast a spider-like shadow across her high cheekbones.

Her lips--which appeared full and soft were parted slightly beneath a cute and slender nose.
Though she appeared contorted in surprise, Zidane’s breath left him momentarily at the sight of her. His mind seemed to wander and he found his kneecaps buckling.

“Umm…” The girl’s voice came, softly, with a tinge of discernment. “Would you please let me pass?”

Without thinking, Zidane obliged, stepping backward narrowly. She broke eye contact with him, dipping her face beneath her hood and a veil of fine, dark hair.

As if being broken from a spell, suddenly Zidane came back to himself, remembering where he was and what he was doing.

A jolt raced up his spine and instantly, he stepped in front of her again.
“Wait, hold on a sec,” he blurted out. She glanced up at him, quickly defusing an emotion from her face. “Haven’t we met before?” Zidane continued, straightening his posture and tilting his head inquisitively.

Her face briefly grew pensive and then mildly agitated.

“No, I do not know you…” She responded in a low voice.

Zidane crossed his arms and bit his lower lip, feeling his trademark smirk teasing at the edge of his mouth. A familiar tightening swelled in his chest as he walked around her, his eyes memorizing her shape.

“Maybe you’re right…” He murmured, circling back around to her front. She followed his every movement defensively, attempting to read him. “I’d never let someone as pretty as you get away.”

Her gaze wavered slightly as color bloomed demurely under her cheeks.

“Zidane!” A voice spat from across the hall, causing them both to flinch in response.

He looked to the shadows and saw Blank, kneeling by the staircase, wearing a hard expression. Before Zidane had time to react however, the girl before him shoved roughly against his chest and he staggered backwards.

“I-I must go!” She exclaimed, pushing past him and barreling down the stairs past Blank.

“Who the heck was that!?” Blank asked, grabbing Zidane by the arm as he started after her.

“That was the Princess!” Zidane hissed, taking his arm back. “Come on!”

“Are you serious?!” Blank called from behind him.

Zidane's heart was thudding heavily in his chest, whether from nerves or excitement he couldn’t tell, all he knew was that he couldn’t let her slip away, after all they had a princess to kidnap.