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We Will Be

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Chapter one – We’re going on a trip

“Have you ever seen a chocobo?” Prompto asked.

“Yeah. We have chocobo races every year in Insomnia,” Noctis replied.

Prompto’s face lit up in excitement. His eyes widened at the very prospect of going to see these races. Noctis giggled a little at his friend’s excitement. Before Prompto could notice that he’d headed into daydream land, Noctis grabbed the camera from the bed and took a photo of his friend. Prompto blinked the flash out of his eyes.

“Why’d you do that?” he asked.

“You’re always taking photos of me. I wanna see some of you!” Noctis said. “And your face was funny.” He paused for a second, frowning the way eight year olds did when considering what next to say. “Maybe when I’m better you can come with us to Insomnia and we can have a special chocobo race.”

Prompto bounced onto the bed in joy, cheering. He pulled Noctis into a hug and the two started giggling.

They were happy together, back then.


 

“The decreed hour is come. Set forth with my blessing, Prince Noctis.”

Annoyed that despite this being the last time he would see his father for a while they still had to go through with all the formalities, Noctis bowed to King Regis. “Thank you… Your Majesty.”

He could sense Aranea’s subtle eyeroll.

“Take your leave and go in the grace of the gods,” Regis said.

“Right.” Noctis straightened up.

He turned and walked away, past his three best friends. Lunafreya Fleuret, Iris Amicitia, Aranea Highwind. The Prince’s Angels. They would be making the journey to Altissia alongside him, acting as his retinue and bodyguards during the trip. They would also be the sole members of his side at the wedding, since well, his dad wasn’t coming.

That kinda sucked.

The Angels all bowed to the King before turning and following Noctis out of the throne room. Staff members bowed to the Prince as they made their way outside. Their car, the Regalia, was ready and waiting. Everything had been packed within, including magically enhanced bags that could be summoned like weapons. Those were going to be a lifesaver during camping. Noctis handed the keys over to Aranea; they’d all decided that she’d be doing the bulk of the driving.

“That was a little rude, walking away from your father like that,” Luna said.

“I’m agreeing with Souvenirs on this one.” Aranea turned to Noctis. “You see that creature jumping out the window? That’s the royal protocol you just ignored.”

“Geez Noct. Not like you were supposed to deliver a speech or anything,” Iris added.

“Your Highness!”

Noctis turned around to see his father coming down the steps, accompanied by Captain Drautos of the Kingsglaive. He slowly made his way down, leaning heavily on his cane. Noctis sighed. “What now?” He walked up towards his father.

“I fear I have left too much unsaid,” Regis said, gazing sadly at his son. “You place a great burden on those who would bear with you.”

“You’re one to talk,” Noctis shot back.

Regis looked towards the Angels. “I ask not that you guide my wayward son, merely that you remain at his side.”

“We shall, Your Majesty,” Aranea replied, bowing slightly.

“Don’t worry Uncle Reggie,” Iris said. “We’ll see Noct to Altissia.”

“You can count on us, sire,” Luna said.

“Hate to break this up but the car’s running,” Noctis said, turning to his friends. “Drautos, he’s in your hands.”

Regis took another step towards Noctis. “And another thing. Do mind your manners around your charming groom-to-be.”

Noctis smiled and gave a theatrical bow. “Your Majesty, as well. Try to mind yours around our esteemed guests from Niflheim.”

“You have no cause for concern.” Regis chuckled slightly.

“Nor do you.”

“Take heed. Once you set forth you cannot turn back.”

“You think I would?”

“I need only know that you are ready to leave home behind.”

“Don’t know about you but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” Noctis smiled at his father. “Don’t worry about that.”

“Take care on the long road,” Regis said, stepping towards him. “Wheresoever you should go, the line of Lucis goes with you.” He put a hand on Noctis’ shoulder. “Walk tall, my son.”


 

Several hours later

Noctis was not currently walking tall. He was sitting on the road next to the Regalia. Lunafreya sat next to him, leaning back against the car. Iris was lying on the road. The only one standing was Aranea, who was desperately trying to signal for a passing car to stop. The car drove past.

“I hope you choke on your own shit,” Aranea muttered. “Everybody up. We want this car to get to Hammerhead before the daemons come out.”

Iris groaned. “We have time, A! It’s only ten in the morning! Let us reeeeesst!”

“No. Up.” Aranea nudged Iris with her foot. “Pretty Boy, Souvenirs, up.”

Grumbling slightly, Noctis hauled himself to his feet, Luna following him up. Aranea physically yanked Iris up from the ground, causing the other to whine. They resumed what they had been doing earlier before taking their break: pushing the Regalia. Iris and Aranea were pushing at the back while Noctis pushed at the left and Luna at the right.

The burning Leide sun beat down on them as they pushed the car along. All of them were exhausted; they’d gotten up early after having been up late making final checks and preparations. The Regalia broke down a few miles out from the Insomnia gateway. Not exactly a perfect start to their road-trip.

“Hey Noct! Think we oughta take a photo of this?” Iris asked.

“Iris, shut up,” Noctis replied.

“You did say you were going to take photos of everything important,” Luna pointed out. “Why not commemorate our first break-down?”

Noctis shot her a glare. “Less talking, more pushing.”

More cars passed by. Aranea glared at them. “Oh look, more people not acting like decent human beings.”

“Can we all agree to not mention this to Lord Prompto?” Iris said. “Kinda embarrassing that the first thing we do is push this damn hunk of junk.”

“This hunk of junk got our dads through the war,” Noctis replied.

“What happened to less talking and more pushing?” Aranea demanded. “Ugh. Hammerhead isn’t close enough.”

It took them a couple of hours but they finally made it to Hammerhead. Iris promptly fell to the ground again. She let out a weak cheer before begging for food. Luna and Aranea asked around to try and figure out where the mechanics were. Noctis grabbed a bag of chips from the ‘snack stash’ and chucked them at Iris. He leaned against the back of the car.

“And you must be the Prince!” Noctis turned his head to see a young woman approaching him with Aranea and Luna. She was covered in grease stains.

“That’s me,” Noctis said, walking towards her. “Iris, up.”

Iris moaned while the woman laughed. “Well I’ll be. The Regalia’s back in Hammerhead. Paw-paw ain’t showin’ it, but he’s mighty excited.”

“So you must be Cindy,” Noctis replied.

“Yup. Cid’s grease-monkey granddaughter,” Cindy said. “Nice to see Lord Prompto’s groom-to-be here in Hammerhead.”

Noctis laughed slightly. “Not hitched just yet.”

“Roll her in while I’m still young,” an older voice said. An old man walked up to the car. “Didn’t yer daddy ever tell you? She’s a custom classic, not some beat-up old clunker.” The old man, assumedly Cid, turned his head to Noctis. “Prince Noctis.”

“Uh, yeah,” Noctis said.

Cid snorted. “‘Prince.’ Like they took your old man and kicked the dignity out of him.”

“What?” Noctis didn’t know how to respond to that.

“You’ve got a long way to go, son. And that slack jaw’s gettin’ you nowhere fast,” Cid commented. He gave the car a calculating look. “She’s gonna take a while. Y’all get her in and run along.”

He walked off into the garage. Cindy sighed. “Y’all heard him. Let’s get movin’. Right this way.”

With her help, Noctis and the others pushed the car into the garage. Aranea handed the keys over to Cindy. From there they headed to the diner close to the garage. They could all do with some food after pushing the car several miles along towards Hammerhead. Not many people were in the diner, which suited them all just fine. They wanted to remain as incognito as possible; the alternative would be large amounts of people flocking to get a good look at the Prince. There had been a scare when the diner owner, Taka, recognised Noctis. Thankfully, he stayed quiet about it.

Aranea handled ordering the food. They sat down at a table and began to scoff down burgers and fries. In another time, Noctis would have tried to pass his vegetables off to Luna. He’d done it all the time during school. Yet now he was under the watchful eye of Aranea Highwind. He ate the vegetables. At least they didn’t taste as bad as they had when he was a kid.

“We have enough gil, right?” Luna asked.

“Don’t worry,” Aranea replied. “We have enough to pay for the repairs and some food. But no going off and buying souvenirs.”

“Why’s that?” Noctis asked before complaints could begin. Luna was pouting at Aranea; she loved buying souvenirs.

Aranea gave him a wicked smile. “Because Old Cranky is charging us a damn lot. We’re gonna be camping for as many nights as possible until we can get some more money. No unnecessary spending.”

“How much money do we actually have left?” Iris asked.

“Let’s just leave it at ‘enough’,” Aranea replied.

“It’s not enough,” Noctis said.

“It’s not enough,” Aranea agreed. “Not to keep us going for long. I propose we speak to Cid or Cindy. Convince them to lower the costs for us. Then we see if there’s any odd jobs we can do for money before heading to Galdin. Thank the Six that they’ve already agreed to give us free rooms there. Uncle Ricard, you are a saint. Noctis, please have Lord Prompto confirm my uncle as a saint for saving us money.”

Noctis snorted. “Anybody who saves you money is a saint in your book, Aranea.”

“Saving money is a saintly action,” Aranea replied.

The trip definitely hadn’t gotten to a good start. The car breaks down, they spend most of what they have fixing it… no. It wasn’t a good start. Deep down, Noctis hoped that this was the worst they’d have to deal with. Sure they were prepared to take down monsters and other hostiles but if they could avoid that, that was fine. Noctis just wanted to get to Altissia, marry Prompto, go home, and enjoy leaving in a peacetime.

He and the girls finished up their food and headed outside to find Cindy. It was still extremely hot and being around the outpost fuel station wasn’t helping. The small Hammerhead town was being baked by the sun. They found Cindy taking a break outside. She gave them a friendly wave.

“Bad news. It’s gonna take a couple days to fix her up,” she said. “Best you find a way to keep occupied.”

“Any suggestions?” Noctis asked.

“Preferably ones that bring us money?” Aranea added.

Cindy laughed. “Price a bit high for ya? Guess that’s what Paw-paw meant when he said he was gonna ‘teach them Insomnians a lesson’. Listen, I know it ain’t fair on y’all.”

“Can you help us out with the costs?” Luna asked.

“I’ll give ya some money as a gift. My suggestion? We got some ornery varmints causin’ a ruckus nearby. You guys handle ’em and the Hunters’ll pay ya,” Cindy replied. “I’ve got a flyer and a location here. Just don’t stay out after dark. Daemons might rip y’all to shreds.”

“Thanks Cindy,” Noctis said.

Cindy gave him the flyer and quickly exchanged numbers with him before heading back off to the garage. Noctis handed the location over to Iris, who had much better map skills and spatial awareness. She quickly figured out which way to go and they set off. Their location was across the main road and amongst the open spaces of Three Valleys.

“Everybody ready for a fight?” Noctis asked. The girls gave him positive responses. “Because I think those are our targets.”

He pointed to a group of reapertails that were gathered near some kind of broken machine. They matched up with the information they’d been given. All four of them equipped their weapons. Noctis had his engine blade, Aranea had her javelin, Luna had her guns, and Iris… there was a reason Aranea called her ‘Shredded’ and a reason why Iris was jokingly known as the mascot for ‘Small Girl, Big Sword’. In true Amicitia fashion, she wielded a greatsword. They slowly approached the group of about seven reapertails.

“Noct. Warp in and catch them by surprise,” Aranea whispered. “Blitz it while we get over there. Luna, hang back and shoot to your hearts content. They should start grouping towards the rest of us if we cluster together. Any stragglers or runaways, shoot or warp. Whoever notices first.”

Noctis nodded at her. He gripped his sword before throwing it towards one of the reapertails. He warped to it, striking it hard. Before the creature could react, he slashed at it a few times, killing it. Another one lunged at him and Noctis parried it. Several gunshots were heard and it screeched, falling away from Noctis and giving him an opening to stab it. He yelled a ‘thank you’ at Luna. Iris and Aranea reached him. Iris blocked incoming monsters with her sword while Aranea and Noctis stabbed at them. Luna kept shooting at ones coming at their blindspot.

“Straggler!” Iris yelled, jerking her head towards one.

“Got it!” Noctis yelled, warp-striking it. He slashed at it until it died. “Any more?”

Dusting herself off, Aranea surveyed the area. “All good. That’s one group down, two to go.”

They checked each other for injuries while Luna took photos of the dead creatures on her phone. Those were acceptable proof of their victory. As they set off towards the next destination, Noctis took a look at the destroyed machine near them.

“What happened?” Iris asked.

“Something got broken,” Aranea replied. Iris rolled her eyes. “You asked.”

“Be nice, Aranea,” Noctis said. “Looks like the telegraph pole split in two.”

Luna stared up at it. “Natural disaster?”

“Possibly,” Aranea said. “Hammerhead looks fine to me though.”

Noctis shrugged at them. “Let’s just head onwards.”


 

They found the other two groups of reapertails easily enough. Took them out easily too. For their first time taking on monsters outside of a controlled environment, they were doing pretty good. Aranea insisted on ‘post-kill victory photos’ to show to Prompto when they got to Altissia. The others indulged her, naturally. It was a semi-important milestone after all.

When they were done they headed back to Hammerhead. The tipster (Takka) was more than happy to pay up the reward money. After checking in with Cindy, they decided to take on a couple more hunts. The Regalia hadn’t been fixed yet and probably wouldn’t be back in action until the next day. They headed out once more, looking for their targets.

After a few more hunts, it was starting to get dark. They camped, Aranea thanking the gods for the invention of summonable bags. She then proceeded to curse them after she drew the short straw and was on cooking duty. While Iris checked out all the items she’d gathered that day, Noctis and Luna picked out photos to show to Prompto.

To Noctis’ regret, Luna insisted on a photo that Aranea had snapped of him almost falling over.

Morning hit and they somehow (through a miracle) managed to take out a mutant dualhorn that had been giving the head hunter trouble. And finally, thankfully, Cindy rang them to let them know that the Regalia was back in working order.

“Comfortable seats, here we come,” Noctis said as they were walking back.

“Seats for you to nap in,” Iris said.

“Can’t let the Prince go without his beauty sleep,” Aranea added.

Luna giggled slightly. “We can’t indeed.”

Noctis only pouted at them.

Finally, they arrived back at Hammerhead. They claimed their hunt rewards and went to meet Cindy at the garage. The Regalia was standing in front of it in all its glory. Cindy stood next to it, grinning at them.

“Kept a girl waiting! Here she is, all fixed up for ya!” she called.

“Thanks Cindy,” Noctis said.

Luna grabbed the camera and handed it to Cindy. “We need to take a photo for Lord Prompto!”

She showed Cindy how the camera worked and they got into position. Luna and Noctis stood back to back on the one side of the car while Iris and Aranea stood by the other. Iris did a jazz hands motion towards it. Cindy laughed at them before taking the photo. They all crowded around her to have a look. It was a good photo and Luna ran off with the camera to get it and the others they had taken printed at Taka’s.

Cindy was making a couple of final checks. “She oughta getcha there and back with absolutely no trouble.”

“Thanks so much for all of your help, Miss Cindy,” Luna said.

“Well… err… yeah! N-n-no problem sweetie!” Cindy stuttered, blushing bright red.

While Luna continued on oblivious, Noctis, Iris, and Aranea all exchanged conspiratorial glances.

“Smooth, Grease Monkey,” Aranea whispered to Cindy. She raised her voice when she spoke next. “Alright! Everybody in!”

They set off shortly after. Aranea advised that they should head for Longwythe and spend the night there before finally getting to Galdin. With luck, there would be a boat all ready to take them across to Altissia.

“Hunting does make you think, doesn’t it?” Luna said as they drove along.

Aranea didn’t take her eyes off the road. “Think about what?”

“About how lucky we are in the Crown City,” Luna replied. “We don’t have to worry about beasts or daemons. Towns are so small out here that they have to.”

“Does make you feel kinda lucky,” Iris mused.

Noctis nodded. “Guess that’s why there’s all that talk about the Hunters being just as strong as the Crownsguard.”

“They act like the Crownsguard out here,” Aranea said. “Protect the citizens and all that.”

They pulled into Longwythe shortly after. Noctis refuelled the car while Aranea went to secure rooms for them. As they all made their way towards the nearby diner, a bark caught their attention. Noctis turned to see a white dog with a book strapped to its back walk towards him. There was a collar made of ribbon around its neck.

“Pryna!” Noctis exclaimed, crouching down to pet her.

“There is something weird about that dog,” Aranea commented.

Iris raised her eyebrows. “Only just figured that out?”

Luna crouched down next to Noctis as he opened the book. “What’s he sent you?”

Noctis held the book out to her. There was a photo of a blond young man next to a small pile of luggage. The man was grinning his head off. There was a caption scrawled nearby. Setting off! Can’t wait to see you again! xx

Noctis smiled at the photo. Luna quickly handed him their photos, some tape, and a pen. Noctis stuck in the one of them standing by the car and quickly scribbled something next to it. On our way. Bet I’m more excited. Angels say hi. He gave Pryna another stroke before closing the photo album and strapping it back to the dog. Pryna barked at him before running off.

“Okay, touching gooey feeling stuff aside, let’s go and eat,” Aranea said.

“You might get to see Prompto tomorrow!” Iris exclaimed.

“If we can catch the ferry,” Luna said. “And if we get to Altissia in good time.”

Noctis shrugged. “Who knows?”

He really hoped that he got to see Prompto tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Chapter two – Do you walk in the valley of Kings?

Noctis sat on the bed in his guest room. Prompto sat next to him. They were looking at a photo Queen Sylva had kindly taken for them earlier. Prompto standing next to Noctis, who was sat in his wheelchair. They were wearing blue flower crowns. Several similar blue flowers sat next to them on the bed. Sylleblossoms.

“Hey, Noct?” Prompto said. “Do you think you could take the photo album to Lucis with you?”

“Sure,” Noctis replied. “But don’t you want to keep it?”

“Maybe we could use Pryna and Umbra and send it back and forth! And we can keep adding photos to it,” Prompto said. “I wanna see what Lucis is like!”

“Sure, I’ll do that,” Noctis replied. He started messing with one of the flowers. “Hey, maybe one day we can get married and you can come to Lucis with me then. Would that make you happy?”

Prompto blushed as Noctis slipped a flower ring on his finger. “Yeah! That would make me really happy! The happiest person ever!”


 

It occurred to Noctis that he might have to get used to Aranea and her wake up calls. What didn’t help was that Luna and Iris insisted on helping her this morning. He’d been attacked by three expertly wielded pillows until he finally got out of bed. At the very least they gave him coffee. Coffee was going to be their survival mechanism if this trip lasted too much longer.

Coffee in their systems along with food, they set off once more. Today, Noctis was driving. Iris insisted on giving directions from the back of the car while Aranea and Luna took turns taking photos. The photos thing was okay but Noctis was getting a little annoyed with Iris practically jumping out of her seat and yelling at him if even slightly looked like he’d go the wrong way.

Not too much later, they arrived in Galdin Quay. The pier stood on the beach and a small village off to the side. The hazy light of a haven stood further off on the other side. Iris let out a cheer as they parked up. All four of them climbed out of the car.

“Woah,” Iris whispered.

“Been a while since you’ve seen the sea?” Luna asked.

Iris nodded. “Yeah. Gotta admit, that is pretty cool.”

“Photo time?” Aranea asked.

Noctis was already getting the camera ready.

A few photos later and they made their way to the pier. The famous Galdin Hotel stood upon it. If they couldn’t catch the ferry, that’s where they’d be staying. The four walking along to the main building. A man with dark red hair and strange clothing walked towards them. Noctis frowned slightly as he drew closer; there was something extremely familiar about him.

“I’m afraid you’re out of luck,” the man said, holding his hands out.

“Are we?” Noctis asked.

The man smiled at him. “The boats bring you here, but they shan’t take you forth.”

“And why’s that?” Aranea asked.

The man chuckled slightly. “Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer for that.”

“Who are you?” Luna said. She was already preparing to summon her guns.

“An impatient traveller, ready to turn ship.” He walked through the group. “The ceasefire’s getting us nowhere.”

He flicked something towards Noctis and Iris managed to catch it. “A coin? We’re good for money.”

“Souvenir for me?” Luna jokingly asked.

The man pointed at Noctis. “Consider it your allowance.”

“Allowance for what?” Noctis said.

“And who the hell are you, exactly?” Aranea added.

The man shrugged and gave them another creepy smile. “A man of no consequence.”

He turned and walked away towards Galdin Village. Noctis couldn’t help but feel as if he should recognise that man. There was something really off-putting about him. A kind of slimy quality. A quick glance at the others’ faces told Noctis that they were feeling the same. He repressed a shudder before turning and walking into Galdin Quay.

“I feel like I should recognise him,” Aranea muttered.

“Wow. It’s not just me,” Iris said.

Noctis nodded. “Me too.”

“And me,” Luna said. “He… unsettled me. Let’s just go and check the boats.”

Nobody argued with that call. They made their way through the restaurant area (somehow resisting the urge to eat some of the delicious smelling food). A small group of people were gathered near the ticket office. An exhausted looking official was trying to talk over them. Noctis and the Angels made their way towards the front of the group.

“Excuse me, but the ferry,” Aranea began. “Is it-”

“Enough! The ferry isn’t running, I don’t know when it will be running, just stop asking me!” the official cried.

He stormed past the upset crowd. Noctis slumped down onto a nearby bench. He’d been so hoping that they could just get to Altissia already. Luna and Iris sat down next to him. Aranea muttered something about trying to figure out what was going on before heading off. Noctis put his head in his hands while Luna put a comforting arm around him.

“Looks like the creep from earlier was right,” Iris said.

Noctis sat back up. “No boats for us.”

“Plenty of time for you to go fishing,” Luna said. “And thank the Astrals that Aranea’s uncle owns shares in the hotel. We wouldn’t get free rooms otherwise.”

Aranea made her way back to them. “Bad news. They don’t think the boats are gonna run until the treaty’s been signed. And that’s a couple of days away.” She gave Noctis a smile. “On the bright side, plenty of time to do some hunts. May as well help out the lovely people giving us free rooms.”

Noctis groaned into his hands.


 

A few days passed by and they were still stuck in Galdin. It had been repeated hunting and fishing and not much else. No boats had arrived. They’d exhausted their photo taking; Angelgard only had so many angles. They’d fed a hungry cat. They’d helped out a reporter/amateur jeweller (since the asshole blackmailed them with the threat of releasing their identities to all and sundry).

It was getting really tedious.

There had been one big event. Luna received a number of texts from Ravus, telling her that a close friend had died. A Glaive who had been on a mission. Luna had holed herself away for a couple of hours before emerging and smiling once more.

“Pelna wouldn’t have wanted me to mope. He would want me to move forwards,” she said. Still, they all promised to be there for her.

They were now lounging around in the girls’ room. Aranea had gone to buy a newspaper, since signal was currently down in Insomnia. It would be the only way they got news from the city. Luna had been trying Ravus and other Glaives, not getting anything. Iris and Noctis couldn’t get a hold of anybody either. So they were resorting to the papers.

Aranea walked in with one of them. Almost immediately the others could tell something was wrong. She was clutching the paper so tightly that her knuckles had turned white. Her eyes were downcast, avoiding the others’ gazes. She bit her lip.

“A? What’s up?” Iris asked.

“I…I… it’s in all the papers. All of them,” Aranea said. Her voice was tight.

She handed the paper over to Noctis. He took a look at the headline. Insomnia Falls. He dropped the paper. “Is this some kind of a joke?!”

“I’m so sorry. But all of them said the same thing.” Aranea sat down on the bed as Luna picked the paper up. “Read the rest.”

“‘Firing broke out in the treaty room. When the smoke cleared, King Regis and his council…’” Luna paused. She took a deep breath. “King Regis and his council were found dead. Prince Noctis and Lord Prompto have also been declared dead.’ Oh gods.”

“What?!” Iris exclaimed. She grabbed the paper and took a look at it herself. “Oh shit. Six no. No. No. Please no. Aranea, please. Tell me this isn’t… this isn’t…”

Aranea clasped her hands together. “I don’t like it either but-”

“This is wrong!” Noctis yelled. “It’s lies! They can’t… Dad can’t!”

Aranea looked up at him. Her eyes were watering. “They can. Noctis, they’re gone. Yeah they’re lying about you and hopefully they’re lying about Prompto but they’re not lying about your dad. Noctis, he’s gone. He’s gone and my uncle’s probably gone and… just FUCK!”

She slammed her hand hard into the bed. Iris had slumped to the ground and Luna stood off to the side, rubbing at her wrist. Noctis stood in the centre of the room, completely overwhelmed. Everyone looked like they were about to burst into tears. Aranea’s only living family member was on the council; he was probably dead. Iris’ dad was probably dead, King’s Shield and all that. Luna’s brother was a Glaive. If he hadn’t died protecting the King then he might have died in the fighting that surely broke out. He would have been without magic.

“What do we do now?” Luna whispered.

Noctis looked out the window. “We go back. We see what the hell is going on.”

“It’s going to be dangerous,” Aranea mumbled.

“Who the fuck cares right now?” Noctis replied. “Come on. Grab your stuff.”


 

Traffic going towards Insomnia was heavy. Everyone with family or friends behind the Wall wanted to go and find them. Wanted to figure out whether they were safe or not. They’d been driving almost non-stop since the morning, when they’d found out about the attack on the city. None of them had spoken much. Luna had been trying to ring Ravus or Crowe or Libertus, insistent that one of them had to be alive.

“I should have known something bad was going to happen,” she mumbled to herself. “As soon as Ravus told me that Pelna died. Why would he die in a ceasefire? I should have known.”

“There was no way to know,” Aranea said. They drew closer to the gateway. “Shit. Imperials have a checkpoint.”

“Hill on the left.” Iris pointed at the hill.

Aranea pulled into the hill and they drove up to an abandoned base. At least, they thought it was abandoned. They could see Imperial soldiers walking around in it. Aranea parked the car out of sight. They got out and slowly made their way towards the base. Noctis pushed the hair from his forehead when the rain flattened it down.

Not even bothering to wait for Aranea to assess the situation and come up with a plan like usual, Noctis threw his sword at one of the soldiers and warped. There were confused shouts. Noctis stabbed the sword in further and warp-striked one of the snipers. By this point, the girls had managed to run in. Luna started to shoot at soldiers while the others attacked them. A larger group of soldiers ran towards them. Noctis threw a fire spell at them before they could attack the others. He warped down when the area was clear.

Aranea walked over and punched his shoulder. “Do not do something reckless like that again.”

“Ara-”

“Shut up. I don’t want to hear it. You stay with us unless a plan requires you to separate. No questions. We need to stick together,” she snapped.

Luna was shaking over at the side. “Six, we killed them.”

Iris put an arm around her. “It’s… this… this is war. They broke the terms. We’re at war again. It happens. We can puke over it later, okay?”

They proceeded onwards. Noctis barely spoke as they took down every soldier they saw. They had to stop when Luna watched a man die slowly with one of her bullets in him and everyone too preoccupied to put him out of his misery. She puked up everything and Aranea stood with her, holding her hair back. Noctis and Iris kept a watch for any more soldiers.

There was a hill just beyond the base and a crag that offered a good view of Insomnia. Smoke was still rising from the city and if Noctis squinted, he could see large, broken statues standing within. They looked like the statues that his father had once told him would form the Old Wall in Insomnia’s darkest hours.

His phone began to ring. Noctis pressed it to his ear. “Who is it?”

Your Highness. You are alive,” the cool, calm voice of Marshal Gentiana came through.

“Gentiana? What the hell is going on?!” Noctis snapped.

Where are you?” Gentiana asked.

“Outside the city with no way back in.”

“I see.”

“What the hell is going on Gentiana?! The news is saying that I’m dead, that Dad’s dead, that Prompto’s dead!”

“The King is dead. Those of us with magic lost it during the battle. I am so very sorry, Your Highness.”

“You’re sorry?! Sorry doesn’t bring back my father!”

“I know. If I could bring him back, rest assured that I would. But you must remain calm. You are not in a safe position to let out your anger. Wait a little while. I am heading out to Prairie Outpost. Please. I ask that you and your Angels meet me there. Please tell Lady Iris that Lord Gladiolus is safe and in Lestallum.”

“The Empire. What are doing about the Empire?”

“That is up to you. Meet me at Prairie. It is time for you to receive your ancestors’ power, as promised to the King.”

“Wait, wha-” Gentiana cut off before he could finish speaking.

Aranea walked over to him. “The Marshal?” Noctis nodded. “What did she have to say?”

“Dad’s dead,” Noctis said. “Prompto might be alive.”

“What about everyone else? My dad? Gladio?” Iris asked.

“She said Gladio’s okay. He’s gone to Lestallum. Didn’t mention anyone else.”

Iris closed her eyes and whispered a ‘thank you’ to the sky. “He’s okay…”

“What else did the Marshal say?” Luna asked.

“She wants us to meet her at Prairie Outpost. Said something about my ancestors’ power,” Noctis replied. “I don’t know what the hell she’s on about.”

Aranea looked out at the city. “Staying here is a risk. We might as well see what Marshal Gentiana wants. She’s probably got a plan to take back the city.”

Luna nodded. “We can hope.”


 

It took them two days to reach Prairie. They’d stopped for a while back in Hammerhead. Cid and Cindy lent them a couple of rooms, telling them how sorry they were. In the night they could hear Cid getting drunk and telling ‘Reggie’ that he was ‘so damn sorry’. The four ended up lying together in an upset pile, crying over all that they’d lost.

Prairie Outpost was much smaller that Hammerhead or Longwythe and had no town or village attached to it. There were just some Hunters buildings. Dave the Head Hunter had gone up to Prairie with a large number of his order. He’d told Noctis and the others that Marshal Gentiana had asked for their help while most of the Crownsguard remnants were stuck in Duscae and Cleigne.

“Where’s the Marshal?” Aranea said.

“Ask around? Somebody has to have seen her,” Iris replied.

They didn’t need to ask around. Somebody approached them. “Your Highness. Countess Highwind. Lady Amicitia. Miss Fleuret.”

“Monica!” Iris exclaimed. “You made it out!”

Monica Elshett of the Crownsguard bowed slightly. “I did, milady. Marshal Gentiana sent me to tell you that she’s at the Royal Tomb.”

“Do you have any news on our families?” Aranea asked.

“Mostly speculation. We’re trying to re-establish contact with groups still inside the city. We are fairly certain that the council is all dead. We confirmed the King’s death when the Marshal’s magic left her,” Monica replied. “My brother Dustin escorted Lord Gladiolus out of the city. I’m sure the Marshal told you, but he’s in Lestallum at your family’s hotel, Lady Iris. Most of the refugees are there.”

“Thanks for letting us know,” Noctis said. “The tomb?”

Monica gestured at a nearby sign. “It’s a little outside of Prairie. Just follow the signs, Prince Noctis. I need to stay here and speak with the Hunters.”

Thanking her again, they headed out towards the tombs.

“Wonder why she’s at the tomb,” Iris said.

“Let’s go find out,” Noctis replied.

In times long gone, Lucian kings were buried in tombs outside of Insomnia. They were easy enough to find, if you knew where to look. Some stories even held that there were tombs in Imperial territory. Noctis had thought about taking Prompto to some of them before heading back to Insomnia. Of course, that had been before the Empire broke the ceasefire.

An impressive structure was built into the rock face. There were some crumbled pillars and a bit of debris but most of the tomb was intact. Marshal Gentiana was stood outside. She turned and smiled at the four as they approached.

“It is good to see you are all unharmed,” she said. “Your Highness, I am sorry about your father.” She paused. “He gave me a task, should anything happen to him. Please. Come inside the tomb.”

They walked inside, following Gentiana. The inside of the tomb was cold and to Noctis it felt like there was magic in the room. In the centre of the tomb stood an effigy of one of the kings of Lucis. Gentiana stood on the other side of the tomb and locked eyes with Noctis.

“The power of kings, passed down through the generations,” she said. “The legacy of the Lucis Caelums. And now it is time for the new king to claim his birthright.”

Noctis looked down at the effigy. “King of what? Lucis is in the Empire’s hands.”

“This is your calling. Your duty,” Gentiana told him. “There is no denying it. Your father trusted that you would answer your calling and protect your people.”

Noctis glared at her. “What was his calling? Protecting his son while he let everyone else die?!”

Aranea put a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, Noctis. It’s not the Marshal’s fault or your father’s.”

“Oh yeah?!” Noctis knocked the hand away.

“Countess Highwind speaks the truth,” Gentiana said. “Your father knew as soon as the treaty was proposed that Niflheim was not seeking peace. They sought the Ring and the Crystal. He had to make a choice with the few options he had. He knew that you would be safest outside the city, that he would have to entrust his people to you.”

“Then why didn’t he tell me?!” Noctis yelled. “He saw me off with a smile!”

Gentiana gave him a sad smile of her own. “Your father did not want you to remember him as your king. He wanted to be remembered as your father. He has protected you until this point. Now you must protect his people. Your people.”

Noctis looked back at the girls in despair. All of them were nodding at him. Taking a deep breath, Noctis tentatively reached his hand out towards the effigy. Magic pulsed around him and the sword lying on top light up with the blue light of magic. It rose high into the air and turned so that it was pointing at Noctis. As he reached his hand upwards, it suddenly flew at him. A cold feeling hit as it stabbed into his chest. The sword turned into light that sunk into Noctis. He looked around him in awe as a spectral version of the sword began to circle around him. It disappeared after a few moments.

“You have taken the first step in becoming King, Your Majesty,” Gentiana said, bowing gracefully. She straightened herself up. “There are many Royal Arms, such as the one you have just received. I will task the Hunters and the Crownsguard with finding tombs where they may rest.”

Noctis stared at his hands. “I can feel it.”

“The Royal Arms are said to be exceptionally powerful weapons,” Gentiana explained. “And while Niflheim may have the Crystal, they cannot take these weapons. Only royal blood can claim them.”

Gentiana walked over to Noctis.

“How would you like to test your new weapon?”

Chapter Text

Chapter three – Put on your war paint

Nyx was making funny shapes out of his food, causing Prompto and Noctis to start giggling. The teenager grinned at them and started to arranged his vegetables into nonsense words. The constant giggling made Queen Sylva and King Regis stop talking and turn towards the children. Sylva raised an eyebrow at Nyx.

“Playing with your food?” she asked. “Nyx, I thought that at sixteen, you should know better.”

“Sorry Aunt Sylva,” Nyx mumbled. “I was trying to make the kids laugh.”

Sylva shook her head slightly and smiled at Nyx. Prompto and Noctis stopped giggling and went back to eating. Prompto reached his left hand out to grab a piece of bread and Sylva noticed something on his ring finger. She gently pulled her son’s hand towards her so that she could look at it.

“What’s this?” she said, gesturing at the blue flower wrapped around his finger as a ring.

Prompto smiled up at her. “It’s a ring! Noctis made it for me and I made one for him! He made it because when we’re bigger, he’s gonna marry me and make me the happiest ever!”

Noctis nodded as Prompto spoke and he lifted his own hand up. Sure enough, a similar ring was on his finger. Sylva smiled gently and turned her head towards Regis. The king looked surprised but he too was smiling. Maybe one day, their sons’ dream would come to pass. Maybe. Maybe.


 

Gentiana’s idea of a test was an assault on a Niflheim base not far from the Tomb of the Wise. Apparently, Keycatrich Trench had been desolated years ago during the war and had always had a small Niflheim presence. With the Hunters taking on any Niffs that got too close to Prairie Outpost, they hadn’t actually done much since locating there. Now that the Empire had toppled Insomnia, they had just moved a larger force into the area.

According to Gentiana, another Royal Tomb was hidden in an underground passageway in the trench. The tough part would be getting to that passageway in a place teeming with Imperials. And that was where Gentiana came in.

Her scouting had shown that the entrance to the passage was guarded by MTs constantly. Magitek Armour (MA) suits were prowling around the place. To get even close to the passage, they’d have to take on a squad of Imperials. It would not be an easy task.

Gentiana’s plan involved members of the Hunters and several homemade bombs that Noctis had no idea how Cindy and Cid made and frankly, he was scared to know. The Hunters and Crownsguard were driving out to the eastern side of the base. They’d create a distraction while the Angels and Gentiana snuck in and got to the passageway. Gentiana would then leave them to it while she broke into the facility and did two things: wreak havoc and get info.

When asked if she would be okay on her own, Gentiana only smiled while Luna reminded everyone that Drautos of the Kingsglaive had admitted to being afraid of her.

Monica and the team of Hunters were tackling the other side of the base. Gentiana led the others to their destination by following a path near the tomb. Noctis hadn’t really said much since receiving his new weapon, choosing just to listen as Gentiana explained their role in the plan.

As they drew closer, the group of five slowed their pace. They hung closely to a wall as they walked. Gentiana went ahead. She signalled that there were around ten hostiles in the vicinity. The others waited for her to give the signal to attack. Noctis summoned the Sword of the Wise to him. It felt heavy in his hands. The magic in it was pulsing towards him.

Gentiana curled her hand into a fist and shook it slightly. The signal.

Noctis jumped around the corner and threw the sword at an unsuspecting Imperial. He warp-striked the soldier, feeling slightly satisfied as they dropped down dead. The sword really was strong. He warped to a sniper and cut them down as the others rushed into battle. Gentiana took the lead and drew the majority of the rapidly arriving reinforcements to her. Luna hung back and shot at any Imperials she could shoot at. Aranea and Iris went to support Gentiana.

Warping into the fray, Noctis took out an Imperial that was aiming for Aranea’s exposed back. She turned around as she felt them collapse next to her. “I had everything under control.”

Noctis stabbed another Imperial heading for them. “Fine. I’ll stick to the sidelines next time.”

“Don’t you dare, Pretty Boy.”

“Can you two stop trying to out-sass each other and start killing shit?!” Iris yelled, essentially decapitating three nearby soldiers with her greatsword.

Taking Iris’s words to heart, the two shut up and got about to eliminating nearby Imperials. The sound of explosions shook the air and no more reinforcements came towards them. Iris and Noctis fist-bumped in celebration of their victory. Luna ran over, dusting herself off. Gentiana gave them a calm smile.

“Your abilities are impressive, all of you,” she said. “But I don’t believe that amount of mid-fight conversation is necessary.”

Noctis and the girls looked a little embarrassed at that.

With the distraction obviously having worked, they headed further into the trench, clinging to the rock face. The passage entrance was hidden behind a small group of rocks. Gentiana slowly led them towards it. Two MTs could be seen guarding it. Noctis grabbed a magic flask loaded with a thunder spell. On Gentiana’s signal, he threw it at the MTs. The magic ripped through them, destroying them. Coast clear, they ran to the entrance.

“This is where I will leave you,” Gentiana said. “I will tackle the base. You must go and claim your ancestor’s power, Your Majesty.”

“Stay safe,” Noctis said. “See you at Prairie.”

“Of course,” Gentiana replied. “All of you. Stay safe.”

She turned in one direction while the others went into the dark passage. Even with their flashlights on and the lamps that were dotted around it was hard to see. Noctis swallowed his fear down; hopefully it was light enough that no daemons would surface. A quick look at the girls told him that they were just as apprehensive as he was.

“Feels like we’re in a horror movie,” Luna said.

Iris shuddered. “If I don’t make it out, tell Gladio that I love him.”

“Quit the melodrama,” Aranea chided. “We’ll be fine.”

Noctis stumbled over a can and it rattled loudly. Aranea jumped and screamed at the sudden noise. The others turned and stared at her. She straightened herself out and walked past them.

“‘We’ll be fine’ she says,” Noctis said. “Don’t worry A. We’re here to protect you from the nasties of the dark.”

“Would you like to borrow my flashlight if it’s too dark for you?” Luna asked. “I have a spare.”

Aranea glared at them. “Knock it off. I was just taken by surprise.”

They walked in silence for a little longer. Their footsteps echoed off the wall, reminding them even further of horror movies. Noctis half-expected a demon to turn up and-

“BANG!”

Everyone but Aranea jumped and screamed. The adviser started to laugh her head off as the others tried to calm their breathing. Noctis glared at her as she slowed her laughter down. Luna was biting her lip, trying not to laugh herself.

“Truce,” Noctis said.

Aranea smirked at him. “Not on your life, Pretty Boy.”

They stepped into an old, dark storage room. Iris frowned as they entered. “Anybody else feel like they’re being watched?”

“Iris, please don’t join in with this,” Luna said.

“I’m not. It’s just… I just feel like there’s something here,” Iris replied. “We should be on our guard.”

Noctis was about to reply when something fell on top of him. One of the girls yelled out and Noctis came face to face with a spider-shaped daemon. He screamed automatically while Iris shoved it off him with her sword. Aranea pulled him to his feet and he could hear Luna’s gun going off. Noctis summoned a sword to him and he warped towards the spider. It made a squealing sound as Iris brought her sword down next to Noct’s. Aranea pulled herself up on a set of shelves before jumping off and impaling the spider with her lance.

“Luna!” Noctis yelled. “Headshot!”

“Understood!” Luna shouted back.

She shot the head of the daemon as Noctis and Iris leapt backwards. Noctis switched to the Sword of the Wise and warp-striked into the same spot that Luna had shot at. A black substance oozed out of the daemon as it shrieked and crumbled into nothingness. Noctis and the girls watched it, panting. There were a few seconds of disbelieving silence.

“Did we just kill a daemon?” Iris asked.

Luna nodded slowly. “I think we just did.”

“It’s official,” Iris said. “We’re freaking awesome.”

“Not gonna argue with that,” Noctis muttered. “Right. So… any idea where the tomb is?”

“Checked that door there yet?” Aranea asked, gesturing at a door on the other side of the room.

Switching back to his engine blade (Gentiana had warned him that overusing the Royal Arms could harm him), Noctis grabbed it tightly and followed after Iris. They entered into another dimly lit passage. Noctis could feel magic coming from somewhere nearby. Sure enough, the passage widened out and they could see the entrance to a royal tomb. Noctis grinned and ran to the door. He opened it up with the key Gentiana had given him earlier.

“Aranea, font of knowledge,” he called out. “Which tomb is this?”

“Your ancestor. You tell me,” Aranea replied.

Noctis pushed the door open. “Dad told me that our ancestors were often buried outside of Insomnia. He…” Noctis paused, suddenly growing sombre. “He never told me which ones were where. He always said… said… said he’d tell me when I was closer to taking the throne.”

Luna walked up to him and gave him a hug. Iris and Aranea quickly joined in.

“We’ll take it back,” Aranea said quietly. “We’ll stand by you. We’ll take it back.”

“Thanks guys,” Noctis whispered. “Thank you so much.”

They separated and Noctis walked forwards to claim the Axe of the Conqueror.


 

One week later

“Has the signal come through yet?” Iris asked.

“Not yet,” Luna replied, pushing her phone closer to her ear. “Cindy said they’re trying to filter through a lot of messages and it’s hard to get Gentiana’s contacts in Insomnia to send them across. Thousands of people were making calls outside the city. Cindy did promise that she’d do all she could to send ours to us.”

“Or specifically yours since she’s head over heels for you,” Aranea muttered.

“Pardon? Didn’t hear you Aranea,” Luna said.

Aranea sat up straighter. “I was just saying that I wonder when the Marshal will be ready for the assault on the Duscae blockade.”

That was what they were waiting for. For the past week they had been moving from haven to haven, stopping briefly at outposts to take on hunts for a bit of extra cash. They were currently holed up in a room in Longwythe once again. Hunters were taking up most of the rooms currently, preparing for Gentiana to give the word to attack the blockade base. As such, Iris and Luna shared the double bed while Aranea had won the right to the single bed in a game of King’s Knight.

Noctis was still grumbling over having to take the camp bed that Morgan (the owner of the motel) had kindly found for them.

Cindy and the rest of Gentiana’s ‘techie team’ were working on getting phone messages that were sent during the fall of Insomnia to where they were being sent. Cindy had already confirmed that one was trying to get through to Luna’s phone and that she personally was going to get it sent through.

While they were waiting, Iris and Noctis were sewing up tears in the group’s clothing and Aranea was reading some kind of trashy romance novel. Luna was anxiously trying to listen for the incoming message. She was desperately hoping that it would be from Ravus and that it would be letting her know that he was still alive.

She jumped slightly as the message came through. The others paused and Luna put the phone on speaker.

“-freya, I love you. If I don’t call you within the next few days… I’ll try not to let all of this kill me. I’m assuming you’re still with Noctis. Get the prince somewhere safe. The Empire will be after him. And Luna… stay safe, sister. I love you.”

Ravus’ voice faded away. Luna played the message again, tears springing to her eyes. Noctis and the others could hear clattering in the background, somebody saying ‘Ravus, be careful’. Noctis felt as if he should recognise that voice. The message played out, finishing once more.

“I-” Noctis began, only for his phone to suddenly chime with a message. He quickly glanced at it. His breath caught in his throat. “Gentiana.”

“Is it time?” Luna asked, wiping her eyes.

“Yeah,” Noctis replied.

“Finally!” Iris said. “Time to kick some Imperial butt.”


 

Gentiana was with them again. Monica led a team of Hunters taking out infantrymen and the occasional MT while Crownsguard members had arrived from Lestallum and were on the other side of the blockade to do the same there. A few Hunters led by Dave were taking out Niffs within the makeshift base. Gentiana and the Angels were going to unlock the blockade altogether.

A small, hidden entrance to the base had been found and that was how they were sneaking in. The sneaking in part had gone smoothly, as had their first encounter with hostile forces. It was a small cluster of MTs, which Noctis used a Blizzard-Thunder cast against while the others rushed forwards to finish the job up.

It was kinda sad that in such a short space of time they’d grown accustomed to killing Imperial soldiers. But this was war, and war meant taking lives. They didn’t enjoy it. They had to do it.

“Everybody okay?” Noctis asked.

“We’re fine Noct,” Luna replied. “You?”

“Yeah. Great,” Noctis said.

Gentiana walked on ahead. “Quickly. We must complete the operation before reinforcements can be sent.”

They followed after her. They could hear the sounds of the other teams taking on Imperial forces. With luck, they wouldn’t have many more to face. There weren’t too many MTs in this base either. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; MTs only knew how to kill and kill. As Aranea had put it once: soulless, empty killing machines.

With Gentiana leading the way, they managed to reach the edge of the blockade. There was a large gate cutting the Duscae region off from Leide. All they needed to do was find a control panel and open it up. Or blow it up. Whichever was easiest. Noctis was about to point out what looked like a control panel when they heard a loud noise from behind.

“Well, well, well.” A young man stood in the mouth of an MA suit. “If it isn’t the Immortal Marshal, Gentiana Duratus. I don’t know how you survived Insomnia’s Fall, but I, Loqi, will strike you down!”

The suit closed up and ran towards them.

“Scatter!” Noctis yelled as it swiped towards them.

Taking on this MA was going to be difficult, especially with all the lightweight missiles it was sending out at them. Only Gentiana was fully able to dodge them and make her own strikes at the legs of the machine. Noctis tried to find shelter with Aranea behind a group of crates. They needed a few moments to at least come up with the beginnings of a plan.

“Luna! Up on your left! Grenade launcher! Think you can handle it?!” Aranea yelled.

“I’ll try!” Luna replied.

Running as fast as she could, Luna managed to dodge the missiles that Loqi fired her way. Thankfully, he was a little preoccupied with Gentiana. Iris had somehow managed to make her way over and was assisting Gentiana with striking at the legs. Noctis and Aranea took a few more seconds to figure out what would be best for the two of them to do. Noctis was suddenly struck with an idea.

“Warp in, warp out. I strike it a few times and deal damage to the limbs and top half. When I’ve done that and Luna’s done some damage-” BOOM. Luna had gotten the grenade launcher. “-we all clear away. You and I fling magic flasks at it. We’ve got some Thundara-Blizzards.”

“How many casts?” Aranea asked.

“Tricast,” Noctis replied.

“Good plan. You’re getting better at this,” Aranea said. “Hand my flasks over.”

While the sound of explosions filled the air, Noctis handed a couple of magic flasks to Aranea before summoning the Sword of the Wise to him. He warpstriked the left arm of the MA, causing it to stumble. Noctis quickly switched to the Axe of the Conqueror, bringing it down hard on the machine. Rinse, repeat, switch to Engine Blade when he could feel the toll the Armiger were taking.

“Iris! Gentiana! Clear out! Luna! One more!” Noctis yelled.

He warped over to Aranea and readied his magic flasks. Iris and Gentiana ran over while Luna fired off one last grenade at the MA. With the area cleared, Noctis and Aranea threw their magic flasks at the MA. The air around them grew cold as the Blizzard spells mingled with electricity. Satisfying explosions could be heard coming from the machine. They could hear Loqi yelling something from within. Part of the MA tried to detach itself and he tried to scramble out. The last of the magic caught him and he was thrown to the ground. Luckily for him, it was far enough away from the MA so that he wasn’t caught up in the last few explosions.

Potions and elixirs were exchanged as Monica’s team made their way over to them. Gentiana went over to where Loqi was lying on the ground. She called over confirmation that he was still alive. A group of Hunters carried him off. They were going to fix him up (Noctis had insisted on keeping his Dad’s policy of treating POWs with respect) and keep him custody in Prairie.

Noctis went to hand a potion over to Luna. She’d was staring off into the distance, her face unreadable. Noctis waved his hand in front of her face. “You okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yes. I’m fine,” Luna said.

“Hey guys! We’re still alive!” Iris said, running over. “Nice work with your warpstrikes Noctis. Nice to see that you’ve taken your training to heart and are actually paying attention to the stamina drain.”

“Thanks Iris,” Noctis replied. “That was cool. You dodging those strikes while still attacking the MA.”

Iris grinned at him. Aranea came over and slumped to the ground. Noctis handed an elixir over, which Aranea quickly smashed over herself. Much quicker than drinking it. She gave a thumbs up to the others, grinning her head off. Gentiana finished speaking with Monica and walked over.

“The gate is being unlocked now,” she said. Sure enough, it was opening and they could see into the Duscae region. “You four have done well. Your skills are strong and you work together as a good unit. Angels, I shall leave the King in your care. Your Majesty. My teams and I shall work on locating the rest of the Royal Arms as well as looking into the best methods in resisting the Imperial menace.”

“Thanks Gentiana,” Noctis said. “Thank you for all your help. Keep in touch.”

“I shall,” Gentiana replied, bowing slightly. She straightened up and paused for a second. “I… I know your father would be proud. You have grown into a strong warrior. And Lady Iris, your father would be proud of you too. You are a fine Shield, knowing that your King needs you to not just protect him but to go on the offensive and help him win your battles. Countess Aranea. Your tactical mind is strong. I will be in touch to discuss strategy with you. Your uncle would be proud. And Miss Lunafreya… I did not know Glaive Ravus very well but I am sure he would be glad to see how strong you are. Now. My King, ladies. I will take my leave.”

“Stay safe,” Noctis said.

As Gentiana walked away, the group turned their heads towards the now open gate.

“The rest of southern Lucis is right through those gates,” Iris said.

Noctis stood up. “Well then. Let’s get going.”

Chapter Text

Chapter four – What a wonderful world

Prompto had snuck into Noct’s room that night, carrying his camera and an illustrated copy of the Cosmogony. They’d stayed up together, reading it. But now, Prompto was curled up on the bed next to Noctis, sleeping. Noctis stayed awake. He could hear Prompto’s breathing. It was quiet. Noctis thought it sounded kind of cute.

He jumped and sat up as the door opened. “Prince Noctis?”

“W-who are you?” Noctis asked.

A strange man in ornate black clothing walked in. Something felt weird about him.

“I am Cor,” the man said. “I serve the Oracle.”

“Oh! Prompto mentioned you! You’re a Messenger, like Pryna and Umbra!” Noctis exclaimed.

Next to him, Prompto stirred slightly.

“Ah, so that’s where Prince Prompto went,” Cor said. “Is he asleep?”

“Yeah,” Noctis whispered.

“Then I shall leave him. It is good to see that both heirs are growing close to one another,” Cor said, voice also dropping. “Good night, Prince Noctis.”

Noctis watched as Cor closed the door. He lay back down and settled next to Prompto. His friend snuggled closer to him. The next morning, when King Regis went to see his son, he saw the pair holding each other as they slept. Photos were taken.


 

They’d spent a day hanging around Alstor. It was a slightly bigger town than Hammerhead and they’d taken on a couple of quick hunts for some extra money. Duscae was a much greener region than Leide, famous for its wetlands. It was still unbearably hot, something that they had discovered during their hunting.

After a day of not really going anywhere, it was time to decide on a new location. They were waiting in the Regalia for Luna to finish up her shopping. Everybody stared at her in shock as she came out of the store carrying a couple more bags worth of items than she should have been able to afford. Luna stored them in the back of the car and climbed into the passenger seat.

“You didn’t have enough money to buy all that shit,” Aranea said. “Seriously. You didn’t.”

“Oh, well, I noticed that there were discrepancies with certain items and how they were priced here in comparison to Leide,” Luna said. “I also showed our Hunter permit, which apparently gets us a discount on curatives and survival items. There also quite a few items in stock that Niflheim is currently prohibiting the sale of. I pointed this out to the cashier, then the manager, then the owner. I was able to get a sizeable discount and some free items. Not too much of a hassle.”

Aranea let out a whistle. “Nice one, Souvenirs.”

“So where are we headed?” Iris asked.

“Wiz’s Chocobo Post,” Noctis replied, finally starting the car and pulling out of Alstor.

“Doesn’t Lord Prompto like chocobos?” Luna asked.

“He does,” Noctis said.

“Aww! He’s trying to connect with his childhood sweetheart!” Iris exclaimed.

“Knock it off,” Noctis said. “That’s not the only reason why we’re going. Aranea.”

“There’s been reports of a behemoth endangering the chocobos and the nearby settlement,” Aranea said. “Deadeye, they call it, on account of it being blind in one eye. We’re going to take it on.”

Iris leaned back into her seat. “Behemoth sounds like a bit much.”

“We’ve taken on daemons and an MA,” Noctis said. “We should be fine.”


 

Even just following the damn thing had been a struggle in its own right, especially with the packs of voreteeth that were attacking them every now and again. They were going to have to struggle through them to get to Deadeye’s lair. Wiz had given them a general direction and even agreed to giving them some free curatives, since well, they were taking on a Six-damned behemoth of all things. They deserved the extra curatives.

“It’s getting dark,” Iris whispered.

“Shh,” Aranea hushed. “There’s a haven nearby. We can stop there after we’ve killed Deadeye.”

“Kinda want to stop there now,” Iris said.

Noctis waved his arm at them to get them to shut up. “We’d risk losing him.”

Iris pouted and Luna patted her sympathetically on the shoulder. They all crouched and scrambled under another bit of ruined building. They could still hear Deadeye’s thunderous steps. Taking care to remain as quiet as possible, they followed after it. A fog settled around them and the most they could see was its tail. Ruins towered around them.

After a few more minutes of following after Deadeye, it finally seemed to stop and slow down. The fog had cleared a little as well. Aranea moved forwards slightly, trying to get a good idea of what was around them and what they could use against Deadeye. Her eyes practically lit up when she saw something very, very useful.

“Hey, Pretty Boy,” she said, nudging him slightly. “We’ve got some fire spells on us, right?”

“Yeah. Why?” Noctis asked.

She pointed at something. “Oil drums. You can see from here that they’re not empty.”

“What’s the plan?” Luna asked.

“Luna, you get to that pile of rocks there. When it comes, grenades. Shredded and I will hang to the side until it approaches and attack its blindside,” Aranea said.  “Noct, warp and get its attention. Warp back and wait for it to reach blast range. Fire spells, oil drums-”

“Boom,” Noctis finished.

Aranea smirked. “Exactly. Any objections to the plan?” The others shook their heads. “Positions people.”

“Tell Gladio I love him and that I’m still better than him at King’s Knight,” Iris whispered.

“Duly noted,” Luna replied.

With their instructions clear, they scattered off to their positions. Noctis took a deep breath, prayed, and warped closer to Deadeye.

“Hey ugly!” he yelled “Come and get it!”

The behemoth stirred and turned to stare directly at Noctis. The prince gulped, turned, threw his sword, and warped back closer to the girls. Deadeye roared and came running towards them. Noctis equipped his magic flasks and waited for the behemoth to draw a little closer. It roared again and Noctis flung the flask at one of the oil drums. It exploded, burning Deadeye’s side.

More explosions sounded and Noctis could see Luna using her new grenade launcher to fire grenades at Deadeye’s good side. On the other side, Iris and Aranea were attacking the blindside. Whenever Deadeye tried to strike at them, Iris would use her sword and shield to defend the both of them from attacks. Noctis threw a few more spells, aiming for oil drums that wouldn’t put Aranea and Iris at risk.

Deadeye roared and swiped again. Iris shoved Aranea to the side and raised her shield to try and block the blow. It ended up knocking her to the side. Noctis warped to Iris, summoning another shield as Deadeye tried to maul her. He grunted under the weight of the beast’s paw. Iris got to her feet and brought her sword down on the paw that was trying to crush Noctis. Deadeye roared in pain as it was severed. The beast stumbled and Noctis and Iris ran off to avoid getting crushed. Summoning the Sword of the Wise to him, Noctis threw it towards Deadeye’s good eye and warp-striked directly into it. Deadeye roared one final time before collapsing dead.

Noctis warped away from the corpse and towards where the girls were gathering. Iris was drinking a potion. Aranea walked over and clapped Noctis on the back. He wordlessly grinned at her and accepted the elixir she offered. Luna got out the camera and took a few photos of Deadeye’s corpse.

“To the haven?” Noctis said.

Nobody disagreed with that course of action.


 

It had been three days since the reign of terror that Deadeye imposed had been brought to an end. Hunters had gone out with Angels to verify Deadeye’s status as dead and had been extremely impressed that a bunch of people in their early twenties had been able to take down a behemoth. A handicapped behemoth, but still a behemoth.

They’d based themselves at the Chocobo Post for the past couple of days, helping Wiz and the other residents out where they could. Hunts, finding missing chocobos. They’d taken plenty of photos of them getting to ride chocobos. The next time Pryna or Umbra came with the photo album, Noctis knew exactly what photos he was going to put in.

That night, Iris and Noctis were on food duty. Aranea and Luna were helping Heather put the chocobos away for the evening. Iris had decided on using up some of the behemoth meat they’d been given. Behemoth steaks. That was something they’d never eaten before.

“So Wiz has given me a special cooler to put some more of the meat in,” Iris was saying. “Apparently behemoth goes well with cup noodles. Gladio will appreciate it.”

“You spoken with him yet?” Noctis asked.

“Yeah. He rang me earlier. Finally remembered my number,” Iris said, rolling her eyes. “He’s terrible. Anyway, he’s fine. He’s in Lestallum. Jared Hester, one of our family’s retainers, is with him in the Leville. Apparently Gladio ordered them to open up their rooms to refugees, free of charge. A lot of hotels are doing the same across southern Lucis.”

“That’s great,” Noctis replied. “Is Gladio doing okay?”

“He says he is,” Iris said. “I think he just doesn’t want me to worry about him. I mean, our home’s gone. Anybody would be shaken. Gladdy says he wasn’t there to see all of the destruction but some of the other refugees told him about it.”

Noctis ‘hmm’ed. Iris nudged him slightly.

“How are you feeling?” she asked. “We’ve been so busy running around, we haven’t really had a chance to let it all sink in yet.”

“I’m okay,” Noctis replied. Iris elbowed him. “Okay fine. I’m not okay. But I have to be.”

“If you need us to slow down you can just say so.”

“I feel like if I slow down I’ll just stop and break. I just want to keep doing so that I don’t have to think about how shitty everything is. But if you guys need to stop for a while then-”

“When I was three, my dad brought me into the palace.” Noctis stared at Iris in confusion. She kept going. “He took me to the nursery. The King was there. I gave him a hug and said ‘hi Uncle Reggie’ and everyone told me to quieten down. Dad showed me a little baby in a crib.”

“Me, I’m guessing?” Noctis asked.

Iris nodded. “You. Dad said to me ‘Iris, this is Noctis. He’s the new prince. One day he will be the King. And you will be his Shield. You’ll protect him like how I protect your Uncle Reggie’.”

“And the point is?” Noctis said.

“The point is, I’ve been looking out for you since I was three years old. And yeah everything is so damn hard right now because Dad’s gone, Uncle Reggie’s gone, Insomnia’s been invaded and everything is crazy, but I’m going to get through it. Because at night when you’ve all gone to sleep I can scream into my pillow and let it hit me.” Iris put a hand on Noctis’ shoulder. “But I’m here with you. Not just as your Shield but as your friend. I’m supporting you as King but as your friend. And we’re fighting. We’re all fighting back against Niflheim right now. So I’m going to stand as your friend and we’re going to get justice for everything. Maybe I’ll need to slow down a little one day, but right now? I can keep going if you want me to. Aranea and Luna feel the same. Trust me.”

Noctis pulled her in for a hug. “Thanks Iris. That means so much to me. And… I’m glad that your dad would have been there for mine.”

“Yeah,” Iris mumbled. She pulled away. Noctis could see a few tears trying to break through. “Come on. Let’s get these steaks cooked.”


 

“Cooler.”

“Check.”

“Curatives.”

“Check.”

“Stuffed moogle doll because Iris.”

“Check.”

Luna and Aranea were running an inventory check before they left the outpost. It was going to be a long drive but they were hoping to hit Lestallum before nightfall. Iris was currently getting their map updated with havens in case they didn’t. Noctis was just finishing registering their chocobos for rental, should they need them.

“All good here!” Aranea called out.

“Noctis? Iris? Are you ready?” Luna asked.

“Yeah,” Noctis said, getting into the car. “Let’s go.”

Aranea was driving this time and Iris was sitting in the passenger seat to show her the shortest way to Lestallum. Luna and Noctis sat in the back seat and ended up passing the camera between themselves. They got a number of photos of Alstor Slough and when they were back on the main road, they took plenty of photos of the Disc of Cauthess.

“Remind me, what’s the story behind the Disc?” Luna asked. “I know Lucian children learn it but it wasn’t a story we had in Galahd.”

“The Disc is a meteor that fell to Eos years ago,” Iris replied.

“Legend has it that Titan caught the meteor and is holding it up, stopping it from destroying us all,” Noctis added.

Luna looked impressed. “Is that true?”

“I guess it is,” Noctis said. “How else would that meteor stay up?”

“It’s why the Archaean is worshipped so much in Cleigne and Duscae,” Aranea said. “I remember every year, we’d go on a pilgrimage of sorts to see the disc and-”

Noctis didn’t hear the rest of her sentence. A splitting pain suddenly erupted in his head. He could no longer focus on the beautiful sight of the Disc. He could no longer see the edge of Taelpar Crag. Everything went red and Noctis clutched at his head. He could hear concerned voices, somebody crying out in pain, a deep rumbling. He could feel the world around him shaking and his body colliding with something. Then it all went black.

Something appeared before him. A humanoid creature. Noctis could almost hear it talking to him before he blacked out again.

There was a fuzzy image and all of a sudden Noctis was resting on something slightly soft. Something cold was being pressed against his forehead, distracting him from the pain.

“-iana called. Said it was felt all over Cleigne and Duscae.”

“There’s no damage though?”

“None. Can’t be a coincidence though. An earthquake and Noct-”

“Noct?” Another voice drifted towards him. Noctis’ vision slowly began to clear. “Can you hear me now?”

“L-Luna?” Noctis mumbled.

“That’s right. Just stay calm. You blacked out. You woke up a little while ago but you didn’t register anything,” Luna said. “You were clutching your head.”

“It’s cold,” Noctis whispered, trying to sit up.

“Icepack,” Luna replied. “We’re on our way to Lestallum. We’re nearly there. How’s your head?”

“Okay. Kinda sore,” Noctis said.

Luna slowly moved the icepack away. “Okay. I’m going to help you sit up now.”

He felt arms helping him push up. Noctis grunted as he settled into a sitting position. His vision fully cleared and he could see them enter a tunnel of some sorts. Iris was kneeling on her seat, looking back at Noctis in concern. He gave her a small smile and he wiped the condensation off his forehead.

“Welcome back to the realm of the living,” Aranea quipped.

“We got pretty worried for a second there,” Iris said. “You suddenly started crying out in pain while an earthquake hit. Pretty scary.”

Noctis frowned at her. “Earthquake?”

“Yeah.” Iris nodded. “At the same time you blacked out. We gave Gentiana a call. She’s got some scientists in the ‘Resistance’ to try and figure out what happened. They think the epicentre was the Disc.”

Noctis rubbed at his forehead. “Ugh… how far is Lestallum?”

“Look up, Pretty Boy,” Aranea replied. “We’re here.”

Sure enough, they had entered a city. It was nowhere near as big as Insomnia but it was still much bigger than the small towns and outposts they’d stayed in thus far. People were walking around in the dusk. A large power plant could be seen behind the buildings. Cars were parked along the streets. Noctis could smell food coming from somewhere nearby. There was a brilliant view of the Disc of Cauthess.

Aranea parked the car in a parking spot near the outlook. The group climbed out of the care. The sun was starting to set and the lower lighting caught the Disc in such a way that it looked like it was glowing.

“Hey. We should take a photo,” Noctis said. “At the viewpoint.”

“We can take one tomorrow morning,” Aranea replied. “We should go see Gladio now.”

“No. We should take one now,” Noctis insisted. “It’s… it’s the lighting. The lighting’s… right.”

“I understand,” Luna said softly. “We should take one now. For the album.”

She gave Aranea and Iris a pointed look. They just shrugged and headed towards the viewpoint. Luna handed the camera to a nearby woman, asking her to take a photo of the four of them. They got into position, standing so that they would appear to the side of the Disc. The woman took the photo. Luna retrieved the camera and while the others had a look at the photo, she asked for directions to the Leville.

“Guys, it’s this way!” Luna said.

They followed her along the main street and towards where the Leville was supposed to be. People waved at them as they passed. They assumed it was a Lestallum thing. It wasn’t hard to tell that a significant portion of the people around them were refugees. They were sporting injuries and haunted looks. A few looked up and seemingly recognised Noctis.

“Iris!” They turned and saw Gladio running towards them. “You took your time!”

Iris pulled her little brother into a hug. “Sorry. You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine,” Gladio replied, ducking under her arms. He was already starting to tower over his sister. “Hey guys. A, Luna, Noct.”

“Hey Gladio,” Noctis said.

“We’re glad to see you’re safe,” Luna added.

“Thanks guys,” Gladio replied. “Come on. We should head to the hotel.”

He led them towards a tall hotel building on the corner of a street. He nodded to the man at the desk before leading the group upstairs and into one of the grand suites. A little girl with red hair peered from behind the door of one of the rooms. Gladio gave her a little wave. She stayed where she was, watching the others cautiously.

“Gladdy, who’s that?” Iris whispered.

“Katrina,” Gladio replied. “She was on the boat with me. Her mom was supposed to get on a different boat but she never arrived in Lestallum. I’ve been keeping an eye on Katrina for past two weeks. We think her mom was on one of the two boats that got shot at. They didn’t make it in.”

“That’s horrible,” Luna said.

“Yeah. It is,” Gladio agreed. “I got the Leville guys to open up to refugees. I mean, the Amicitias do own the place…” He shrugged. “People here have been real friendly. They’ve been trying to find jobs for everyone, finding places for them to go.” He paused for a second. “Rumour has it that Lord Prompto was in Lestallum for a little while but he left. Don’t know if it’s true or not. Hope it is. Means he’s alive.”

Noctis didn’t say anything. He just gave a relieved nod. Prompto might still be alive. Prompto might still be alive.

The door opened and an old man with a young boy came in. “Lord Gladiolus? Ah. I see Prince Noctis has arrived.”

“Hey Prince Noctis!” the young boy said.

“Hey Talcott,” Noctis replied, recognising the boy from the times he’d visited the Amicitia estate. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah!” Talcott replied. “Grandpa’s been teaching me all the stories about this place!”

“Has he now?” Iris asked. “Hey Jared. Thanks for looking after things.”

“Of course, Lady Iris,” Jared replied.

“Hey, where’s Katrina?” Talcott asked. “Kat! Where are you?”

Katrina shyly stepped out from the doorway she was hiding in. “Here, Talcott.”

“Come on Katrina!” Talcott said, running over to her. “We gotta tell Prince Noctis one of the stories Grandpa told us!”

“Sword in the waterfall,” Katrina mumbled.

“Yeah! There’s supposed to be this waterfall near Lestallum, and the legend says that a King left his sword there!” Talcott exclaimed.

Noctis shared a glance with the girls.

That sounded… interesting.

Chapter Text

Chapter five – Beware, beware, be skeptical

“Just hold my hands and take a step,” Prompto said.

Noctis gripped Prompto’s hands tightly and slowly moved his legs forward. Leaning his weight onto Prompto, he shakily got up onto his feet. His left leg almost gave out but Prompto kept him upright. Noctis frowned and tried to take another step.

“It’s hard,” he said.

“I’ll help you,” Prompto replied. He gave Noctis a smile. “Come on! You can do it Noct!”

Slowly, Noctis took another step, holding tightly onto Prompto. Pryna and Umbra walked alongside them, gently nudging Noctis. Another step. Prompto’s grin grew wider. Noctis couldn’t help but smile back. He tried to take another step, only for his right leg to give out.

“Oww,” Noctis groaned.

He’d fallen over, landing on top of Prompto. Slowly, they untangled themselves and sat on the floor.

“You did really good!” Prompto cheered, ignoring the fact that Noctis had just fallen over. “We can try again later, okay?”

Noctis leaned back onto his hands. “Yeah. Okay.”


 “Remind me, why the fuck are we here?!” Aranea yelled.

She jumped to the side as a flan tried to grab her. She stabbed at it, only for her lance to become lodged inside the gooey daemon. Noctis hit it with a bolt of lightning, causing it to die. He took out the remaining two flans in a similar fashion. With no more enemies in the immediate vicinity, the party took a second to take a breath.

“We’re here because there might be a Royal Arm in this cave somewhere,” Noctis said.

Luna reloaded her guns. “Or so the legends have it. I’m just worried about how we’re going to get out of this cave. We did slip down a frozen slide.”

“There’s climbing gear in arsenal somewhere,” Iris said. “Gladio gave me some before we left Insomnia.”

“Ah yes, the wannabe Hunter,” Aranea said. “Why couldn’t he have come with us? I mean, Noodles does want to get some more practical experience. Why not join us in taking on daemons and a frozen-ass cave?”

Noctis rolled his eyes as Aranea launched into a rant, with Iris arguing that she didn’t want her little brother taking on daemons anyway. Then again, Gladio himself had chosen to stay behind in Lestallum.


 That morning

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty!”

Noctis groaned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes while Gladio stood in the doorway. “You hang out with Aranea too much. Nicknames are her thing.”

“And they’re a great thing,” Gladio replied.

Weakly throwing a pillow at Gladio, Noctis stretched his arms out and got out of the bed. His headaches had been coming back, complete with a few small tremors here and there. Coincidence? Noctis thought not. His dreams hadn’t exactly been pleasant either. Dreams of a large being staring him down, of his father lying bloody on the ground, of Prompto running with a bloodied trident.

Not pleasant at all.

“Hey, put on a damn shirt,” Gladio said, snapping Noctis out of his thoughts. Noctis stared at him through bleary eyes. “Geez, what’s wrong with you?”

If it wasn’t for the tiredness, Noctis could have sworn that Gladio was blushing. “I literally just woke up.”

“Doesn’t mean you can go walking around like that,” Gladio snapped. “Put on some clothes and come downstairs. The girls are out getting stuff.”

One change of clothes later (and some breakfast), Noctis was being shown around Lestallum by both Gladio and Katrina. He’d learnt that the little girl was quite clingy towards Gladio. Something to do with the fact that he was the only familiar face in Lestallum for her, save Jared and Talcott. Gladio had sat her on his shoulder as he walked around with Noctis, showing him the famous market and power plant.

“So it’s really powered by the meteor?” Noctis asked.

“Shards of it,” Gladio replied. “Some of them must have splintered off when Titan caught it.”

They continued walking, heading back towards the hotel. Katrina was humming something that sounded a little like the infamous chocobo theme tune. Given Gladio’s known contempt for the song, Noctis was surprised he hadn’t told her to stop humming. He seemed patient with her.

“This has been fun,” Gladio said.

“Yeah,” Noctis replied. “Thanks for showing me around.”

“So…err…” Gladio faltered. Was he blushing again? “You guys are going to check the waterfall for one of those Armiger things, right?”

“Yeah. Do you want to come with us?” Noctis asked.

“Nah. Somebody’s got to look after Kat,” Gladio replied, raising his eyes up to Katrina.

She giggled as Gladio lifted her off his shoulders and lowered her to the ground. He held his hand out for a high five and she ran back into the hotel.

"Jared could look after her," Noctis said.

Gladio shook his head. "She's too clingy still. Guess if somebody has to look after her, might as well be the guy she's most comfortable around." Gladio looked torn between concern and annoyance. Then he shook his head. "Why are you still here? Go get that damn sword!"


 

Present

“Imps!” Luna yelled.

The party leapt into fighting stances as the daemons approached them. Noctis wasted no time with warp-striking at one of them. The good distance he had increased the damaged dealt and Noctis watched with satisfaction as the imp screeched and died. He could hear Luna’s gunshots and he could see Iris and Aranea run to attack the rest of the imps. Noctis began to slash at another one, not aware of the beam of light aimed at him until a blast of daemon magic had knocked him to his feet.

Before any of the imps could take advantage of him lying on the floor, Aranea ran over and pulled him to his feet, jabbing at the imps coming towards them.

“Thanks,” Noctis said. “Got my back?”

“Always, Pretty Boy,” Aranea replied.

They returned to the fray, taking out the daemons. It only took another minute before they were done and dusted. Luna looked a little uneasy on her feet however. A quick look at her arm told the others what they needed to know. Poison. The others frantically forced her to sit down and hold still as they administered the antidote.

“I’m fine, really,” Luna insisted.

Eventually, the poison faded and Luna felt much better. They continued on through the cave. Noctis had lost count as to how many daemons they had now taken out. He could only hope that there wouldn’t be any more attacking them before they found the Royal Arm.

“Over here!” Iris called out.

Down one small passageway they could see a door, similar to the one hidden away in Keycatrich Trench. They approached it, only for daemons to suddenly rise from the ground around them. Noctis swore; they were never going to catch a break with these things.

“What the hell is that?!” Iris screamed.

Two unearthly creatures arose alongside the usual flans and imps. Noctis vaguely recognised them from an old daemonolgy book. Mindflayers. He gulped in fear as the daemons rose up to attack them. Realising that they would be the biggest threat, Noctis went charging towards them first. Axe of the Conqueror. He could hear Aranea and Iris taking out the small fry around him as Luna kept shooting at the mindflayers. Noctis dodged them as they tried to fling magic at them. He could tell that they were slowly beginning to weaken. He saw a chance.

“Aranea! Death from above!” he yelled.

Aranea scrambled up the nearby rocks before launching herself at one of the mindflayers. Her lance pierced the top of it and Noctis used a warpstrike to finish it off. As it dissipated, Luna kept shooting at the remaining one. Switching to the engine blade, Noctis warpstriked it in a similar fashion. With the mindflayers both dead, he turned his attention to what was left of the flans and imps. A few blasts of magic later and all the daemons had dissipated into nothingness. All that was left was the coldness of the cavern.

Healing up his own poisoning (damn imps), Noctis summoned the keys from his arsenal. While he was waiting for the antidote to kick in, Iris took them and unlocked the door. Sure enough, a tomb lay inside. The Tomb of the Wanderer. A pair of daggers lay on top of his ancestor’s effigy. Grimacing as the bitter antidote did its work, Noctis walked forwards to go and claim his ancestor’s weapon.


 

His head felt like it was on fire. Images were flashing across his vision and it felt like he was falling. He could see somebody with silvery-blond hair. He felt like he should know him. The man grabbed his hand and pulled him through the burning palace. Why was the palace burning? Why was he holding a trident? They kept running and they burst through a set of doors. A man in armour cut a ring off an old man. Two Glaives were trying to fight him. A man in white picked up the ring and his arm began to burn.

Images began to swim around him. He felt like he was falling and his head still felt like it was on fire. He tried to scream but no sound emerged. Six, everything hurt. It hurt. He felt himself hit the ground. A phone lay in front of him. Weakly, he reached to pick it up. Something small and fox-like approached him, nudging the phone towards him.

*Time to wake up, Noct.*

He tried to ask the creature, his friend, Carbuncle: what was happening? He couldn’t get the words out.

*It’s okay. I’ll lead you out. Your friends are worried. Just close your eyes, Noct. It’s okay. I’m here, friend. Prompto’s worried too. I can tell. Just wake up Noct. It’s okay. It’s okay…*

He opened his eyes.


“You alright?”

Noctis opened his eyes to see Iris sitting at the foot of the bed. Her face broke out into a relieved smile. Noctis gave her a weak on back. He sat up. They were in the Leville, in the room that had been set aside for him. Sunlight was streaming through the windows.

“You passed out when we reached the Regalia,” Iris said before Noctis could ask. “There was another tremor, you got a headache, and boom. Out cold. We think you settled into normal sleep after a little while though.”

“It’s the next day, isn’t it?” Noctis asked.

Iris nodded. “Yeah. It is. Aranea and Luna are downstairs. You up to heading down?”

“Yeah.”

He followed Iris downstairs to the hotel’s dining room. Sure enough, Aranea and Luna were sat at a table, eating breakfast. A number of other refugees were nearby. Noctis could see the rest of his 'group' moving over to Aranea and Luna's table. He grabbed a plate and a slice of toast and headed over himself.

“Are you feeling okay?” Luna asked.

“Head’s a little sore. Not too bad,” Noctis replied.

Aranea leaned forwards. “So Gentiana called while you were out cold. They’ve managed to pinpoint the source of the tremors.”

“And that would be…?” Noctis asked.

“The Disc of Cauthess,” Aranea answered. “The Archaean’s burden itself.”

“We’re planning on taking a look from the viewpoint,” Luna said. “Just to see if we can find any superficial changes by looking through the binoculars. We probably won’t, but we feel like it’s worth a shot.”

“Sounds good to me,” Noctis said.

They finished eating and immediately headed for the viewpoint. People were slowly beginning to get to their daily business around Lestallum. There was a pleasant energy surrounding the city. Noctis could just about hear the faint hum of the power plant. They greeted complete strangers as they made their way towards the viewpoint. Standing by the binoculars was a familiar figure.

The stranger from Galdin.

“What a coincidence!” the stranger cried out.

“This isn’t a coincidence, is it,” Iris whispered.

The man walked towards them. “Aren’t nursery rhymes curious things? Like this one: From the deep the Archaean calls… Yet on deaf ears, the gods’ tongue falls, The King made to kneel, in pain, he crawls.”

“If that’s the case, how do we help the King?” Luna asked, stepping in front of Noctis.

“You need only heed the call,” the stranger replied, walking past them. “Visit the Archaean and hear his plea.” He turned to them. “I can take you.”

Noctis and the Angels exchanged cautious glances. There was something unsettling about this stranger. Unsettling but in a way, familiar. They all still felt as if they should recognise him. What he was saying was certainly suspicious though. He was making it sound as if he was the only person who would be able to take them to the Disc.

“What do we do?” Luna asked. “I can’t trust him. Something about him is… off.”

If Luna of all people was declaring somebody untrustworthy after only a few minutes in their presence at best, then there was definitely something wrong about this stranger.

“I don’t know,” Noctis said.

“But if what he’s saying is true…” Iris said.

Aranea spared a glance at the stranger. “I don’t like it but we need to help Noct with these damn headaches. We keep an eye on each other. Follow him but don’t trust him. Agreed?”

The others responded positively. Noctis walked towards the stranger. “We’re in.”

“Ah, good,” the man said. “I’m not one to stand on ceremony, but such an occasion calls for an introduction. Please, call me Ardyn. Come with me to the car park. That’s where I left my automobile.”

They followed him, still giving the newly-introduced ‘Ardyn’ suspicious glances.

“She’s a dear old thing,” Ardyn said, gesturing to an old red car. “Pales next to your Regalia but she’s never let me down.”

“How did you know about the Regalia?” Aranea asked.

Ardyn smiled at her. A wolf’s grin. “I’m a resourceful man, my dear. Now. I shall take my car and you may take the Regalia. A convoy of sorts.”

“Tough titty, not gonna happen,” Aranea said. Her filter was dropping; this man was irritating her. Ardyn raised an eyebrow. “Regalia’s going in for a tune-up. Mechanic’s on her way over right now.”

Noctis raised his own eyebrows in surprise. He quickly glanced towards Luna. She nodded at him, confirming what Aranea was saying to be true.

“What a pity,” Ardyn said. “Well, we can always wait for your tune-up to be completed.”

Aranea gave him a nasty smile. “Not happening. We want to deal with this problem as soon as we can. We’ll wait for Cindy to get here and take the car, then we’ll either rent a car or join you in yours to get to the Disc. That’s our plan.”

Ardyn’s smile faltered for a second. “Very well. You shall take a courtesy car. We shall await your mechanic in the meantime.”

It took another couple of hours before Cindy reached them. They had sat at some of the outdoor tables, actively staying as far away from Ardyn as they could get. Eventually, Cindy arrived in her tow truck. The Angels ran over as fast as they could.

“We got a creep with a shady disposition taking a stalkery interest in us,” Aranea said.

“Uh-huh,” Cindy replied.

“Could you take the Regalia elsewhere?” Luna asked. “Not to Hammerhead. Hide it somewhere. We think he might be Imperial. Please, Cindy. You might be our only hope in keeping the Regalia safe.”

“Sure thing, sugar,” Cindy said, blushing slightly.

“Thank you so much!” Luna exclaimed, pulling Cindy in for a hug.

Blushes could not get redder.

Regalia safely in Cindy’s hands and rental car organised, they walked back towards Ardyn.

“All set?” he asked.

“Yeah. Let’s go,” Noctis replied.


 

Noctis was driving their rental car towards the Disc of Cauthess. The car was a much slower and clunkier ride when compared to the Regalia. Gods, did Noctis miss the Regalia. Not only was it an amazing car, it had belonged to his dad. It was something that Noctis could use to feel a little bit more of a connection to his late father. Still, if their suspicions about Ardyn being an Imperial were correct, it was safer to leave it somewhere else. Noctis just had no idea where Cindy was going to take it.

“So, I’m worried about Cindy,” Luna said.

“Why’s that?” Noctis asked.

“Her face was really flushed earlier,” Luna said. “I’m worried she might be ill and with the added stress of hiding the Regalia from us…” Aranea snorted in the back. Iris was visibly trying to hold back laughter. “It’s not funny! Cindy’s our friend and I’m worried about her!”

“Oh Luna,” Iris said. “Never change.”

“I’m just concerned for a friend,” Luna mumbled. Noctis swore he could see her blushing out of the corner of his eye.

They followed Ardyn’s car towards the Disc of Cauthess. He hadn’t been hesitant to inform them that it was a ‘chase’ and not a ‘race’. They would follow him, not taking any alternative routes towards the Disc. Just another sign of Ardyn being a creepy-ass stalker.

“So where do you think Ardyn’s from?” Iris asked.

“Definitely not Lucian,” Aranea said. “Don’t ask me how I know. I just do.”

“Doesn’t seem like your typical Niff, though,” Noctis replied.

“Shame on you.” Aranea gasped in mock horror. “The past few years I have done all I can to model you into an ideal King. And here you are stereotyping the everyday creep. Shame, Noctis, shame.”

“Whatever,” Noctis replied. “What do you guys think of him?”

“He’s a creep,” Iris said.

“Agreed,” Luna put in. “I know I’ve said it before but he… unsettles me.”

They approached an outpost attached to a small village. Ardyn was pulling over. Frowning in confusion, Noctis followed him into the car park. The creep got out of his car and walked towards the Regalia.

“The sun’s setting,” he said, making a sweeping gesture towards the sky. “How about we stop here for tonight?”

“And Cauthess?” Aranea asked.

“The Archaean’s not going anywhere,” Ardyn replied.

Noctis shrugged and got out of the car. “Camp or caravan?”

The girls didn’t get a chance to reply before Ardyn cut in. “I’ve never been one for the outdoors. There’s a caravan nearby and I would be more than happy to foot the bill. Consider it my treat.”

“Fine,” Noctis said.

Ardyn was certainly the kind of person who got what he wanted. He wanted them to go to the Disc? Done. He specifically asked Noctis to drive instead of Aranea? Fine. Pulling over and stopping for the night? Alright then. The only time he had failed in getting exactly what he wanted was when they’d handed the Regalia over to Cindy and taken a hire car instead.

Luna had gone to buy food while Ardyn was making the payment for the caravan. Thankfully, he had gone for the bigger caravan of the lot. It would be easier to force him to sleep on one side of the room while they took the other. Both Luna and Ardyn ended up walking back together at the same time.

“Ah! Cavaugh-style takeaway! What a treat indeed,” Ardyn said. “Thank you for purchasing that for us, dear Miss…..?”

“Lunafreya,” Luna replied.

“Miss Lunafreya!” Ardyn exclaimed. “My, you are a pretty one. Such a beautiful specimen out here in the dusty Lucian countryside…”

Without warning, he suddenly reached a hand out towards Luna. She jumped back with a startled cry, nearly dropping the bags of takeaway. The others quickly ran in front of her, putting themselves between her and Ardyn. Noctis stayed directly near her, Iris took the middle, and Aranea got right up in front of Ardyn.

“Hey, watch it creep!” she yelled.

Ardyn chuckled. “Forgive me. I get so caught up in the beauty of things. I’m a bit of a… sculptor myself. I do certainly admire beautiful people. Perhaps one day I could model something made in the image of dear Lunafreya. Now, shall we eat?”

As Ardyn walked off towards the caravan, Noctis put an arm around Luna. She’d gone pale and had started trembling.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Luna replied. Her voice still sounded shaky. “He just took me by surprise. That’s all.”

Aranea and Iris walked over to them. Aranea glared at Ardyn as she spoke. “Creep. Luna gets top bunk tonight.”

“Yeah,” Iris agreed.

“Yeah,” Noctis echoed.

Luna said nothing. She just smiled weakly at her friends.

Chapter Text

Chapter six – I predict an earthquake

Prompto and Noctis were watching in awe as Nyx hit the bullseye every single time. At sixteen, he was allowed to start training with knives and other weapons. Today he was practising with throwing knives. To the eight year olds, his ability to consistently hit the centre of the target was like magic.

“How do you do that?” Noctis asked in wonder.

“Practice, little man,” Nyx replied. “I used to practice with darts, then I moved onto knives.”

“Maybe you could teach me?” Noctis said.

Nyx ruffled his hair. “Not with knives. King Regis and Aunt Sylva would have my head. Maybe when you’re up and walking I can show you how to use darts.”

“And me?” Prompto asked, snapping a few photos.

“Sure,” Nyx said. “I’ll teach you both.”

Noctis and Prompto high-fived each other. Both of them were pretty impressed by Prompto’s older cousin. Nyx seemed so grown-up and cool; his skills with weaponry certainly left them awe-struck. As Nyx went back to his practice, Prompto sat on the ground next to Noctis’ wheelchair.

“I don’t think I would be a good fighter,” Prompto said.

“Why? I think you’d be good at anything,” Noctis replied.

Prompto giggled slightly. “I don’t think so. I’m not good with toy swords or anything. And the Oracle’s supposed to heal people. Not fight them.”

Noctis frowned slightly. “When I’m better, I’ll learn how to fight really good. So I can protect you.”

“Thank you Noct!” Prompto exclaimed, jumping up to hug his friend. “And I’m gonna help lots of people as the Oracle!”

“And I’ll protect them all as King,” Noctis said. “Promise.”

“Promise,” Prompto echoed.


 

Morning came and they were waiting for Ardyn to finish up his ‘personal shopping’ before they made their way towards the Disc. It had been an uncomfortable night. They’d insisted on placing Ardyn as far away from them as possible and had done all they could to keep him away from Luna. He’d only seemed amused at the entire situation.

Creep.

A group of Hunters (who Noctis was sure were Crownsguard in civilian clothing) were listening to a radio. Noctis couldn’t help but overhear. He was surprised to hear a voice that he had heard plenty of times on radio and TV, but not in person for twelve years. He felt his breath catch as he heard it.

Prompto’s voice.

“It’s hard and I miss Mom, but I’ll try my best!” Prompto’s voice said. It was an old interview, from years ago. “I promise to try and be as good an Oracle as she was.”

“Is it difficult, being so young and having to perform healings?” the interviewer asked.

“Umm, not really,” Prompto’s voice replied. “I promised a friend that when I became Oracle I was gonna help loads of people. And people need me to help them! So umm… if you can’t come to me, I’ll come to you! Just wait for me!”

Just like when he had first heard the interview years ago, Noctis felt tears spring to his eyes.

“That was an interview from the youngest Oracle ever to ascend, recorded ten years ago,” a presenter read out. “Lord Prompto continued to be dedicated to helping people, making it clear that he did not mind his marriage, since it would unite the people.”

“You know, there’s been some speculation that his ‘friend’ who he promised to was Prince Noctis,” another presenter said. “Just listen to this.”

“I don’t mind marrying Noct,” an older Prompto said. “He’s cool. And it will help unite the people. And I’ll still be able to go and help people. I know Noct won’t mind letting me do that.”

One presenter laughed. “Wow. They must have been close as kids. ‘Noct’? Calling the future king by a nickname like that? It’s sweet. We can only hope that Lord Prompto’s still alive. It would be a shame for such a sweet young man to have died so needlessly…”

Noctis drew himself away from listening to the broadcast. He was only going to make himself upset. That and Ardyn was approaching them. The creep deposited his shopping bag in his car before waving to the group.

“Should we be off then?” he asked.

“Yeah. Sure,” Noctis replied.

They set off once more, making the final leg of their journey to the Disc. They left Cauthess behind, heading for the village’s namesake. They drove on in relative silence, not exactly feeling like discussing much. They were still having to follow Ardyn, after all. Plus, Noctis was feeling a little distracted by the radio broadcast he’d heard earlier.

If Aranea wasn’t in a sour mood from prolonged Ardyn exposure, she would have been making sarky comments there and then.

They continued driving until they reached a barricade. Noctis slowed the car down and drew up next to Ardyn.

“We’re here!” Ardyn cried out.

“Better not be a setup,” Noctis muttered.

Ardyn turned his head and raised an eyebrow. “Have I given you reason to doubt me?”

“Considering you are the literal human embodiment of slime, yes you have,” Aranea muttered.

“After how you spooked Luna?” Iris said. “Yeah, we’ve got plenty of reasons to doubt you.”

Ardyn paid them no heed and turned his head towards the gates. “Hello! It’s me! Be so kind as to open up!”

The gates slowly began to open.

“Look at that,” Noctis said.

“I may not look like much but I do have some influence,” Ardyn replied. “Aren’t you glad we came together? Your audience with divinity lies ahead.”

“Saying goodbye?” Noctis asked.

“I dropped you at the Archaean’s door. Now I must bid you farewell.” Ardyn began to reverse. “I do hope to see you all again soon, but I shan’t bet on it.” He gave another nasty grin. “Well, if I do, I’ll eat my own hat. Enjoy your audience, Your Highness.”

Ignoring Ardyn, Noctis drove onwards. He was a little unnerved by the sight of an empty Magitek engine sitting on the side of the path. Plenty of those things had descended from the sky to try and take them out. Still, he drove on, not enjoying the rumbling feel of the rough ground below them. He kept on driving until the path grew too narrow.

“On foot it is,” he said.

They climbed out of the car and stepped into a small patch of ruins. Broken pillars stood either side of them. Noctis led the group onwards and past the ruins. Dead trees clawed their way out of the rock faces and the heat was slowly growing unbearable. They all had to banish their jackets to the arsenal, for fear of completely overheating. They kept on walking, heading towards a cliff of some sort. It was what was at the end of the cliff that was interesting.

“Wow, Noct. Your ancestors liked to get buried in some pretty weird places,” Iris said.

“Strange place to find a royal tomb,” Luna commented. She had a look at an old inscription on one of the pillars. “Tomb of the Mystic.”

Noctis walked forwards and held his arm out. The greatsword lying on top of his ancestor glowed blue and rose upwards. Noctis winced as it flew to him and impaled him. He was never going to get used to that. He felt a rush of power flow through him as his Armiger began to float around him in their spectral forms. They dissipated and Noctis could feel the new weapon in his arsenal.

The ground began to shake. One of the girls said something but Noctis couldn’t hear. His headache had come back and with a vengeance. He fell to the ground, clutching his head. Beneath him, the ground began to crumble. Noctis tried to jump to more solid ground, only for it to give way beneath him. He screamed as he felt himself slip downwards. He almost fell off another platform, only for somebody to grab his arms.

“Noct!” “We gotcha!”

Luna and Iris gripped his arms. He pulled himself up, head still in agony. He lay down between the girls as the ground continued to shake. In front of them, the titanic rock feature began to shift and move. Noctis watched in two parts terror, two parts awe, as Titan lifted his head up. Huge rocks were cutting into the Astral’s body, giving Him a daemonic appearance.

“Lrucah Gehk, oui cdyht pavuna sa, dra Archaean.”

“Damn,” Noctis muttered. “This is the Archaean?”

“Looks like he’s woken up,” Iris said. “Is that a good thing or a really bad thing?”

“I don’t know,” Luna replied.

“He’s trying to tell me something,” Noctis said. “But what?”

“You guys okay down there?!” They looked upwards to see Aranea standing on a ledge near the tomb. “Is there a way back up?!”

Noctis had a quick look around. “No but there’s a path! Gonna see where it leads!”

“Can you get down, A?!” Iris called up.

“Not gonna happen! Not without breaking my legs!” Aranea replied.

“Try and find another path!” Luna yelled. “We’ll meet up with you!”

“Got it!” Aranea ran off somewhere.

Noctis, Luna, and Iris headed off down the path. It was becoming even more unbearably hot. A flock of dynoaevis flew above them.

“They’re agitated,” Luna said. “We should be careful.”

With their luck, a couple of agitated birds flew down and attacked them. They took care of them quickly before continuing along the path. The flames were becoming more and more unbearable. They scrambled over burning rocks, wincing as their hands burnt.

“Over here,” Iris said.

She gestured towards a narrow ledge. Noctis shook his head. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” Iris asked. “It’s the only way forwards. Come on.”

She set off across the ledge first. Groaning in despair, Noctis followed after him. Luna brought up the rear. Going as quick as they could without falling or disrupting the rocks, they began to make their way across. Another tremor shook the earth. Noctis felt his headache get worse.

“Ouin Dneym pakehc, ur Lrucah Gehk. E fecr du ghuf ev oui dnimo yna fundro uv paehk lymmat Bahamut'c Lrucah. Fradran un hud ouin Unylma ec seckietat eh rec pameav eh ouin cdnahkdr.”

A rocky hand reached towards them.

“What’s he saying?!” Luna yelled.

“I don’t know!” Noctis yelled. “Hey! Titan! What’s the big deal?!”

“Let’s just get to solid ground!” Iris shouted.

Trying to ignore the giant hand that was reaching at them, they pressed onwards. Noctis felt his breathing grow quicker in panic and he screamed at Iris to go faster. He could barely hear her and Luna replying. Iris grabbed his hand and swung him towards solid ground. She did the same for Luna before jumping off the ledge as Titan destroyed it.

“Ouin vneahtc ryja cbened, Gehk. E ruba oui bycc so dneym, vun ev oui vyem drao crymm banecr fedr oui. Ouin Creamt yht dra kenm punh du palusa y daemon. Ed ec nyna du caa uha uv ran geht cinjeja yc y risyh."

“I hope this is just how Titan usually acts,” Luna said. “That he’s not overly angry at us or something.”

“If you wanna stay here and ask then be my guest,” Noctis snapped.

Iris pulled him up to his feet. “Less attitude. More moving.”

They continued on, sliding underneath a set of rocks.

“Sick of this endless walking,” Noctis muttered.

“Deal with it,” Iris snapped. She took a deep breath. “Listen Noct, I have no idea what’s going on right now. But there is a god that might be trying to kill us, I’m not sure. We just need to all calm down, okay?”

“I’m perfectly calm!” Noctis yelled.

Iris raised an eyebrow. “You’re not acting like it. I get it, things are stressful right now. But just calm down and freak out later. You’re a Lucis Caelum.”

“Like I’ve forgotten that,” Noctis grumbled.

“I know you haven’t. But I’m your Shield. I need to not just protect you but help you move forwards. I need you to calm down so I can do that,” Iris said. “I’m your Shield, like every Amicitia before me had been for every Lucis Caelum before you. I’m proud of my duty. And I’m proud of you, for the King I know you will become.”

“Please, Noct. Just take a deep breath,” Luna pitched in. “We’re here for you, okay. Just breathe.”

She put her hands on Noctis’ shoulders as he took her advice and began to take a few deep breaths. They were right; he needed to calm down. They could have a freak out over this later. It wasn’t safe for them to start panicking there and then. Calmed, Noctis signalled for them to walk onwards. Luna and Iris shared a smile; he was in a better frame of mind now.

“Hey, Iris. Your Dad… Uncle Clarus… I’m grateful, for everything,” Noctis said.

“Yeah,” Iris replied, voice sad. A phone began to ring. “That’s yours, Noct.”

Noctis answered the call. “Aranea? You okay?”

“I’m fine, Pretty Boy. Good to hear your voice.” Aranea’s voice was fuzzy. It was a bad connection. “Be careful. Imperial troops are in the area. You sh-”

Her voice cut out but Noctis and the others could see the Magitek engines. He grit his teeth; this just got a whole lot worse. They kept on walking until the path grew a little wider. Noctis could see a group of Magitek troopers clumped together. He summoned his new armiger to him. May as well test it out.

“Dra Icinban'c salryhelym daemonc. Fryd oui vneaht luimt ryja palusa. Tacdnuo draca ypusehydeuhc, Gehk. Drao ehcimd dra Hexatheon fedr draen luhdehiat aqecdahla.”

Still unable to understand what Titan was saying, Noctis charged forwards towards the MTs. His new weapon was powerful, if somewhat slow. With Luna and Iris by his side, they made quick work of the MTs while Titan watched over them. Enemies eliminated, Noctis walked towards the edge of the rocky platform.

“Hey! I’m here!” he yelled.

“Ouin cdnahkdr ec ytsenypma, ur Gehk. Pid ouin Dneym ec hud lusbmada. Tu oui ryja dra cdnahkdr du vyla sa, dra Archaean eh pyddma? Tu oui ryja dra cdnahkdr du dyga uh cduha yc umt yc Eos edcamv?”

Noctis clutched his head as Titan spoke. “What the hell is it you want?! Quit screwing with my head!”

Titan stared at him. His arm slowly began to move towards Noctis and the girls.

“Shit!” Iris screamed.

The ground collapsed beneath them once more. Noctis warped down to solid ground while Iris and Luna managed to summon rope from the arsenal. They threw it over a rock to slow their fall, landing roughly next to Noctis. They looked up in horror as Titan began to raise his foot and bring it down towards them. With nowhere to run and no other choice left, Noctis raised the Blade of the Mystic above him and brought it to meet the Arcahean’s foot.

“Noct!” Luna yelled.

Next to him, Iris was using her own greatsword to block Titan’s blow, while Luna stood behind them and tried to hold them both up. Titan raised the foot and stepped backwards. Noctis swore as Titan lifted his other foot and began to bring it down. Before it could hit, Iris tackled both Luna and Noctis out of the way.

“Run!” she screamed.

Luna and Noctis weren’t going to argue with that sound logic. Spotting another trail, they ran like deranged chocobos along it. Every now and then, Titan, God of freaking Stone, would try and punch them. Noctis tried to phase away from attacks while the girls would have to hit the ground and try and scramble up again once the hand was gone. They reached a rock wall. Iris managed somehow to stick her sword in about half way up the wall for here and Luna to climb with while Noctis warped to the top.

Titan’s hand came behind them and swept away the rocks as they ran. Noctis felt the hand sweep him away while the girls screamed. He landed on a platform as Titan raised his arm once more. Screaming, Noctis parried the blow that came his way. Titan tried again; Noctis parried. In a moment of recklessness, Noctis threw the Blade of the Mystic and warpstriked directly into Titan’s hand. The giant’s arm shook and Noctis felt himself falling back to the ground.

“Oui ryja luinyka. Femm oui cinjeja ihdem ouin vneahtc ynneja, ouihk Gehk?”

As Noctis pulled himself to his feet, Titan slammed his arm down. Noctis blocked the blow once more. Titan’s arm fell to the side of him. Seeing a chance, Noctis slashed at it in hopes of dealing some damage. Titan seemed unfazed as he raised the arm once more. Noctis didn’t wait for the blow this time; he warpstriked the arm once more, point-warping back to safety as Titan’s arm shook.

“Hey Pretty Boy! Still alive?!”

Aranea’s lance stabbed into Titan’s palm as he tried to attack again. Noctis tried to hold it away from her as best he could; he wasn’t going to let some angry god kill his friends.

“Somehow,” Noctis muttered.

“Imperials!” Luna?

Noctis looked up to see a Dreadnought and several Magitek engines descending towards the Disc. Luna was standing on a rock and shooting at Titan’s arm with her (recently-upgraded) grenade launcher. Iris ran towards Titan and screamed as she brought her sword down on his arm. Out of the corner of his eye, Noctis could see Imperial troops firing off what looked like electrical harpoons towards Titan.

Basically, shit had hit the fan.

“Yllincat! Oui pnehk ouin raydrahc du ehdanvana fedr dra Dneym uv Titan?! Ouin hafacd ranaco crymm hud pa vunkejah! E rynpuin uhmo ryda, vun oui yna dra sintanunc uv so pnudran, Shiva!”

More harpoons lodged themselves into Titan’s arm. The Archaean was forced to collapse, leaning on both his arms. Realising that the ordeal was not over yet, Noctis prepared to attack again. He began to summon his Armiger towards him, only for the energy to feel… different. All the Royal Arms he had collected thus far surrounded him and Noctis felt powerful.

“All out!” he yelled.

“What do you think we’ve been doing?!” Aranea screamed back at him.

Noctis ignored her in favour of letting the Armiger fly forwards and attack Titan. He rapidly switched between them, warping to strike various points of the Archaean’s arm. Below him, Iris took on the task of striking Titan’s hand while Aranea and Luna took out Imperials that were getting a little bit too close.

“We have Blizzard flasks!” Aranea yelled as Noctis landed next to her. “We throw em, you blast him with pure magic, see what happens?”

“Sounds good to me,” Noctis replied.

As Titan’s hand fell in front of them, crushing the approaching MTs and human soldiers, the girls all summoned the magic flasks from the arsenal. They threw them one by one at Titan’s arm. Noctis closed his eyes and focussed on his magic. Opening them, he threw his arms out in front of him and pure ice magic flew from his fingertips. The air grew chilly and Titan’s arm had frost creeping up it.

“It’s over!” Noctis yelled.

He released the spell and summoned the Blade of the Mystic once more. With a yell, he brought it down on Titan’s hand. The entire arm began to shake and crumble, causing Titan to collapse onto the stump.

It at least looked like they’d won.

“Is everybody okay?” Luna asked.

“Somehow,” Noctis replied.

Iris smashed a Hi-elixir onto him. “We’re a little roughed up but we’re alive.”

“Is anyone else going to freak out over the fact that we just took on a motherfucking god?!” Aranea asked.

The ground began to shake once more as Titan lifted himself up.

“What the hell?!” Noctis yelled.

“What the fuck is going on?!” Aranea demanded. “Why is the fucking Archaean trying to kill us?! Why is the Empire trying to kill him?!”

“Oui yna cdnuhk, ouihk Gehk. Ouin Unylma fyc nekrd du ryja vyedr eh oui. Nalaeja so pmaccehk, Lrucah Gehk. Mad ed huf pa tuha, yc bnusecat du dra Unylma. Yht yc bnusecat, mad dra saccyka pa tamejanat.”

Particles of golden light began to surround Titan and Noctis. Noctis stumbled as his vision went white. A hazy image appeared before him. Prompto, surrounded in golden light and holding a trident, bowing before Titan. Noctis felt his eyes widen as he was thrust back into reality.

“Prompto?” he whispered. He lifted his head and met eyes with Titan. “You spoke with him? He’s okay?”

“The Covenant has been forged, my blessing received. It has been done, as promised to the Oracle.”  Noctis realised that he could actually understand Titan all of a sudden.

“Wait! Is Prompto okay?” Noctis asked. “Did he say anything? Please, I need to know!”

“Go, young King. My brothers and sister await you.”

Titan began to lift himself higher as his body began to glow gold. A wave of golden-coloured energy swept past them, knocking the Imperial ships out of the sky. Titan let out a roar as his body began to collapse once more. Noctis felt the girls hanging on to him as the ground began to shake and fire erupted around them.

“Give us a break!” Aranea yelled.

The air began to shift around them and they heard the tell-tale rumble of a Magitek engine descending. They watched as one began to descend near them. Noctis pushed in front of the girls, ready to summon his weapons towards him. Through the heat haze, Noctis could see the hatch open, revealing somebody who he didn’t exactly want to see.

“Fancy meeting you here!” Ardyn cried out jovially.

“OH JUST FUCKING COME ON!” Aranea yelled.

“What are you doing here?!” Iris demanded.

Ardyn laughed. “It occurred to me that I never formally introduced myself!” He gave a mocking bow. “Izunia! Ardyn Izunia!”

Noctis mentally kicked himself. Of course Ardyn seemed familiar. Noctis had seen him in reports from meetings with his dad and Aranea, on TV screens after the treaty was announced. How hadn’t he recognised him?

“Imperial Chancellor Izunia?!” Aranea yelled. “What the actual fuck?!”

“At your service, Countess Highwind!” Ardyn replied. “And to your aid!” He held his arms out. The Angels stared at him in apprehension. Ardyn looked offended. “I guarantee your safe passage. Though you’re always welcome to take your chances down there. Buried amongst the rubble, is it?”

Noctis turned to the girls. “Here or him?”

“Him,” Luna replied. The others stared at her. “I don’t like it but we can’t die here.”

“I know,” Noctis said. He took a step towards Ardyn’s ship. The chancellor grinned at him. “You guarantee safe passage?”

“Of course! I’m a man of my word!” Ardyn replied. He scanned over them. “Though, I honestly hadn’t expected to see you all survive the Archaean’s wrath.”

Noctis and the girls ignored him as they scrambled onto the ship. Ardyn watched in amusement.

“This does mean, however-” he began. “-that I’ll have to eat my hat now.”

Chapter Text

Chapter seven – Heart is beating faster, feels like thunder

Noctis was walking a lot better now. It still took a lot out of him, but the improvement was a sure sign that Queen Sylva’s treatments were working. Prompto was overjoyed for his friend. Yet part of him was sad. Noctis would be leaving Tenebrae soon. He’d be left alone. Sure he would have Mother, and Nyx, and Cor… but Noctis was special.

He was actually sleeping right now. The treatments earlier had taken their toll on him. Prompto had wheeled him out into the gardens and had tried to entertain Noctis with a ball-catching game. His friend tried to join in but quickly fell asleep. Prompto just sat by him taking photos of the butterflies.

As Noctis slept, King Regis and one of his retinue began to enter the garden. Prompto snapped a photo before remembering that he had to bow. King Regis chuckled. Prompto straightened up.

“Is Noctis sleeping?” Regis asked, gesturing at his son.

“Yeah. He was tired after the treatments,” Prompto replied.

Regis smiled. “I see. I am glad to see that you are here, looking after him.”

“Noct’s my best friend!” Prompto said.

“That is good to here,” Regis replied. “May I see the photos you have taken? Gentiana, young Prompto here has a gift for photography.”

“Does he, Your Majesty?” the woman behind him asked.

“You can see!” Prompto said.

He ran over to show King Regis and the woman (Gentiana?) the photos he had taken. It was then that he realised that there were quite a few of Noctis on his camera. King Regis didn’t seem to mind though. He found it cute. Next to them, Noctis began to stir. Prompto went over to tell his friend what had just happened.

Regis just smiled at the pair of them.


 

Wiz’s Chocobo Post and the small settlement around it had gone from tourist spot to revolutionary base in a matter of three days. When the Empire began to close up the regions, Gentiana decided that they needed to focus their efforts on one specific region. She called the Angels up, learnt that they were in Duscae, and proceeded to move the bulk of her Resistance to the region.

It hadn’t taken much convincing to get Wiz to let them use all his spare space for the Crownsguard and Hunters that needed somewhere to stay while they planned. Everyone was getting sick and tired of the Empire. More and more people were volunteering to help with the Resistance, especially since it was now becoming more than just taking on the small bases and dropships.

Noctis and the Angels were currently sat at a table, listen to a broadcast. The rain outside hadn’t stopped in the week that they had been in Duscae.

“High Commander Nyx Ulric issued a statement regarding the Imperial blockades across the region.”

A new voice entered the broadcast. “Intelligence suggests that the terrorists behind the attack on Insomnia ae hiding with southern Lucis. The blockades are to restrict their movements until they are caught. We know it’s an inconvenience but we assure you that we will remove the blockades as soon as the terrorists are caught.”

“Oh so that’s how they’re explaining it,” Aranea muttered.

“Shh,” Iris hushed.

“The High Commander also wishes to say that recovery efforts are moving ahead within the Crown City,” the newscaster continued. “In other news, the recent quakes that have been troubling Cleigne and Duscae have subsided. The Empire has released another statement regarding them.”

“The tremors were caused by the Archaean.” Nyx, again. “He awoke, hell-bent on destruction. We’re lucky the meteor kept him in place. The Empire took action, stopping him from destroying everything.”

“Witnesses have verified that Titan has disappeared from the Disc of Cauthess.”

“Turn that shit off,” Noctis said. Luna reached to the radio and switched it off. “Luna, Cindy called yet?”

“Yes. She’s in Taelpar. A friend of hers offered to hide the Regalia there. She’s keeping her head down since Ardyn managed to get a good look at her back in Lestallum,” Luna replied. “I hope she’s okay.”

Nobody chose to comment.

“So we’ve got a whole bunch of Hunters and Crownsguard. We’ve got one person with full-magic, three with arsenal and strength-boosting, Gentiana, and…” Iris trailed off. “Do we have a plan yet?”

“There’s a scouting party checking out Aracheole Stronghold,” Aranea replied. “We’ll get the plan when Gentiana and her guys come up with it.”

Noctis was about to say something when a loud barking sound came from outside. He went over to the window and looked out. A black dog with a blue ribbon collar and a book strapped to its back stood outside. The dog barked a few more times. Grinning, Noctis grabbed a jacket and ran outside, the girls following after him.

“Umbra!” Luna said. “It’s been a while!”

Umbra barked happily before running off towards the trees. The party followed after him.

“Wonder what the message is?” Iris asked.

“Better be worth it. We haven’t seen Umbra or Pryna in a while,” Aranea replied.

They followed after Umbra until he stopped at the feet of a tall man in ornate black clothing. Noctis stopped abruptly as he got a good look at the man.

“Cor?”

Cor nodded his head at him. “Young King. You are unharmed after your encounter with Titan. That is good.”

“Noct? Who is that?” Luna whispered.

“A friend. He serves Prompto,” Noctis replied. “Cor, why are you here?”

“The Stormsender, Fulgurian, Ramuh. Call him what you want. The time has come for you to receive his blessing,” Cor said. “The Oracle has already done his part. Now it’s your turn.”

Noctis felt his breath catch in his throat. “Prompto? Where is he? Is he okay?”

“He is safe. He sent me with a message,” Cor replied. “He has begun the covenant. Receive the Storm’s blessing and do what you must for your people in Lucis. The Oracle is heading for Altissia. He has the Ring with him, entrusted to him by your father.” Cor walked past him. “Try not to keep him waiting.”

There was a slight rush of cold air and Cor had vanished from sight. Noctis stared at the spot he had just been standing in.

“So that was the legendary Cor,” Aranea said.

“He’s supposed to be a Messenger,” Iris explained to Luna. “A kind of spirit that serves the Oracle.”

“A human version of Umbra and Pryna then,” Luna said.

“Exactly,” Iris agreed.

Noctis knelt down next to Umbra and removed the photo album from his back. He flicked through it, searching for the more recent additions. There were a few photos of Insomnia and a couple of Prompto taking selfies in a few places around Lucis. Cor was in one of them, as was a woman that Noctis vaguely recognised.

“That’s Crowe!” Luna exclaimed. Noctis turned his head towards her. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to look.”

“It’s fine,” Noctis said. “But Crowe?”

“She’s from Galahd. A Glaive,” Luna replied. “I thought she would have died in the fighting. But if Crowe’s okay… maybe Ravus is?” Luna sighed. “I just… I don’t know.”

While Iris gave Luna a hug, Noctis read the message Prompto had written. It was a fair bit longer than usual.

Hey. I think this should reach you after Titan? Not sure. Sorry I couldn’t warn you about him. We were busy trying to avoid the Empire. I’m okay, so don’t worry about me. Crowe’s keeping an eye out for me. So’s Cor. I’ve been learning how to fight more. I’ve even been doing a couple of hunts with Crowe! We have to be careful though. Can’t have people recognising us and accidentally or maybe on purpose telling the Empire where we are. Crowe’s a Glaive. Your friend Luna knows her. Are the Angels okay?

And I know this getting really long and I’m sorry but I have a lot to say. I’m sorry about your dad. It wasn’t fair, what Niflheim did. And I’m sorry about Lord Clarus. He tried to buy us some time. So did this guy called Libertus, and Luna’s brother. Ravus. He was really brave. I feel pretty bad about it all. All these people for me and the Ring… I feel horrible.

Guess you don’t need to hear me complain though. Must have been rough for you guys too. Still, I’ve just finished speaking to Ramuh and he says that if you get his blessing and need his help with like, taking on the Empire or something, he’ll come when you need him! (He’s much nicer than Titan… don’t tell Titan I said that).

ALSO I GOT TO RIDE A CHOCOBO. IT WAS AWESOME. I HAVEN’T STOPPED SINGING THE CHOCOBO SONG IN DAYS. (Well, I did when Crowe threatened to punch me)

Um, yeah. I think that’s everything. See you in Altissia. I can’t wait. It’s all I can think about really, getting to see you again. And maybe we could go through with the wedding? We can talk about it in Altissia.

Oh! Almost forgot. Got a Lucian phone. Has King’s Knight on it. Tips? Please? I can see why you think it’s so good!

See ya round, Noct. I love you xxxxxx

Noctis smiled in relief. Prompto was okay. He was okay. He wasn’t completely out of danger yet but if he could make it this long without any issues then he would be fine. And Altissia! Noctis was going to have to find a way to get to Altissia. Prompto was waiting for him there. He held the album to his chest before realising there was something important to say.

“Luna. Prompto’s with Crowe. And he said something about Ravus,” Noctis said. “He-”

“Don’t say it. I know. I know, Noct,” Luna interrupted. “I know.”

“He mentioned somebody named Libertus,” Noctis said.

“He’s gone too, isn’t he?” Noctis just nodded at her.

“Did he mention my dad?” Iris asked quietly.

“Yeah.”

“Oh.”

“My uncle?” Aranea asked.

“No.”

“Right.”

They moved indoors with Umbra. Noctis picked out a few selfies they had taken, the photos from the viewpoint, a couple of them riding chocobos and stuck them in. He wrote out his own lengthy response to Prompto’s message and tied the album to Umbra’s back.

“Let him know that I’m okay. That we won’t have to wait much longer,” he said.

Umbra barked once at him before heading off outside. Noctis watched as he ran off somewhere, fading from view. Noctis watched with a sad smile. His smile slowly dropped as whispers began to sound in his head.

“Only you can hear this message.” It was Cor’s voice. “The Light of the Storm. It strikes the earth. You must go to this Light. It’s a guiding point. Three runestones, all in Duscae. Find them and complete Ramuh’s Trial.”

Noctis frowned slightly before turning to the girls. “Let’s go rent some birds. We have a Storm to head into.”


 

Finding the first two runestones hadn’t been two difficult. It had taken them two days to do it, what with having to resort to chocobos and not the car, factor in some exhaustion, ooh, and some pesky Imperial dropships here and there. When they got to each runestone, racing across Alstor Slough and following the lightning, they were greeted with even more Imperials. Two squads of MTs. Not exactly difficult to take out.

It occurred to all of them that their combat skills had improved vastly in the past couple of months. Taking on that Iron Giant when they hadn’t reached a haven before dark certainly proved it.

Both runestones were like crystalline trees. Dead trees, with no leaves and the branches twisted and deformed. When Noctis touched each one, lightning began to spark off it, surrounding him. It felt like a surge of electricity lurching through him. Similar to when acquiring new Royal Arms, yet different. And both times he touched them, he could hear Cor’s voice in his head once more.

“Niflheim does not want the True King to rise to his destiny. Their forces are surrounding the next runestone. Be careful. You can’t disappoint Lord Prompto now. He is speaking to the gods on your behalf.”

That had been the first message he’d received from the mystic Messenger. It had also been the point where Noctis realised exactly what it was Prompto was doing. Awakening the Six for him. He already seemed to have Titan’s blessing. Perhaps Prompto was trying to get them to bless him so that he would have the strength to take on the Empire and reclaim Lucis.

The second message had been a little more helpful.

“You have found two of them. Good. The final one lies in Fociaugh Hollow. Be wary of the daemons that call it home. Touch the runestone and forge the covenant.”

After giving Gentiana a call to let her know exactly why they had run off, they headed off in the direction of Fociaugh Hollow. It was a dungeon similar to the Glacial Grotto. And much like the Glacial Grotto, it was host to all number of imps. Only, they had to deal with bombs and hobgoblins in place of flans.

“Look on the bright side,” Luna said as she nailed yet another imp with a piercer shot. “At least it’s not mindflayers.”

“Still daemons, still unpredictable little shits,” Aranea replied.

They finished up with the latest lot of daemons and proceeded onwards, Iris still grumbling about having no room to fight. She’d stuck to shields while they were in the narrow passages of Fociaugh; less likely to swing into one of her friends or into a wall.

It was getting tedious. Keep walking, keep dealing with daemons. Same as every other dungeon they’d had to trawl through so far. Noctis supposed that it wouldn’t have been much of a trial though if there wasn’t some danger aspect to it. On the plus side, Ramuh wasn’t trying to fight them himself. Certainly seemed to be a much more friendly god than Titan.

As they walked, Luna suddenly stopped dead. “Did anyone hear that?”

“Hear what?” Noctis asked. “You okay?”

“It was a voice. It was asking something,” Luna replied. “It said: ‘where are my babies?’”

“Didn’t hear anything,” Iris said.

“I’m sure I- KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

“LUNA!” Noctis yelled.

Something snatched Luna by the feet and dragged her away before the others could react. Shouting for their friend, they followed after her through the dark passages. They could hear her screaming for whatever it was to let go of her, followed by a loud thud and thankfully: ‘I’m alright! Shaken, but okay!’. Then that was followed by a sudden outburst of very un-Luna-like swearing. They entered a more spacious cavern and were greeted with the sight of Luna trying to fend off a number of daemons.

Noctis wasted no time in warping to her and helping her take on the myriad of daemons that were attacking. Imps, bombs, hobgoblins… and motherfucking mindflayers. Luna switched to the machine gun she’d nabbed off a fallen Imperial and let loose on all the daemons near her. She seemed a little shaken from everything that had happened.

“You know what you were saying about mindflayers, Luna?” Aranea yelled, stabbing one in the head with her lance.

“Anything is better than what dragged me here,” Luna replied.

The four ended up clumping together as they took on the daemons. Iris was finally getting to use her normal swords now that she was in a bigger area. She settled into a rhythm of swiping at the two remaining bombs while Noctis blasted ice magic at them. They dissipated and both went to help Luna and Aranea finish off the final mindflayer.

“Everyone okay? Luna?” Noctis said, shaking off some of the ice that had clung to him.

“I’m fine. Just shaken,” Luna replied. “That thing… she’s still out there.”

“Everyone watch your back then,” Aranea said.

Tense, they continued on through the Hollow. Another passageway (thankfully daemon-free) took them into another more spacious cavern. Luna began to shake slightly as they walked through it.

“She’s here,” she whispered.

Luna pre-emptively summoned her guns back to her. Noctis was about to ask her if she really was okay something moved next to him. He settled into a fighting stance as a daemon snake jumped out of the shadows. Luna screamed as it jumped out at them. It had a human-like face with glassy eyes that stared right at them. Its skin looked like it was decaying there and then.

Creepiest daemon award: now given to the naga.

“Where… where are… my babies? My babies?” it asked, voice raspy yet surprisingly human.

Lost for words, Noctis said the first thing he could think of. “I don’t know.”

“No… no… my beautiful babies. My sons… my daughter…” the naga suddenly lunged for him. “I will take YOU instead!”

Noctis quickly parried the naga as it tried to get at him. It quickly slithered past him, knocking him and the girls down with its tail. It tried to get them again and Noctis quickly warpstriked to keep it away. He switched immediately to the Swords of the Wanderer. No chances with this daemon. It seemed emotionally invested in killing them.

“Pin it down! It’s moving too fast!” Aranea yelled.

As the naga slithered away to prepare for another blow, Noctis switched to the Sword of the Wise and warpstriked at its body. It howled as he stabbed through it, pinning it to the ground. Noctis gritted his teeth and sat on top of its writhing body, keeping it in place. Luna shot at it with piercer shots while Aranea and Iris took turns in attacking the upper half of its body. Not letting go of his sword, Noctis attacked it with a concentrated blast of ice magic. It howled. Luna shot its head and Noctis took the opportunity to warpstrike at the head.

“NO! My babies… my dear babies…”

The naga dissolved into nothingness, sobbing for its babies.

“Does anyone else suddenly feel conflicted over killing a daemon?” Iris asked.

“Can daemons even have babies?” Aranea wondered.

Noctis put his arm around a shaking Luna. “Don’t even want to find out. Come on. Let’s just find the runestone.”

They walked on in shaken silence until a burst of light caught their eyes. Sure enough, a crack in the ceiling had light shining directly over the runestone. Noctis could have sworn that it was the largest one yet. Removing his arm from Luna’s shoulders, Noctis went towards it. As he approached it, a voice sounded in his head.

“Dnia Gehk, famlusa. Oui ryja byccat so dneym yht oui syo nalaeja so pmaccehk, yc bnusecat du dra Unylma. Rec vyedr ec hud seckietat."

Unable to understand, Noctis settled for touching the runestone. His heartbeat grew faster and he could feel his magic throbbing. The lightning that sparked off the stone was much more violent than it had been with the other two. The faint, spectral form of Ramuh appeared before him and his vision went white, much like how it did with Titan.

Like with Titan, Noctis was treated to a vision of Prompto. He stood with his Trident in front of Ramuh. Unlike Titan, Ramuh seemed to be smiling as Prompto spoke. Prompto smiled back, a relieved smile. Noctis wanted to try and say something, only for the vision to end. He looked up to see the lightning clear and Ramuh to fade away.

An electrical feeling running through his body, Noctis turned back to the Angels.

“Now you have Ramuh’s blessing,” Luna said. “Did you see Lord Prompto again?”

“Yeah. He seemed okay,” Noctis replied.

Aranea looked like she was scheming. “Guys. I have just had the greatest idea ever.”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” Iris moaned.


 

Prompto sat down in silence. Crowe was stood near him, hands anxiously staying close to her guns and her knives. Cor had returned to Tenebrae to fetch more detailed texts on Leviathan while Umbra had yet to return.

He hoped Noctis had gotten the message by now.

Speaking of Umbra and messages, a bark caught his attention. Prompto sat up straighter as Umbra ran over to him. He wasted no time in getting the photo album off his back and flicking to Noct’s latest entry.

You can thank us for the chocobo rides. We took on the behemoth that was causing everybody problems.

Thanks for telling us about Luna’s brother and Iris’s dad. It meant a lot.

And thanks for everything you’ve done. I promise I won’t let you down.

We’re setting off to find Ramuh now. At least we’re in Duscae. Would have been difficult if we had been on the other side of the blockades. Gentiana’s working on a strategy for taking on the Empire. Aranea’s been anxious to get involved with that. Maybe Ramuh can help? You’d know more about that than I do.

I’m glad you’re safe. I was worried that you got hurt in Insomnia, or worse. I know you’re tougher than you look though. Still, can’t blame me for worrying. I couldn’t live with myself if you got hurt. You mean too much to me. I love you.

Okay, I’ll stop being sappy now.

Luna wants you to say hi to Crowe for her, let her know she’s okay.

You’ve got the Ring? Be careful. They killed Dad for it. Thanks for guarding it for me though. Just please don’t risk yourself. And don’t feel bad. I knew Uncle Clarus, sorta knew Ravus. Luna knew Libertus. And they died for the future. It’s not your fault so please stop feeling bad about it.

I’ll see you in Altissia. We can take photos together then. I mean, Altissia’s supposed to be really romantic, right? We can bribe Aranea with Accordan chocolate so that she can bribe Iris into letting us sneak off and just go to tourist spots or whatever. Just us. I mean, only if you want to.

There’s a separate piece of paper with King’s Knight tips. And my phone number. Signal’s not the best in Duscae at the moment but worth a shot. I… I’d like to hear your voice.

Stay safe, nerd.

See you soon. Love you. Noct xxx

Prompto felt happy tears fall. Noctis was okay. He unfolded the paper and skim-read the notes.

He needed to make a phone call.

Chapter Text

Chapter eight – This could fuel the revolution

He hadn’t meant to start crying in front of Noctis earlier. Prompto was just sad. Noctis would be leaving with the rest of the Lucian party tomorrow. They were having a special party that afternoon to see them off. As much as Prompto enjoyed parties where they all got to listen to music and dance in the gardens, he wished it didn’t have to be because Noctis was leaving.

“Your mom said that you could come to Lucis one day though!” Noctis said.

They were sat in Prompto’s room, reading from a copy of the Cosmogony.

“But I don’t want you to go,” Prompto mumbled unhappily. "I want you to stay with me."

Noctis but his lip. He didn’t want to see his friend upset. He quickly put the book in Prompto’s lap. “Here. Tell me the story about the Crystal again.”

“Okay,” Prompto replied. He pointed to an illustration. “The Crystal protects our world with light and the Kings, like your dad, they protect the Crystal. And one day the Crystal is s’posed to tell us there’s somebody special who’s gonna get rid of something called the Scourge.”

“And Dad and Queen Sylva think that’s me,” Noctis said.

“Yeah. And… and… if you’re this awesome super-King, then I’m gonna be an awesome super-Oracle and I’ll help you get rid of that Scourge thing!” Prompto exclaimed.

“Together?” Noctis asked.

Prompto nodded. “Yeah! Together!”


 

About twenty-seven people were gathered together in one haven. Yes, it was a tight fit. They’d spent the last night relaying people over with the Regalia (now complete with daemon-scaring headlights, courtesy of Cindy). More would be coming in the day, and the last group in the night (now that Cindy had upgraded their cars too).

Noctis was sat near one of the energy spots near the haven. He’d probably draw some more energy later, when he knew what kind of magic flasks Aranea wanted him to make for the assault. Now he just settled for almost absorbing some, then letting go of the magic, watching as the flames in the rock began to swell and then shrink.

“Having fun?” Noctis looked up to see Luna. She sat down next to him. “He hasn’t rung yet?”

“No,” Noctis replied. “I guess Umbra hasn’t found him yet, or the signal’s bad, or maybe he’s left Lucis now, or-”

“Breathe,” Luna instructed. “I’m sure Lord Prompto’s fine.”

“I hope so,” Noctis mumbled.

Luna put an arm around him. They sat in comfortable silence together for a short while. Noctis could just about hear Aranea discussing something with Gentiana and Monica. Iris was showing Dustin and a few other Crownsguard some techniques she’d come up with while on the road. The sun was shining down on them, a welcome change from all the rain Ramuh had given them before.

“When all this calms down,” Luna began. “Do you think that perhaps, maybe, Cindy would want to… I don’t know…”

“Go out on a date with you?” Noctis supplied. Luna nodded. “Don’t see why not.”

Luna blushed. “Well, I don’t know if she likes me in a romantic way and- what’s so funny?”

It took a few moments before Noctis had calmed his laughter. “Oh Luna, that’s- Six I can’t believe- Dammit! I owe Aranea twenty Gil now!”

“Why? What’s going on?” Luna demanded.

“Trust me, Cindy would jump at the chance to go on a date with you,” Noctis said. “You really haven’t noticed?”

“Noticed- oh!” Luna started to laugh now. “I’m oblivious, aren’t I?”

Noctis nodded at her. Luna laughed it out. Noctis tried to hold back laughter but couldn’t. It was kinda funny. They just laughed together for a few minutes before finally finding the self-control to calm down and breathe. A few stray giggles leaked out of them. Noctis realised that this was the first time since Insomnia fell where he really just sat down and laughed. Luna seemed to notice too.

“Noct? Can I ask you something?” she said, quiet all of a sudden.

“Sure,” Noctis replied. “Go ahead.”

“How do you feel about Lord Prompto?” she asked. “I mean, you’re close because of the album but the engagement was sudden and yes, you agreed to it but… how do you feel, Noct?”

There was a moment of silence before Noctis sighed. He’d kept the relationship he and Prompto had secret from the girls, not knowing quite how to explain it. Although, he was fairly certain that they would have their suspicions.

“I… we’ve been in a relationship since we were sixteen.”

Beat.

“Through the album?”

“Well, yeah. We tell each other everything. It was never that hard to get to know him and well, I guess it just… turned into love? Prompto knows I love him and I know that he loves me.”

“And you didn’t tell me because…?”

“Because it sounds kinda weird at the end of the day. Falling in love through a photo album. I thought you wouldn’t believe me or something.”

“I’m hurt, Noct.”

“Sorry Luna.”

“You love Lord Prompto then.”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Well then… Aranea! You owe me 50 Gil!”

There was the sound of Aranea spluttering. “No fucking way!”

“Told you,” Luna replied, smirking.


 

Nightfall. Noctis tried to ignore the distant sounds of daemons howling. He could only hope that the other teams involved with the assault would manage to avoid them before their phase began. He and the Angels were going to start the initial phase. One entrance had been left open, guarded by human soldiers. They’d take those out, hopefully without raising the alarm, then they’d sneak in.

Their main goal was to sabotage the Magitek booster that seemed to be in the base. A signal was powering up the machines and somehow providing them with more strength than they usually had. While the Angels could probably take the MTs on with the help of their magic, it could be tougher for the rest of the Resistance. Take out the generator/booster/thing, weaken the MTs.

Noctis was practically hugging the side of the crate. He quickly summoned a knife to him and waited for both the guards to have their back to him. Seeing his chance, Noctis threw the knife and warpstriked straight into the back of one soldier’s neck. They crumpled to the ground and Noctis repeated the action with the other guard before warping back to the girls. Luna quickly ran out and frisked the guards for any keycards they might have on them.

Part one: kill the guards at the entrance – check.

They quickly dodged the searchlights and headed into the shadows of the base itself. From what Gentiana had told them, Aracheole Stronghold was a mostly open-plan base. Niflheim had probably hi-jacked any electronic gates that were in it though, making the acquisition of the keycards essential.

Keycards in hand, they clung to the shadows as they snuck into the base. They quickly ducked behind a tall pile of supplies, avoiding the searchlights that were surrounding the base. Aranea quickly radioed in to Gentiana and the others, alerting them to the progress they’d made. They were given the all clear to continue onwards.

It became very clear that only part of the base was completely lit up. There was a path around the back that was still swallowed in shadows. As such, they began to follow it around. Noctis warp-killed the few soldiers that they saw. The alarm never went off. With no soldiers appearing to come their way, the Angels ran over to a closed gate.

“Luna, keycards,” Noctis said.

She handed one over and Noctis scanned it on the control panel. The gates opened. Thankfully, they were rather quiet and no guards came running their way. Still checking for incoming Imperials, they ran into the next section of the Stronghold. They drew closer to the source of the red beam shooting into the sky.

“We have two options,” Aranea whispered. “We keep circling around or we scale that fence and head directly for the centre.”

“And the risks of each option?” Iris asked.

“Well scaling a fence is noisier but quicker,” Aranea replied. “If we’re quick enough, we shouldn’t attract attention. But if anyone comes, we’re sitting ducks. Problem is, it’ll be harder to sneak in the shadows the entire way around. We’re more likely to get revealed and attract the attention of everyone on base.”

“I vote fence. I can still warp-kill if I need to. If it’s quicker, Gentiana will be happier,” Noctis said.

“I’m with Noctis,” Luna said.

Iris nodded. “Me too.”

“Fence it is then,” Aranea said.

“Could do with the Avenger right now,” Noctis muttered.

The Avenger was a rumour that seemed real. The people in Leide told of a man who had come from Insomnia, missing a hand and an eye, carrying an array of guns. He attacked Imperial holdings and drove off squads of MTs that were heading towards settlements. Gentiana had been trying to track him down, trying to get him to join the Resistance.

“Yeah well, he’s still only a rumour. Climb that fence, Pretty Boy.”

Checking once again for any incoming hostiles, they quickly and quietly made their way over to a hastily-erected chain-link fence. Noctis settled for warping over while the girls scrambled over it as quietly as they could. Noctis sent a silent prayer thanking all the Six when no guards came rushing at them. Still trying to stay in shadow, they sneaked around the central division, looking for a way into it.

There was a way – a guarded way. Not too bad: a squad of MTs, a small group of human soldiers, and a single MA unit. All stood guarding what could only be the Magitek generator.

“Aranea? Suggestions?” Noctis said. “Because blasting the shit out of them seems good right now.”

“Fuck cover,” Aranea agreed. “Give them hell, Pretty Boy.”

Noctis grinned before warping at one of the human soldiers. Nobody had a chance to react before he threw lightning at the MTs and MA. He could hear the girls rushing into battle. Two small explosions told him that Luna was back at it with her grenade launcher. He heard the sound of a chainsaw; she must be testing out the upgrades that Cindy made for her.

Dodging strikes from the MA, Noctis warped past it and summoned the Blade of the Mystic. He struck the generator with it, finishing it off with a single blast of lightning. The red glow surrounding the base disappeared. Noctis turned to re-join the fray but stared in horror as multiple MAs and squads began to approach them.

“We won’t hold on until Gentiana appears!” Aranea yelled.

The girls were slowly pushed backwards towards Noctis. They clumped together, trying to find some miracle solution that would get them out of this alive. Nothing. Noctis closed his eyes and tried to find some kind of magic deep within that would save them. He brushed against something that felt like the strongest electricity.

Ramuh.

Noctis pulled on that strand of magic, silently begging for the Fulgurian to come to their aid. Please. We need you. You promised Prompto. Please, Ramuh.

Lightning crackled around them. Noctis could feel it throb in the air. Everything grew still as the form of Ramuh began to emerge from the growing clouds. The Stormbringer looked down upon the scene before him. His ancient eyes locked with Noctis’s.

“What do you need of me, young King?”

“Get rid of the enemies here,” Noctis whispered.

“Know this: it will be a long while before I come to you again, if I ever do.”

“Please. Just help us.”

Ramuh nodded slightly before bringing his staff above him. Lightning began to crackle around it. Noctis watched in awe as Ramuh threw the staff like a javelin. Electricity erupted around the base, destroying the Imperial forces. Noctis and the Angels were untouched by the powerful lightning surrounding them. All they could do was stand still and watch.

Eventually, the lightning died down and Ramuh disappeared. Nobody moved for a few seconds, they just stood still and stared at the destruction around them. Then Iris spoke.

“That. Was. AWESOME!”

“Thank fuck he’s on our side,” Aranea said.

“Yeah,” Noctis muttered.

Luna was the one who answered the radio. “No, everything’s fine. Yes, that was Ramuh. No, we’re okay. He got rid of the Imperial forces for us. We’ll let you know.” She closed off the transmission and looked to the others. “According to Gentiana, a number of the Resistance have just had their faith reinforced. That was pretty… pretty… I don’t actually have the words.”

They slowly got moving again, heading towards what looked like a small office. Maybe there would be plans or something in it, stuff they could use for the resistance effort. At least there were no more soldiers to stop them. Shame that Ramuh wouldn’t come to them on a whim, that they would probably have to wait for him to come again. Probably best he came to Aracheole. Strategically speaking, it was the most important of the three large bases in southern Lucis, since it was the largest and the most central.

They’d almost made it to the office when Iris tackled Noctis to the ground. A dagger flew over their heads and embedded itself into the wall. Noctis managed to roll out from under Iris in time to see a man in strange red and black armour and far too many daggers come rushing at them. He must have had some kind of jetpack or something because he was moving far too fast to be normal. Aranea lunged forwards and intercepted him with her lance.

“Hey there stranger,” she said, pushing him off with an effort.

The man’s helmet tilted backwards and they could see spiked-up brown hair and glasses. He coolly assessed them before lunging forwards with two of his daggers. Aranea intercepted once more and Luna was about to shoot him when he used Aranea’s lance to launch himself up in the air. Noctis and Iris finally pulled themselves to their feet and summoned their own weapons.

“All hail the King of Lucis,” a mocking voice called from the side.

Another man approached them, dressed in Imperial white. Noctis recognised him almost immediately. Nyx Ulric, nephew of Queen Sylva Argentum, former prince of Tenebrae and now High Commander of Niflheim. He looked different now he was older and there was a metal prosthetic in place of his left arm.

“So how long has it been?” Nyx asked. “Twelve years. We should catch up sometime.”

“When your army isn’t trying to kill me,” Noctis replied. “And your cousin too. What would Queen Sylva say? Her nephew, now serving Niflheim, hunting down her son.”

“Don’t you talk about her!” Nyx yelled. “It’s your fault she died!”

He hurtled one of his own daggers at Noctis. Iris stepped in front of him and deflected it with one of her shields.

“Wow Noct,” Nyx said. “Hiding behind others? What happened to promising to protect others as King? Face it. You and your dad couldn’t protect your country, your crystal, anything. You couldn’t protect Prompto.”

“Shut up!” Noctis yelled.

He was about to warpstrike at Nyx when he saw the armoured man go for him once again. Noctis blocked him with his sword, trying to knock him away. They clashed a few more times and all Noctis could think was damn, this guy is strong. Noctis felt the man kick his legs and he stumbled, falling to the ground. Aranea stopped the man from stabbing him once again.

“Sorry, Specs, but that’s my friend there,” she said, knocking him away while Luna tried to shoot him again. Aranea winked at him. “Care to back up a little? Things are getting a bit too wild.”

Oh gods she was trying to flirt.

Since Aranea was handling herself with the stranger, Noctis went to help Iris with Nyx. She was on the defensive, protecting herself with a shield. Noctis warped, missed Nyx, but did manage to kick him in the face. Nyx stumbled backwards, letting Iris shove him with her shield. Noctis switched to the Sword of the Wise, ready to bring a world of pain to Nyx and-

“Enough!”

The fighting all suddenly ceased.

“Titan’s stony ball sack!” Aranea swore.

Ardyn Izunia was walking towards them, meaning Aranea’s swearing was forgiven. Nyx and the stranger stood still as Ardyn approached. He had a new hat on, replacing the one that he’d eaten. He shook his head and tutted.

“Commodore Scientia! I believe your shift is over,” he said.

“Understood,” the stranger said. He began to walk away.

“Leaving so soon?” Aranea asked. “Aw, and we were having so much fun.”

“I only work for as long as they’ve paid me to,” Scientia said. “No more. Perhaps we will see each other once again, for more… fun.”

He walked off, leaving just Ardyn and Nyx.

“Chancellor,” Nyx muttered.

“Commander,” Ardyn said smoothly. “You will stand down.”

“You’re not military, you don’t command me,” Nyx snapped.

Ardyn chuckled. “On the contrary. Our good Emperor has given me executive power concerning Lucis. You will stand down.” He patted Nyx on the cheek, causing the other man to flinch. “Think of your poor, dear cousin.”

Nyx snarled before walking off, much like Scientia had.

“Why are you here?” Noctis asked.

“I’m here to help!” Ardyn exclaimed. “The blockades are being lowered, Aracheole - or rather, what’s left of our forces here - is being evacuated. I’m merely acting as a friend, Your Majesty.” Noctis didn’t reply to him, he just glared. “So hostile? My, my. That doesn’t seem like kingly behaviour to me.”

“What do you want?” Noctis asked.

Ardyn chuckled again and tapped the side of his nose. “All in good time. All in good time. Now, I have matters to attend to. Farewell, King Noctis. Ladies.”

He followed after Nyx and Scientia. Something unseen held Noctis and the girls in place, something that told them following after would be a terrible idea. Instead, they stood still as the sun began to rise over Aracheole.


 

Four days later

“I drew a cat! Cat for Kat!” Katrina exclaimed, showing Noctis the crayon cat.

“Nice work!” he said.

They were in Lestallum, taking the time to help out the locals and relax a little after the events in Duscae. Gentiana had immediately seized Aracheole as the Resistance’s new main base. They were currently making plans to tackle Formouth Garrison in Leide next.

Katrina went back to drawing her cats and butterflies. She was nowhere near as shy as she had been when they’d first met her about a month and a half ago. Gladio said that she was getting more used to her situation now. She’d even stopped clinging to him as much, leaving him available to go on hunts. Of course, she preferred to be baby-sat by people she was familiar with and Luna had volunteered the Angels.

“Hey Katrina, you should try drawing the four of us some time,” Aranea said, looking up from her book briefly.

“Okay! Will do! Gonna draw Prince Noctis, and Miss Luna, and Miss Aranea, and Miss Iris!” Katrina announced, reaching for another piece of paper.

Noctis smiled as Katrina started singing the chocobo song. I wanna ride my chocobo all day~… Prompto would probably love this child. Noctis was going to make a comment to the Angels when his phone went off. He picked it up, assuming to see Gentiana’s number on the screen. He frowned as an unrecognised number popped up instead.

“Who is it?” Aranea asked.

“Don’t know,” Noctis replied. He accepted the call and put the phone to his ear. “Hello?”

“Noct?”

He knew that voice.

“Prompto?”

Chapter Text

Chapter nine – Oh, brother, I will hear you call

Noctis had exhausted himself with walking around the palace mostly unaided earlier. As such, he was back in his wheelchair for the send-off party. Prompto was wheeling him through the forest attached to the estate. They’d set up the party in the major clearing, near one of the small waterfalls. It was Prompto’s favourite place in the forest to take photos.

“You have to take photos of all the skyscrapers,” he told Noctis. “We don’t have them here.”

“Skyscrapers, chocobo races, Old Wall,” Noctis listed. “I don’t know if I’ll remember it all.”

“I’ll remind you!” Prompto replied. “If you remember one, I’ll write down the others in the photo album.”

He pushed Noctis towards where all the adults were gathering. Nyx was started heading towards them, grinning. Prompto pushed a little more, stopping when a shadow too dark to be that of a cloud’s shrouded the clearing.

“Mom? What’s going on?” Prompto called.

“Prompto, take Prince Noctis back to the palace, now,” Sylva said, looking up at the sky. “Nyx. Go with them.”

“Aunt Sylva-”

“Go!”

Prompto didn’t have a chance to wheel Noctis back. Nyx never made it to the other princes.

Niflheim attacked.

His mom was killed in front of him.

Nyx got hurt.

And Prompto chose to stay behind so that they wouldn’t hurt any more of his friends.

And Noctis left.

They had been happy, before then.


 

“You’re okay?” Noctis asked, pressing the phone a little closer.

“I’m fine. What about you? You’ve found Ramuh?” Prompto asked.

“Yeah. He even helped us take on Aracheole,” Noctis replied. “Thanks… for everything you’ve done.”

No sweat, dude. Just doing my duty,” Prompto said.

They were talking. They were having an actual conversation. Oh gods, Noctis had wanted this for so long. He clutched the phone tightly, as if that could bring Prompto a little closer to him. The girls were watching him as he spoke, Aranea snickering at how stupidly in love he probably seemed. Katrina just kept on with her crayon drawing.

“I’m guessing the signal’s been down until now, huh?” Noctis said.

Prompto made a ‘mmhmm’ sound. “Only just got through to you. I was getting pretty impatient. Started mocking the recorded message I’d get.”

Somebody in the background made a noise that sounded like ‘I can attest to that and he had everything right except the octave’. Noctis assumed (based on reputation) that that was Crowe shouting in the background. Prompto shushed her before laughing quietly. Noctis couldn’t help it; he laughed too. Prompto’s laughter grew louder. It sounded beautiful, something that Noctis could listen to for a long time.

Oh gods, he was starting to sound sappy.

“I expect chocobo photos,” Noctis said. “Next time you send the album.”

“You can count on it. I took so many of them! Never thought I’d get to ride an actual chocobo. Thanks for taking out Deadeye.”

“No problem. Anything to make you happy, my Oracle.”

“Ugh, you sound like Cor. I’ve known the dude since… I think since I was born. He probably used to see me run naked around the palace when I was three. And he’s always calling me ‘Oracle’ or ‘Lord Prompto’. Why add the extra syllables? I don’t really care for titles.”

“You and me both. Remember that rant I put into the album?”

“I remember! I framed it and put it on my wall… well, until Nyx took it down. Said that if he couldn’t stop me from talking to you, I shouldn’t go around advertising it.”

Noctis bit his lip; should he tell Prompto about the confrontation with Nyx two days ago?

“Hey, umm… Noct?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really glad I got to speak to you. We’re heading to Altissia tonight and I don’t think my phone’s gonna work there. We kinda did get the cheapest decent ones we could find.”

“I’m glad I got to speak to you too. I miss you. But we’ll be together soon. And that will be great.”

“Yeah! It’s gonna be awesome! Not gonna lie, I’m probably going to hug you to death when I see you again.”

“Don’t blame you. I’ll try and survive the hug of death. You can kiss me to make up for it.”

“I’ll do just that then.”

“I’ll hold you to it. I- shit, I just realised I can finally tell you out loud. Prompto, I love you.”

He could hear the smile.

“I love you too.”

Noctis wanted to hear that again.

“Say that again.”

“Why? Obsessed with the sound of my voice?”

“You know it.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Stars, we sound like those sappy couples from movies.”

They both laughed a little. They hadn’t had the chance to be quite that sappy before. The girls were all grinning and Aranea was showing something to Katrina, pointing at Noctis slightly.

He and Prompto spoke for a little longer, telling each other about some of what had happened during their journeys. They spoke of Insomnia’s fall, of King Regis, of the bravery of so many people. They spoke of Titan and Ramuh, and the warning Ramuh gave Prompto. That Leviathan would be as fierce as a stormy sea. The plan was that Prompto would seek sanctuary in Altissia and wait for Noctis, so that the covenant could be completed quicker.

“I need to go. We’ll be leaving soon and Crowe wants to get ready,” Prompto said.

“Right. Stay safe,” Noctis replied. “I love you. See you soon.”

“Love you too. See ya round,” Prompto said.

The call ended and Noctis slowly lowered his phone from his ear. He let out a sigh. Prompto was okay, he was alive, they loved each other, things were looking good. He looked up at the girls; they were all grinning at him.

“Dibs on Best Woman,” Iris said.

“I called dibs when we set off from Insomnia,” Luna pointed out. “It still stands. Dibs.”

Iris grumbled. “I thought you’d forgotten that.”

Katrina walked over to Noctis with a sheet of paper. “Miss Aranea told me to draw the man in the photo. Is he your boyfriend?”

It may have been a messy crayon drawing but it was easy to tell that she’d drawn Prompto.

“Yeah, he is,” Noctis said.

“Then you can have it!” Katrina announced, thrusting the drawing at him.

“Thanks Kat,” Noctis said, accepting it from her.

Luna and Iris were planning Noctis and Prompto’s potential wedding while Aranea was looking something up on her phone. Katrina went back to drawing cats and butterflies. Talcott ran in at one point, showing Katrina a new cactuar figurine he’d gotten. The kids chatted about it as Gladio walked into the room.

“Welcome back,” Iris said, going to give her little brother a hug. “Did the hunt go okay?”

“It went fine,” Gladio said, ducking out from under Iris’s arms. He sat down and started eating the cup noodles he’d brought with him. “Thmshl’sdnstrs.”

“Hey. Don’t speak with your mouth full,” Iris scolded.

Gladio swallowed. “The marshal’s downstairs. She said she wanted to speak to the four of you.”

“What about?” Aranea asked.

“Didn’t say,” Gladio replied. “She looked kinda stressed. I dunno. Maybe something’s gone wrong with the plans?”

They made their way downstairs. Gentiana had already told them that she was planning on remaining in Aracheole or going back to Leide. There wasn’t any reason they could think of for her to be in Lestallum instead. The only viable one was that something had gone wrong somewhere. And they really didn’t want that to happen.

The receptionist told them that she was in a side lounge. Sure enough, when they entered they could see Gentiana sitting next to the window. She rose and bowed to Noctis, rising quickly. Something seemed a little off about her. She seemed stressed.

“We have found a way to get into Formouth Garrison,” she said.

“Great,” Noctis said. “How?”

Gentiana pursed her lips and walked past him. She stood directly in front of Luna. “Miss Fleuret. Please could you remove your wristband.”

The colour drained from Luna’s face. Her left hand, almost automatically, started to twist the wristband on her right arm. She gulped and she wouldn’t meet anybody’s eyes. Noctis exchanged a couple of glances with Aranea and Iris; they seemed just as confused as he did.

“I- I…” Luna stuttered.

“Please, Lunafreya,” Gentiana said.

Luna looked like she was about to cry. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”

Then she turned and ran.


 

It took the better part of the day to find Luna. They’d split up and searched all over Lestallum to find her. Eventually, Noctis found her hiding near the power plant. He thought about calling the others and getting them to come over but he decided against it. Luna looked distressed; he didn’t want to upset her any further.

She’d almost ran again when she saw Noctis. He could see it in her eyes. She looked like she’d been crying. But thankfully, she didn’t run. She just sat down on top of a crate, looking down at the ground. Noctis slowly walked over to her and sat down by her side. Luna leant her head on his shoulder.

“I’m worried about you,” Noctis said. “Whatever it was, we would have worked through it. I’m scared that you want to face this alone, that you don’t want to burden me. I’m your best friend. I don’t mind. We shouldn’t just have to deal with my problems and forget everyone else’s. I want you to talk to me, if you want. Your turn.”

Luna laughed weakly. It was something they’d done throughout high school, taking turns to talk about feelings. “I… I’m scared.”

She burst into tears. Noctis put his arms around her and let her cry it out. Luna clutched at his shirt as she cried. Eventually, she slowed down and began to breathe a little more evenly.

“Do you trust me?” Luna asked.

“Always,” Noctis replied. “You’re my best friend.”

Luna took a deep breath and started to pull her wristband off. She held out her wrist. Noctis could see a barcode with a series of numbers and letters running underneath it. Luna couldn’t meet his eyes.

“A tattoo?” Noctis asked. He didn’t know what else to say.

“Not a tattoo.” Luna shook her head. “It’s… it’s… it’s my barcode and serial number. MTs, they all- they have codes like this. Underneath the armour.”

The weight of Luna’s words hung in the air. Noctis couldn’t say anything.

“I’m not- not an MT, not really!” Luna said quickly. “But I was supposed to be. I was born in Niflheim. I was the third attempt at creating an MT who could withstand sunlight without armour. Or at least, that’s what I was told. Ravus was the first attempt. We didn’t… it didn’t work. Our bodies rejected the chemicals they put into MTs. The stuff that makes them allergic to light.”

“They’re like daemons,” Noctis said quietly.

Luna nodded. “I think that’s what they put into them. Daemons. But we rejected the daemon treatments. We have genetic engineering so our senses are sharper and Ravus had something done to him to make him stronger. But we can’t be controlled like machines.”

She pulled her hand closer towards her body.

“How did you get to Galahd?” Noctis asked.

“A researcher. Her name was Simone Fleuret,” Luna replied. “She’d had enough of it. I was about three years old and she just took me and Ravus and we ran. Made it to Galahd. But she died from exposure to something in the labs. Ravus said that she might have biologically been our aunt. He was just guessing from what she said. She’s the one who gave us names, back in the lab. None of the other scientists did. They just used our serial numbers. Except for… except for one other person.”

“Do you remember it?”

“Not really. But Ravus told me enough stories.” Luna bowed her head a little more. “I… I think that the Empire turns people into daemons. Just from what I remember and what Ravus said. The naga in Fociaugh… I think she was my mother, once. Because she knew me. I don’t how but she knew me and I, I knew her.”

Ah, the babies it had mentioned. But that would mean… “You have another brother?”

“In between me and Ravus. The second attempt. But Simone couldn’t find him when we escaped,” Luna said. “I… I couldn’t tell you. I was scared you’d hate me. I’m a Niff, a failed MT and-”

Noctis shushed her. Luna looked up at him in surprise. “You’re not. You’re Lunafreya Fleuret, Crown citizen. You’re my best friend. Pretty much my sister. You love collecting souvenirs and you’re a brilliant shooter. You make bracelets and necklaces out of ribbons. You’re going to be my Best Woman. You love dogs. You have a crush on Cindy. You don’t care that I’m a prince. You never have. You’re the sister of Ravus Fleuret, one of the Kingsglaive’s heroes. That’s who you are. You’re not a Niff. You’re Lucian. You’re not a failed MT. You’re my friend. I don’t care about where you came from years ago. If you don’t care about what I was born into, why should this bother me? I trust you. That’s that.”

There was a moment of silence where Luna looked up at Noctis in disbelief. Then she burst into tears again. Noctis sat and held her, knowing that she’d need a few more minutes.

He meant it; he didn’t care that Luna was supposed to be an MT. He cared that it was obviously affecting her, but it didn’t change his opinion of her. And Luna obviously hadn’t expected that. She’d expected to be cast aside, or hated, because of what she was. Noctis didn’t care though and he knew the others wouldn’t either. Luna was their friend.

It did explain why she never took her wristband off.

“Gentiana must have found out,” Luna mumbled once she’d stopped crying.

“How do you think she did it?” Noctis asked.

“My other brother’s name was Loqi,” Luna said.

It took a second. Then: “The cocky asshole we fought in Leide?”

“I think so. He must have mentioned me and Ravus to his jailers, who then must have told Gentiana,” Luna said. “If I can… I want to see him.”

“Yeah, of course,” Noctis replied.

“Aranea! They’re over here! Noct found her!”

Iris and Aranea came running down the alleyway, with Gentiana following behind them. Luna looked up at Noctis. He nodded at her, telling her in a simple gesture that everything would be okay. That Iris and Aranea would understand. And if Gentiana didn’t, Noctis wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. Luna took a deep breath and steeled herself. She got off of the crate and walked towards the others. Noctis was right behind her.

“I’m sorry for running,” Luna said. She held out her right hand. “There’s something I need to tell you.”


 

Two days later

Gentiana had indeed found out because of Loqi. Resistance intelligence had discovered that Verstael Besithia, leading Imperial scientist, was to visit Formouth Garrison. There was belief that he may have been intending to turn it into a Magitek producing factory. Either way, he was coming to Lucis. The Resistance members in Longwythe had been talking about it and their prisoner, Loqi Tummelt, had overheard.

This had then prompted him to demand the chance to fight with the Resistance. He claimed a personal vendetta against Besithia, his father. When questioned more about it, Loqi admitted to being experimented on and that he wanted to avenge the ‘deaths’ of his siblings, Ravus and Lunafreya. Dustin Elshett, who was visiting Longwythe, overheard this and recognised the names. He then told Gentiana.

She immediately went to Longwythe (bearing in mind the retaking of Aracheole had happened only the day before) to interrogate Loqi further, without actually revealing that one of his siblings lived. That was how she found out about the barcodes and realised that they could be used to get into Formouth, something Loqi confirmed. She had a psych guy check him out as well, making sure that he was being sincere. He checked out with Gentiana and her team’s high standards. That was when Gentiana left for Lestallum, to speak with Luna.

Luna retelling her story went well. Gentiana had already decided to trust Luna if Noctis did. Iris and Aranea had reacted in pretty much the same way as Noctis. Some surprise, but very accepting.

“You’ve never done anything to hurt us.” Iris told her.

“You’re one of us, Souvenirs. End of story.” Aranea had said.

They’d gone to Leide. Luna was going to talk to Loqi and see if he could help them with taking on Besithia. The others were waiting in a side room. Gentiana had a camera showing them what was going on. A precaution of sorts. Luna hadn’t minded, but she didn’t want anyone else in the room while she spoke to Loqi.

She entered behind one of the Resistance members, who quickly spoke to Loqi. “Somebody new to speak to you.” Then she left.

Loqi rocked the chair he was sat on backwards. “Oh joy. Hello gorgeous, why have they got you speaking to me? You another psychiatrist? Your other guy seemed pretty certain. I’m telling the truth about wanting to kill Besithia.”

“I’m not a psychiatrist,” Luna said, taking a seat opposite him. “And I don’t appreciate being called ‘gorgeous’. Not by you.”

Aranea snickered as she watched the exchange. “Dickhead doesn’t even know he called his own sister gorgeous.”

“Fair enough. Did Marshal Gentiana send you… wait. You’re one of the girls with the Prince. King? What are you Lucians calling him?” Loqi shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Are you his Majesty’s representative? Interrogating me some more? Sorry, but if you want any more out of me, you’d have to torture me. Which I doubt you will. I’m a prisoner of war and you Lucians are far too honourable for that.”

“I’m not here to interrogate you, Loqi,” Luna said.

“Know my name? Guess you would. I did do that over the top introduction when I thought I was going to kick your asses,” Loqi replied. “So if you know my name, I should know yours. It’s only fair.”

“Lunafreya.”

Loqi’s eyes widened and he set the chair back on four legs. He shook his head.

“No. No. That’s just cruel. You can’t do this to me.”

Luna held out her right arm, wrist bare. Loqi tentatively took her hands into his, running a thumb over the barcode. He mouthed the numbers and letters that made up Luna’s serial number. He pulled her hand to his forehead and he slumped forwards. His shoulders started to shake.

“Simone,” he mumbled. “She disappeared one day. When I’d been taken for the muscle enhancements.”

“She couldn’t find you. Besithia hadn’t told her. But it was our only chance. We went to Galahd, but Simone died,” Luna said. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Loqi replied. “It’s not your fault. Ravus, where’s Ravus?”

“Gone. He joined the Kingsglaive and perished in Insomnia’s fall,” Luna said.

“He was a Glaive?” Loqi asked. Luna nodded. “Then he wasn’t one of the traitors. I would have known you were alive if he was.”

“There were traitors in the Glaive?”

“A few. Refugees who could no longer believe in King Regis’s cause. But obviously not Ravus.”

“Not Ravus.”

Loqi got up from his chair. He walked over to Luna and pulled her into a hug. “All these years. And I never forgot either of you. I stayed alive to spite Besithia. I stayed alive so that one day I could kill him for killing you. He said he’d killed you both.”

“I almost forgot you,” Luna whispered. “Ravus had to tell me about you.”

“You were three, Lunafreya. You were just a kid. We were all just kids,” Loqi replied. “I got transferred out of Besithia’s custody one day. Trained to fight. I did as I was told because all I wanted to do was kill him. I needed to climb higher, get closer.”

“The Empire hurt us, Loqi,” Luna said. She pulled away and looked her older brother in the eyes. “And they hurt so many people. I saw it Galahd and I see it now, in Lucis.”

“You need to convince the marshal to let me help fight Besithia,” Loqi said, suddenly gripping Luna’s arms urgently. “I was under his care for ten years. I know him. I know how he operates. And you might be alive but I will never forgive him for what he did to us. Please, Lunafreya. I can use my barcode, and yours. They might need both of us.”

Luna gently pulled her arms away. “I think that’s why they let me speak with you. That and Noct ordered them. Loqi, how would you like to help infiltrate the garrison with me, Noctis, and the rest of the Prince’s Angels?”

Her brother stared at her for a second. Then he grinned.

“One condition. I kill Besithia.”

At this, Noctis, Iris, and Aranea all walked into the room.

Aranea smirked at him. “Pretty sure that could be arranged.”

Chapter Text

Chapter ten – My father, and all of my family

They had taken his mom’s floaty dresses away. In the few mornings when she didn’t have Oracle or Queen duties to attend to, she used to let Prompto into her big closet and he run in and out of the dresses, hiding behind them while his mom would try and find him. She’d pull him close and tickle him when she found him.

“There’s my little boy!” she’d cry. Sometimes, she’d blow raspberries on his tummy.

They’d taken away her special Trident and locked it away somewhere. But they put it back in her shrine when Cor threatened them with the Astrals’ judgement. Even Niflheim was scared of the gods’ wrath.

“That is the property of the Oracle!” Cor had yelled at them. “Given you have murdered the last one, you are drawing closer and closer to invoking the wrath of the Six upon yourselves. Return it to His Grace’s property. Or as Messenger serving Oracle Prompto, I promise you there will be hell to pay.”

They’d taken away Prompto’s bedroom, although that had only been temporary. He slept in a spare room in the servants’ quarters. When he’d gotten nightmares of the armoured man running his sword through his mom, he’d ran into Maria’s room and the old woman would hug him until he slept.

“It’s okay, my dear. You’ll be okay,” she whispered to him when he sobbed.

Then they took Prompto into his mom’s big office one day. A man with purple-red hair was stood in it. He bowed and removed his hat when Prompto came in. Then he sent Nyx outside, leaving just him and Prompto in the room. Prompto wanted to go and get his big cousin. The strange man walked over to him.

“Ah, the newest Oracle! And the youngest at that!” he said. “I am Ardyn Izunia, Chancellor of Niflheim.”

Prompto didn’t say anything.

“A shy little thing, are you?” Ardyn asked. “No matter. It is my saddened duty to inform you that given the annexation of Tenebrae into the Empire, you no longer carry the title of prince.”

They’d taken away his title.

“But you are still Oracle. So you will be styled as Oracle Prompto or Lord Prompto of the Tenebrae province,” Ardyn continued. “Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Prompto whispered, not really understanding.

They’d taken almost everything away.


 

Loqi was as good a shot as Luna. They’d discovered this when two patrolling soldiers saw them. The siblings had quickly taken out the soldiers before they could alert the rest of the base, targeting the weak spots in their armour. It had actually been quite impressive, if a little unnerving, how quickly they fell into sync with each other.

They were skirting around Formouth, looking for a way in. Gentiana and Aranea’s plan was a little different this time: get in, kill Besithia, use Loqi and Luna’s barcodes to trigger some kind of destruction, get out, let Gentiana’s people take advantage of the chaos. No relying on the Fulgurian this time around. (Noctis had been praying to Titan though, in hopes that he may appear to help them.)

“So what do we have so far?” Iris asked.

“A headache,” Loqi replied. “Lucians build their forts well, especially for a relic. Factor in Imperial modifications…”

“We should make a movie, when this war is over,” Aranea announced. “Based on this roadtrip from hell. The action and espionage sequences would win awards.”

“Penelo-award winning movies aside,” Noctis said. “What’s that over there?”

He pointed towards a gate built into the side of the fort. It looked more modern, more recent, than the rest of the fortress. Aranea grabbed the binoculars Gentiana had lent them and took a look.

“Looks like a service-entrance, for maintenance and shit like that,” she said. “We’ve got a scanner that looks Imperial. The barcodes might work there. Let’s see, what else… looks kinda busted-up. Scorch marks and bullet holes.”

“The Avenger?” Luna asked.

“Seems like his MO, yeah,” Aranea replied.

“Think he’s in there?” Iris asked.

Loqi shook his head. “If he was, this place would sound like Hexhaul the day Luna escaped. Alarms, alarms, alarms.”

“Everyone get ready,” Noctis said. “We’re going in.”

Weapons at hand, they carefully approached the gate. Loqi brought his wrist to the scanner. They all breathed a sigh of relief when the screen flashed green and the gates opened. They ran in and ducked behind a pile of crates. The gates closed with a heavy thud, making Noctis wince. They were on borrowed time now. Surely somebody would have noticed one of the entrances opening up for no apparent reason.

“Looks like they forgot to take my barcode off the active list,” Loqi said, staring at his wrist. “They never seem to remove any off. Lucky for us though. Gods, why did I stay with those idiots for so long?”

“Revenge, booze, money, a scary sense of national pride?” Aranea said. “Still not entirely sure you’re with us.”

“Fair enough,” Loqi said. “I did try and kill you.”

An alarm suddenly sounded, causing everybody to jump. They hid themselves in a corner as the base sprung into action. People were running about, the sound of MTs activating filled the air, MAs came to life. Noctis swore under his breath. It wasn’t going to go smoothly, nothing ever went smoothly. But they’d at least hoped for a little longer before the base went into full alert.

“It’s the Avenger!” they heard somebody yell. “He’s breached the base!”

Wait a second.

“They don’t know about us,” Iris said.

“What’s the Avenger thinking?!” Aranea hissed. “One man against an entire base?! Listen, Gentiana I can understand because she’s freaking amazing. But all the other people who I expect could do this shit and survive are dead.”

“We may as well give him a hand. Cause some chaos,” Noctis said. “Loqi. Try and get a hold of an MA.”

“What about Besithia? We had a deal,” Loqi said.

“If we see him, we’ll save him for you,” Noctis replied. “Aranea, you’re with him. Iris, Luna. You’re with me. Those barcodes should let you use the turrets, right Luna?”

“They should,” Loqi answered for her.

“Come on then Daddy Issues,” Aranea said.

“Stay safe, Loqi,” Luna said.

“You too, Lunafreya,” Loqi replied.

He and Aranea broke away from the group and headed further into the base. Noctis and the others decided to climb up onto the raised platforms and head for a turret. They ducked down as they saw two human soldiers blocking their way towards the nearest one. Noctis prepared to warpstrike when Iris put her hand on his shoulder.

“The other one could radio that you’re here,” she said. “Better hold off on the warping for a little while. At least until they’re all confused and scared. Let me deal with these.”

She summoned something from the arsenal and threw it towards the soldiers. It flew over their heads and landed a little further down the platform. The soldiers went to inspect it, getting confused when all they saw was a stuffed moogle doll. Taking advantage of the distraction, Iris and Noctis ran to them and plunged their blades through their backs. They spared a moment to check for any incoming soldiers before running to the turret with Luna.

Luna scanned her barcode and grinned as the turret activated. She stood behind it and began to shoot at all of the soldiers and MTs she could see. They could hear the shouts of confusion as the Imperials realised that they were being shot from above as well as from ground level, for a hooded man was on the ground, using a machine gun. The Avenger probably. Seeing that he was an ally, Luna took great care to avoid shooting him.

From their high-ground, Noctis and Iris used magic flasks with explosion elements to them. Soon enough, large chunks of the Imperial equipment lying around was either in pieces or on fire. Iris ceased her portion of the anarchy to keep a couple of MTs away from Luna. Noctis managed to use a magical barrier to stop bullets from getting at her.

An MA suddenly knocked down a wall and began shooting at all the other MAs. Loqi probably. Amidst all the chaos, he was dodging the other MAs expertly and taking out the ones that Noctis’s magic assault had weakened. Noctis could see somebody else throwing magic flasks at the Imperial forces. He blinked a few times to make sure he was seeing the right thing.

Aranea standing on top of Loqi’s MA while chucking every flask she could.

Of freaking course.


 

Aranea did not trust Loqi. Not fully. Oh yes, he was Luna’s brother and he seemed sincere enough, but they had to be careful. And that was why Noctis had sent her with him. Iris would have wanted to stay closer to Noct as his shield. Luna wouldn’t have been able to kill Loqi if he turned traitor, not after they’d just reunited. And they could only spare one person to go with him. It had to be her. She was plenty capable of killing him should he betray them.

“There’s a spare one over there,” Loqi whispered, pointing at an MA surrounded by MTs. “Can you warp and take them out?”

“I’m not a Glaive,” Aranea whispered back.

“But you have magic,” Loqi argued.

Aranea scowled at him. “Don’t they teach you anything? The personal Crownsguard only have enough magic to use the Arsenal and get the strength bonuses. We can’t warp.”

She mentally cursed herself when she was finished speaking. If Loqi did betray them, she’d just given him a piece of information that could prove valuable.

“Can you summon that grenade launcher of Luna’s?” Loqi asked.

The response was Aranea doing just that, hoping that Luna and the others didn’t need it. Loqi took it off her and began aiming it at the group of MTs. Aranea quickly summoned a magic flask. She could see what Loqi was trying to do. He gave her a slight nod before launching a grenade at the MTs. Aranea quickly threw the lightning spell at them. The resulting explosions sent the MTs flying in all directions. The pair ran full-speed towards the MA, not waiting for any Imperials to respond to what just happened.

“Those lances of yours strong?” Loqi asked, climbing up the MA.

“Strong enough,” Aranea replied.

“If you had one embedded right about here -” Loqi gestured at a spot near the top of the main capsule “- do you think you could hold on?”

“Don’t worry. I have a nice firm grasp,” Aranea said.

Loqi grinned at her. “And say you were on top… what could you pull off?”

Aranea really hoped he wasn’t a traitor. He seemed like her kind of person.

“Let’s just say it would be… explosive.”

“Well then, Countess Highwind. It looks like we have a date.”

Loqi helped pull her up to the top of the MA before climbing into the capsule. Aranea positioned her lance where Loqi had told her and held on tightly as the MA came to life. It lurched forwards, launching the small missiles at the approaching MTs and Imperials. Steadying herself, Aranea summoned her magic flasks and began to throw them at the enemy forces.

Everything seemed to be in a state of chaos. Some stranger was shooting at the Imperials from the ground, Luna was obviously manning a turret and Noctis and Iris were throwing magic about themselves, Loqi and her were charging about and wrecking shit. Not exactly what they’d planned but good enough.

“Protect Doctor Besithia!”

At least two squads of Imperial forces were defending a metal bunker of sorts. Loqi started to veer off towards them. Aranea quickly tapped the comms device in her ear.

“I know he’s there but focus on everyone else first,” she said. “We’ll get him later, I swear. But we have a job to do.”

“He’s right there!”

“Loqi! I get it, okay?! But focus on this right now! We promised you’d get to kill him so for the love of the Six, be patient!

“This had better be worth it.”

Aranea quickly surveyed the chaos around her and came up with a new plan. She switched the frequency on her comms.

“Marshal, this is Highwind,” she said.

“Received, Highwind. It seems like chaos in there,” Gentiana replied.

“How close are you guys?” Aranea asked.

“Just outside.”

“Listen, we’ve got Loqi wrecking shit in a MA, Luna on turrets, Noct and Iris throwing magic around, I’m on the back of an MA and flinging flasks, oh, and the Avenger is real and he’s shooting people. Care to join us? Not exactly the plan but I figure we should just roll with it.”

“It would be our pleasure, Countess Aranea. Can you arrange an opening?”

“Gimme a second.” She switched back to Loqi. “Hey! Blast an opening in the walls! We got friends incoming!”

“One opening, coming up. You always this demanding?”

“I just happen to know what I like.”

Loqi shot a few missiles at the wall, causing it to collapse. A few seconds later, a swarm of resistance fighters entered, Gentiana leading the charge. The Marshal lopped off the heads of approaching MTs with ease as her men and women started taking on any Imperials they could see. Aranea met Gentiana’s eyes and jerked her head towards Besithia’s bunker. Gentiana nodded and began to fight her way towards it. Aranea opened up her comms to the rest of the Angels, the Marshal, and Loqi.

“Besithia’s in the bunker out in the west of this place. The others can handle themselves. Group up over there. Loqi, light em up.”

“As the lady commands.”

Loqi shot off a few missiles at the mostly-ignored squads guarding Besithia. Aranea started throwing magic about again and grinned to herself as a sudden blue flash showed Noctis warping towards them. She could see Iris and Luna running after him and taking out MTs.

Shit was about to get even realer.


 

The MAs had been destroyed through a variety of ranged attacks, including Luna and her grenades, Loqi’s missiles, and Noctis’s magic. They were now cleaning up the MTs surrounding the bunker so that they could get inside. Loqi had finally climbed out of the MA and was helping Luna shoot at them, Iris was with Noctis and they were tag-teaming, Aranea would pin one with a lance so that Gentiana could behead it. They were trying to be as efficient as possible.

“Luna! Get this door open!” Noctis yelled.

Luna launched another grenade at the door, denting it. Noctis ran forwards and destroyed it with the Axe of the Conqueror. With the guards taken care of, they rushed inside. A few human guards were standing in front of an older man. If Noctis squinted, he could see similarities between the man and Loqi, as well as some to Ravus.

Wating no time, Noctis warpstriked into one of the guards, slamming a knife through his head. Iris and Aranea ran forwards, Iris using her shield and knocking the guns out of the remaining two’s hands while Aranea quickly struck at them with her lance. Loqi began to walk forwards, raising his gun to Besithia. The man snarled and quickly shot his own gun.

“Looks like I didn’t get my sense of aim from you,” Loqi said.

“On the contrary, my son.”

Besithia pressed something on his wrist. Iris suddenly started screaming and dropped to her knees. Noctis and Aranea ran over to her, holding her.

“Leave her out of this!” Luna yelled.

“And who’s this? One of the prince’s whores?” Besithia drawled.

Noctis glared at him. “Say that again and I’ll-” He was cut off by Iris screaming again.

“If I activate the device that I shot at your friend one more time, she will die in agony,” Besithia said. “If you try and kill me, I have the remote positioned in such a way that it will activate as I fall to the ground. If you make a move against me, I will trigger it.”

Loqi growled and was about to take a step towards Besithia when Luna pulled him back. “No. Iris. Please, Loqi. She’s my friend.”

“You should listen to your friend Loqi,” Besithia said. “She’s a smart one.”

“You will surrender the device and yourself into Lucian custody,” Gentiana said, hand wandering towards the katana at her hip.

Besithia snorted. “I will not. And you can’t force me, or are you willing to risk the death of that girl? Marshal Duratus, you are a lot of things but by no accounts are you cold-hearted.”

“She’s done nothing to you Besithia! I’m who you really want!” Loqi yelled.

You are a failure,” Besithia snapped. “You never took to the enhancements like Ravus did. Pity Simone had to interfere. But even Ravus was a failure in the end, worthless piece of-”

“Don’t talk about Ravus like that! Don’t you dare!” Luna yelled, glaring at Besithia.

He studied her for a moment, eyes widening. “Well, well. Lunafreya. My dearest daughter.”

“I am not your daughter,” Luna said. “I have no father.”

“A DNA test would say otherwise.” Besithia shook his head. “It’s a pity that Ravus, hero of the Kingsglaive, is dead and gone or else we’d have quite the family reunion. No wonder you’ve betrayed us Loqi, now that you know that they lived. Now, the Immortal isn’t the only one who can make demands. My children. You will surrender yourselves to me, now.”

“In your dreams, you bastard,” Loqi hissed.

Besithia shrugged. “All right then. Say goodbye to your friend.”

He raised his hand to activate the device and Noctis instinctively held Iris a little closer to him. Loqi started to run towards Besithia, stopping when a sudden spray of gunfire echoed across the room. Besithia cried out as his arms dropped uselessly to his sides, riddled with bullet holes.

A hooded figure shoved past Loqi. Noctis could see that he was walking awkwardly, favouring his right leg. Terrible burn marks could be seen on all his visible flesh. His left hand was missing, replaced by an awkward piece of metal with grooves for holding things with. The Avenger flung his machine gun onto his back, knocking his hood back. His face was also covered in burns and there was an eyepatch over his right eye. With his good hand, he forced Besithia up against the wall, holding him in such a way that even if he could move his arms again, the Avenger would stop him from pressing the device.

“Not my daughter, you piece of shit,” the Avenger growled.

Noctis knew that voice. Besides him, Iris looked up.

“Dad?” she asked.

The Avenger: Clarus Amicitia, Shield of King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII.

Chapter Text

Chapter eleven – I’m only human after all

Nyx sat on the edge of his bed. Prompto didn’t move to sit next to his cousin, the way he used to before. He just stayed at the other end and fiddled with Umbra’s new collar. He was almost ten now. He and Noctis had been sending the album back and forth for a year, sending each other photos of their homes and photos of each other. And Noctis had made a new friend thanks to Prompto! Her name was Lunafreya. She seemed really nice.

“I don’t want you writing to him,” Nyx said, glaring at the photo album on the bed.

“Why? Noct’s my friend!” Prompto argued.

“Do you know what would have happened if him and King Regis had never come here?” Nyx asked. Prompto shook his head. “The Empire would never have come. Aunt Sylva would still be alive. It’s their fault.”

“No it’s not!” Prompto yelled. “The Empire’s mean and they would have come anyway! Noctis is my friend and I’m gonna write to him. You can’t tell me what to do.”

Nyx scowled and slammed his hand down on the bed. Prompto jumped, curling up and clutching at Umbra. He watched as Nyx took a few deep breaths and calmed himself.

“Chancellor Izunia has offered me a staff officer position within the Empire. I’ll be going to Gralea for five years’ service before hopefully taking control of military actions within the Tenebrae province,” he said.

“You’re leaving me?” Prompto asked quietly.

“You’ll still have Cor, Maria, and the rest of the palace staff.” Nyx got off the bed and walked towards the door. He spat out his next sentence like something bitter. “And your precious Noct.”


“Uncle Clarus?” Noctis whispered.

Clarus didn’t reply to him as he slammed Besithia against the wall. In one fluid movement, he managed to rip the device off of Besithia’s wrist before throwing him to the ground. Kicking the Imperial scientist, Clarus walked over to the others and handed Gentiana the device. She accepted it, quickly giving him a salute. Clarus then went over to where Noctis was holding onto Iris and dropped to his knees, holding his hand out towards his daughter.

“How? I thought… Lord Prompto said…” Iris trailed off. “Dad, you’re alive.”

“I am,” Clarus said. “Here. Let’s get that thing off you.”

He reached forwards and with Aranea’s help he pulled the metal spike out of Iris’s stomach. She began to bleed, so Noctis quickly slammed a potion into her. The wound healed and Iris’s breathing evened out. Slowly, she pulled away from Noctis and wrapped her arms around her father. Clarus hugged her back, pulling her tight towards him. They could hear Iris sobbing slightly. Clarus squeezed her tight, a silent apology for making her worry.

Near the wall, Besithia groaned in pain. Clarus pulled away from his daughter and stop up again, pulling out a hand gun. He walked over to Besithia, snarling. He was about to shoot him when Iris called out for him to stop.

“We promised Loqi,” she said.

“But he hurt you,” Clarus said, not lowering his gun.

Iris shook her head. “What he did to Loqi and Luna was worse. Loqi’s got more right than any of us to kill him. Please Dad.”

Glaring once more at Besithia, Clarus stepped aside. Loqi walked forwards, trembling hands holding onto his gun. He glared at Besithia with years of hatred and anger visible on his face. He raised the gun. Besithia weakly tried to reach forwards towards him.

“Don’t my son, don’t,” he pleaded. “We were promised. If you let me live, get me out of here, we were promised. Immortality. Loqi, please.”

“Fuck off and go to hell,” Loqi snarled.

He squeezed the trigger. A bang echoed throughout the room and Besithia slumped to the ground. Loqi’s shoulders sagged and he began to laugh weakly, body shaking. Luna went over to him and hugged him tightly. It was done. They were free of Besithia. Loqi hugged Luna tightly, almost as if he was reassuring himself that she was still real. Noctis smiled slightly before turning to Clarus.

“How? Prompto told us that he saw you die, that you were buying him time,” Noctis said.

“They saw the flames surround me, yes. I’m lucky that they hurt my enemies more than they hurt me,” Clarus replied. “But they’d driven off by the time the fire died.”

“My uncle,” Aranea quickly said. “Is he…” She trailed off when Clarus shook his head. “Right. Okay. That’s…”

“He was brave,” Clarus said. “He-”

Aranea held up a hand and Clarus stopped. Her shoulders began to shake and Noctis put an arm around her.

“Have you reunited with the Oracle? Do you have the Ring?” Clarus asked.

“No. Prompto still has it. But he’s been in touch. He’s heading to Altissia soon,” Noctis replied.

“Perhaps we should continue this discussion elsewhere,” Gentiana said, stepping forwards. “The battle has been won. We’ve reclaimed the base. But we still have more work to do.”

“Yeah,” Noctis said. “Okay.”


 

They were back in Aracheole Stronghold. They’d all spent a couple of days in Formouth, cleaning up the chaos and rebuilding some of the defences. With Loqi’s help, they’d been able to obtain a number of Imperial documents concerning how their weaponry worked. This would make it easier for them to modify and counter the Imperial weapons.

Speaking of Loqi, he’d officially defected to Lucis now. People had heard that he was the man controlling the MA that had assisted in the retaking of Formouth and that he had killed Besithia. It did wonders for his popularity. Gentiana had put him to work, getting him to alter the MAs they’d acquired and make them accessible to the Lucian forces, as well as then teaching several members of the Resistance how to operate the machines.

“The Empire still has Fort Vallerouy,” Clarus said, pointing at the map in the strategy room. “It’s the largest of the three southern forts and possibly the most valuable.”

“We’d risk losing Aracheole and Formouth if we devote too many of our forces to Vallerouy though,” Aranea pointed out. “Given their little show of strength in Lestallum while we were all busy with Formouth, we’d need to be careful. If we could recruit more people, then we could maybe pull this off.”

“What if we wait until the covenant with Leviathan’s been formed?” Noctis suggested. “If she’s willing to help like Ramuh did, then we could easily reclaim Formouth. Or we could use the passageways that Uncle Clarus told us about. Yeah, the Empire might know about them but they could be worth a shot.”

Gentiana nodded slowly. “It’s a good idea, your Majesty. Countess Highwind, thoughts?”

“Nice to see my training had some effect,” Aranea said. “It’s risky but say we snuck Luna and Loqi in, clung to the shadows, disabled defences with the barcodes. Using the passages to get in, of course. I mean, waiting for the covenant isn’t a bad idea either, especially if we combine the plans. Course, we don’t know if the Hydraean will want to help like Ramuh. Titan hasn’t come yet.”

“You may have to wait a while before travelling to Altissia,” Clarus said. “Cid has a lot of work to do on our old boat. Fool should have maintained it like I told him to.”

“We still have another couple of Royal Arms to pick up,” Iris added.

They’d spent a couple of days heading through dungeons and taking on daemons in order to get to the Royal Arms. As far as Clarus was aware, they only had to get to the tombs in Malarmarm Thicket and Mount Ravatogh and they’d be done with all the tombs that were actually within Lucis. There was one hidden somewhere in Altissia and another that was apparently in Catarnica.

As they discussed potential plans, Monica suddenly came running into the strategy room.

“Lord Gladiolus has arrived,” she said.

“Gladio’s here?” Iris asked. “But I told him to stay in Lestallum.”

“Have you told him about my survival yet?” Clarus said.

Iris rubbed the back of her head. “Oh, right. Might have forgotten that. Umm… maybe he heard a rumour?”

Clarus sighed as they headed out into the main base. They could hear Loqi in the distance, instructing his squad. Gladio was walking through the stronghold, followed by Jared and Talcott. He broke out into a run as he saw them approaching. Iris started to joyfully wave at her brother, only for him to run right past her and tackle Noctis to the ground.

“IT’S ALL YOUR FUCKING FAULT!” he screamed, punching Noctis. “ALL YOUR GODDAMN FAULT!”

“Gladio! What are you doing?!” Iris yelled, trying to pull him away.

“You should have been there! You’re supposed to protect us! It’s all your fault!” Gladio yelled as Iris pulled him to his feet. “Fuck you! You’re a shitty king! You were supposed to protect your people!”

“Calm down!” Iris told him.

“No! Just let me- He’s gonna-!” Gladio started to pull away from his sister’s hold.

“Gladiolus!” Clarus snapped. “Calm down, now.”

The sound of his father’s voice made Gladio stop flailing around. He stared in shock, trying to reconcile the image of this burnt man with what he had last seen of his father, trying to comprehend the fact that his father was alive in the first place. Iris let go of him and Clarus put a hand on his shoulder.

“Just breathe, Gladio,” Clarus instructed.

“You’re alive?” Gladio asked.

Clarus nodded. “Evidently. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. But we can talk later, I promise. We need to sort this out. Now, tell me why you just attacked Noctis like that.”

“He should have been there. He’s our king, he’s supposed to protect his people,” Gladio said, much calmer now. “But he wasn’t there and he didn’t stop them.”

“What happened Gladdy? Was it Lestallum?” Iris asked.

“Yeah. The Empire came, looking for him.” Gladio pointed at Noctis. “We didn’t… we tried not to say anything. But the general, he got angry. He shot her, Iris. He killed her and I couldn’t do anything.”

“Who?” Clarus asked. “Who did he kill?”

Gladio didn’t say anything. He just sat down on a nearby box and put his heads in his hands. At this point, Jared and Talcott had come over. Jared bowed to his liege while Talcott just stared sadly at the ground. It took a second for Noctis to realise exactly who was missing.

“Katrina,” Aranea said before he could. “They killed Katrina?” Jared nodded. “That’s sick. Why would they do that, she was just a kid. Shit, that’s sick.”

“The Empire murders children,” Gentiana said. “Now nobody will want to defend them.”


 

Gentiana’s prediction that people defending the empire’s actions would cease to do so was correct. Any Lucians who had been saying things like ‘we should give them a chance’ and ‘they’re not that bad’ had their eyes opened by the news of Katrina’s murder and the fire in Letsallum that the Empire had willingly caused. Recruitment for the Resistance surged and they now had a larger amount of people with combat experience amongst their ranks.

They’d moved a number of people – Angels, Clarus, Loqi, Gentiana, and Gladio included – to Old Lestallum. It was the closest town to Fort Vallerouy and therefore the easiest to base their operations. It helped that a large portion of the townspeople had joined up to assist the Resistance.

Noctis was leaning against the balcony of his motel room. Luna was with Loqi and Iris was with her family. He had no idea where Aranea had gone that evening. The door to his room suddenly opened and Noctis turned his head to see her walking in. She walked over and stood by him.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” Noctis replied. “How are you?”

Aranea sighed. “Honestly? Kinda crap but kinda good.”

“How’s that possible?”

“Well, I’m good because I got to visit some friends I haven’t seen in seven years. But crap because…”

“Because we’re in Old Lestallum,” Noctis finished.

“Yeah. It’s just… I didn’t think it would be painful, but it is. I can see my old home’s ruins from here. I can see places that are still repairing themselves from the attacks seven years ago. I can see the places where my friends and family died.”

It was easy sometimes to forget that Aranea originally came from Old Lestallum. She’d been such a big part of Noctis’s life for the past few years, it was like she’d been there all along.

“And I just feel crap because Iris got her dad back and that’s great. Luna got her brother back and that’s also great and I’m so happy for them,” Aranea said. “But it hurts. Because Uncle Ricard… he was the only family I had after the attacks. And now he’s gone. They got their families back. Who have I got?”

“You got us,” Noctis replied. “I know it’s not… not the same in some ways. And I get it. I want my dad back more than anything.”

“But we can’t always get them back,” Aranea whispered.

Noctis nodded. “Yeah.”

They could see Iris and Gladio sparring outside under the watchful eye of their father. Gladio may have had a height advantage but Iris’s extra experience showed as she routinely bested him. It was a scene that Noctis had watched time and time again when he used to visit the Amicitia manor. Clarus walked over and offered Gladio a few tips. Iris laughed and tried to hug her little brother.

“She’s trying to distract him,” Aranea said. “Shredded. She’s trying to distract him from everything that happened. He blames himself for Katrina’s death.”

“He shouldn’t,” Noctis said. “He’s right. I should have been there, I’m the King. And I couldn’t protect a little girl.”

Aranea slapped him.

“What the hell, A?!” Noctis yelled.

“Don’t you dare do the whole ‘it’s my fault’ shit,” Aranea snapped. She grabbed his shirt and pulled him to face her. “Okay?! Because we had no idea that they were going to attack Lestallum. We had no idea. You were busy helping the Resistance, fighting on whatever counts for a front line in this shit-show of a war. That’s more than a lot of your ancestors can say. You’re the King and you’ve proved it. You’ve proved it to me. You’re going out there, you’re fighting.”

“I’m not making any of the big decisions,” Noctis said.

Aranea shook her head. “Noctis, you’ve been in every war meeting we’ve had, every strategy session. And you know that there are people who are stronger than you at strategy and you listen to them. That’s good. You know your strengths. Besides, haven’t you noticed that every plan Gentiana and I come up with, we check if you’re okay with it?”

She let go of Noctis’s shirt.

“What even is this conversation?” she muttered. “First we talk about my dead family, now we’re doing the pep-talk thing. I am one weird as hell advisor.”

“Considering you routinely snuck me out of my apartment, I think I have to agree with that,” Noctis said.

“Who taught you how to be a little shit?” Aranea asked.

“You did.”

She laughed at that.


 

“Listen up people,” Loqi said, standing in front of his MA and addressing his squad. “Uldor is a paranoid piece of shit and so we can assume the jackass is going to have all manner of people trying to guard his ass. Scouts have picked out about twenty MAs and we only have ten. So yeah. Statistically, we’re boned.”

“Oh joy,” Dustin muttered.

“Shut up, Elshett,” Loqi snapped. “Statistically, we might be boned. But we have motherfucking Clarus Amicitia covering our backs, and considering the stories we used to tell about him in the Empire, I think we’re good. We also have the Immortal herself, and as somebody who fought against her and lost, twice, our chances of survival have skyrocketed.”

“Question,” a Hunter, Vidia, said. “When was the second time you fought Marshal Duratus? I know about the time with the Angels but not any other time.”

“That was the second time,” Loqi replied. “She fought me by herself at Keycatrich Trench. It was terrifying. Moving on. Our squad is the initial strike on the base. Vidia, Dustin, Marcus, Tony, Amber. You’ve got south side with Clarus and Squad Five. You know the strike pattern, Amber’s in charge. Everyone else is with me on north side. We got Duratus and Squad Four.” He paused for a second. “Ladies, gentlemen, dignitaries… I’ll see you in hell.”

Chapter Text

Chapter twelve – Form your armies, dream your dreams

Prompto’s tenth birthday was shadowed by Nyx’s departure. He was leaving the next day and he wouldn’t return until the Winter Solstice. Prompto wondered if he’d ever have another birthday that wasn’t ruined by something else. His ninth: ruined by the Imperial takeover of Tenebrae. Now his tenth, ruined by Nyx leaving.

He sat in front of a photo of his mother for a while. It was one he took of her dancing in the gardens. It made him feel a little less lonely when he looked at it. He spoke to it sometimes, when the loneliness got really bad. Today was one of those days.

“Hey Mom,” he said. “It’s my birthday today. I’m ten now. Noct sent me a present. Luna helped him make me a friendship bracelet!” He held out the yellow and white bracelet. “It had to be something small because otherwise Pryna wouldn’t have been able to carry it. It’s really cool. And Maria turned one of your shirts into this really cool jacket. I’m gonna wear it when I do Oracle stuff.”

Prompto fell quiet at that. He’d didn’t always like thinking about Oracle stuff. It made him miss his mom and going into towns with her when she was doing healings.

“I miss you,” he whispered. “Nyx is leaving and he’s gonna join the Empire. I wish he wasn’t. I just want to go back to before. Are you watching me, Mom? I hope you are ’cause I miss you.”


 

“Guess you must be busy. We’re actually in flight right now. Kinda a long story but we’re heading to Tenebrae first and then we’re going to Altissia. Gives us longer to pretend I’m ‘dead’ and it’s kinda like hiding right under the Empire’s nose. But when we’re in Altissia I have to go public. We heard that the Empire’s planning to use the covenant to kill Leviathan, like they did with Titan. I… I need you, Noct. If you could get to Altissia within the month, that would be great. I mean, I really don’t want to sound demanding or anything. Cause I get that you’re busy helping the Resistance and your people and that’s amazing. You’re a good king, Noct. But I still need you. Huh? Oh. Okay. Well, signal’s about to die so… I guess this is goodbye for now. Crowe says hi. Wants you to give Luna a hug for her. See ya round, Noct. I love you.”

Prompto had actually left the message while they busy with Formouth Garrison, but Noctis had been replaying it every now and again. Right now, he was listening to it in the same way a soldier would read a letter from a loved one before going into battle. They were about to take on Fort Vallerouy. Scouting it out had revealed that in the wake of Aracheole and Formouth, Niflheim had upped the defences of Formouth.

Of course, it could be the fact that the hated General Calligo Uldor was known to be based at Vallerouy. It was very clear that Lucis despised the man, what with him murdering a child. He probably ordered extra soldiers to protect him.

“Put that thing away,” Aranea said, pointing at Noctis’s phone. “Loqi’s squads are in position. We’ll be moving soon.”

They waited in their position behind some rocks. Aranea was checking in frequently with the radio, trying to find out exactly what was happening.

“What’s happening?”

They jumped as an extra voice spoke from behind them. They turned to see Gladio stood there, a greatsword strapped to his back.

“What are you doing here?” Iris hissed. “Get back to Old Lestallum. Now.”

“Hell no,” Gladio replied. He moved closer towards them, eyes blazing. “I want to fight.”

“What if you get killed?!” Aranea snapped. “This is war, Gladio. It’s not hunting where your enemy can’t think like you do.”

“I know. But I’m not gonna sit by and do nothing,” Gladio said. “If you won’t take me in with you, I’ll sneak behind another squad. I don’t care.”

Iris bit her lip. Noctis could understand how conflicted she must feel. If she left Gladio, he’d sneak in without people knowing and he could get hurt without her watching him. If she let him come with them, he could still get hurt and she’d be distracted from her duties as Shield. She shot a desperate look towards Noctis and Aranea. The two exchanged a look before nodding.

“You listen to us and stay by us at all times,” Noctis ordered.

Gladio nodded and followed behind them when the signal came to move. They carefully approached the fort, keeping an eye out for any incoming Imperials. Gladio kept up with them, eyes narrowed and focussed. You could almost feel the determination rolling off of him in waves. Noctis kept a wary eye on him; they couldn’t afford him running off and getting hurt.

Six, Clarus was going to kill them all for this.

They neared the small entrance that Gentiana had discovered. Luna went through first, scouting out what was there. “Snipers. Not MTs. Two of them. You could warp kill them Noct.”

That he did. He quietly walked past Luna, looking at the areas she pointed him to. He warped up to the first one and quietly stuck a knife in their neck. He warped back to Luna before killing the next one. They could hear the sounds of shouting and fighting echoing across the base. Loqi and the initial squads were obviously doing their thing.

After scanning the immediate area, Noctis warped back to the others. They slowly progressed around the base, sticking to the shadows. The air rippled red, a sure sign of a Magitek generator somewhere on the base. That was their job: to find it and take it out. Yes, their MAs would lose the boost but so would every MT and MA on the base that belonged to Empire.

A small squad of MTs came around the corner. Luna immediately started shooting at them while the others rushed forwards. Noctis slashed through an MT and warped to another that was about to catch Gladio unawares. Gladio heard the noise and swung around quickly. His sword managed to cut the MT’s head off. He grunted out a thanks to Noctis before stabbing at another one.

The dead MTs lay round them. Luna let out a shuddering breath. “That… that could have been me and Loqi and Ravus. Oh gods, that could have been us.”

“You okay?” Noctis asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Need a minute?”

“I’m fine,” Luna replied. “It’s just easier to vocalise it now that you all know.”

“What’s going on?” Gladio said. Oh, right. He didn’t know all the details yet.

Luna sighed. “I’m an escaped genetic experiment from the Empire who should have become an MT. So is Loqi, so was Ravus.”

“Oh. Right. Got it.”

No further questions were asked and there was a look of relief on Luna’s face. They continued through the shadows, listening to the sounds of fighting. Noctis and Aranea led them around a corner, almost bumping in to three other figures.

“Your Majesty,” one of them said.

It was Scientia, the man who had fought them with Nyx.


 

Gentiana Duratus had faced the Blademaster Gilgamesh when she was sixteen years old. She had seen war, seen the damage it had done. Watched it tear apart her family. She’d snuck into the Crownsguard and met the young Prince Regis. She was almost unmatched with a blade, something that had caught his attention. She’d joined him partway through his trip around Lucis. She was there when the Blademaster’s ruins were found.

War hadn’t changed in the thirty years since she’d challenged the Blademaster. She’d wanted to learn strength from him. She may have lost and barely survived, but she’d learnt what she needed. And now, in Fort Vallerouy, that knowledge was being tested again, as it had been time and time again.

She had to admire Loqi’s skills with an MA. He’d taken out more enemy units than anyone else had. Frankly, the only reason that she and the Angels had defeated him was that he obviously wasn’t prepared for magic and warping. He was near her, taking out as many Imperials he could see.

Gentiana sliced the heads off of two MTs, wincing as she did. They may have been children once. That could have been Lunafreya and Loqi. War wasn’t kind to children.

Clarus was behind her, shooting at the enemy forces. It was comforting to have him back. Comforting to have an old friend fighting with her once again. A bullet flew over her shoulder, embedding itself in an Imperial soldier. Gentiana rushed forwards to finish the job. Clarus continued to watch her back.

“Any sign of Calligo yet?” she yelled.

“No!” Clarus replied, slamming his metal arm down on the head of an Imperial. “Coward’s either ran or hiding!”

Made sense. “Continue as planned. The King and the Angels are on their way to the generator!”

She hoped they’d get there soon. Some of their younger members were struggling against the boosted MTs.


 

“You!” Noctis yelled, settling into a fighting stance.

“I assure you, Your Majesty, my men and I mean you no harm,” Scientia said, hands raised in a peace gesture. “I rather believe that our interests lie in the same direction.”

“Really? You were fighting against us last time,” Iris snapped.

Scientia nodded. “I was under different employ during that time. My men and I have since left the Imperial payroll.”

Noctis didn’t quite buy it. They’d got lucky with Loqi but he wasn’t going to trust Scientia. He readied himself to strike and was about to lurch forwards when-

“Wait!” Gladio roughly pulled him back. He took a step forwards, standing directly in front of Scientia. “You switched sides?”

“I did. I knew the Empire was disgusting and I wasn’t going to stay with people who wanted me personally to murder a child,” Scientia replied. “We found a new employer, one more sympathetic to the Lucian cause.”

“Gladio, what’s going on?” Iris asked, standing next to her younger brother.

Gladio pointed at Scientia. “Ignis got us safely out of Lestallum. Saved our lives. Tried to save Katrina. He helped us bury her. He’s a mercenary.”

“And all of that was done while still in Imperial employ,” Ignis added. “As I have said, my new employer is not with the Empire. They sent me here to sabotage the base to make things easier for the Resistance. It just so happens that this has coincided with the main base attacks.”

“We still can’t trust you,” Aranea said. “Who’s employ are you under?”

Instead of answering her question, Ignis merely pulled out a small folded piece of paper and held it out towards Noctis. Noctis took it, eyes widening as he read what it said. Noct, Ignis is under the employ of House Argentum. He’s here to help, I swear. Love you xoxo. It was Prompto’s handwriting, undoubtedly. Noctis quickly showed it to Aranea and the others.

“Is one of you Lunafreya Fleuret?” Ignis asked.

“I am,” Luna replied.

“Congratulations on your reunion with your brother,” Ignis said. “There is more proof of my intentions. I was told to remind you that your other brother once accidently dyed a shirt of yours bright green.”

Luna’s breath caught. “Only Crowe and Libertus knew about that, other than me and Ravus. Noctis, he’s genuine. Crowe’s with Prompto and if he’s under Prompto’s employ, then she could have met him.”

“I was told to give you the note and the reminder should we meet. House Argentum were aware of our… previous skirmish,” Ignis said. He extended a hand out to Noctis. “As per my contract with House Argentum, my services are now yours, Your Majesty.”

Noctis looked back at the Angels. Iris and Aranea still looked a little cautious but Aranea was nodding at him. He took the hand offered. “Thank you…?”

“Ah, yes. Forgive me. A proper introduction is needed,” Ignis said. “Commodore Ignis Scientia, leader of the Red Sky mercenary service. With me are my right-hand men, Biggs and Wedge.”

“A pleasure, yer Majes’y,” Biggs said, Wedge nodding.

“Our airship is currently shooting down Imperial ships trying to approach. I can offer my own skills as protection and Biggs and Wedge may be most useful in disrupting Imperial communications, throwing them into further chaos. We have already disrupted the generator, creating a weakness for your forces to exploit.” Ignis made a gesture to the sky as he spoke. “What would you have us do, King Noctis.”

“Keep up with the airship, have your men do what they need to, and yeah, you just do what you need to,” Noctis said. “Sound good Aranea?”

“Oh yes,” Aranea replied. “Welcome on board. Gods this is like one of Gladio’s stupid novels.”

“Hey!”

“I speak nothing but the truth,” Aranea said. “Where else would siblings suddenly reunite and enemies become friends all of a sudden. Yeesh. Right, our main objective is still the generator.”

“I can lead you to it,” Ignis offered. “Wedge, Biggs. You know what to do.”

“Right you are, boss!” Wedge said.

The pair ran off and Ignis took the lead. He led them around the fort and towards the centre. An MA crossed their path along the way. Noctis warpstriked it while Luna got out the grenade launcher. Ignis ran towards it, dodging attacks and shoving a pair of daggers into the two guns at the front of the mech. He used another pair to strike at weak points along the body of the MA. It took only one combined hit from Iris, Gladio, and Aranea to strike it down.

Noctis warped away from the mech and towards Ignis. His new ally gave him a quick nod before continuing to lead them through the fort. A few Imperials passed their way and Ignis was quick to throw his daggers at them and take them out. He seemed to be doing all he could to prove that he was an ally to them.

They entered the centre section of the fort. The generator stood in the centre, still shooting a beam of red up into the sky. A single MA stood in front of it, surrounded by a large squad of MTs. On the other side of the section, part of the wall suddenly came crashing down. An MA with a Lucian flag attached to it entered, flanked by two people, Clarus and Gentiana. They all stood still for a second as the Imperial MA opened up. A man in ornate uniform climbed out.

“Calligo,” Gladio hissed.

“You will not take me!” Calligo yelled, practically hysterical. “You Lucian dogs will not take me! I am Calligo Uldor, general of Niflheim! I was promised! You will not take me! You will not take me!”

“He’s lost his mind,” Aranea muttered.

“Calligo Uldor!” Gentian yelled in response. “Your forces are depleted and many have surrendered! If you surrender now and hand yourself into Lucian custody, on behalf of His Majesty I assure you that you will be treated fairly as a prisoner of war! Surrender is your only option, General Uldor!”

Calligo re-entered his MA and his voice echoed out of the speakers. “You will not take me! I was promised!”

The MTs suddenly started advancing towards the Lucians. The Lucian MA rushed forwards, knocking many of them to the side and entering a form of hand-to-hand combat with Calligo’s. From the look of how it was being handled, that was certainly Loqi piloting. Noctis warped towards the MTs and decided to go ‘screw it’ and switched immediately to using his Royal Arms.

Somewhere in the skirmish that followed, Noctis pulled Gladio up from the ground. His shoulder was bleeding and he looked exhausted. Noctis shoved him away from the main fighting and told him to get to the main forces and stay out of this. Gladio almost looked like he was going to protest until his arm seemed to spasm. He left and Noctis could see Iris out of the corner of his eye. She looked relieved that her little brother wasn’t in the fight anymore.

The rest of the fight was just routinely taking out the MTs that surrounded them while dodging Calligo. He was as good as Loqi at piloting his MA, perhaps even better. They at least had the advantage of numbers. The battle paused as the last MT was destroyed, courtesy of Aranea. Calligo’s MA stood opposite Loqi’s, almost as if they were staring at each other.

“I. Was. PROMISED!”

Calligo’s scream echoed out from the MA’s speakers. He suddenly thrust an arm into the mostly ignored generator. The MA glowed red and the light from the generator grew harsher while a screeching kind of noise filled the air. Noctis could barely hear Ignis suddenly yelling for them all to run. Calligo was screaming and everything was loud and near-unbearable.

The MA exploded.

Something flew at Noctis. Somebody pushed him away.


 

Lady Karine’s body lay over his own. The car was on fire and Noctis’s back was hurting. He could feel something wet and sticky fall down his face. Everything smelt like burning. He could barely see blue light flashing in the distance. There was the hiss of a daemon in the air. He could taste something metallic.

Was he dying?


 

Everything was buzzing. It was dark. He could barely breathe. There was a pain in his shoulder.

“Noc… ke up…”

Noctis slowly opened his eyes. He didn’t recognise the ceiling above him.

“Welcome back.”

Slowly, ignoring the aching across his body, Noctis pulled himself up. He squinted slightly as light his eyes. Across the room, he could see Aranea sitting on a chair. Her hair was loose, covering the left half of her face.

“Don’t move too much. You’re lucky the elixir fixed you up and that we had a healcast in the Armiger,” she said.

“What happened?” Noctis asked, voice a little croaky.

Aranea looked towards the window, hair still hiding her face. “Calligo tried to do something with the generator. Ignis thinks that triggered the weakness he left. There was an explosion.”

“Is everyone okay?”

“…” Aranea hesitated for a second. “Well, most of us are alive, if a little hurt.”

“Most of us?” Noctis frowned. “A, who did we lose?” She was silent. “Aranea! Who did we lose?!”

She turned her head towards Noctis, hair falling back. While her right eye was fine, her left was milky-white and surrounded by scars.

“We lost Gentiana.”

Chapter Text

Chapter thirteen – When the walls came down

Most twelve-year-olds wouldn’t have to worry about staying in line for their country’s safety. Prompto wasn’t most twelve-year-olds. While others his age would currently be sitting at home and eating with their families while either chatting happily or watching TV, Prompto was sitting at one of Emperor Aldercapt’s state dinners. He could barely remember which fork to use and he was terrified of saying the wrong thing.

Cor had told him to take the chance to show him how strong he was, to show them that they could hurt his country but he’d still remain standing. Let them remember that the Oracle was strong. Easier said than done. At least Cor was stood behind him, keeping an eye on him.

“My cousin has recently begun his duties of blessing and healing,” Nyx was saying.

“How wonderful, Oracle Prompto,” Emperor Aldercapt said. “You are truly becoming an asset to the Empire!”

“Thank you, Your Radiance,” Prompto replied, kicking Nyx under the table.

“Yes, it truly is wonderful,” Chancellor Ardyn said from Prompto’s right. “It is good for the people to see their Oracle once more. It wouldn’t do for the position to appear weak. Your Radiance, I believe a toast is in order! To young Oracle Prompto! Long may he live.”

As the nobles around him toasted him, Prompto tried to shake off the sicky feeling he’d gotten from Chancellor Ardyn’s malevolent smile at the words ‘long may he live’.


 

Noctis followed Aranea through the remains of Highwind Manor, temporarily fixed up as a Resistance base. She seemed a little subdued, whether from her injury of from being in the ruins of her old home, Noctis couldn’t tell. She’d kept her hair loose, again hanging over her damaged eye, destroyed by a bolt of metal. As they moved through the manor, people quietly bowed to Noctis before shuffling along. Everybody seemed to be reeling from the loss of Gentiana.

“Part of the MA went straight through her chest,” Aranea had said. “Nothing could have save her.”

Her body had been laid out in what was once the dining hall and it would be buried the next day. Gentiana looked as peaceful and calm in death as she did in life, if you didn’t look at the gaping hole in her chest. People had left flowers and little notes by her body.

Loqi was sat in a wheelchair next to her body, Luna stood behind him. They looked up at Noctis and Aranea as they walked in. A bandage was wrapped tightly around Luna’s left hand. She smiled at Noctis and Aranea but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. Loqi just looked tired. Noctis could see burn marks creeping across his body. All Noctis could think right now was: gods, I got lucky.

“What happened to your wrist?” he asked.

Luna clutched it slightly. “Burning piece of metal. Not as bad as Loqi.”

“Paralysed,” Loqi said, before Noctis could say anything. His voice sounded dead and his face was sour. “Waist down. So I’m fucking useless now. Can’t pilot anymore.”

“You’re not useless,” Noctis replied. “You can still strategize. You can still help. Don’t sell yourself out yet.”

There was no reply but Loqi seemed a little less defeated at that. Luna bent down and hugged her brother as several more pairs of footsteps echoed throughout the room. Some of them got quicker and arms were suddenly wrapped around Noctis. He turned his head slightly before quickly returning the hug that Iris had surprised him with. Clarus and Gladio walked towards them all.

“I’m okay,” Iris whispered. “Dad and I were far enough to only get a few cuts and burns. We got everyone out. Calligo’s dead, by the way.”

She pulled away and Gladio came a little closer. “I think I’ll stick to hunting.”

“If that,” Clarus said. He put an arm around Gladio’s shoulder. “How are you, Noctis?”

Noctis merely looked at Aranea and Loqi to make his point. Clarus nodded before going to stand next to Gentiana’s body. He sadly brushed a few strands of hair from her face and repositioned the flowers that had been left so that they hid her wound. There were a few seconds of silence while Clarus stood by her. She was an old friend and the sadness was evident.

The silence was broken by Luna. “Oh, I almost forgot. Aranea, I made this for you.”

She handed over black eyepatch and Aranea tied it around her head, covering her blind eye. “Thanks Luna.”

“What do we do next?” Iris asked, looking towards Noctis.

He had to think about this. He knew that they’d at least gotten a hold of all major military bases in Lucis. And if the Empire continued to be so nonchalant about regaining them, their biggest threat would be the recent increase in daemons. The nights had gotten longer. Daemons aside, the Imperial presence in Lucis was now next to nothing. The Resistance should still remain active though, in case there was some form of retaliation.

“Uncle Clarus… sorry, Lord Amicitia. I am offering you the position of Crownsguard Marshal, taking control of the Crownsguard and Lucian Resistance,” Noctis said.

“I accept, Your Majesty,” Clarus replied. “Thank you.”

“Loqi Fleuret,” Noctis began, using the surname Loqi had taken to. “I wish to appoint you as a key strategic advisor to the Crownsguard. Do you accept?”

Loqi shrugged. “Yeah. Sounds fun.”

That left him and the Angels. Noctis summoned forth the camera he’d stored away in the Armiger. Prompto was probably waiting for him in Altissia right now.

“The boat in Cape Caem? How’s it going?” he asked.

“Pretty much fully built,” Aranea replied. “Ignis looted some mithril from the Imperial supplies and handed it over to us before returning to Tenebrae. We used it on the boat.”

“The four of us are going to Altissia. We’re going to reunite with Prompto, I’m going to form Leviathan’s covenant, then we’re going figure out what the fuck this Chosen King business is,” Noctis said. He looked down at Gentiana. “And when we have the covenants, we’ll figure out our next move. Figure out how to get the Crystal back. Angels, you in?”

“Of course,” Iris replied.

“I’m in,” Luna said.

“Give me like three days to figure out how to get around the whole no depth perception thing,” Aranea said. She grinned, looking like her old self again. “Because fuck yeah. I’m in.”


 

It took four more days before the boat was completely ready. Aranea had adapted as best she could, despite still not feeling fully satisfied with herself. They’d taken the time to stop at Malamalarm Thicket and Mount Ravatogh, claiming the Royal Arms hidden in both. Iris had supplied some of the history of both, how a Lucian queen had created the Bandersnatch to guard her tomb and how the Infernian was allegedly trapped within Mount Ravatogh.

Clarus had quickly been accepted as the new leader of the Crownsguard and Resistance. He and Loqi quickly figured out the best defensive plans so that they wouldn’t lose any of the bases they’d reclaimed. Gentiana’s funeral had been held and everything had to return to normality afterwards, despite everyone still reeling from her death.

With the Royal Arms collected, Gentiana’s funeral having taken place, and boat completed, Noctis was standing in the hidden harbour at Cape Caem. The sun was rising and the water glittered. Cid and Cindy could be heard making the final checks on the boat. Noctis watched as Cid climbed down from the boat. The old man placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I gotta talk to you and yer Angels,” he said.

They walked into the side room where the girls were sat down. Noctis went and sat down by Luna. Cid walked across the room, got something from one of his toolboxes, then went over to Noctis. He handed him an old photo. A younger Cid was in the photo, alongside Regis, Clarus, somebody Noctis vaguely remembered as Weskham, and a teenage Gentiana.

“Yer daddy didn’t want her coming along at first,” Cid said, looking sadly at the photo. “Not ’til she was the only one of us who didn’t shit their pants when face ta face with a Behemoth. She was a good kid, Tiana. A good kid and a good warrior. Kind. Stubborn as shit back then. Almost died taking on the fabled Blademaster. It’s why we called her the Immortal.”

“So that’s how she got the name,” Aranea muttered.

“Yup. She hated it at first. Then she used the reputation it got her to scare the shit outta her enemies,” Cid said. “Reggie and I never got the chance to patch things up in person. And I’m gonna regret that until the day I finally die. I miss ’im. He was my brother.” He looked up at the Angels. “And these girls here, they’re yer sisters. Trust in ’em. They won’t do ya wrong.”

Noctis got up and hugged Cid.

From there, they all said their goodbyes and got onto the boat. Clarus and Gladio had both gotten quite teary when saying goodbye to Iris. Aranea and Loqi flirted throughout their goodbye and then Loqi had almost cried when saying goodbye to Luna. Little Talcott had been sobbing as he said goodbye to the others. And it all got topped off with Cindy and Luna snogging each other goodbye.

The boat pulled out slowly of Cape Caem, Angels, Cid, and Regalia on board.

“Come back soon!” Taclott yelled, his grandfather putting a hand on his shoulder. “We need our king!”

Noctis waved at them as they all slowly began to shrink away.


 

The trip to Altissia had taken two hours but they’d gained one on the way there. There was something breath-taking about approaching the renowned ‘Walls of Water’. The gates to the city were ornate and the water features surrounding them were exceptionally impressive. As they had drawn closer, Noctis couldn’t help but take more photos. The city wasn’t filled with skyscrapers and giant statues like Insomnia, but there was still something beautiful and impressive to it.

When Cid had parked the boat and the group had disembarked, they needed to come up with a reason for entering the city. Luna had actually come up with the story that they were art students here to study the architecture of Altissia. Cid was Aranea’s grandfather who offered to help guide them around the city. Luckily, the official bought it.

Cid had gone off somewhere after telling them that they’d probably get some free rooms at Weskham’s place, Maahgo. They’d taken the time to explore Altissia before then, trying some of the famous Accordan cuisine and getting a caricature drawn of them. There was an emotional moment when they stumbled across a Vivienne Westwood shop and Prompto’s wedding robes were on display.

Speaking of Prompto, there had been plenty of rumours that they’d overheard. Prompto was apparently in the city and was apparently in the custody of First Secretary Claustra. Some people were saying that he was going to speak to the Hydraean. Many were wondering if the planned wedding between Noctis and Prompto was still going to go ahead.

(Maybe when everything was over.)

After a couple of hours of wandering around, they eventually found Maagho. It was a bar located underneath several buildings, surrounded by the famous canals of Altissia. It was fairly busy and it had a jovial atmosphere about it. Noctis and the girls approached the bar, where a familiar face was serving drinks. They sat down and the bartender came over almost immediately.

“Your Majesty,” he said, quiet enough so that only they could hear. “My, how you’ve grown.”

“Hey Uncle Weskham,” Noctis replied. “Long time no see.”

Weskham smiled at him. “Oh yes. Welcome to Altissia. Now these must be the infamous Prince’s Angels… or King’s Angels I suppose. You are obviously Iris, you look just like your mother. Your father, we didn’t hear. Is he-”

“Alive,” Iris quickly said. “A little roughed up but still alive. He’s in charge of the Resistance.”

“I imagine he’s staying alive to spite the Empire,” Weskham said. “Clarus always was a stubborn one. And you must be Ricard’s niece. Aranea?”

“That’s me,” Aranea replied. She held out a hand. “Advisor.”

“Ah! My old role!” Weskham exclaimed, shaking her hand. He turned to Luna. “I’m afraid I don’t recognise you, Miss.”

“Lunafreya Fleuret. I met Noctis at school,” Luna said. “Honoured to meet you, sir.”

“Likewise. Noctis, I’m going to get straight to the point. Imperial activity has increased in the past few days. Oracle Prompto is here and the Empire is tense. Rumours are reaching us of the Lucian Resistance and there are rumours that there may be a push for Accordan independence. You’ve arrived at the city during a rather tense time.”

“Of course, the Empire was expecting your arrival.”

Noctis turned his head to see a smartly dressed woman arrive, flanked by Accordan guards. She stood directly next to him, a composed look on her face. She gave Weskham a courteous nod.

“Camelia! How wonderful of you to drop by,” he said. “Angels, may I introduce First Secretary Camelia Claustra. Camelia, this is-”

“King Noctis Lucis Caelum, CXIV,” Camelia interrupted. “I am well aware. Welcome to Altissia, Your Majesty, ladies. I believe you are here to meet with the Oracle, correct?” Noctis nodded. “He is in my custody, as I’m sure you’ve heard. He is quite safe and he is being guarded by some of my best men, as well as his own personal guard. He is ready to perform the covenant when needed.”

“You know about the covenant?” Noctis asked.

“Of course. When the supposedly dead Oracle asked for asylum in Altissia specifically, I had to know why. Many know that the Tidemother slumbers here.” Camelia accepted a drink off Weskham. “Oracle Prompto has come for the covenant, as have you. I imagine this is why your father wanted the wedding to take place here in the first place.”

“Forgive me, ma’am,” Aranea interjected. “But is it safe to discuss this here?”

Camelia smiled over her glass. “The Empire says they rule here. But this is my city. Nobody here will betray me.” She placed her glass down, empty. “I like to keep all our options open. Tomorrow I would like to meet with you at my estate, to discuss terms regarding the covenant. Eleven?”

“That sounds fine. Thank you, ma’am. I’m very grateful,” Noctis said.

“Then I shall await you at my estate. Tell the gate this code: we’re here to discuss flowers with the interior staff. They’ll know what you mean.” Camelia turned to leave the bar. “And Your Majesty? I am sorry about your father. I had a lot of respect for him.”

With that she motioned for her guard to follow her back to her gondola. Noctis watched as she left, realising that ‘holy shit, I’m the King, foreign leaders are going to recognise me as king’.

“She seems intense,” Aranea commented, adjusting her eyepatch.

“She is,” Weskham agreed. “But she cares about Accordo and she’s a woman of morals. I expect that she’ll be more than willing to act as your ally, if you provide assurances for her people’s safety. Now, drinks are on the house. And I dare say you’ll want to hear the story of how Clarus married a goose.”

Iris almost fell out of her chair. “That’s why we had the goose?!”


 

The group of four had been hastily escorted into the Secretarial Estate. They’d arrived half an hour early and had requested to be shown to a side room so that they could change and so that Secretary Claustra could receive them when she was ready. Aranea had insisted on them changing into more formal clothing at the estate, so that they didn’t look too conspicuous. Noctis was changed into the formal suit he’d packed for the wedding, minus the cape, while the girls were in formal Kingsglaive uniforms. For once, Noctis had slicked his hair back in a more formal style. They were about to conduct negotiations with a foreign leader after all.

“Remember, say calm and polite,” Aranea said as they were being led to Camelia’s office. “She probably wants to assure the safety of her people. Remind her that we have a common enemy: the Empire.”

“Got it,” Noctis replied. “Wish me luck.”

Camelia’s guards showed them into the office. She rose from her chair and walked over to Noctis, shaking his hand. She gestured for him to follow her back to her desk while the girls stayed at the back of the room. She sat down at her chair once again. “Thank you for coming.”

It took all of Noctis’s strength to refrain from answering in his usual manner of speaking. He could feel Aranea sending him a one-eyed glare that told him if he dared answering with ‘no sweat’, she’d murder him.

“You’re welcome, Madame Secretary,” he said. “Thank you for coming to greet us in person, and for receiving us here today.”

“It’s the least I could do for a king,” Camelia replied. “Weskham didn’t extend me an invitation so I decided to extend my own. Though circumstances have changed, both the King and the Oracle are finally in Altissia.”

“As I understand it, Oracle Prompto is in your custody. As a friend of his, I would like to thank you for guarding him but I hope this hasn’t been too great a risk to your nation.”

Camelia raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you concerned regarding our relations with the Empire?”

“I have seen the Empire’s cruelty directed at those who oppose or offend them. I do not wish for that to happen again, to anyone.”

“Your concern is touching, Your Majesty. You are correct, the Oracle is a risk and one we are prepared to shed with. Whether or not we do, well… that depends on you. Now let me ask some questions of my own.” She leaned forwards in her seat. “Why does the Oracle seek to awaken the Hyrdraean and forge the covenant?”

The million-gil question. Noctis and Aranea had discussed this, with Weskham weighing in also, and they agreed that honesty would be the best policy. “The covenant allows me to receive Leviathan’s blessing. With the blessing, I gain strength and hopefully Leviathan’s assistance in taking down the Empire.”

“The answer I wanted to hear. But, King or not, it can’t be a simple affair for you to receive a god’s blessing. Let me be frank: the potential chaos worries me. We heard reports from an Imperial insider regarding the events at Cauthess. You know better than most what took place with the Archaean. Tell me, what happened?”

“I met Titan and he gave me his power.”

“Just like the legends. Though, the Empire doesn’t like the way the story goes. Even as we speak they are mobilizing their forces. Chaos will be unavoidable, especially if they seek to recreate what happened with the Glacian and the Archaean. It will most likely come to war.” Camelia’s face turned stern. “I don’t care to host a battle on my soil, gods and the Empire be damned.”

“I understand, Madame Secretary. If I could find a way to avoid a battle, I would. But, perhaps this could work in your favour as well as ours.”

“Oh?”

“Our common enemy is Niflheim. If they attack Leviathan, then it’s more likely that the Tidemother will turn her ire towards them, especially if they are disrupting the sacred covenant. We saw it in Lucis with Titan. The Hydraean could deal a blow to Imperial forces and it also gives you a proxy to fight the Empire.”

“Do I want a proxy?”

“Forgive me, Madame, but our intelligence suggests you do. And what better proxy than fighting against the heretics that are attempting to murder the physical form of your patron goddess?”

“Very sharp, Your Majesty. I see your reasoning. But before we go into that, there is one more matter I’d like to settle. Without further ado, I wish to talk terms. If you wish to hold the rite, you must ensure in my citizens’ safety and aid in their evacuation.”

“Of course, Madame. But I’m also concerned about damage to the city.”

Camelia got up from her chair. “Your concern is appreciated but I am prepared to accept some structural damage. Keeping the citizens safe is my chief concern and therefore yours.”

“I understand, Madame.” Noctis gestured back at Aranea. “May I introduce my adviser, Countess Aranea Highwind? Aranea, if you would.”

Aranea took a step forwards. “Given our experiences with Titan, we understood that there would be a need to evacuate citizens if Leviathan proved to be temperamental or wished to put Noctis through a strenuous trial as Titan did. As such, we contacted the Lucian Resistance, led by Lord Clarus Amicitia. They are readying boats with Lucian soldiers to come and aid with evacuation. If we get everyone to specific evacuation points, we can load them onto boats guarded by Lucian forces. If needed, we can then escort citizens to various locations in Accordo or we could even take them to safe places within Lucis.”

“An admirable solution,” Camelia said. She walked around her desk, fixing her eyes on Noctis. “There is one… drawback… that you must be aware of. Once the rite has begun I will not be accountable for what follows. You are on your own.”

“We understand,” Noctis replied. “We’ll handle the rite.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry we cannot do more. But, as I’m sure you are aware, few armies can stand up to the full might of the Imperial fleet. As I understand it, you will help ensure the citizens’ safety and will engage the Empire.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I doubt your ships will be able to get close until the Empire is otherwise preoccupied. As such, do you have people with you now who would be willing to aid in the evacuation?”

“I believe I do. Angels?”

The girls all nodded.

“Thank you, ladies,” Camelia said. “Uphold the terms we have discussed and I can assure you that we will keep the Oracle safe. And, for his safety, I do not recommend you meet with him until the rite, lest you reveal to Empire that you are present within the city. It would compromise the safety of all of us.”

“I understand, Madame Secretary. Thank you for keeping him safe.”

“One last thing. My duty is to my citizens. Should any harm befall them there will be a reckoning – for both King and Oracle.”

“That is understandable, Madame. You do what you must for your people.”

Camelia smiled at him. “You’re just like your father. At least, when he had fully settled into the role of King. You evidently have learnt your lessons well.”

“Thank you, Madame. And I am grateful for all the help you are giving us.”

“The rite will take place tomorrow. According to our intel, the fleet will be four warships strong. I will pass on what information we have to you and your adviser. I would steel yourselves for a battle and warn your incoming forces.”

“We shall. Thank you for the intel.”

“I’m glad we could talk, King Noctis. We can each act in our own interest to our mutual benefit.”

She extended a hand out to Noctis and he took it, grateful that the negotiations had gone well.

Chapter Text

Chapter fourteen – Too much is never enough

It was midnight but Prompto couldn’t sleep. That happened a lot these days. He just huddled up, covers forming a tent while he used a torch to read. The photo album was beside him and an illustrated copy of the Cosmogony was spread out in front of him.

“Lord Prompto?”

Prompto snapped the book shut and threw the covers off his head. He looked up to see Cor standing in his doorway. He guardian stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.

“I can’t sleep,” Prompto mumbled.

“I see,” Cor replied. “What were you reading?”

“The Cosmogony,” Prompto said, holding the book up. “Hey Cor?”

“Hm?”

“What’s the starscourge? The book only describes it as a great evil and that Ifirit caused it and the Accursed had it.”

Cor sat down on the edge of the bed and gently took the book from Prompto. He opened it to an illustration of a man being chained away, one of the less pleasant and child-friendly images in the book.

“The starscourge was a sickness. It turned humans and animals into daemons. Once you had it, the only cure would be an Oracle or somebody with the ability to draw the scourge away from your body and into theirs,” Cor said. “It was mostly healed, but enough of it remained that people still caught it and became daemons. Now, only the Oracle and the Messengers are aware of it.”

“Is it the black marks I heal sometimes?”

“Yes.”

Prompto frowned at the book. “It says the Scourge will one day return as the greatest darkness and the Chosen King will get rid of it. So… Noct?”

“Yes, Noctis shall.”


 

Nyx stood staring in front of Altissia’s Palazzo Altemeria, where Claustra was now keeping Prompto. He couldn’t see his cousin but he could swear that he caught a glimpse of Crowe walking past one of the windows. Despite all the rumours, Claustra had stopped all Imperial officials from being able to see Prompto.

“The wedding day arrives, but alas, one of the grooms is missing.”

Nyx looked over his shoulder to see Ardyn approaching him. “Izunia. Aren’t you supposed to be controlling Lucis now? I heard we lost our last base to them.”

“There are more pressing issues to deal with,” Ardyn said.

“Well, whatever. It’s all outta my hands,” Nyx said, walking past him. “Do whatever the hell you’ve been ordered to do.”

“Such a shame, isn’t it?” Ardyn continued. “You had the power to lead the army and it’s now been taken away from you.”

This made Nyx pause for a second. Yes, he had lost most of the power he had. It was something about Aldercapt wanting to hand over the Leviathan operation to Ardyn, something about the old emperor’s paranoia regarding outsiders. Lucis had successfully been rebelling so who was to say the other provinces wouldn’t do the same.

“Have you readied yourself for the battle with the Hydraean?” Ardyn asked.

“What do you take me for, an idiot?” Nyx replied.

Ardyn chuckled. “Now, now. No need to be so hostile. It’s a shame we don’t have Commodore Ignis anymore. What a pity you couldn’t have negotiated another contract on our behalf. He would have been so useful here.”

“He didn’t want to hear about it,” Nyx said. I don’t blame him.

“A shame,” Ardyn said. “Here we all are, here for the Hydraean. Well… most of us. Have you spoken to Lord Prompto?”

A daemon’s smile. Nyx was getting more unsettled than usual. “Like hell I have.”

“That obstinate secretary, standing in the way.” Ardyn walked towards him. “While you betray your country’s faith to slay a god, all to save the only family you have left.”

The smile was gone but the threat remained.

“I know the price of the covenant.”


 

Prompto sat down in a fancy meeting room in the Palazzo Altemeria. He was dressed in ceremonial clothing that was a little similar to his wedding robes. He looked every bit an Oracle. Opposite him sat Secretary Claustra. Camelia took a sip of her tea.

“If worst comes to worst, you can threaten to throw the trident into the sea. Then they’ll listen,” she said. “In the meantime it will be well guarded. Better than the Oracle himself.”

Prompto declined to mention that if he really needed to he could summon it or send Cor to fetch it. “Understood. I guess I’ll just… reclaim it at the altar? That’s the plan, right?”

“Indeed,” Camelia replied. “Just remember, you’ll be under Imperial watch. Think of it as a necessary evil in order to forge the covenant.”

“I see. The people, have you-” Camelia raised her hand, cutting Prompto off.

“I have discussed their safety and evacuation with King Noctis.”

“You’ve spoken with Noct?” Prompto asked.

“Naturally, or else the rite would not be held today.” She placed her cup down. “Once this is all over, you are free to leave as you please. But you do so without our protection.”

“I know.”

“You had better get going.” Camelia got up and walked towards the door. “Your public is waiting for you.”

She left the room, the door slowly shutting behind her. Prompto stared at it in anticipation. Gods, his heart was beating way too fast. Only a few moments after Camelia left, the doors flung open and Imperial soldiers rushed in. They were all human, not Magitek. They ran into the room and formed a circle around him, guns raised.

It took all his strength to stop himself from panicking. These soldiers reminded Prompto of the day he lost his mother, of the soldiers that infested his home for years afterwards, of all the horrors he had seen in the fall of Insomnia. It would be so easy to succumb to fear right now. But Prompto had a job to do. He took a deep breath and got up from his chair. He couldn’t see the soldiers’ eyes as he stared at them but Prompto tried his best to look determined and intimidating as he knocked one of their guns away and walked straight past them.

“Today’s the day,” Crowe said as he entered the corridor.

“Yeah,” Prompto replied. “Noct and the others are here.”

“We’ll see them afterwards,” Crowe said. “Can’t wait.”

Prompto nodded. “Yeah. Same.”


 

A huge crowd of people were gathered outside the Palazzo Altemeria. Cameras and microphones were placed strategically around the steps leading up to it, where a podium with the crest of Tenebrae stood. Noctis waded through the crowd, having already parted with the girls. They were in position, waiting to escort the civilians to the Lucian ships.

“Are you in position?” Iris asked over comms.

“Yeah,” Noctis muttered.

“Stick to the plan, Pretty Boy. I know you want to see him but you’ve gotta wait. Okay?” Aranea said.

“I know, A.”

Luna spoke up next. “We’ll try and get to you as soon as we can, promise.”

“So save some Imperials for us, yeah?” Iris asked.

“You got it. See you later,” Noctis replied.

He pushed past a few more people, getting a couple of dirty looks. Altissian guards were stopping people from crossing over the ropes keeping them from the podium. A few Imperials could be seen here and there, putting Noctis on edge. They’d seen the warships that morning and they were all getting tense. Who knew what the Empire would do?

A bell tolled and the doors to the Palazzo Altemeria opened. Two figures stepped out, one dressed in Oracle white and the other in Lucian black. Noctis felt his breath catch in his throat. Prompto and Crowe. The crowd suddenly fell silent as they approached the podium. Prompto stood directly behind it while Crowe hung back a little, eyes scanning the crowd. They widened slightly as she caught sight of Noctis. She mouthed something at him.

Wait.

Prompto took a deep breath and Noctis remembered all the things he’d said about getting anxious when talking in front of people. He clasped his hands in prayer as the crowd began calling his name. Lord Prompto! Oracle!

“Hello,” Prompto began. Everyone cheered before falling silent. “I guess the cat’s out the bag, huh? I’m alive and I’m okay. But… that’s not enough. The world isn’t okay. The nights have been getting longer and the Light is fading. The shadows are growing and growing and the world just seems a lot scarier. What happened in Lucis… we all wanted peace and all we got was destruction.”

The crowd started muttering.

“Prompto,” Noctis whispered. “I’m right here. I love you.”

“But we can’t give up hope!” Prompto continued. “The gods are still watching over us. The Light will return and we will defeat the darkness. I am here in Altissia. I’m here to call upon Leviathan, Goddess of the Seas, spirit of the Deep. I will speak with the Hydraean, in hopes of a better future. And I promise, as your Oracle, I will make sure the Light wins. I will do all I can, I promise!”

The crowd started cheering and Noctis pushed through so that he was stood right by the partition. Through the crowd’s cheers, Prompto said something else before bowing slightly. When he stood straight again, he finally met Noctis’s eyes. Noctis smiled at him and mouthed I love you. Prompto quickly mouthed it back before smiling, just for him. He turned and walked back towards the palace, Crowe following.

When Prompto was back inside, announcements started ringing out. All citizens were to report to their storm evacuation points. People started rushing around and Noctis pushed past. He stepped over the rope, flashing the badge Camelia had given him. He ran up the steps and into the palace. He could hear the heavy thrum of warships coming from outside.

“Sir? Shouldn’t you be evacuating?” an aide asked.

Noctis showed him the badge. “Can anyone see what the Empire is doing yet?”

“Err, hold on, Your Majesty,” the aide replied, bowing quickly. He whispered into a comms before turning back to Noctis. “They’re starting to approach the Palazzo and will probably fly over it to the Altar of the Tidemother. Just follow out of the back, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you!” Noctis yelled, running in the direction of the altar.


 

Prompto was alone on the altar, singing. Crowe had hung back out of respect and he had finally reclaimed the Trident. The clouds were gathering and for now, the water looked calm. Prompto knew that all of that would change in an instant. He finished singing his song in a tongue not meant for humanity. The water still looked calm, save for the tide and a few ripples. The ripples grew larger.

“What fool mortal dares break the slumber of the Tide?!” a voice echoed across the water.

“It is I, Prompto, blood of the Oracle,” Prompto said, bowing to the water. He had faced two gods already. He wasn’t that afraid. “Goddess of the Seas, I beseech you: enter into this covenant so that the King might reclaim the Stone!”

There was a moment of silence.

While Prompto held his breath, Leviathan roared and emerged from the waters. Water sprayed across the altar as she rose. She was majestic, beautiful, everything the legends had said her to be. The great serpent roared to the sky before looking down at the Altar of the Tidemother, where Prompto stood. He clutched the trident a little tighter as she roared directly at him.

“This wretched pile of bone and flesh, ignorant of that which governs All, comes to requisition the might of a goddess?”

“I do,” Prompto replied.

Imperial warships were beginning to circle around Leviathan and Prompto couldn’t help but think of Nyx. Where was he? Would he hold true to his promise to stop this madness or would he grow too scared and help the Empire? Leviathan still stood tall and powerful, unintimidated by the new threats surrounding her.

Prompto gulped. “Here goes nothing.”


 

Noctis was still running through the Palazzo, slowed down by the crush of government workers trying to get out and flee to the evacuation points. He’d stopped for a second to stare at the impressive sight of Leviathan rising from the sea. His head ached slightly and he could hear the traces of the gods’ inhuman tongue.

He’d called the Angels, made sure they were still safe. But now he had other things to deal with, namely the MTs running towards him. Noctis warped towards them and slashed away, attacking too fast for them to deal with. They fell to the ground, mechanics sparking. One of them was making a sound that seemed almost pained…

Nope. Don’t think about that. Not now.

He ran across one of the many balconies, drawing closer to a squad of soldiers. As he ran, something strange began to happen. Around the Palazzo, serpents made of water began to fly past the windows, each of them resembling the outline of Leviathan. The squad was preoccupied with looking at them so Noctis warped halfway up a pillar and hit them all with lightning before warping down and finishing them all off.

He made a shield around him as he ran and bullets glanced off it as another squad started to fire at him. Noctis warped at them and quickly took them out, wincing as bullets grazed his arms and legs. When he was done, he quickly summoned an elixir and smashed it over himself, sighing in relief when the concoction healed his wounds and took away the exhaustion.

As he ran outside once more, he could see Leviathan lifting her head once again.


 

“What does a lowly, ephemeral speck know of All Creation?!”

Ramuh had been right; Leviathan really was as temperamental as the sea itself. She roared before slamming her head across the altar, knocking the crescent into the ocean. Prompto dropped to the ground before she could hit him but as he stood once more, one of her water serpents knocked him back towards the ground.

“Man-” He coughed, getting the water out of him. “Why you gotta be like this?”

Prompto dragged himself to his feet once more. He could feel his arm bleeding and he was pretty sure there was a cut on his face. At least he’d avoided Leviathan herself and had only got hit by some water.

“I know…” He coughed again. “I know that the King of Kings must drive the darkness from our star!”

Water knocked him back again and Prompto became scarily aware that the steps leading back to the city had been destroyed. He could hear Crowe screaming for him.

“Blasphemous ingrates, all men, quick to forget the ages their goddess stood watch!” Leviathan screamed at him.

“When…. When we receive mercy, we offer you praise!” Prompto yelled, walking towards the edge of the altar. “And when you bless us, help us, you are given worship!”

“And yet this profane speck speaks his ‘King’ heresies before a goddess! Insufferable sacrilege!”

Leviathan opened her jaws and slammed her mouth around Prompto. He screamed out in fear before raising the Trident above his head. He felt for the Oracle magicks hidden deep inside of him. Before Leviathan could do anything else, Prompto released the magic through the Trident. Golden light surrounded him, firing upwards into a beam that made Leviathan cry out. Her head drew back from Prompto.

“I vow to you, the King will prove himself worthy!” he yelled.

Leviathan glared at him as best a serpent could. “If not, then the Feeding will begin, and it shall not stop until every last speck is devoured! So let the covenant be forged! Heaven and Earth, High and Deep, Birth and Return…”

A giant wave began to rise behind Leviathan.


 

From whatever was being said, Leviathan seemed a lot more hostile than Titan and Ramuh ever were. There was something disdainful, something that spoke of hatred in her voice. A powerful wave of water rose behind her, towering over the airships and Noctis was beginning to feel undeniably scared. She was going to try and kill him, that much was for sure.

He ran across another balcony as the warships began to fire on Leviathan. Noctis could see some of the harpoon things that they had used against Titan. This was actually terrifying. Parts of buildings were getting caught up in some kind of water-storm.

“Noct! Jump now!” he heard Luna scream.

It took a second before Noctis could believe what he was seeing and for him to subsequently jump off the extremely high balcony. Luna caught him, riding on top of one of the Empire’s harpoon things. She was steering it through the buildings, travelling at a speed too fast to be safe. Noctis held on tightly to her.

“Barcode privileges!” she yelled. “Look out!”

Noctis quickly blocked one of the incoming water serpents with his sword. “Guess Loqi was right about the Nifs being idiots!”

“Yes! I can get you as close as I can but it will have to be up to you from there!” Luna replied. “Hold on tight! There’s more!”

Noctis deflected a few more serpents as they got even closer to Leviathan. He and Luna both screamed as the Hydraean’s head drew close and she seemed to be trying to eat them. They flew above her head and Noctis saw his chance. He let go of Luna and warped down just below Leviathan’s eye. He slipped against her scales and held on as tight as he could to the sword.

“Ranadel Gehk! Ouin Unylma ryc tynat du fyga sa vun oui yht huf ouin meva crymm pa dra bnela! Bycc so Dneym, meddma Ranadel Gehk! E ys hud so cepmehkc! Frydajan seckietat gehthacc [Titan] yht [Ramuh] kyja oui, frydajan lymmehk [Bahamut] syngat oui vun, oui crymm ghuf hu cilr gehthacc vnus sa!

“I need your power!” Noctis yelled.

“DRAH AYNH ED, MEDDMA CBALG!”

Noctis fell off her head and quickly warped into the streets below. He picked himself off the ground and stared in awe and horror as objects and even buildings around him began to circle up into the air, caught in some invisible current. Something told him that Leviathan didn’t seem to want to talk it out.


 

Aranea cursed as glass from a nearby window embedded itself into her side. She didn’t have time to try and pick it out though. The people had been evacuated and she needed to get to Noct. And she would get to Noct, just as soon as she’d taken out all these damn MTs that were in her way. She hoped that Ardyn, who she swore she’d seen earlier, died a painful death for all of this.

An MT lunged at her right; she stuck it with her lance. One tried to shoot her from behind; she chucked a thunder spell at it. Rinse, repeat, push forwards. There were a few times where she’d have to strike twice before taking her opponents out; her depth perception was still a little off.

Gods, the eyepatch was irritating.

She tripped and fell, losing her balance as she killed the final MT. It collapsed onto her, hard metal clashing against her. Aranea winced as she shoved it off, winced as the mask fell off, revealing a mutated face that looked almost like Loqi’s. She got up to her feet, trying not to look. Her eyepatch had torn, revealing the damaged eye underneath. Cursing, Aranea tore it off and threw it to the ground.

She had to find Noct.


 

She couldn’t see where the others were. She had no idea where Noctis was. So yeah, Iris wouldn’t exactly say that she was doing very well.

MAs were surrounding her and she had no back up. No nothing. Trying to dodge getting shot, she started flinging all the spells she could find from the Armiger. Thunder spells took the one MA out, leaving her with two more to deal with. Gods she wished that she had Luna’s grenade launcher. Ah well. Better let Luna have all the firepower she could get.

As Iris tried to duck around them, the arm of one slammed into her back. Iris cursed as she stumbled and skidded across the ground. The MA drew its arm again, ready to strike and destroy her. Iris summoned a shield and readied for the blow.

It didn’t come.

“Iris! Are you hurt?!” From an alleyway, out came Weskham, carrying a bag of glowing magic flasks. He’d thrown one at the MA that was about to kill Iris, and quickly chucked another at the second one. “Regis gave me some when I came to monitor the situation in Altissia. I’ve kept them for emergencies.”

“Smart. And I’m fine by the way,” Iris said, picking herself up from the ground.

Weskham was saying something else, something Iris didn’t quite process. She was too distracted by the MA getting to its feet, and the crumbling bridge above it, both right by Weskham. He didn’t say anything, didn’t notice. Iris ran to shove him away as the MA slammed to the ground, and the bridge fell on top of it.

The last thing she felt before it all went dark was sheer agony in her leg.


 

Noctis warped to the fragment of a building caught in mid-air. Leviathan was circling around the destruction. He warped across buildings and statues, getting close enough to try and warpstrike. He screamed out as he struck, sword glancing off of Leviathan. She roared at him and threw her head back, knocking him through the air and the ground. Noctis wheezed as he tried to get air back into his lungs. He turned his head and he could see Prompto.

Prompto tried to run to him, stopping when he fell to his knees and started coughing. Noctis tried to call out, only to make no sound. His eyes widened as an all-too familiar figure walked up behind Prompto.

“Now, about that Ring,” Ardyn said, voice missing any of its threatening cheer. It was softer, deadlier. “On second thought, you let him have it.”

There was the glint of a knife and Noctis tried to scream. Prompto’s eyes widened as the knife came closer towards him.

“Not. Another. Of. My. FRIENDS!”

In all the chaos, Crowe had somehow made it over to the altar and had climbed up it. She’d stabbed Ardyn in the back with her own knife, making him drop his. It landed on the ground with a clatter. Crowe screamed out as she pulled Ardyn off the edge, her falling down as well. What happened to them next couldn’t be seen in all the chaos.

The airship pulled away and Leviathan roared. Wincing from exhaustion, Prompto grabbed the Trident he’d dropped and lifted it up.

“Please… Kings of… of Lucis, hear my prayer,” he whispered. “Help Noct. Please, I beg you. Help him.”

Golden light erupted from the Trident once more. Similar light erupted from somewhere in the water, making it part around a Royal Tomb. Across Eos, golden light erupted from the Royal Tombs, from the resting places of Lucian Kings and Queens. Noctis felt his body rise from the ground. Golden and blue light surrounded him and he felt more power than he ever had before. The Trident flew into him and Noctis began to glow blue.

“Wheresoever you should go, the line of Lucis goes with you,” his father’s voice whispered to him. “You have walked tall, my son, but there is no time to rest. Keep moving forwards, for we… I… will be with you.”

The weapons of his ancestors surrounded him and Noctis warped at Leviathan, striking her with them. After several powerful strikes he managed to sever off part of one of her fins. She roared in pain. Noctis let the weapons continue striking her, warping around her and avoiding her when she struck back at him. He was flying, flying through the air.

He was untouchable.

With all the strength his ancestors had given him, Noctis kept up an offensive. He didn’t know how long it took, how many dodges of her serpents, how many phases or warps, how many times the weapons attacked Leviathan at his command. He just knew that no matter what, he had to pass this trial. There was no other alternative.

Noctis struck at Leviathan’s fins again, severing them off one by one. Leviathan fell down to the ground and Noctis struck at her horns, severing them. He had no choice. He needed to best her, needed to prove that he was worthy of her power. She tried to strike him with her head, only for Noctis to parry the blow.

He backed up a little and summoned the thirteen most powerful weapons he had at his disposal. Noctis sent them flying at Leviathan, who roared in pain, throwing her head back. He summoned one last weapon, Prompto’s Trident. Noctis warpstriked to Leviathan, burying the Trident in her. He dragged it down her body, splitting it open. Water gushed out of the goddess’s body.

“It’s done,” Noctis whispered. “Dad…”

“Go to Prompto, son. And know that I am watching over you both.”

Noctis felt his body float down to the altar and he felt the power leave him. It was a fight just to stay conscious. He slowly turned over to see Prompto crawling towards him, exhaustion getting too much for him to bear.

“No,” Noctis said. “Stay still… I’m coming.”

He crawled over to Prompto and held him in his arms.

“You came,” Prompto whispered.

“Yeah,” Noctis said. “I promised you I would.”

“Yeah. We promised each other.” Prompto said. “You’re hurt.” He reached his hand to Noctis’s chest. “Blessed… stars of… light and life…”

Some of the ache in Noctis’s body faded away. “Just rest, okay? I’m okay. I’m okay. I love you.”

“Love you too,” Prompto whispered.

He tried to lean up and kiss Noctis, but fell back onto him instead. They watched in fear as Leviathan raised her head once more, intent on attacking. Noctis closed his eyes and waited for the blow, only for golden light to poke at his vision. He opened his eyes to see the spectral form of Titan stand between them and Leviathan.

“He has proven himself worthy, Sister! Cease this madness!”

“Have your abandoned your pride so easily?! Giving your power to a mere speck!”

“We do as decreed! And you have broken your word, honourless Sister! There shall be no Feeding for you!”

Titan slammed his fist into the ground. Stone rose up, knocking Leviathan backwards and creating a barrier between her and Noctis and Prompto.

“Very well.”

Blue light suddenly surrounded Noctis once more and he felt the covenant completing. He could hear Prompto sigh in relief. Noctis slumped to the ground, Prompto lying on top of him. They watched as the stones and Titan faded away. Leviathan remained and the water around them began to subside. As it did, missiles flew at Leviathan.

“No!” Prompto screamed, writhing in pain.

Weakened, Leviathan roared in pain and sunk to the ground. Before the ships could escape, spinning jets of water rose up, destroying each and every one of them. The goddess’s body slowly began to disappear, like how Titan’s did at Cauthess. Noctis held Prompto close to him as water began to rise up again.

“I love you,” Noctis whispered as everything went black.

He only just heard Prompto whisper it back.


 

“I….oun…nea!”

“..ly shit…live! They’re…Wes-! Loo..!”

“Than… ke up… Noct… Prom…. Wake up!”

Chapter Text

Chapter fifteen – Everything’s gone, it’s been wiped out

There was a little girl, only ten, only three years younger than Prompto. She’d walked across Tenebrae with her two-year-old brother, having to abandon the dying uncle that had escorted them. Her brother had black marks crawling across his skin and Prompto knew straight away that it was the starscourge.

He held the crying child and focussed on his magic. “Blessed stars of life and light, deliver us from darkness’ blight.”

The wailing stopped and the black marks faded away. The little boy started babbling happily, walking on shaky, underfed legs to reach his sister. She held him tight while she thanked Prompto. Prompto smiled, said it was no problem, then told Cor to find a home somewhere for them.

He wondered if his mother ever felt this sad and tired when she gave blessings and healings.


 

The world was dark and somehow spinning. Then it slowly began to grow lighter and lighter. Noctis no longer felt like he was floating, no longer felt like he was drowning. He was lying down on something and he was comfortably warm. Blurs of light poked at his vision and he slowly opened his eyes. An intricate ceiling greeted him.

“Welcome back,” a soft voice said.

With a little bit of effort, Noctis pushed himself up into a sitting position. He was in a room, somewhere in Altissia. Luna was sat on an armchair opposite the bed, holding the camera. She looked up and smiled at Noctis. He tried to smile back, but faltered when he saw the long scar down her right arm. She noticed him looking.

“It will fade eventually. It’s… it’s not as bad as Iris,” she said.

“What happened?” Noctis asked.

Luna sighed. “She’s alive. Don’t worry. But… her leg got crushed. She was one of the worst injuries and they were able to find a replacement that wasn’t Magitek, but she’s still… she’s still getting used to it. Aranea’s fine by the way. She’s one of the people who found you.”

Noctis stared at her, mouth wide open. It had taken a second for him to connect the dots, to figure out exactly what had happened to Iris. He held his head in his hands for a minute or so, letting it sink in.

“How long was I out?” he said after a while, swinging his legs off the edge of the bed.

“Three weeks,” Luna replied. “You woke up a few days ago but went under again really quickly. It’s probably the stress of having your ancestors’ power thrown on you without the Ring augmenting it.”

“Yeah… the Ring! Prompto!” Noctis jumped off the bed and stumbled for a moment before finding his balance. “Is he okay? Where is he?”

“Calm down, Noct. He’s fine,” Luna said. “He’s next door. The doctors still have him on bed rest. He was out for about a week and a half.”

“Can I see him?” Noctis asked.

Luna nodded at him and got up from her seat, gesturing for Noctis to follow. Follow he did, out the room and into the next. Luna opened the door and Noctis quickly stepped inside. Lying on a bed in the back of the room was a young man with blond hair, staring intently at a phone screen. Prompto. Noctis was moving on autopilot, running towards the bed. Prompto looked up and his face just lit up as soon as he saw Noctis.

They weren’t aware of Luna leaving the room for their privacy. Noctis sat down on the bed and quickly kissed Prompto. It was a tear-stained, teeth knocking, needy kiss. One of them had minimal experience, the other had next to nothing. It was messy and perfect all at the same time. Noctis pulled away from the kiss and threw his arms around Prompto.

“Hey nerd,” Prompto said, returning the hug.

“Hey dork,” Noctis replied.

“You were a badass during the whole Leviathan thing,” Prompto said, pulling away slightly.

Noctis sat down on the bed. “Couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks, Prompto. Thanks for, well, everything.”

“Just doing my duty, dude-y.” Prompto snickered. “Okay, that sounded better in my head.”

“You’re so immature,” Noctis said, laughing. He sobered up for a second. “How’s… everything?”

“It’s good. Got a little hurt in the wave and all and I lost a lot of blood,” Prompto replied. His hand unconsciously went to his stomach. “They gave me a blood transfusion when they got me here. I think Aranea donated her blood for me. Kinda glad that the damage only really hit the Palazzo and around there ’cause otherwise there wouldn’t be facilities to treat us here.”

“Yeah,” Noctis said. “Wait, where exactly are we? Luna didn’t say.”

“The Secretarial estate. We got moved here when we were confirmed stable.”

Noctis merely nodded. He had a quick look outside the window, confirming what Prompto has said. In the distance, Noctis could see the destroyed Palazzo, a ruin of former glory. He felt his breath catch in his throat as he took in the extent of Leviathan’s destruction.

“Damn,” he whispered.

Prompto nodded. “Yeah. Hey, do you think you could help me to that wheelchair? They said I could leave the room today and I wanna see how the others are doing.”

“Sure.”

It took a few moments for Prompto to get into some kind of a standing position. He put his arm around Noctis and his fiancé supported him on his way to the wheelchair. Prompto sat down, tucking the phone into his pocket. Noctis wheeled him out the room, heavily reminded of when they were both eight years old. Prompto had wheeled him around Tenebrae back then. It was kind of funny, this role reversal.

They went through the hallways of the estate, stopping to ask an aide where their friends had gathered. She pointed them towards the dining hall and they raced there, howling and laughing like they did as kids. They entered the dining hall, greeted by the sight of their friends. Luna was sat near the door, talking to Crowe. Aranea and Weskham were looking at a map. Iris was stood in a cleared-out area, doing sidekicks. The metal of her new leg was gleaming.

“Hey lovebirds,” Aranea said, looking up from the map.

“Nice to see you’re awake,” Iris said, still doing her kicks.

“Yeah. How’s the… uh…” Noctis trailed off, uncertain of what to say.

Iris kept up with what she was doing. “Fine. Still not doing exactly what I want it to.”

“It’s only been three weeks,” Weskham said. “The fact that you’re standing on it at all is impressive in itself.”

“I’m the King’s Shield,” Iris replied. “If I’m not dead, then I still need to be able to fight.”

Noctis was a little taken aback. Iris had always been dedicated to her duty but something seemed off about her. The playful edge to her was gone. She seemed harder, colder. She did another kick and stumbled. She swore under her breath before finally taking a seat and sitting down. She seemed almost angry at herself.

“All the Altissian citizens have returned to their homes, unless they lived near the Palazzo. Those ones are staying in rooms here or with family elsewhere,” Aranea said. “Secretary Claustra said we could remain here while you and Prompto recovered, since the Empire has just… well, they’ve just gone silent.”

“They haven’t done anything?” Noctis asked.

Weskham shook his head. “Not a single thing. Trains are still functioning but we’ve received no word or retaliation from them. Leviathan did deal a great blow to them. But the Emperor’s cabinet has essentially gone into seclusion, whatever that means. And we have more… pressing issues.”

“Nights are getting longer,” Crowe said, getting up and walking towards them. “They were before but in the past three weeks it’s been more rapid. We’ve got what? Only seven, six hours of daylight? Longer nights, more daemons, stronger daemons.”

“We need to decide what we’re doing next,” Aranea said. “Return to Lucis or try and infiltrate the Empire with just us in order to get the Crystal. We can’t call any more forces. Like Crowe said, the daemon population has been growing larger and stronger. Loqi says they can’t spare anyone.”

Noctis was thinking this over when Prompto spoke up. “It’s the starscourge.”

“The disease you were healing?” Crowe asked.

“It turns people into daemons,” Prompto said. Everything looked at him in horror. “It’s spreading, no matter how many people I heal. And it’s why the nights are getting longer too.”

‘The king shall come to purge our Star of its Scourge,” Noctis quoted. The story from the Cosmogony that Prompto had told him as a child. “That’s the thing we’re supposed to defeat? The darkness you mentioned in your speech?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Prompto replied, nodding. “The nights will keep growing longer until it’s purged and eventually there won’t be any day. I’ve been trying to hold it off, but every time an Astral dies… and I don’t have the strength anymore. The covenants took a lot out of me. If I make another, or keep trying to hold back the dark, or heal too many people… I’ll… I’ll probably die.”

The stumbling and coughing during the covenant. That was what that was. Noctis gripped tightly onto one of Prompto’s hands. He couldn’t let that happen. “So don’t make any more covenants. Promise me you’ll stay alive.”

“I promise,” Prompto said. “I still have things I wanna do.”

“But what are we doing now?” Luna asked. “Lucis or Gralea?”

“Prompto, will I need the Crystal to banish the Scourge?” Noctis said. Prompto nodded at him. “Gralea. If anyone does want to leave and go home, that’s fine. But I’m heading to Gralea.”

“Then so are we,” Aranea said. “Weskham, show him the map.”

Weskham pointed at a railway track. “This leads straight to the Imperial capital, passing through various provinces including Tenebrae. Camelia has offered to arrange passage for us, even going so far to make arrangements so that we may bring the Regalia. We make a two day stop here, in Catarnica. This is advantageous since there is reportedly a Royal Tomb hidden within the mine. It would do for you to build your arsenal.”

“Right,” Noctis said. “Now we have a plan.”


 

It took a week before the doctors were willing to release Prompto. He was no longer in the wheelchair and he had mostly recovered from the exhaustion caused by the covenant. He was back on his feet and ready to help recover the Crystal. Umbra was with them, continuously rubbing against Prompto or Noctis’s legs.

There was some concern regarding Iris. Her managing to recover from amputation and adapting to a prosthetic in three weeks was impressive but there were still major concerns about her overdoing things. Iris had coolly insisted that she was fine and that if her dad could adapt from losing an eye, a hand, and several nerve endings in less than a month, she could handle her leg.

They were sitting in a train on the way Gralea, with an announcement that they would be approaching Catarnica shortly. The Angels were all on the train, joined by Prompto, Crowe, and Weskham (who had said that it was time to come out of his ‘retirement’). They’d all been on the train for about four hours now, swapping stories from their travels across Lucis.

As it turned out, there had been a few health concerns regarding Crowe as well. She’d almost drowned during the covenant, when she’d jumped into water with Ardyn. Luckily, she’d been able to get to solid ground and the rescue teams found her rather quickly. Nobody had found Ardyn, dead or alive.

“Got any signal yet?” Noctis asked.

“Almost,” Luna said, fiddling around with a radio.

Eventually, the machine had found something. “…umours that High Commander Nyx Ulric has been held responsible for the Empire’s losses in Altissia and will be sentenced to capital punishment.”

Prompto shifted from leaning his head on Noctis’s shoulder. “Nyx didn’t have anything to do with it! Command had been given to Ardyn instead.”

“Maybe they’d found out about all of Nyx’s anti-Empire activities,” Crowe muttered.

“Beyond harbouring you guys and hiring Ignis to help us,” Luna said. “What else did he do?”

“He’s been sending tips to as many rebellion efforts he could and he was keeping some revolutionaries safe in Tenebrae,” Prompto replied. “He couldn’t do much but his plan was to get high-up in the Empire and take it down from inside.”

There was a sudden, newfound respect for Nyx.

The train gradually pulled to a stop. An announcement rang out that the train would be stopping for two days for maintenance checks. Passengers could stay at a small B&B located on the station premises. They sent Weskham to go and get supplies while they milled around the platform. Iris immediately stormed off behind a building so that she could run a few practice katas. Aranea responded to this by rolling her eyes and going to check on her. This left Luna, Crowe, Noctis, and Prompto.

“I think I’ll go help Weskham haggle the prices,” Luna said, quickly heading off.

Crowe stared at the boys before rolling her eyes. “Right. Whatever. Go suck face somewhere remotely private, okay?” She waved at them as she walked off.

Noctis and Prompto stood silently for a second before Prompto spoke. “Hey, there’s a balcony over there. Perfect for taking photos.”

“Let’s go then,” Noctis replied.

They walked over to the balcony and Prompto grabbed his camera, snapping a few shots of the view and a couple of selfies with Noctis too. They laughed as they looked at the display screen, easily settling against one another. Noctis wrapped an arm around Prompto’s waist, knowing that he hated be held by the shoulders, holding him close to him and pressing a kiss to the side of his head. Prompto quickly snapped another photo.

“Wouldn’t have guessed you’d be so sappy,” he said, looking at the photo.

Noctis kissed him again. “Hey, somebody has to make up for lost time.”

“By all means, Prince Charming. Kiss away.” Noctis obliged until Prompto pulled himself away. “Hey, I… I need to talk to you about something. I shoulda mentioned it earlier but I just… I couldn’t.”

“What’s up?” Noctis asked. “And swear to the gods, if you say the sky…”

“I’m not that bad. Nah, it’s… I saw your dad.”

“I know.”

“No, I mean…. I saw him die.”

A silence.

“Oh.”

“He wanted us both to be happy.”

“We will be.”

“Yeah.”

Prompto leaned forwards, arms on the railing. He idly flicked through all his photos, face clouded with sadness. Noctis put an arm around him and looked out. The sun was slowly begin to set. It felt early, too early.

“I’m the Chosen King,” Noctis said. “So it’s my destiny or whatever to save the world.”

“Yeah.”

“….Gentiana died for me. Dad died for me. Ravus, Libertus, even little Katrina. They died for me, because of me. And the longer I take to fulfil my destiny, the more people are gonna die and or get hurt like Uncle Clarus, or Iris, or Aranea… and I feel so fucking helpless!”

He slammed his hands against the railing, making Prompto jump.

“Hey. It’s not your fault,” Prompto said.

“Yeah, Aranea already had that conversation with me. And I get it, I get it. But they’re still dying because the Empire wants me. Because Ardyn’s pulling all these fucking strings and doing gods know what.”

“They want me as well, Noct. So they all died for me as well.”

Noctis closed his eyes. “I’m tired, Prom. I’m so tired of running and fighting and losing people. Gentiana used to be the calmest, strongest person I knew. She was like the awesome aunt I never had. And she’s just gone. I’m never gonna hear her calm wisdom again. Dad’s gone. I’ll never get to hug him, or fish with him, or complain with him or…”

“I know. It’s like when I lost my mom,” Prompto said quietly. “It hits you, doesn’t it?”

Noctis winced. “Shit. I’m sorry. I’m complaining and you, you’ve been through so much more than me.”

“Yeah, you’re a terrible boyfriend,” Prompto said sarcastically as he rolled his eyes. “Let it all out, Noct. I think you need that. And later, I’ll cry onto your shoulder about everything. Okay? Let it out.”

It took a second before Noctis suddenly pulled Prompto closer and started talking into his shoulder. “I’m scared of losing somebody again. I’m scared of losing you. And I’m so tired, Prom. I’m tired.”

“I’m tired too. I know how you feel,” Prompto said, holding Noctis tight. “But I’m not going anywhere. I swear.”

“Stay with me,” Noctis whispered.

He sobbed into Prompto’s shoulder for a while, unaware that Luna and Crowe were stood off to the side, carefully redirecting other people away from the couple. Noctis just held on to Prompto as tight as he could, savouring in the real sensation of his boyfriend, his fiancé. He’d wanted that for so long. There was no way at all that he was going to let go of it anytime soon, not when he needed Prompto so bad.

Prompto pulled away slightly, adjusted his hat, before leaning forwards again and kissing Noctis. He gripped tight at Noctis’s arms, anchoring himself. Noctis kissed back hard, kissing even harder when he felt Prompto’s tears drip onto his face. They pulled away and went back to just hugging each other tightly. Noctis could vaguely hear Aranea calling over and saying that it was time to head into the mine if they wanted to make the haven before nightfall.

“We should probably head out then,” Noctis said.

“Yeah,” Prompto whispered.

The rest of the group were assembled by the lift to the mine. They filed in and Weskham pressed the button that would begin their descent. Noctis held tight on to Prompto’s hand the entire way down.

“-just want you to stop over-pushing yourself,” he heard Aranea whisper to Iris. “You’re still recovering.”

“I’m fine,” Iris hissed. “Worry about yourself. You’re still adapting too.”

“Why do you think I’m hanging back and practising my flask aim? I’m pushing, yes, but only as much as I need to. You, on the other hand, are-”

Shut up, Aranea!”

Noctis bit his lip before turning his head towards Prompto. He squeezed his fiancé’s hand, feeling the engagement ring there, before leaning to whisper in his ear.

“I meant what I said earlier. Stay with me. Please.”

Prompto smiled at him. “Of course. Ever at your side.”

Chapter Text

Chapter sixteen – Shout, Shout, Let it all out

Today marked five years since his mother died. Five years since Noctis left. Five years since his home was invaded. Five years since Prompto’s world was turned upside down. And today they expected him to give a speech about how everything was good and that they were all honouring his mother’s memory.

It made him sick to the stomach to think about.

He would have called it all bullshit but then Cor would have scolded him and right now he needed Cor’s support. Especially because he was about to do something stupid that may have been inspired by a TV show and would probably get him into so much trouble.

With only a minute to go, he changed out of his white Oracle clothes and into a black t-shirt and jeans he’d begged Cor to help him get. He walked out to the podium and stood in front of what was left of Tenebrae’s nobility and the various Imperial dignitaries. He cast aside their empty speech and spoke from his heart.

“I miss my mom’s hugs. I miss her taking photos with me. I miss her letting me run through her rooms. My mom was taken from me and I will-”

They cut the feed and dragged him away at this point. Prompto barely processed anything until he ended up back in his room, on his bed, Cor stood in the corner. He had a look on his face that was half-way between anger and pride. In all honesty, all it made Prompto want to do was grin.

“You wore Lucian colours, then spoke honestly about your mother on the anniversary of her death, in front of the Empire we all know killed her,” Cor said. “Be glad that I know for a fact all your guards tonight are Tenebraen. That was probably the stupidest thing you’ve ever done in all thirteen years of your life.”

Prompto flopped backwards onto his bed. “I had to do it, Cor. I had to.”

“I know.”


 

Daemons ruled the mines. They crawled through the shadows during every hour and emerged into the open when the last tired strains of daylight disappeared. From the haven they were camped at, Prompto could see them prowling, hissing in pain when they drew too close to the protective runes. He’d done his best to increase their strength as much as he could without hurting himself.

They hadn’t found the tomb yet. The mine was deeper than they expected, meaning they had needed to stop and rest as the night set in. Hopefully tomorrow they’d be able to get to the tomb. If they didn’t, they would either have to turn back or hope that another train would be passing through. They only had so long before the train’s maintenance would be over.

“Gil for your thoughts?” Prompto looked up to see Luna. She smiled and sat next to him on the edge of the haven. “Noct and Iris are still sparring.”

“Is Iris doing okay?” Prompto asked.

Luna shrugged and Prompto understood. Iris was insisting she was okay, and maybe she was, but nobody else could be entirely sire. They just had to trust her.

It was a shitty situation for all of them.

“How did Ravus die?” Luna suddenly asked. “I know that he used the Ring but…”

“He made a bargain. His life for a few hours of power,” Prompto replied. “He did it to buy everyone time. I’m sorry.”

He didn’t get any response but he could see the tears track down Luna’s cheeks. Not for the first time since he’d met her, Prompto mused about the similarities between her and Ravus. Their hair colour wasn’t the same, their eyes were similar-ish, and there were other differences that stood out. But the biggest similarity was that whenever Prompto had looked into their eyes, he could see the same kind of fierce determination in both, hidden deep within.

“I wish he could have seen Loqi again,” Luna said.

“Luna, I’m sorry.” Prompto reached a hand out towards her. “I-”

“Don’t be. Ravus never did anything unless it was the right thing to do. He made the choice, not you,” Luna said.

She took Prompto’s hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back, feeling the warmth in it. Luna smiled at him for a few moments before suddenly coughing violently into her other hand. Prompto quickly put his arm around her and held her through the coughing. It subsided and Luna pulled her hand away.

There were small, bright red droplets of blood.

“You okay?” Prompto asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Luna replied. “Must have got caught hard or something. Should probably get up there.”

Prompto sighed. “You have to tell them at some point, Luna. This is big.”

Luna stared down at the blood on her hands. “I know. Just… maybe when they’re hurting less. This on top of everything… it will just be too much.”


 

Night had come and gone, and the sun was finally beginning to rise. Noctis shook some of the water off his shoes, cursing his ancestor for having his Tomb placed here. Everyone was getting more and more fed up with these damn mines, wanting nothing more than to get out of them. Still, they had a Royal Arm to collect.

There had been several noticeable changes since they’d left Altissia. The extra people in the group had made getting through groups of monsters and daemons a lot easier, proving that there was some truth to ‘strength in numbers’. They’d managed to slot into the group quite well, which helped. But they weren’t the biggest changes that Noctis had noticed.

Iris.

She had always been so bright. Nothing seemed to keep her down for long, and she always seemed to push through everything, smiling at the end. Her laughter could be infectious and it had kept the party going through the longer, harder days. Now, she was subdued. It made sense, Noctis could see that it made sense. She was only gonna be able to handle so much before cracks started forming. But the loss of her leg hadn’t just cracked her; it had very nearly broken her.

They rounded another corner, summoning their weapons as another group of monsters greeted them. They made quick work of them, but Noctis could see Iris struggle. He watched as she stumbled and fell as she took out one last one. He made his way over, offering a hand to help her up. She shoved it away in anger.

“I don’t need anyone’s help,” she snapped.

“Lay off him, Iris. He was just trying to be nice,” Aranea said.

Iris glared at her before getting up and pushing forwards, leaving the others in her wake. They quickly caught up to her. There were a few minutes of walking in awful silence before Weskham started talking to Luna and Prompto about some of the historical relations between Lucis and Catarnica. Aranea and Iris both remained silent. Noctis found himself walking next to Crowe.

“Those two are either going to explode or shatter,” she said to him quietly, nodding towards the Shield and Adviser.

“What’s the difference?” Noctis asked.

Crowe sighed. “If you explode, you’ll hurt some of the people around you, but chances are you can recover. It’s more… anger… than anything. You get so tense and stressed and frustrated that it all bursts out at the same time. If you shatter, the pressure gets so much that you just… stop. You break. You can’t push forwards anymore because the pieces are unfixable.”

“That won’t happen to them,” Noctis snapped. “They’re too strong.”

“They’re strong, I get that. I respect them for still being here,” Crowe replied. “And honestly? I think it’s more likely for them to explode than shatter. But they’re suffering and it’s building up. Iris lost a part of her. She’s your Shield. I bet she’s thinking, ‘what’s the use of a broken Shield’. And Aranea? She acts like she’s over it but the eye’s still bothering her. And she’s worried sick now that somebody other than her is hurt.”

“And how can you tell all of this?”

“Because it happened to Glaives all the time. And it happened to me. I spent a whole night screaming and swearing in a caravan while Prompto sat outside.”

She picked up her pace, leaving Noctis to think about what she’d said.


 

After another hour or so of exploring the mines, they found a passageway to the deepest level, where they were assuming the Royal Tomb was hidden. Rusted machines lay haphazardly on their sides, evidence of abandonment. Nobody dared to set foot near them; they didn’t look like they could support any additional weight.

Aranea and Iris were still not speaking to each other. In fact, Iris hadn’t spoken to anyone. She’d just trudged along silently, ignoring Luna’s attempts to get her to speak. Aranea, at least, had spoken to some of the others throughout the trek. Every now and again Noctis caught her shooting Iris a glare that would soften into pity.

On and on they walked, reaching the lowest level. It was swamped with water, water that had turned a murky green from all that was within it. There was no immediate sign of the Royal Tomb, only the base of a large tree at the centre. Several large, green lumps could be seen within the water. They looked like some kind of plant.

“Be on your guard,” Weskham said, summoning his pistol and blade. “There may be daemons here.”

“Or worse,” Crowe muttered. “Imperials.”

“Indeed,” Weskham concurred. “The Chancellor knows that we are still attempting to claim the Royal Arms. He-”

They almost didn’t see the rising danger.

“Luna!” Weskham yelled, tackling her to the side before the large vine could hit.

Weapons were summoned and readied as their enemy rose from the ground. A hunter’s worst nightmare, the one thing that could take out an entire squad in a single instant. Only the most skilled went after these beasts, and only the most elite of them would succeed. Noctis had never seen one before, not in real life. He’d hoped he’d never had to come up against one.

Malboro.

One large head rose from the ground, accompanied by two smaller ones. Luna immediately went for one of the small ones, switching to her ever-trusty grenade launcher and taking it out almost instantly. Crowe and Weskham ended up destroying the other smaller one together, by alternating with shooting and hacking at it.

This left the largest head to deal with. The largest was the one that Noctis was most worried about. From everything he knew about Malboros, a large head meant that it was capable of causing devastating damage to those facing them. If it looked like it was inhaling or going to let out a large breath, that would be everyone’s queue to get as much distance between it and them.

Noctis decided to get straight in there with a warpstrike. He aimed for the base of the Malboro, wanting to aboid that huge mouth of its at all costs. He was aware of Iris rushing forwards and bringing her blade down on its roots. Noctis phased away from an incoming vine before warpstriking at it again, switching to a blade that he knew was imbued with fire. Iris was still hacking away at the thing, barely dodging the attacks that it sent her way. The Malboro suddenly threw its head back, breathing in.

“Everyone! Back, now!” Noctis yelled.

Nobody hesitated to follow his order… except Iris. She screamed as she slashed away at the Malboro, shield now summoned to deflect wayward vines. Noctis warped out only to see her still standing there, attacking the Malboro in a blind rage.

“IRIS! GET BACK!” Aranea screamed.

Iris faltered and looked up to see the Malboro inhaling. She practically threw her weapons to the side and began running back towards the others. As the Malboro let out its head, Iris suddenly cried out as she stumbled over her knew leg and fell to the ground. She looked up in terror as a cloud of gas slowly began to make its way towards her.

“NO!” Noctis screamed.

He tore off his jacket and warped to her side. As the gas began to move over her, he shoved the jacket over her mouth and nose and held her close to his side. He did his best not to breath in any of the bad breath that was washing over him, waiting desperately for it to dissipate. It began to fade, but Noctis could just feel some of the poison enter him. He started shaking as he held Iris.

The Malboro’s vines reached up to strike the two of them, only for a beam of golden light to knock the beast back. Prompto stood with his Trident held ready, particles of golden light surrounding him. There was a look of rage upon his face, one Noctis had never seen before. As the gas finally faded, Prompto ran forwards to his fiancé and friend. He put a hand on Noctis.

“Blessed stars of life and light…” he murmured. The discomfort from the poison faded from Noctis. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Noctis said. He pulled away from Iris. “Did you inhale any?”

Iris gasped for breath. “No. I’m fine.”

One of Aranea’s lances flew over their heads, embedding itself in the Malboro. Aranea summoned another one and rushed forwards, only for a vine to knock her to the side. Noctis gritted his teeth as he prepared to enter the fray once more. Crowe and Weskham were shooting at the thing, trying to find weak points in it. Noctis summoned the Bow of the Clever and prepared to shoot. He never got a chance to. Fire suddenly flew over his head, colliding with the Malboro.

“You know what?” Luna’s voice, quiet and deadly. “I’m angry.” She threw another fire spell at it. “My friends have been battered and broken and everything is awful.” Another spell. “My one brother died because of the decree of dead men, my other is now paralysed, my one friend loses an eye, another a leg, two more are destined to save the world or die trying.” Relentless fire spells, one after the other. “And I. Am. TIRED. Of all this SHIT! So get out of our WAAAAAAAAY!

She screamed and threw one last spell at the Malboro before sinking to her knees, exhausted. Noctis saw his chance. He nudged Iris, summoning a greatsword from the Armiger. She summoned her own one and the two ran forwards to deliver one last finishing blow upon the now-burning Malboro. It fell backwards, vines thrashing, before finally… still. Noctis and Iris stood before its corpse, panting.

“Yeah, we’re fucking awesome,” Noctis said.

“Hell yeah,” Iris replied. She crouched down, clutching at the join between flesh and prosthetic. “Fuck.”

“Here,” Prompto said, running over to her. “Let me-”

“No,” Iris said, waving him away. “I’m fine. Don’t waste your energy.”

“That was some pretty good casting, Luna,” Noctis called out. “Didn’t even know I’d stocked that many fire spells.”

“I knew we had some spare,” Luna said.

Funny though. Noctis hadn’t even felt her pull them from the Armiger.

With nothing in their way, they began to search the lowest level. It didn’t take too long for them to find the entrance to the tomb at the base of the tree. Noctis unlocked it and entered, reading the ancient script that labelled it as the Tomb of the Warrior. The coffin of his ancestor lay before him, a katana lying above the effigy. Noctis walked forwards and held his hand above it. The piercing sensation that came soon after was familiar, yet still uncomfortable.

“‘Ancestor’s power obtained, walk forwards, young King,’” Weskham muttered, quoting something Noctis had heard a long time ago. “‘Your path is long and the night is coming, dark and full of terrors. But stand tall, young King. The dawn walks with you.’”

“‘And may the stars bless you,’” Prompto added, leaning against the wall. “That’s how it goes, right?”

“Indeed,” Weskham replied.

“Prom? You okay?” Noctis asked, noticing that his fiancé looked absolutely exhausted.

Prompto nodded. “Yeah. Just pushed myself a little earlier. Don’t worry.”

Noctis worried. He couldn’t help it. Part of him was thinking, that despite what he had asked the day before, he should ask Prompto to go back to Lucis. He could stay with Clarus and Loqi and be where it was relatively safe. They didn’t know what would await them in Gralea and Prompto was clearly still struggling after the covenants and healings. Noctis couldn’t lose him, wouldn’t lose him.

They gathered outside the tomb, where the Malboro corpse was still lying in the water. Noctis closed up the tomb, letting his ancestor rest in peace. Everyone stood silently for a while. The awful, tense, oppressive atmosphere from earlier had returned in full force. It felt like words needed to be said, yet nobody was working up the courage to say them. So Noctis started to make his way towards the exit, only for Aranea to speak.

“We can’t continue forwards like this,” she said.

Noctis turned around to face her. “So what do we do?”

“You haven’t put the Ring on,” Aranea said, looking to the side. “I get it. It’s a burden. You’ve seen what it did to your dad. But we need the power of the Lucii. You can’t hide from your destiny forever. You were born to be King, Noct. So you need to bear all that comes with it.”

“I-”

“We didn’t ask for this,” Iris suddenly said, stopping Noctis in his tracks. “Noct never asked to be born to be the Chosen King. I never asked to be born to be his Shield. Prompto never asked to be born to be Oracle. A bunch of screwy Gods chose their fates and sealed the rest of ours as well.”

“So what do we do?” Aranea echoed Noctis. “What do we do? Because you’re right. You guys didn’t ask to be born. I chose to be Noct’s Advisor, but I didn’t know all of this was gonna happen. But Luna said it earlier. Noct and Prompto have to save the world or die trying. And how the fuck are they gonna do that if Noct won’t use the goddamn Ring?”

“It hurts!” Noctis exclaimed. He took a few breaths. “Every time I try to put it on, it hurts. It hurts physically, it hurts emotionally, and all that crap. I’m not ready, Aranea. I could act the part, assessing strategies and talking to dignitaries and whatever the fuck I needed to do, but I’m not ready to be King yet. I’m not. And as soon as I put the Ring on, I have to be King.”

“So when will you be ready?! Everything is falling to pieces and you’re the last hope! When will you be ready?!” Aranea yelled.

Luna stepped forwards. “None of us are ready. We weren’t ready when in Galdin Quay we heard about the Fall. We weren’t truly ready for all the darkness that would come. And nobody is ready now. We know what may come and we’re still not ready because how could we be? But Noct… Noct will be ready, Aranea. And he will be ready when the time is right and he will do what must be done. We know Noct. You, me, Iris. We’re his Crownsguard and we will support him and help him be ready. We swore an oath to King Regis. And I will help my brother.”

“We will all stand with him, no matter what. Regis wasn’t ready when his father died. I honestly don’t think he was ready until Noctis was named as Chosen,” Weskham said. “It is not an easy burden, and not one I would want to see those around me take on.”

“Anything else anyone wants to say?” Crowe asked. “Because I think there’s a lot to say. And we’re sure as hell not gonna be able to push on if we don’t get it out.”

Aranea sighed. “I know. About Noct, that is. I’m just… you’re right. He will be ready. And we’ll stand by him. Okay. Next thing. Iris.”

“I’m staying with all of you,” Iris quickly said.

“Are you going to push yourself further that you need? And are you going to keep refusing help?” Aranea asked. “Because if you are, turn back now, Iris. We love you. We don’t want to see you tear yourself apart.”

“Please,” Noctis said. “Aranea’s right. Don’t hurt yourself, Iris. You could have died earlier.”

Iris let out a short, sad laugh. “I was born to be Noct’s Shield. But what use is a broken shield?”

“You’re not broken,” Prompto said. “You’re standing here, still fighting. You’re still strong. And it’s your choice whether you stay with us or not.”

“I want to stay,” Iris replied. “I want to stay with you guys. I want to do what’s right and I want to stay with my family.”

“And if it gets too much, Iris… what would you do then?” Weskham asked.

Iris shrugged. “If it gets too much… I’ll bow out. I get it, okay? I pushed myself. But I lost part of me. I pushed myself because I wanted to prove I could do it. I’m sorry. But I’m not leaving, okay? I’m staying and I’ll step away if it gets too much and I won’t push myself too far. Not again. Same for you too, Aranea?”

Aranea put a hand up to her damaged eye. She bit her lip before speaking. “… yeah. I just wanted to keep everyone safe.”

At this, Iris rushed over and hugged her. One of them – Noctis couldn’t tell who – was sobbing. When they pulled apart, both of them had tears in their eyes. Noctis went and hugged the both of them. Things were difficult, but they’d pull through. Iris and Aranea didn’t need to explode, not in the classic way. Things weren’t perfect, but they’d keep going. They were strong.

It seemed like everyone had said what they needed to say so they started heading up towards the exits. Noctis found himself at the back of the group once more, this time next to Prompto instead of Crowe. Their hands naturally found each other’s.

“Are you sure you want to stay?” Noctis asked. “I mean, it’s dangerous and…”

“I know, Noct. I’m not gonna leave,” Prompto replied. “What did we say yesterday? Ever at your side.”

“I don’t want to lose you. It might be safer in Lucis. Clarus-”

“People still want me dead.” Prompto looked at him, eyes hard. “I’m not gonna be safe there. I’m staying with you. Don’t try and convince me otherwise, Noct. It’s not gonna work.”

They walked on in silence.


"I... want... to... ride... my... chocobo... all... day..."

Chapter Text

Chapter seventeen – There’s no demons in disguise

Guards were grabbing his shoulders hard enough to leave bruises. They weren’t Tenebraen guards; they wore the symbols of the Empire. Suddenly, Prompto felt very grateful that his guards the night before had been from his own country. They hadn’t yelled at him to follow, hadn’t grabbed him and pulled him along.

They took him to his mother’s old office. Prompto hadn’t been using it since he’d taken up the mantle of Oracle. It brought back too many memories. Memories that had once been happy, but now, changed by circumstance, were sad. Stepping in that office usually brought tidal wave of memories that forced him to leave.

Today, he was too afraid for the memories to wash over him.

Sitting on a chair and waiting for him in the office was Chancellor Ardyn. The Imperials threw him in there, the force sending him to the ground. They left, doors slamming behind them. Prompto was alone with one of his least favourite people in the world. He swallowed a whimper and got to his feet, coming face to face with the Chancellor.

“Well, well, well,” Ardyn said, shaking his head in mock sadness. “What have you done, Lord Prompto?”

Prompto tried to stop his voice from shaking. “The right thing.”

“The right thing. A lot of people want to do the right thing. A lot of people think they’re doing the right thing.” Ardyn got up from the chair. “But the right thing wouldn’t start minor riots in the peaceful streets of Tenebrae, would it?” He looked at Prompto expectantly. “Would it?”

“No,” Prompto whispered.

“Nor would it make Lucis claim we were abusing the most sacred Oracle,” Ardyn continued. “Your poor cousin is exhausting himself, pulling every favour he can to stop some of the… harsher… ministers from coming to reprimand you. If you keep causing trouble, well, he’d be so exhausted, he might just drop dead!”

No. Nonono. He couldn’t lose Nyx. They may not be friends, may not be on the best of terms, but Nyx was family. That was a threat, Prompto knew it. They’d threatened those around him before, but never Nyx. They couldn’t start threatening Nyx, no. Nonono.

“What do I do?” Prompto asked desperately. “Please, what do I do to make this right?”

Ardyn smiled another daemon’s smile and put a hand on Prompto’s shoulder. It felt heavy, irritating the bruises already there. “I think we need another public address, wouldn’t you agree? And this time… no Lucian colours, hm?”


 

Their next stop was Tenebrae, but whether or not they were going to stay for the duration of the maintenance stop or try and catch another train passing through. It wasn’t a necessary stop and the sooner they got to Gralea the better, but at the same time it would be good to just rest and make sure they were ready. Oh, and Prompto hadn’t been home in ages. He hadn’t said anything, but it was clear that he wanted to see it again before Gralea.

Tenebrae aside, their train was slowly making its way towards Primary Imperial Territory. This presented its own set of problems and questions. One big question was: what would be waiting for them there? Barely any radio news was coming out of Niflheim, Nyx’s arrest and mentions of the Altissia incident being the last thing anyone had heard from the Empire. There were no airships flying, no squads of patrolling soldiers or MTs.

Just… nothing.

“I’m gonna head to the dining car,” Iris said, getting up from her seat. “Join up with Aranea. Anything happens-”

“Radio in. Got it,” Noctis replied.

She left, leaving him with just Prompto, sitting down at one of the tables. Luna was attempting to tinker with a radio down near the back of the train, Aranea was of course already at the dining car, Crowe had gone with Luna, and Weskham was discussing something with the driver. Noctis didn’t mind that they’d all gone off; it gave him and Prompto some more time together.

“Can you remember much of Tenebrae?” Prompto asked.

“Not too much. I mean, it was years ago and so much has happened since,” Noctis replied. “Plus I was stuck in wheelchair and never really got outside the palace.”

“Fair point,” Prompto said. “Bet you remember sylleblossoms though.”

“Of course I do,” Noctis said. “I remember the meadow. And the grove. And how beautiful it all was.”

Prompto ‘hmm’ed and looked out of the window absentmindedly. “Yeah. Still is beautiful. They didn’t take that.”

There was an implied ‘not yet’ at the end of his sentence. A reminder that the Empire could still be planning a retaliation. Even if they didn’t know exactly where Prompto was, they could still lash out against Tenebrae as a whole since, if they hadn’t stolen his title at least, he would be its King.

“Hey, bet you haven’t seen that before,” Prompto said, pointing to the landscape outside.

Squinting, Noctis tried to see what Prompto was pointing at. “Is that… snow? Right next to the desert?”

Sure enough, sand met snow with a ragged join. A series of hills sat in the distance, beyond a production plant they were passing by. The snow was rolling off them, and spilling onto the ground below. But the desert was still present, as it had been for the past day. They met at a distorted line and just… stopped. There wasn’t even some kind of fade from one extreme to the other. It was nothing like Noctis had ever seen before.

“It is!” Prompto replied. “The snow used to be really contained around Ghorovas and Hexhaul, then twelve years ago, it started spreading. Cor said-”

Whatever Cor had said, Noctis didn’t hear it as the train came to a screeching halt. He felt himself being flung to the ground. A high-pitched whine filled his head. There were a few seconds of darkness… then light and vision returned to him. If Noctis had focussed more upon it, he would have realised that the world had turned almost sepia.

As if time were bleeding.

“Are you alright, Noct?”

That voice! Noctis pulled himself to his feet. Everything around him was slow, near still. A distant voice was apologising for the sudden stop. But Noctis was too focussed on the figure before him. Standing on the edge of the aisle was a man he’d hoped was dead. Then again, Crowe had survived the waters of Altissia, even after jumping right into them.

Of course, Crowe hadn’t had a knife in her back, like Ardyn had.

Yet here he was, a look of mock concern upon his face. He may have been ‘friendly’ once, but after his attempted murder of Prompto, Noctis wasn’t going to put any faith in him at all. Not this time. He summoned a small dagger to him, easier for fighting in closed quarters. He grabbed Ardyn by the collar and held the dagger to his throat. At this point he finally registered that Prompto had gone missing.

“What are you doing here?!” Noctis yelled. “Where’s Prompto?! What have you done to him?!”

“Noct?” Ardyn asked, squirming in his grip. “I don’t… what do you mean? I’m right…”

WHERE IS HE, ARDYN?!” Noctis screamed.

“Ar…dyn…?” Ardyn’s eyes turned frantic and he tried to push Noctis away from him. “I’m not Ardyn! Noct, I swear! It’s me! It’s me! Please, gods! Noct!”

Tired of Ardyn’s games and mind tricks, realising that Ardyn was probably responsible for more than he let on, Noctis readied the dagger, flipping it around his hands. As he started to strike, something barrelled into his side, knocking the dagger out of his hands and loosing his grip on Ardyn. Noctis groaned as he hit the ground. He scrambled to his feet.

The world was bleeding.

Sepia toning was mixing with the normal world and before him was a strange sight. Luna with a gun summoned and hesitantly pointed at him. Ardyn… half of who he could see was Ardyn, half was Prompto. The two were merged into one strange figure. Noctis didn’t know what he was seeing. He didn’t know what was happening.

“Noct… what the hell were you just doing?” Luna asked.

“I saw… Luna?” Noctis hated how small and scared his voice sounded. “I don’t know what’s happening. I saw Ardyn and now… him and Prompto…”

“You saw Ardyn instead of me?” the messed up figure asked. The voice was like the sight: a blend of Ardyn and Prompto. “Noct, it’s me.”

“How can I…? I don’t know. If he can… what’s happening?” Noctis felt his breath start to quicken.

‘Promdyn’ took a step forwards and held a hand out to him. “You proposed to me when we were eight. With a sylleblossom ring. You promised to make me the happiest ever. Ardyn never knew that.” He pulled Noctis into a hug and Noctis could feel that the body he was hugging was really too small to be Ardyn. That it had to be Prompto. “Please, Noct.”

The illusion fell away as Noctis hugged back. “I’m sorry.”

“We need a code, for at least the three of us. We don’t know if he can disguise himself as us,” Luna said, lowering her gun. “Come here.” She whispered into both of their ears a call and response code. “Where were we hid? A cave far away. For the others, just ask something tha-”

The train jolted again. Noctis finally became aware of all the other people around him. He hadn’t noticed before that they’d been rushing around screaming. It took a moment for Noctis to realise why: Magitek. The machines – people, daemons, whatever – were making their way slowly towards the train. Their carriers were hovering nearby.

As Noctis processed the new threat, his transceiver started buzzing. “Noct? It’s Aranea. Who’s with you?”

“Luna and Prompto. Are you with the others?” Noctis asked.

“Yeah, have been for a while. You guys safe?”

“We’re fine.”

“We’re with the driver right now. Guessing you can see what we’re up against?”

“I can count six of them.”

“Sounds about right. Blow those fuckers up, okay?”

“Got it. Hey, be careful. Ardyn’s here.”

He could hear Crowe swear in the background as Aranea spoke. “Fuck.”

“A, he can make other people look like him.”

“What. The. Fuck.”

“He can. He did it to make me think Prompto was him. Stay safe.”

“Got it.”

Gesturing for Luna and Prompto to follow, Noctis made his way through the carriages, towards the open-top one that he knew was holding storage containers near the back. They didn’t make it to that section; a sudden explosion blew out the glass of the windows. As screaming passengers ran to the next car, Noctis used the new opening to climb up onto the roof, Prompto and Luna again following. They could see the waves of Magitek approaching the train.

“Take out the carriers!” Noctis ordered.

“Got it!” Luna replied.

She ran further down the train and summoned the grenade launcher. Taking barely a second to aim, Luna fired out a grenade, narrowly missing the carrier she’d aimed at. It hit some of the advancing troopers instead. Switching to a sniper rifle, Luna lay down on her stomach and started taking those out one by one. They couldn’t be allowed to reach the train. Didn’t help that some of them had obviously been rigged with explosives.

Back with Noctis and Prompto, they were getting ready to take out the carriers. Prompto had managed to summon the Trident. He readied it before firing off a blast of his golden magic. The strength of the blast knocked him right down… and ripped right through one of the carriers, sending it burning to the ground. Prompto grinned through his sudden exhaustion.

“Babe, think you can take out some more for me?” he asked.

Noctis couldn’t control his smirk. “Did you just call me ‘babe’?”

“What, would you prefer ‘sexy’?”

“Has a nice ring to it.”

“Fight now, flirt later!” Luna yelled from down the train.

A little sheepish, Noctis turned to focus on the threat right before him. He made a quick decision; instead of depending on long range attacks, he was going to get up close and personal with these machines. He warped right into one, coming face to face with the MT holders. Several of them broke free of their restraints and started swiping at him. Some started crackling with red electricity, like the self-destructing ones Luna was shooting at. Noctis tried to dodge them all, taking his sword to anything that looked remotely important. As soon as it became clear that things were going to blow up, he warped over to the next carrier and repeated.

Three carriers down, two more to go. Noctis was about to warp to the next when a beam of golden light ripped through it. Prompto had obviously recovered enough to attack again. Extremely conscious that the carrier he was on was, well, about to explode, Noctis quickly warped to the final carrier. He landed, only to have to duck as some kind of incendiary attack made contact with the machinery. Probably one of Luna’s.

Oh shit. That meant this was about to explode.

Noctis quickly warped down onto the train, about a carriage away from Prompto, two away from Luna. He took a few seconds to gain his balance before looking to try and find his friends. Yes, there was Prompto standing over there with… oh fuck. Ardyn. Noctis warped over, getting between the two. He almost automatically struck Ardyn, before realising… and hesitating.

“Where were we hid?!” he yelled.

‘Ardyn’ replied automatically, voice frantic. “In a cave far away!”

Praying he’d got this right, Noctis quickly elbowed ‘Prompto’ in the face, knocking him to the ground. Sure enough, as ‘Prompto’ got to his feet, the illusions melted away. ‘Ardyn’ was truly Prompto, and ‘Prompto’ was truly Ardyn. The disgruntled Chancellor pulled himself to his feet. There was a strange red flash and suddenly there was a dagger present in his hand.

“Should have killed the brat long ago,” he muttered, lunging for Prompto.

BANG.

A gunshot sounded and Ardyn suddenly clutched at his arm, losing balance. Prompto wasted no time at all in shoving him off the train. Noctis turned around to see Luna stood behind him, smoke coming from the barrel of her gun. She looked utterly exhausted.

“Think he’s dead?” Noctis asked.

“I don’t know,” Prompto replied. “Hope so.”

Noctis’s transceiver started to buzz again. “It’s Crowe. You guys wouldn’t happen to be on the roof, right?”

“We are,” Noctis replied.

“Okay. Good. We’re hitting a tunnel and there’s daemons.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Sorry to throw you right back in. Nice work on the MTs by the way. And our little Chancellor problem…?”

“We pushed him off the train, so hopefully he’s dead.”

“Great. We’ll keep the passengers safe. Like it or not, we’re gonna have to stop in Tenebrae now and get everyone off. You guys be careful. We’ll keep the passengers safe.”

She clicked off and Noctis turned to Luna and Prompto. “Daemons up ahead.”

Both of them groaned before following him as he ran along the train. The tunnel was a tall one, thank the gods, so they at least weren’t knocking their heads as they entered it. But it also meant there was enough room for the snagas and gargoyles that were leaping out of the shadows and onto the train. At first they were trying to scrape at the roof of the train, then they realised the three new targets that had just entered the tunnel.

Prompto struck first, with another beam of golden light. The daemons screamed as it touched them, disintegrated them. Noctis warped forwards and started attacking the ever-growing number of daemons with the Katana of the Warrior. No point in taking chances right now. He could feel bullets fly past as Luna started shooting. A sudden light told him she’d fired off one of her starshell rounds.

Yet, despite how many daemons it seemed that they killed, more would emerge from the dark. The numbers kept growing and growing and growing. They swarmed around the train, around Noctis and the others. They found themselves being pushed into a clump together, fending off daemons as they got too close. There was a mad frenzy of stabbing and slashing and shooting at every daemon that came close to them, until there was enough of a break for them all to push towards the front of the train.

It seemed like they’d be reaching the end of the tunnel soon. There was a tell-tale light at the end and it was finally visible. Good. Provided that there was still a good amount of sunlight left, the daemons would all run away or die. They had to hope so at least. Noctis was praying for this as they ran, snapping out of it when he heard Prompto scream out.

“Get the fuck away from him!” Noctis yelled, warping and decapitating the Gargoyle that had got its claws into Prompto’s back.

He smashed a potion onto Prompto as he helped pull him up. His fiancé let out a low whistle. “You did just look pretty sexy when you fought that thing.”

Later!” Luna yelled. “Actually, DUCK!”

Noctis and Prompto hit the ground quickly as Luna switched to a machine-gun and started shooting at the approaching daemons. When she’d ran out of bullets, Noctis took a quick look to see how many daemons were left.

“Why aren’t they disappearing?!” he yelled.

He and Prompto got up to their feet again. Prompto tried again with his magic. It worked and the golden light managed to take out some of the daemons, but he fell backwards onto Noctis, exhausted. Noctis held him and watched the daemons approach them. He summoned the bow of Clever and joined Luna in shooting at the approaching daemons, still holding Prompto.

Exhaustion was starting to settle into Noctis and he’d have to stop using the Bow soon. As Noctis let it return to the Armiger, dim light emerged. Waterfalls ran either sound of the track and if Noctis had actually cared at that moment, he’d be taking in the sight of thousands of sylleblossoms. Of course, Noctis didn’t care at that moment. The light wasn’t enough to kill the daemons. They kept heading towards him and the others, numbers still immeasurable.

“Hand me a gun,” Prompto said. “I’m tired, not useless.”

Noctis summoned a pair of spare guns and handed the one to Prompto. With Luna, they started shooting at the daemons again, trying to push them back somehow. Snagas were clawing at their feet, heavy boots kicking them off the train. Desperate, Noctis tried to reach for the magic deep inside that had allowed him to summon Ramuh’s power. They needed a miracle. He reached for the magic… and brushed against something so similar yet so different. Instead of the feeling of being electrocuted, this magic felt like the sensation of drowning.

Oh. Ooooh.

Fuck yeah.

Not bothering to think twice, Noctis pulled on the magic and prayed that it would work. The waterfalls around them stuttered, then started to fall with even greater force. The world rumbled and suddenly, something burst out of the water. The spectral form of Leviathan, similar to Titan before, appeared, roaring. As she roared, water serpents leapt out of the waterfalls and started to attack the daemons, taking them out one by one.

“Grab on!” Prompto yelled.

He embedded the Trident into the top of the train. He, Noctis, and Luna grabbed on as Leviathan’s magic caused powerful aftershocks of wind. As a safeguard, Noctis managed to use an ice spell to freeze their feet to the top of the train, holding them in place as they held on to the Trident. Serpents flew past them, sprays of water hitting their faces. They watched as the many daemons were knocked off the train.

Awestruck, Noctis looked up at the spectral form of Leviathan. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“My help shall come sparingly until my body is restored. You are lucky that I helped today, Young King.”

“Still, thank you, mighty Leviathan,” Prompto whispered, also hearing Leviathan’s words.

Leviathan faded away once more and they were left, frozen to the top of the train. Noctis stared into space for a moment until Luna nudged him with her elbow. He quickly conjured fire to his hands, using it to melt the ice around them. The train was continuing on and Noctis could only imagine what the passengers were thinking. First a Magitek attack, then daemons, then the Tidemother herself appeared.

The communicator buzzed again. “Noct, it’s Iris. You guys okay up there?”

“Yeah. You guys?” Noctis asked.

“We’re good. Couple of snagas and imps got in but we handled them pretty quick. Was that you who summoned Leviathan?”

“Yeah.”

“That. Was. AWESOME!”

“Thanks. So what’s happening now?”

Aranea’s voice cut in. “We spoke to the driver and we’ll be stopping at Aurore Gate soon, the gateway town and stop for Fenestala Manor. We’re all gonna have to shove off. Driver refuses to continue further after this. Sound alright, Pretty Boy?”

“Sounds great, A. See you in a few,” Noctis replied.

“See you.”

Noctis cut off and turned his head to Prompto and Luna. Prompto spoke first, excitement in his eyes. “We’re stopping at Aurore Gate?”

“Yeah. I think we’ll go to the Manor after,” Noctis replied.

“We’re really close then,” Prompto said, eager-eyed as he took in the familiar sights of his homeland. “Not far at all. We’ll probably get there in a minute.”

“I’ve seen your photos of the Manor. It’s beautiful,” Luna said.

“It’s even better in real life,” Prompto said. He squinted at the overhang they were about to go under. “Aurore Gate’s at the centre of this overhang.”

“You seem excited,” Noctis said, smiling softly as they went under.

Prompto grinned. “Well, yeah. Gotta take my sexy fiancé to meet everyone back home.”

“I read in a guidebook that you can see the Manor from the station. Is that true?” Luna asked.

Prompto spoke as the train slowed, coming to a stop. “Yeah! You can see…it…”

They stopped. And they could see Fenestala Manor burning.

Chapter Text

Chapter eighteen – Stand by me

Nyx had yelled at him when he returned from sorting things out. Yelled at him for causing problems, putting not just them but all of Tenebrae at risk. And it really stung because Prompto really just wanted a hug from his cousin. He wanted a hug to remind him that Nyx was still alive, that despite their differences, they were still family.

But Nyx, as he had done so many times since Mother had died, got angry.

Prompto had gone to the meadow after that. He’d brought with him the photo album that he shared with Noctis and another, smaller notebook. A more private notebook. As the sun began to set and Prompto’s latest batch of tears were drying on his face, he flicked through the pages of each. Cor had come and gone, leaving a small tray of food near him, sent when Maria had gotten worried about him skipping a meal. Prompto was grateful that Cor had left quickly. He just felt like being alone.

Looking at the latest photo of Noctis and Luna showing him the newest video game they’d gotten into (which Prompto was delighted to find out that the Empire allowed as well so hello new game), Prompto smiled, read Noctis’s message, and placed the album down next to him. He picked up the smaller notebook and opened it up.

The very first page had something pressed onto it. It was something Roland the Head Gardener had helped him to do. A small flower ring that he’d had pressed into the pages, preserved for as long as he could have it. It was one of Prompto’s most treasured possessions, a simple sylleblossom ring that Noctis had given him, along with the promise of making him the happiest ever.

Prompto wasn’t stupid. They were eight back then. And they were only thirteen now. The ‘proposal’ hadn’t really meant anything. But say he did get to marry Noctis one day… Prompto didn’t think he’d mind at all.


 

Smoke choked the air. Fenestala Manor was a mile away but Prompto could smell the smoke coming from his home. Every breath he took filled his body with it. It sunk deep inside and was threatening to fill him up, depriving him of anything and everything else. All he could do was stare as it rose into the sky. He barely registered Noctis and Luna helping him down from the roof of the train.

“No…” he whispered.

The world swam around him and his legs buckled. Prompto squeezed his eyes shut and tried to not to listen to the far-off roar of fire. He tried to focus on Noctis. Noctis was there with him, holding him. Holding him tight, trying to keep him grounded. Prompto grabbed onto the arms that Noctis had wrapped around him, squeezing them tight as he started to cry.

They’d taken his home. They hadn’t let him keep much over the past twelve years. They took his mother, his title, his rightful lands, so many things. But he still had his home. One of the few things. And now they’d taken it, like they’d taken everything else. Like the day they took everything else, they took it with fire and smoke. At least this time, he didn’t have to watch his mother die as the catalyst.

“Why?” he whispered, broken.

“I don’t know,” Noctis whispered back. “I’m so sorry, Prompto. I’m so, so, so sorry.”

Prompto turned and buried his head into Noctis’s shoulder. “They’ve taken it now. It’s gone.”

“I know,” Noctis said, holding him tighter.

“This is all my fault.”

Noctis pulled away slightly. He looked Prompto directly in the eyes. “No. This is not your fault. Never your fault. You didn’t do this. They did.”

Sobbing, Prompto let his head fall back onto Noctis’s shoulder again. Noctis was the only one that mattered right now. Prompto’s home was gone but Noctis was real and right in front of him. He ignored all the many people who were swarming around him. It was the only choice he had, lest he snapped and told them to fuck off. There were so many and they were so loud and why couldn’t they just let him grieve this time?

“Is that Oracle Prompto?” “I think it is.” “He’s crying…” “But if he’s alive, we all still have hope, right?” “Oracle!” “Oracle Prompto!” “Lord Prompto!” “My Lord!” “Your Highness!” “Oracle Prompto!”

“Leave the poor boy alone! Can’t you see he’s grieving? His home has been destroyed! The poor child’s been through so much for all of you, can’t you just let him be for once?” Prompto turned his head when he heard the familiar voice. Maria was pushing through the crowds… Maria was alive! “Get going! All of you!”

“You heard Custodian Maria!” Crowe called out. “Everyone get going!”

“A refugee crisis centre has been set up just outside the station.” To Prompto’s surprise, he heard Ignis Scientia’s voice. “Unless myself, the Custodian, or Ms Altius can confirm you are a close friend of the Oracle’s, I suggest you leave at once!”

The voices quietened a little and slowly began to fade away. Prompto finally pulled away from Noctis, but still tried his best not to look at his burning home. The people were filing out of the station, save for their travelling party and Ignis and Maria. Prompto got to his feet and rushed to Maria, hugging her tightly. She hugged him back, as she had done many times over the years. Neither of them said anything, just grateful that the other was alive.

“What happened?” Prompto heard Weskham asking Ignis.

“A small force of MTs last night, commanded by Chancellor Izunia,” Ignis replied. “Luckily, my men and I were around to help evacuate people and set up the refugee centre with the help of the manor staff.”

“Did anyone say why there were doing this?” Aranea asked.

Ignis sighed. “The Chancellor called it ‘retribution’ for Nyx Ulric’s crimes. As far as anyone knows, he’s still in the Chancellor’s custody.”

Of course. Everything had been so quiet and they’d honestly thought that they could escape the retaliation of the Empire. They’d ignored the Lucian Resistance for so long after all; there was nothing to say that they wouldn’t do the same again this time. But Prompto had been foolish to believe that. Ardyn’s whims came and went and if he decided that the crimes of the last sons of House Argentum were to be punished, then he would enact punishment upon them.

Prompto pulled away from Maria. “I… did they attack anywhere else?”

“Some of the buildings in and around Aurore Gate,” Ignis replied. “We managed to get those ones under control.”

Okay. That was good. Prompto could focus on that. That had been a good thing, getting the fires under control elsewhere.

Noctis came over to Prompto and looked him in the eyes again. “Prompto. I have to ask this. Do you want to go back to Lucis? It would be safer for you there. And…”

He trailed off and Prompto sighed. He knew that part of Noctis wanted him to go to Lucis. He’d brought it up back in Fideo Castino. Prompto had told him no back then and he was going to tell him no now. There were a small few things that Prompto was completely certain of. One was that he loved Noctis, and that Noctis loved him. Another was that he entirely meant ‘ever at your side’ and the only way that he would go back to Lucis, no matter how much ‘safer’ it was supposed to be, was if Noctis came with him.

“Only if you go back,” Prompto said softly. “I’m not leaving you. Never again.”

“It’s safer,” Noctis said, grabbing his hands. “Why can’t you see that? I want you safe!”

“Why can’t you see that I want to stay with you?!” Prompto replied. “I love you! I’m not leaving you, I don’t care how dangerous it is! You can’t make me go, Noct. You can’t!”

“I…”

“He’s as stubborn as his mother. You’re fighting a losing battle,” Maria said, taking a step forwards. “And hello again, Prince Noctis. It’s been many years since I last saw your face.”

“Um, yeah. Good to see you again too,” Noctis replied, obviously distracted. He sighed and smiled sadly. “No convincing you, huh?”

“Nope.”

Instead of saying anything else, Noctis just sighed again and pulled Prompto closer to him, kissing him. Prompto kissed back. They weren’t going to separate. They weren’t going to lose each other. Not again. Never again. Prompto was going to stay with Noctis until the very bitter end. They ignored everyone else and just stayed entwined together, kissing, until Noctis pulled away. He gently placed his hands on Prompto’s face, careful not to let them fall onto his shoulders.

“Marry me.”

The world fell still.

“Noct…?” Prompto wasn’t sure what he heard.

“Marry me,” Noctis repeated. “Please. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or after or whenever and all I know right here, right now is that I love you. I love you so much, Prompto. And I want to marry you. Here, today. Please.”

“I…” Prompto threw his arms around Noctis and hugged him tight. “Yes. You nerd.”

“Dork.”

Two high-pitched squeals suddenly reminded them that the world was in fact not still and that their friends were still around them. Iris and Luna stopped their celebratory squeals to drag the two of them into a large hug, the others swarming around them to join in. Honestly, Prompto didn’t mind. He didn’t know everyone as well as Noctis did, but they were his friends. And they were Noctis’s family. There were no better people to share this moment with.

(To be honest, Ignis was just stood at the side, on the edge of being awkward, but still very happy for the both of them.)

The hug subsided and Weskham spoke first. “I know legal systems are still... down… but under Lucian law I can officiate for you.”

“Oh no, Monocle. I’m the current Hand of the King. I got this,” Aranea said.

“Wouldn’t you rather be in the wedding party?” Weskham argued. “Besides, I technically have seniority and I-”

“The last wedding you officiated was between a drunk Clarus Amicitia and a goose and then King Regis banned you from officiating again. I’m doing this,” Aranea said.

“… fair point.”

“Dibs on Noct’s Best Woman,” Luna called out.

“Dibs on Prompto’s!” Crowe exclaimed.

“Right, so,” Aranea clapped her hands together. “I’ve kind of been planning this since before Altissia. Mixed Lucian, Tenebrae, thing was what I was thinking.”

Noctis shook his head a little, struggling not to laugh. “Don’t we get a say in our own wedding?”

“I kinda like the whole mixed traditions thing,” Prompto said. “I like having the Best Stander confirming your intentions and the family taking us down the aisle. That’s Lucis stuff. And maybe the flower crowns from Tenebrae?”

“Whatever you want,” Noctis said.

Prompto punched him lightly in the arm. “Hey, it’s your wedding too.”

“Well, I like all of those ideas, so there,” Noctis replied.

He hugged Prompto and kissed the side of his head. Prompto laughed a little, burying himself into the hug. Around them, their friends were discussing this and that and the other. Aranea was checking with Weskham about what words needed to be said, Luna and Crowe were laughing about something, Noctis was asking Iris to walk him down the isle as his family representative, Ignis volunteered to use the facilities on the train to make a cake, Maria was excitedly talking to someone… wait. Was that…?”

“Cor?” Prompto pulled away from Noctis to see his guardian standing on the platform. “Hey. I found him.”

“Yes, you did,” Cor said. “And here you two are, against all the odds the Empire threw at you. I’m proud of you both.”

There was something about hearing those words that made Prompto want to cry in happiness. “Walk me down the aisle?”

“Of course. It would be my greatest honour… my son,” Cor said, tears in his eyes.

Nothing more had to be said. Prompto rushed forwards and hugged Cor. Cor hugged him back tightly. There was so much Prompto was trying to say with this hug. Thank you. I love you. I’m so glad you’re here. He was just so grateful that Cor, without any prompting, any requests, had returned to Tenebrae and that he was going to be there for Prompto’s wedding. After the awful thing of, y’know, having his home attacked, things were looking up for him this evening. He was going to marry the love of his life.

“Wait! What about rings?” Iris suddenly asked.

“I’m on it,” Noctis said. He quickly ran to a patch of sylleblossoms, one of the many that grew in the middle of anywhere in Tenebrae. He picked two small flowers and quickly fashioned them into rings before returning to Prompto. “Will these be okay for now?”

“Yeah, they’re great,” Prompto replied. “Hey, can you remember when we were eight?”

“I proposed to you back then with one of these,” Noctis said. “I remember. I promised to make you the happiest ever.”

“You’re a sappy nerd, you know that?” Prompto couldn’t help but laugh.

“Your sappy nerd, dork.”

“Your dork.”

“Hey! You guys make the crowns while we set up in the train!” Aranea called over. “Seems safer than doing it outside. Come on everyone! Let’s get these two idiots married.”

Crowns made, cake in the oven, Aranea read and rehearsed. It was time to get married.


 

Noctis had his arm locked with Iris, who was also carrying a crown made of sylleblossoms. In front of him was Luna, holding one of the rings for safe keeping. He’d rock-paper-scissored Prompto to see who would walk down the aisle first, and won. So his little group entered the train car first. They’d chosen to use the dining car in the end and Maria had gone about decorating it with scattered sylleblossom petals. At the end of the car stood Aranea, Ignis, Maria, and Weskham. Noctis walked towards them, stopping just in front of Aranea.

When Noctis had reached the end, Prompto began his walk. Crowe walked in front, holding his ring. Cor was next to him, carrying his crown. Noctis just focussed on Prompto. Nobody had dressed up fancy, even though there were smart clothes tucked away in the Armiger. It hadn’t felt right to get all dressed up. So Prompto was walking along in his casual clothes, a sylleblossom tucked behind his ear, hair down for once. And he looked beautiful. Prompto was smiling from ear to ear. And Noctis could barely breathe.

This is what he had left Insomnia for in the first place. And now, here he was, actually about to marry Prompto.

Prompto reached the end of the aisle and the two of them turned to face each other. Noctis smiled at him, resisting the urge to just reach over and kiss him there and then. In the end, he just couldn’t and so he reached forwards and kissed Prompto on the cheek. Prompto laughed and turned his head so that he got a kiss on the lips instead. Noctis almost lost himself into the kiss, until Aranea not-so-subtly coughed. The pair pulled away quickly, blushing.

“Thank you, boys,” she said. “Friends, we gather here today to witness the rite of marriage. Two come to profess their love for one another and to join together. Noctis Lucis Caelum, Prompto Argentum. Please take one another’s hands.”

Noctis and Prompto held on to each other’s hands. Aranea slowly wrapped her tie around them.

“Who stands with Noctis Lucis Caelum to assure that his intentions are pure?” she asked.

“I, Lunafreya Fleuret, stand as Noctis Lucis Caelum’s friend. I assure you, Countess, his intentions are pure,” Luna said.

“Who stands with Prompto Argentum to assure that his intentions are pure?”

“I, Crowe Altius, stand as Prompto Argentum’s friend. I assure you, Countess, his intentions are pure,” Crowe answered.

Aranea smiled before she spoke next. “Before we begin the vows, are there any who wish to present a legal reason as to why these two cannot marry? Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Nobody spoke.

“Oh good. Now, Noctis Lucis Caelum, take Prompto’s hands and repeat after me. I, Noctis Lucis Caelum-”

“I, Noctis Lucis Caelum.”

“-wish to profess my love to you, Prompto Argentum.”

“Wish to profess my love to you, Prompto Argentum.”

“I promise to protect and cherish you-”

“I promise to protect and cherish you.”

“I promise to be a loving husband, if you would have me.”

“I promise to be a loving husband, if you would have me.”

Aranea turned to Prompto and had him recite the same vows. “Do either of you wish to say your own piece?”

“Yeah, I would,” Noctis said. He took a deep breath. “So, I’m not good at talking fancy stuff so um… but I love you, Prompto. I fell in love with you when I was eight, when I was sixteen, and now again. I want to keep you safe. I want to stay with you. I don’t care about any of the shit that’s happening around us. I love you. More than anything and anyone else. You were my first friend. You have been so much to me. And I never want to let you go.”

“That is so sappy,” Prompto said, smiling through happy tears.

“Yeah, I know.”

“You know, I love you too. I love you so much. I lived for every photo, letter, memory card, anything that Umbra and Pryna brought me. I fell in love with you and it felt so right,” Prompto said. “I… I don’t always think much of myself. It’s dumb, I know. But when I’m with you, I feel like I can do anything. You mean so much to me, Noct. I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Noctis went to kiss him again, only for Aranea to pull him back slightly. She smiled at him as she began to unwrap his and Prompto’s hands. “The crowns. You know what to say, right?”

Both of them nodded before turning to Cor and Iris. Iris handed the sylleblossom crown to Noctis, smiling through happy tears. Noctis took the crown from her, hugging his surrogate sister slightly as he did so. Behind him, Prompto took his own crown from Cor, hugging his surrogate father. The two of them turned to each other, holding the crowns up.

“This crown of sylleblossoms symbolises eternal loyalty and love. I see the stars in your eyes, my beloved, and I will cherish you forever,” Prompto said, gently placing the crown on Noctis’s head.

Noctis began to place his crown on Prompto. “This crown of sylleblossoms symbolises eternal loyalty and love. I see the stars in your eyes, my beloved, and I will cherish you forever.”

“Before rings are exchanged, witnesses must be asked. Baron Weskham Armaugh, the Hand of King Regis CXIII. You may act as a representative for the Lucian government, binding this union in law. Do you witness this marriage?” Aranea asked.

“I do. As representative of the Royal Government, I bless this marriage,” Weskham said.

“Who else witnesses this marriage?” Aranea asked.

“I, Maria Roche, do witness this marriage,” Maria said.

“I, Ignis Scientia, do witness this marriage,” Ignis said.

“Thank you witnesses. And now for the rings. Best Standers, please give your friends their rings,” Aranea said.

Luna and Crowe handed the rings over. Luna tapped Noctis on the shoulder and whispered to him. “You’ve got this far. Well done.”

“With this ring, do you, Noctis Lucis Caleum, take Prompto Argentum as your lawfully wedded husband?” Aranea asked.

“I do,” Noctis said, slipping the sylleblossom ring onto Prompto’s finger. “With this ring, I promise to make you the happiest ever.”

Prompto laughed a little at the echo of what Noctis had promised when they were eight.

“With this ring, do you, Prompto Argentum, take Noctis Lucis Caelum as your lawfully wedded husband?” Aranea asked.

“I do.” Prompto placed the ring on Noctis’s ring finger. “With this ring, I promise to make you the happiest ever.”

Smiling at them both, Aranea took a step backwards. “Then it is my pleasure that with the power given to me in the name of Lucis to announce you married. You may kiss your husband.”

Noctis pulled Prompto towards him and kissed him. Prompto kissed back. It was slow and gentle and in that moment right there and then, all they needed was each other. They loved each other. The Empire, Ardyn, could try to drag them apart but they would not let that happen. Never. As they kissed, the others clapped and cheered. Noctis clutched tighter at Prompto’s shirt and Prompto’s hands found their way to the back of Noct’s head and neck. They could vaguely feel somebody picking up the flowers that they had dropped during the kiss.

They pulled apart and Noctis smiled at his husband. His husband. Prompto smiled back at him.

“I love you,” Prompto whispered.

“I love you too,” Noctis whispered back.

Behind them, Iris clapped her hands together. “Come on! We’re in a dining car, there’s gotta be some kind of food or something here.”

While Iris and Ignis went behind the counter to see what food and drink there was, Noctis and Prompto sat down together, holding hands. Prompto rested his head on Noctis’s shoulder. A bunch of crisp packets were flung their way and Iris yelled something about heating up a few paninis she’d found and somebody was cheering over finding some alcohol. It wasn’t much of a wedding feast but it was something.

Paninis were placed in front of them and the others. They could hear Ignis rattling around, putting the finishing touches on the cake. Noctis brought his panini up to his mouth, only for Prompto to lean forwards and take a bite. Noctis raised his eyebrows at his husband’s antics. He took his own bite from the panini and they took turns to eat it.

Crowe placed two glasses of red wine next to them. “Don’t drink yet. Aranea wants to make a toast.”

“This ought to be good,” Noctis muttered into Prompto’s hair.

Sure enough, as soon and Ignis and Iris were sat down Aranea stood up.

“Took us a while but we’re here,” she said. “Noctis, Prompto, congrats. Now, Prompto, you have to put up with Noct’s lazy ass. Seriously. That man wouldn’t have made it through high school if Luna, Iris, and myself weren’t reminding him to tidy his shit up and live like a decent human being. Then there’s the fact that he talks in his sleep and yeah, that’s your mess to deal with now. Married couple privileges and all that. And should I tell you about the time he got drunk after graduation? I think Lady Clypeus used to bring it up at the past couple of Solstice galas, Noctis drunkenly singing ‘The Ballad of Queen Ashelia’ at the top of his lungs outside her manor was quite a sight. It got better when he-”

“That’s enough A,” Noctis cut in.

“Nah. I wanna hear what happened,” Prompto said.

“I’ll tell you later, promise,” Noctis replied.

Ahem. My speech?” Aranea said. She took a breath before continuing. “Despite Noct’s failing points he’s a good friend and in time he will become a good king. I’m proud to not just call him my friend or king, but my brother. Welcome to the family, Prompto. We’re glad to have you here. To Noctis and Prompto! May they always be happy.”

“Noctis and Prompto!” everybody else echoed. They all took a sip from their drinks.

Crowe followed up with her own speech, mostly focussing on the time she’d spent travelling with Prompto. Iris made her own quick toast, wishing them luck and offering a minute’s silence for the family that couldn’t be there with them. Maria then followed suit with embarrassing childhood stories of Prompto. Luna provided a few for Noctis, all while the happy couple continued to eat some of their meagre ‘feast’.

Weskham stood up. “I knew your parents. I was friends with them. And I remember the year you were born. I remember both Regis and Sylva sending each other photos, trying to prove which one had the cuter baby. And I know both of them wanted a world for you where you were all safe and loved. And I know…” Weskham got a little choked “… that they would be so proud of the both of you. I know that from whatever lies beyond, they will watching with joy.”

The reminder that everyone they wanted to be there was saddening, yet… hearing one of his parents’ friends speak so honestly comforted Noctis. He wished his dad was there, he wished his mother had lived to see him grow and reach this point. And he knew that Prompto was wishing his parents were there too. And that Nyx was there. But at least they had each other. That’s what was most important.

Finally, Ignis placed a small chocolate cake in front of them, decorated with berries. He handed Prompto and Noctis a knife and they cut their small cake together while the others cheered once more. Slices were cut and they sat down once more. Noctis and Prompto settled for feeding each other bits of cake, piling some onto a fork before directing it into their husband’s mouth. Somewhere in the background, Aranea made retching sounds.

“Hey, you two need to dance!” Iris exclaimed.

“Do we even have music?” Noctis asked.

“I’ve got some on my phone,” Iris said, handing it over to him.

Noctis flicked through the songs on her phone before finding one that he thought was appropriate. He pointed it out to Iris before standing up. He offered his hand to Prompto and his husband took it. They moved to the more spacious part of the carriage. They put their arms around each other as Iris began to play.

“When the night has come… and the land is dark… and the moon is the only light we’ll see… and the moon is the only light we’ll see… No I won’t be afraid, oh I won’t be afraid, just as long… as you stand, stand by me. So darling, darling, stand by me…”

As they moved slowly to the music together, Noctis began to whisper-sing the words of the song into Prompto’s ear. His husband chuckled slightly as the others cheered (and in Luna and Aranea’s cases, sang along) while they danced. Noctis felt happy tears trail down his face as they danced. Prompto tilted his head and kissed Noct’s cheek. Noctis kissed his forehead in return.

“Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me, oh, stand by me, oh stand now, stand by me. And darling, darling…”

The song came to a close and Noctis and Prompto kissed each other once again. Everybody else clapped them. Prompto mumbled another ‘I love you’ into Noct’s shoulder. He whispered one back. He took Prompto’s hand into his own, feeling the flower ring brush against his palm. They were married. Despite all the sadness and horror, they were married.

“We may have to leave tomorrow,” Luna said.

“Leave the preparations to us,” Iris said. “You two can have some alone time.”

Aranea walked past them. “You know, another passenger must have forgotten one of his bags. Had some very interesting and very useful items.” She smiled at the couple. “Second door down. Already checked, bedding’s clean. You can pull out the one bed slightly and make a double. Stuff’s already there. You’re welcome.”

Noctis and Prompto both blushed, but Noctis wasn’t exactly surprised. Of course Aranea would think of that. Noctis squeezed Prompto’s hand.

“Should we… err…” he began.

“Y-yeah. Let’s go,” Prompto said.

Smiling at each other once again, they headed off to the room Aranea had mentioned. Prompto put his arm around Noctis as they walked. They were together and in that moment they were safe. Tomorrow would come and they would have to face Gralea, but until then, they were going to take whatever chance they had now to be together.

“I love you,” Noctis said, opening the door.

Prompto let his head rest against Noctis’ shoulder. “Love you too.”

They laughed slightly when they saw what Aranea had mentioned. Subtle, Countess Highwind. Subtle. Noctis shut the door behind them and pulled Prompto in for another kiss, letting everything escalate naturally.

Well. Might as well use what Aranea had so helpfully provided for them.

Chapter Text

Chapter nineteen – Mountains in our way

The Festival De Fleurs was an annual celebration unique to Tenebrae. It was held on the day when, supposedly a thousand years ago, the first sylleblossoms bloomed. While that may not be entirely accurate, the people of Tenebrae didn’t care. They loved their festival and thank the Six that the Empire hadn’t taken it from them.

For Prompto, what was great about the festival, is that he could spend some time enjoying it while not worrying about being the Oracle. After opening the festival on the first day of five, he didn’t have to perform anymore duties… and this year, Cor had agreed to let him into Aurore Gate incognito, so he could celebrate! Perks of being a teenager, Prompto assumed.

As Prompto rushed around the town, taking photos of all the lights and decorations, he ended up standing near a group of men and women having a drink and making a toast. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop but well, it sounded very… interesting.

“…know that the apology was forced. You could see the guards standing behind him were Imperials.”

“Making him celebrate his mother’s murderers. Despicable.”

“He showed bravery in his first address. The second must have been because of their pressure. He’s only a boy.”

“It’s not right what they’ve done. Tenebrae may be under Imperial control, but we still stand behind our ruler. To Prompto Argentum, Oracle and King!”

It was... nice... hear them say that. But all the same, he feared for them. If the Empire had heard even a single word of what they’d said...


 

This was a family. It was a strange, messed up family, which kinda seemed like it was held together by spit and tape at times, but still a family. And Crowe realised that she’d kinda been sucked into it. The Angels had welcomed her into this unit and she’d just... fallen into place. She snarked along with Aranea, had fun doing the little amount of training the train allowed with Iris (now that she was getting better with the leg thing), teased Noctis and Prompto, enjoyed Weskham’s stories and sharing some of her own. It was nice to have this new family welcoming her, numbing the sting of losing most of her last one. Made it easier to stop screaming into pillows over Ravus, Pelna, and Libertus. It still hurt. Just.... this helped.

Now this family was travelling to Gralea. And Crowe was terrified. Gralea was the heart of the Empire, their capitol city. Crowe couldn’t shake off the feeling of foreboding that had settled in as soon as they left Tenebrae. It had been seven hours on the train so far, driven by two of Ignis’s men, and they were now out of Tenebrae and approaching the Ghorovoras Rift. And approaching the Rift meant approaching the Glacian’s corpse.

“And the Glacian hasn’t reformed her physical body yet?” Iris was asking Prompto.

“Not yet. I don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Prompto replied. “Cor knows something about it but he won’t tell me. All I know is the same as everyone who’s read the Cosmogony. Shiva’s body died in the Astral War but she was able to reform it years later. And now the Empire’s killed her body again.”

“I doubt a corpse can give a blessing. So I advise that we continue through the Rift without stopping to see the Glacian. We could easily become trapped by the Empire if we did,” Weskham said.

“Agreed. We only stop if we absolutely have to,” Aranea said, adjusting her eyepatch. “The sooner we get to Gralea and get out, the better.”

Noctis nodded, shifting so that he was no longer leaning his head on his husband. “Sounds like a good plan. Get in there, find the Crystal, save the world, get out.”

They made it all sound so easy. And the basics of the plan were definitely quite simple. But the specifics of it were still unclear and it was unnerving Crowe. In the Glaive, if the basics of a plan were simple but the specifics uncertain, you’d have a fifty-fifty chance of succeeding in whatever mission you were on. The last big op she’d been involved in was defending Insomnia, where they knew what they needed to do but not all the other details. And well... the results of that spoke for themselves.

The train pulled along slowly and Crowe found herself pacing up and down. The Rift was approaching and so that meant Gralea was slowly approaching. They were far from the relative safety of either Tenebrae or Lucis. All of them were on their own, heading for danger, with no backup nearby to help. If Crowe didn’t pace up and down, she’d be forced to sit down and keep thinking about it. She’d drive herself insane.

Outside the windows, they could see the skies darken, much earlier than they should. If Crowe squinted and tried to focus, she could vaguely see the eerie glow of daemons starting to emerge, just outside of the light of the trainline. There seemed to be more than usual. Crowe tore her gaze away from the far-off daemons and resumed pacing. One more reason to get this whole nightmare over with.

“Is anyone else starting to feel cold?” Luna asked.

Crowe frowned as she realised that, yes, she did feel colder than normal. “Yeah. I thought this thing had heating.”

“When Shiva died, the weather just freaked out,” Prompto said, huddling up with Noctis. “Deserts became full of snow that never melted. Tenebrae was spared the worst of it but it hit the Empire bad.”

“Attention passengers,” the voice of Biggs sounded on the speakers. “We’re approaching the Glacian’s corpse... and some fairly bad weather. We think the engine’s suffering from the cold a little and we might need to stop if it gets worse. Just so you all know.”

“So much for not stopping,” Iris said, massaging her leg.

“Your leg alright?” Noctis asked.

“Sore,” Iris replied. “Doctors said the stump would be sensitive to the cold and damp.”

“Looks almost like a snowstorm out there,” Luna said.

Aranea tapped her feet a little, shaking her legs to get stop them from getting cold. “There’s snow gear in the Armiger. I think we’d better change sooner rather than later.”

Everyone found their own little corner of privacy before summoning their warmer clothes (they’d made sure to add Weskham and Crowe in as well, and they’d packed some shit back in Altissia) and changing. Noctis and Prompto had picked the same corner and Aranea had yelled at them to not use this as an excuse for a quickie. Much blushing assumed on many faces. Crowe had to hold back a laugh though; she’d have probably made the same joke.

“Is Gralea as cold as this?” Noctis asked, once they’d all changed and gathered together again.

“It’s not as bad. More seasonal like a normal place,” Prompto replied.

“Thank the gods for that,” Crowe muttered. She walked over to the window, squinting at the view outside. “What the hell is that? Looks like a giant.”

Prompto inhaled sharply. “Shiva.”

Everyone pushed up against the windows to see her. Even through the heavy snow they could see the giant, still form of the Glacian, frozen in death. Crowe wasn’t usually one for taking in the sights but there was an undeniably eerie beauty attached to the corpse. A sad beauty, a reminder of how far the Empire would go in their search of conquest. They all stared at the corpse, almost missing out on the train drawing to a complete stop.

“Forgive our delay, everyone. But we’ve got two big problems,” Wedge said.

Biggs cut in next. “We, err, got some engine problems. And some daemon problems. How ’bout we handle the engine and you lot get the daemons.”

“Juuuust great,” Noctis said. “Let’s go take out the trash I guess.”

They rushed out of the train and onto what seemed to be like an observation deck. A small cluster of daemons were waiting for them, not dying even in the faint lights on the deck. The group all summoned their weapons and got to work. A gargoyle or two, a lich, some snagas. Tough, but not too tough. At least there wasn’t anything like a Red Giant.

“Try not to get pissed off this time Luna. We don’t have the room for you to go berserk,” Aranea said, throwing her lance into a snaga and proving that she was adjusting to the new depth perception.

“I’ll try not to,” Luna replied.

“Remember the codes everyone, just in case Izunia shows up,” Weskham said, just as they all launched themselves into combat.

Prompto managed to clear out some of the weaker daemons with one of his beam attacks and Luna dealt a bunch of damage to a few more with a Starshell. Crowe decided she was going to focus on some of the smaller daemons, switching between both knife and gun. She ended up back-to-back with Weskham, surrounded by a group of Hobgoblins that had decided to crawl up and join them. Crowe shot two dead before nudging Weskham a little.

“Getting tired, old man? Want me to take these ones?” she asked.

“On the contrary,” Weskham replied, decapitating two that drew near. “Perhaps I ought to take them, keep you young ones safe.”

Crowe launched herself at the Hobgoblins, taking a number of them out without much difficulty. She took a moment to survey the battlefield. Prompto was firing off smaller bolts of magic, effectively sniping some of the daemons, while Luna hung nearby and covered him. Iris and Noctis were teaming up to take on the Lich and Gargoyles. Aranea was jumping seamlessly between assisting them and helping Luna cover Prompto when too many drew close. And then there was Weskham and Crowe herself, taking out everything in between. Crowe turned to stab a Gargoyle, only for it to land a big blow on her arm. She swore and carried out her strikes, destroying it.

“Got an injury!” she yelled out.

“I’ll take over where you are. Get to Prompto!” Aranea called back.

Performing an awkward dodge roll to get away from the Hobgoblin approaching her, Crowe hurried over to Prompto. She held out her right hand and Prompto grabbed hold of it. He muttered his incantation and Crowe tried to ignore the semi-uncomfortable feeling of her skin knitting back together so rapidly. She muttered a quick thank you before switching with Aranea again.

“Welcome to the site of the great Glacian’s defeat! Are you all enjoying your visit to this monument of history?”

“Ardyn?!” Noctis yelled. “He’s here?!”

“I don’t see him anywhere!” Luna called out, shooting at the Mindflayer that had joined the fight.

“What a glorious battle it was, the Empire’s finest and most powerful weapons up against the personification of Ice and Cold herself. It waged day and night for seven days, before finally, the Glacian stilled.”

The smaller ones were cleared out but they had to deal with the bigger daemons still. Crowe and Aranea launched themselves at a Gargoyle, Aranea pinning it to the side of the train while Crowe slashed at it’s limbs. The daemon dissipated and they split up again to deal with more. Crowe went to assist Noctis and Iris, while Aranea went to help Weskham give Luna and Prompto some defence.

“I think our dear Oracle could tell you about the day Shiva died. Why don’t you tell our friends here about what it felt like?”

“Why don’t you just fuck off!” Prompto yelled out to the empty sky.

“My, how rude of you. All I did was ask you a question!”

“Fuck off, Ardyn!” Noctis yelled. “Leave us the fuck alone!”

“There’s an awful lot of daemons about. Almost looks like too much for you all to handle. And I don’t think the Tidemother will be willing to lend her power to you again so quickly. Wouldn’t it be such an issue if, say, a few more daemons came to overwhelm you all?”

“Don’t you dare you bastard!” Crowe screamed.

“I only need an answer from you, Oracle. How did the Glacian’s death feel? You remember that day, don’t you? A month after your mother died, a month after magicks most ancient accepted you as the new Oracle. A month after the magic of the gods linked to the very core of your being. How did it feel?”

“It felt like hell, okay!” Prompto yelled out, still defending himself from the approaching daemons. “My whole body felt like it was on fire! The worst pain I’ve ever felt! I thought I was dying! Does that answer your question?!”

“It does, it does. Next question, did the deaths of Titan and Leviathan feel as awful? Remember, dear Prompto, you have to answer me.”

“They... they... I can’t remember!” Prompto yelled.

“Try harder. I don’t ever make idle threats, Oracle. You know that.”

Prompto visibly panicked, trying to think. “I... no! No... Shiva was the worst. By far.”

“Ah! Thought so! You see, Shiva died once, but brought her body back. But a second death... she was already weakened. And now, she’s gone... and the Oracle suffered the pain for her.”

“Cut your bullshit, Izunia!” Aranea yelled, impaling a Mindflayer. “You can’t kill the Six permanently.”

“Dear Countess Highwind, the things I have seen that usually come after the word ‘can’t’ are innumerable. I can pull the stitches of time and wear another’s face. If I had claimed this before your friends had experienced this, would you have not said that I ‘can’t’?”

Nobody wasted their breath trying to debate with him. His claim about the total death of the Glacian was worrying, but could be discussed when they cleared out the daemons. At least Ardyn hadn’t unleashed more upon them, it seemed. The numbers looked to be decreasing, at least. Eventually, it was just a pair of Mindflayers. And they got taken out very quickly when the entire group focussed all their efforts on them.

“Congratulations! You’ve vanquished your foes! Well fought indeed!” Everyone turned around when Ardyn’s voice sounded less like it was on speakers but right near them. And sure enough, the Chancellor was there, walking towards them. “And all of you pulled through! You’re all exceptionally lucky, aren’t you?”

Three bullets sunk into Ardyn’s shoulders. One from Crowe, one from Luna, one from Weskham. They’d all fired too quickly to aim properly. Crowe tried to aim for Ardyn’s head as quickly as possible, as did Luna and Weskham, only to almost drop her gun when Ardyn walked it off. Those bullets had hit. There was no doubt about it. But he’d just... kept on walking. He’d recoiled only minimally, shrugged his shoulders, and kept walking, the bullets eventually falling out of his clothes.

“I can’t have walked away from that unscathed, now could I, Countess Highwind?” Ardyn said, drawing even closer. They all stood still, staring in mesmerised horror. “I can’t shrug off three bullets, the Empire can’t kill the Glacian for good. And yet... here we are.”

“What do you want with us, Ardyn?” Noctis demanded.

“It’s too early in the game to be telling you all of that,” Ardyn replied. “You’ll find out before too long, Chosen King, but whether or not all of you will be there to find out with you... I do love a good gamble.”

A daemon rose up from the ground as he finished speaking, an Alberich. It rose up close to the edge of the observation deck and the cliffs leading to Shiva’s feet. And it rose up close to Iris.

It grabbed her.

It pulled her.

She screamed.

“IRIS!” Noctis screamed.

He, Crowe, and Prompto rushed to her. Crowe and Prompto grabbed her arms as Noctis stuck a dagger into the Alberich. A second daemon arose and pulled them all closer to the edge. Crowe tried to shoot its head while pulling Iris back. A smaller Goblin appeared and struck her, making her let go. Crowe stumbled back a little, before trying to grab Iris’s arm again. But before she could, the Goblin got Prompto, making him let go. It jumped over to help the Alberichs pull Iris. Noctis tried to shove them off with his blades but...

He tried grabbing her hand. It slipped out.

And they pulled her over the cliffs.

Crowe would have jumped over, if she thought she would have survived. But this shit had happened before. She’d been a Glaive, a soldier. It had become instinct to not jump after the people that fell away. Instead, Crowe turned around to demand why nobody else had helped, to demand that they find a way to make it down the cliffs ASAP and save Iris. Her demands died on her tongue; they were trying to defend themselves from a Red Giant.

“Noct, it’s not safe here,” Prompto was saying, pulling Noctis away from the edge. “We need to get rid of the Giant before we can go get her.”

“Oh you won’t be going after your friend just yet,” Ardyn said, standing off to the side. “I can’t plan for everything. It’s bad enough that I’ve had to resort to this contingency in the first place.”

“Fuck off!” Crowe yelled, dodging the Red Giant’s sword.

A few spells were thrown around, mostly to try and keep it away from them. Ardyn’s laugh echoed alongside the inhuman sounds of the daemon. The two awful noises mixed together and filled the air. Noctis and Prompto were still stood close to the edge of the platform, dodging while trying to see if they could spot Iris. They were distracted. And somehow, the Red Giant could see that.

“Noctis! Prompto! Get away from there!” Crowe yelled.

Noctis went to grab Prompto’s wrist, ready to warp the both of them out of there. The Red Giant knocked Aranea to the side with its fist and then, with the flat side of its sword, threw Noctis and Prompto over the edge, before Noctis could warp them to safety.

“NO!” somebody screamed. Crowe couldn’t tell through the shock. It could have been her.

“And so let the games begin,” Ardyn said.

Then he vanished.

The Red Giant remained, along with Luna, Crowe, Aranea, and Weskham.

And Crowe realised that her latest family had been broken into pieces, just like her last one had.