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Knight of Fayth

Warnings; Harry Potter x Final Fantasy X crossover, Slash, Characters non-death, AU, yadda yadda yadda. Also I wrote this bloody ages ago and havent done any proper spell check, so beware of that. And this is huge. And a wip

Summary; After eons of drifting, Harry is willing to save Spira just for the feel of the gravity.

Knight of Fayth

Someone or something was singing.

Harry floated in the nothingness of space, listening to the distant song idly. It sounded like a hymn though he wasnt entirely sure, it had been a long while since he had heard any sort of singing, and hymns had never been high on his list of things to listen. He had never been much on music in any way. The fact that he wasnt even sure how long it had been since he had heard anything made him perk up a little, though.

He had missed sounds - and even if it was a hymn, it was good to just hear something after so long.

Concentrating, he turned towards the sound, listening to it with all he had. There was a voice of a male, deep and resounding. Then there was a boys voice, high and ringing like silver. A womans voice in the middle, proud and emotional at the same time. And then there was a group of people, their voices mixed into sweet union, turning the song into a symphony. Unable to help himself, Harry breathed the sound in. The song sounded oddly simplistic in its beauty - he suspect that after a while hed know the lyrics by heart, even if he would never have any idea what they said, exactly. Still, it was a nice sound.

Its a world, a voice said behind him, and idly he turned to the new sound. A hooded boy stood there, standing on nothing, his face shadowed. It has been singing for millennia now. We have been singing. But no ones heard.

Its nice, Harry said, turning away again. He spent a fleeting moment marvelling that he still could remember how to speak - and that he had a voice left. He wasnt entirely sure he had a body left any more - along the time he had spent, floating in nothingness, he had lost things bit by bit. Memories, body parts. Only the force of his magic had remained, holding him together, holding onto his existence in place where he shouldnt have been able to survive. Wouldnt, if he still had been alive.

Is it? the boy asked, shifting forward. Harry could feel his gaze on his back - even if he wasnt sure if he had a back to be stared at. How do you hear it?

I dont know, Harry answered honestly. Maybe I dont.

But you do, the boy disagreed, and then he was beside Harry. Beneath them there was a glowing world, blue and green and white. It felt warm under Harry, but oddly painful. You are from a world too. But not this one, the boy noted.

Yes. My world slept away long time ago, Harry agreed, sighing. Long, long ago. The muggles has gone to a war and the magic had drained itself out trying to hide from it and then Earth had pulled on a blanket of snow. Then it had slumbered off, taking all the life with it. All, but the ghosts that hadnt been able to move on, hadnt wanted to. It left me, I think - or maybe I slipped away. Its hard to tell.

The boy at his side said nothing for a moment, and they floated in silence, listening to the world below them sing. It is infected, the boy suddenly said. By a dream. And that dream keeps alive a monstrosity that keeps us alive, and dreaming - because while it exists we cannot fade, and while we exist we must dream, and while we dream we are used to combat the monstrosity. And for as long as the fighting remains, the monstrosity will be reborn.

Harry smiled - or maybe he emoted it, who knew. My world never managed to invent the perpetual motion machine, he remembered.

And we cannot undo ours, the boy said. He was quiet for a moment, while the song intensified below them. Help, he finally said, quietly. Help us.

Harry turned, away from the song and towards the boy. I am dead, he said calmly, but somewhat admonishingly. I died thousands and thousands of years ago. It was silly to think he could do anything at this point. And Ive been floating since my Earth slept away. Im nothing but a wraith, if even that.

In Spira, dead spirits can retake their bodies - if they want to, the ghost whispered. The magic of Spira, the magic of our souls, remakes life when ever it gets the chance. All you need to do is step upon the soul and you will be alive again.

Harry remained quiet for a moment. It was tempting, by Merlin, it was tempting. He hadnt felt anything for so long. To have a body, hands, feet, to be able to feel and move and see. Just to feel gravity again But he still remembered how tiresome life had been, in comparison to how easy death was. And he hadnt forgotten the hard lessons of life. Why me? he asked. And what exactly do you need to be saved from? Your dream? The monstrosity?

From the spiral of events endlessly repeating. Break the chain, the boy begged. Give us our rest.

Harry nodded slowly. It didnt really tell him anything - but he could feel the desperation, and the long, long history in the boys words. A battle after a battle after a battle - a rebirth after rebirth after rebirth. Why me? he asked again. I am nothing.

Youre first not from this world to hear the song, the boy answered. Many have passed over Spira along the years. None have listened. You did. It means something.

It only meant that he had some version of hearing left, but Harry didnt say that - there was something more going on here. Something else - something special. Not just the song, or the boy who wasnt a boy, taking in space where there was supposed to be no sound. Maybe it wasnt happening at all - maybe it was in Harrys head. It wouldnt be his first strange fantasy along the long, long years of drifting.

But the planet below him was warm and shining and it was pulling him with the promise of gravity and wind and the feel of ground below his feet - not to mention about having those feet to feel it with. It had been so long.

You will have to guide me, he said, as he begun to fall to the welcoming arms of gravity. I dont know what to do.

Well be with you, the boys voice promised, fading away. Thank you.

The first thing Harry saw was the sky. It was beautiful, blue seemingly infinite with some wisps of glowing whit drifting slowly past. He had forgotten what atmospheres looked like, when you saw them from inside out rather than the other way. From space, a sky looked so small, a thin little layer wrapped around enormous orbs - but from this angle it looked really never ending.

The wind that was idly tugging onto his hair made him finally realise that he was actually seeing the sky - that he was seeing the sky. With a sharp breath, he sat up, slightly surprised he could still remember how to move in a body, and more than slightly shocked that he actually had one again. Body that breathed - which had a torso and hands and, yes, hair too. And eyes and nose.

Blimey, the wind smells nice! he gasped, the first words he said on Spira. At that point he didnt care about how monumental that was - because it was true, the wind smelled excellent. Fresh and grassy and a little moist and just free. With a shivery sigh Harry closed his eyes and just breathed in. Merlin it had been ages - he had forgotten what it was like, to be able to smell.

How long have you been dead? the boys voice asked from behind him.

Harry didnt open his eyes, only breathed deep again. The feel of his lungs filling was incredible. I never counted. Tens of thousands of years maybe, who knows, he answered, and then let himself fall to his side on the grass, turning to lay on his belly so that he could nuzzle his nose into the grass, into the earth. In space there was no time - it had been easy not to count. I like your world, he murmured dreamily, and plucked a blade of grass from the ground with his teeth, wanting to know if it tasted as good as it smelled.

It tasted better.

I can see that, the boy said. Im glad.

Hmm, Harry answered, and for a moment everything was perfect and he was the most content he had ever been, just smelling and tasting the grass. The boy said nothing for a long while, seemingly content letting him be content, which for Harry worked just fine. He was certain he could spend a small eternity here, embracing the grass, and so as long nothing bothered him, he figured he might as well start that eternity now.

When the reality finally breached through his haze of being just so darned comfortable, it was in form of sharp tug on his hair. More confused than annoyed or shocked, Harry lifted his head from the grass, and looked up to see what or who had bothered him. Instead of seeing a person or anything like that - he couldnt even see the weird hooded kid - he saw a pair of sharp talons just beside him. Following them up, he saw a firm birds - or maybe dinosaurs leg. The bright expanse of yellow feathers disproved the dinosaur idea - and then the great bird bowed down again, and tugged on his hair again.

Oi, Harry said idly, tugging back before waving his arm at the creature. Get off. Shoo. Whatever you are. Go away.

The bird didnt, only let out a strange kweh sound, and then butted its great dark orange beak against his waving hand in friendly nudge - that nearly broke his fingers.

Its a chocobo, the boy said from behind him as Harry hurriedly drew his hand back, shaking some feeling back to his impact-shocked fingers. They are common.

Glancing at him, Harry sighed and pushed himself up and to his knees, turning to the bird. It was bigger than an ostrich - about as big as a hippogriff, actually, but fully bird rather than any sort of combination of animals. As he looked up to it, the bird flapped its stunted wings excitedly and warbled at him - before moving forward and head putting him lightly, warbling again. Youre a friendly fella arent you? Harry asked, amused as the bird warbled some more, and then cooed as he scratched the underside of its chin. Tame, maybe?

The boy, who seemed to loom somewhere in the corner of his eyes, said nothing for a moment. There are things to do, he then said, moving forward a little. As he did, Harry could see some strange light flickering about him, and glancing behind him he saw odd balls of light with shimmering tails flickering around the boy. The boy himself, formerly seeming so solid, was now grey and transparent. A spirit, maybe.

Breaking your chain, yeah, the wizard agreed, reaching out and poking one of the lights buzzing around the kid. It flew right through his finger, making it tingle. In how much a hurry are we? he asked, pulling his hand back and rubbing his fingers together. It felt like magic - but nothing like it.

Much and not at all. Sin isnt going anywhere, the boy answered.

Sin? the wizard asked, frowning slightly. If you want me to fight for your ideals of right and wrong

No, not that sort of sin. Sin is what we call the monstrosity, the boy answered, stepping forward, the strange lights whirling. Ask about it, he suggested, fading away. Everyone knows at least a little.

Frowning, Harry eyed the spot the boy had faded away from, before the yellow bird at his side called for his attention again by head butting his shoulder and nearly sending him to the grass on

his side. Laughing softly and shaking his head, the wizard turned to the bird, shifting to crouched position and wrapping his arms around the creatures head, digging his fingers into its feathers and scratching.

It smelled nice too.

As the chocobo cooed and warbled with delight, Harry cast a glance around them, wondering where they were and where he could ask about Sin. All he could see was grassy hills all around him and, little to the left, some other yellow birds who were idly clawing at the ground or eating the grass. They seemed not to even notice him - which indicated that they were used to humans.

Okay, Harry murmured, standing up with his arm casually across the chocobos neck, still scratching. Lets see then

He glanced down to himself, taking in his new body in full detail for the first time. It looked about right. He couldnt remember all the details of himself, but the shortness of his form was somewhat familiar. He was wearing a long black jacket that reminded him a bit of his old robes, and rest of his clothes were more or less familiar too. As was his hair, messy and black as it was.

He could work with it, the wizard decided. It looked about functional enough and there were worse things. Like, not having a body. Okay, he nodded and looked at the chocobo again. Now, how about we try and see if we can find your owner.

Walking, he realised after couple of steps, was incredible too. As was the feel of wind in his hair, and the sound of it moving through the grass, the kwehs and warks the chocobo let out. Gravity too - having it hold him forcibly to the ground, instead of it having to be a conscious choice on his part. Flying as a ghost had always been fun - but the feel of strain on his knees and ankles as he took his steps it was an odd thing to miss, but he had.

Just for that, he decided, Spira was worth saving.

It took him nearly an hour to find a trail and a couple of more to finally see some sort of settlement in the distance. Harry didnt mind it at all. Walking, hearing, smelling he couldve easily taken a couple of days walking and not felt the slightest bit bored. On top of that, the

chocobo had apparently decided to follow him because it had barely left his side the entire way, only running a little ahead at times and then returning to head butt him or demand a scratch before running ahead again. Its excited warbling kept him entertained when ever the wind died down.

Harry wasnt entirely sure what he was looking at, when the settlement came into view from behind a hill. It looked like an odd tent, except not. Or maybe a pavilion or some sort of leisure stopping point, but again, not really. In the end he stopped guessing and just made his way over, the chocobo following him a little more cautiously as they came to the circled area around the thing. Only there sights of the advertisements set up here and there made him figure out that the place wasnt a settlement - but a shop.

Hi there! the salesperson greeted him. The counter was right in the front of the tent-building thing, and she was waving over it at him in fairly friendly manner. Are you part of Captain Adraks group?

Harry smiled. Nope, he answered with equal amount of cheerfulness. What an awesome thing to be, cheerful. Ghosts rarely got to feel that. Whos Captain Adrak?

But you have a chocobo ah, never mind. Captain Adraks people have been here all the time in the last week or so, Ive gotten used to seeing them come around with their mounts, sorry about that, the salesperson said, smiling at him. Hes the Commander of the Bevelles Knights theyve been training here for the week or so.

And theyre known to travel with chocobos? Harry asked, giving the bird that had been following him a look. Yeah, he could see it - the bird was certainly big enough and fast enough and probably strong enough to be used as a mount. Neat, he said, and turned back to the woman. So. Im a bit lost, he said. Can you tell me where I am, exactly?

He expected ridicule or incredulity, but the woman only chuckled. People always get lost here - the Calm Lands look about the same everywhere, she said, reaching below the counter and bringing out the map. Here, she said, beckoning him closer. There was a map of what looked like wide plains, with mountains at all side. Were here, she pointed at the left side of the map. The way up to Mt Gagazet is here - and here you can go to the Macalania woods and through them to Bevelle - the Macalania temple on other hand is here

Harry nodded here and there, while eying the map. Whats the scale on this thing? he asked, and she explained soon that to reach either the Mt. Gagazet road or the Macalania forest would take him probably days on foot Right, he nodded, leaning to the counter with his elbows. He had no way to know which way to go, or if he was even supposed to go to either direction, but it was probably important information, so he pressed it all to his memory.

So, you need anything else, except for directions? the woman asked hopefully. I have great stock here - maps, compasses, potions, gear, weapons. Anything you need to cross the Calm Lands, I have it right here. Im especially well stocked on armour at the moment - with the Knights here, Ive put in a little extra.

Im sure you have, Harry smiled. Sorry, you wont make much a bargain with me. Im penniless, he admitted sheepishly.

Oh, pity, she sighed, and wrapped the map away.

You could help me with something, though, unless youre terribly busy, Harry added, glancing around. Aside from him, her and the chocobo who was munching on some longer grass growing on the side of the shop-tent, there wasnt a soul anywhere near to be seen. You could tell me everything you know about Sin.

Sin? the woman asked, and then frowned. You dont know.

Of course I know, Harry answered smoothly. But you see, Im collecting this chronicle about what people know about Sin. Old stories, what theyve heard from their parents, stuff like that.

Oh, youre a writer, she nodded knowingly, as if everything suddenly made sense. Will you put my name into the book?

If you want me to, Harry nodded smoothly.

Okay, sweet. My name is Dnana - make sure to remember that, the woman grinned, leaning over the counter. So, what do you want to know?

Anything. Everything, Harry said, and then snapped his fingers as if getting an idea. I know. Pretend that Ive never heard of Sin in my life - that Im from some weird place where Sins never been. Or that Im alien from another planet. Anything. Just, tell me the whole thing the way you see it as if I know nothing about anything.

Dnana giggled softly. Alright, she said, before tapping her chin with two fingers. Okay, where to begin. I cant remember how old I was when I first heard of Sin. I think my mom told me

stories about it when I was really little, you know, long, long before I can remember because I cant remember never not knowing about him, you know?

Yeah. Go on, Harry nodded.

Shouldnt you be writing this down?

Ive got good memory - trust me, Ill remember every word you say perfectly, Harry promised.

Okay then, she said a bit suspiciously, before getting a thoughtful look about her face. The first time saw Sin, I was about six years old. It was a picture, you know - someone had taken it just before Sin attacked Kilika. Well, one of the many times Sin attacked Kilika. I couldnt really get any feel to it back then - because really, Sin is so big that when you see only part of it, it looks like great blob, you know?

How big, would you say? Harry asked thoughtfully. Monstrous really meant a great big whopping monster, then?

I dont know. I dont think anyones ever measured Sin - but I think, if Sin jumped on Luca, you couldnt see the town from beneath it. Its so big, Dnana said with a thoughtful nod. Maybe a bit of the edges, but not much more. I havent really given it much a thought really, because its Sin, you know. Its just so big

Harry nodded. What was the first thing youve ever heard of Sin doing?

The attack on Kilika, the woman nodded.

Pretend I dont know what Kilika is, and explain it to me, okay? Harry asked, giving her a charming smile. Alien from another world here, right?

Right, she nodded, grinning. Okay, so, Kilika. Its this small island, far to south - below Luca and above Besaid. Theres a temple there, I think Summoners get Ifrit there, but Im not sure. Anyway, Kilika has these rain forests, yeah? And theyre full of fiends, like, Marlboros and stuff - so people cant lie there, but they cant leave the island either, because the temple is here and you cant exactly move a temple. So, the Kilika Village is on the shore - little past the shore, actually, its like on stilts above the water. Never been there, but I hear its beautiful.

Anyway, she continued. Sin mostly hangs around water - and Kilika is, well, kind of vulnerable the way it is. Its just wood, on stilts, above water. So, when ever Sin as much as passes the place by, splash, crack, boom! Dnana slapped her hands together. Gone. But Kilika island has a temple so it has to have a harbour too, so they rebuild it again and again after Sin destroys it, because they dont have much a choice. Kilikas village been wiped out like eight times in the time Ive been alive.

Ouch, Harry murmured. Youd think that give the people enough incentive to brace the jungles.

Youd think, but I guess the fiends are too strong. Theyre like between rock and hard place, Dnana shrugged sadly. Anyway. The first thing I remember Sin doing in my life is that. I think there was like a spawn attack there that time - usually the Kilika village is taken out by tidal waves and stuff, but I remember it being spawns that time.

Alien from another world, remember? Harry asked, raising eyebrows. Spawns.

Ah, yeah, sorry. Spawns are like these things that grow out of Sin. Where ever he goes, the spawns appear. I think I heard a priest or someone once say that Sin sheds them like dandruff of something - they just fall off Sin. And then they attack anything near by that as much as moves, Dnana said, and shuddered. Ive seen a couple close by. Theyre like your average fiends - except creepy.

Okay, Harry nodded slowly. So, aside from Sin and spawns and whatnot, there were also average fiends? What an interesting world. And attacks on places like Kilika, they happen often?

Once a month you hear that sins attacked this ship or this village or this settlement, Dnana shrugged her shoulders. Hes seen like several times a week here and there, and it creeps people out every time. I was born in Bevelle you know - and every time anyone as much whispered that Sin was seen close by, the entire town went into panic. You never know when and where Sin attack - if hes seen close by, its never a good sign.

And did it? Attack Bevelle, that is? Harry asked.

Couple of times. I was about fifteen, I think. Yeah, I was fifteen, when Sin attacked Bevelle - it was scary as hell, you know. It was just hanging there, in the air, and I really thought it would just drop down and crush everything. But the Bevelle Wyrm and the Warrior Monks and the Chocobo Knights, I think they drove it away.

So, the Sin could fly - and it could be driven away? Harry nodded slowly. Bevelle Wyrm? he asked.

Yeah, Evrae. It guards the city, Dnana answered. Ive no idea where its come from. Some thing its an Aeon, but who knows. Its been protecting Bevelle since for ever - my grandfather told me stories about it and everything.

Okay, the wizard nodded. Wyrms that guarded the cities from Sin. So. Where do you think Sin comes from?

Dnana was quiet for a moment before frowning. The priest at my school said that Sin came to be because of the sacrilegious actions of people - because long ago, we made machina and did horrible things with them. My granddad, though, he said that no one knows. He was a crusader when he was a young - he was part of the Siege of Luca Bay, so he mustve known what he was talking about. Sins just always been there. Maybe its because of machina and stuff, or maybe its there just because it is there. Im no Summoner, so, what do I know, right? she asked, laughing softly, mirthlessly.

Summoner? Harry asked, and as she gave him another strange look, he smiled. Alien from another world, me, he said, pointing at himself.

Right, right. Sorry. Uhm. Summoners, theyre the ones who defeat Sin. They go to these pilgrimages, they get all the Aeons - that is, the creatures they summon, you know. And then they go to Zanarkand - they go through here you know - and then then they defeat Sin. Well some do. It was almost ten years since it happened the last time.

The woman sighed. I was just about seventeen, when High Summoner Braska defeated Sin, Dnana said, sounding a little wistful. I remember how it was, afterwards. The parties in Bevelle, they lasted for a week - everyone was so happy. And for a complete year after that, it was quiet. Not a single word about Sin, not a whisper, no attack. You could go anywhere and just know that there would be nothing to worry about. The best year of my life, the Calm.

Harry eyed her quietly. And then Sin came back? he asked.

It always does, Dnana nodded sadly. My granddad said that when he was young, there was a Calm that lasted almost three years. Three years, can you believe it? Its been nine years since the last Calm - and that only lasted for one year. Its unfair.

I really cant, the wizard said quietly. If the High Summoners can defeat Sin - why dont they do it right after the Calm ends?

The woman gave him a strange looks. You only become a High Summoner if you defeat Sin. And I dont think Ive ever heard of High Summoner, who survived after defeating Sin.

oh, the wizard murmured looking away. Well that explained a few things. Summoners went to pilgrimages to defeat Sin - and died, if they actually managed it. Year or three later, Sin returned and another Summoner went through the same ordeal, and died at the end of it. Rinse and repeat. But how? How could you defeat something - only to have it return after year or so? What was Sin - did it have a horcrux somewhere, or something?

You say that Summoners go through here to, um, where?

Zanarkand. All Summoners go there from here and through Mt. Gagazet. Dnana nodded, pointing towards north - where, Harry supposed, the entrance to Mt Gagazet was. Thats where the Final Aeon is, I hear, in the ruins of Zanarkand. Except lot of them dont. They come here and then they get cold feet, and then they go home. Ive seen something like dozen Summoners here - none of them even went to Mt Gagazet, not to mention about Zanarkand.

Harry nodded slowly, wondering if Zanarkand was where he was supposed to go. How does summoning work? he asked thoughtfully.

Dnana shrugged. The Summoners pray to the Fayth in the temples. Thats about all I know. Well, they go through some trials and stuff, she said and shook her head. I dont really know.

Praying. Well, that would be out, Harry mused. He had never prayed to anything, and whatever the fayth were, he wasnt going to pray to them either. Aside from the Summoners, are there anything else - anyone else - that could possibly try and defeat it? he asked thoughtfully.

Well, theres the Crusaders - but theyve been crusading to defeat Sin for as long as I can remember, and they never had. They can sometimes hold it at bay - like with Bevelle and stuff - but yeah, thats about it. The warrior monks maybe nah, they just protect Bevelle and the temples I think, and thats it. Theres the Chocobo Knights too, but theyre pretty much the same as Crusades, except they ride chocobos. Theyre pretty new, though, so who knows. Maybe theyll make a difference, Dnana said thoughtfully. Theyve been training like mad here for the last days, so, maybe theyve got some idea about what to do

Harry nodded. Anything else?

Well, some say the Al Bhed try too, with forbidden machina and all, but I try not to think too deeply into that, she admitted. My boss is an Al Bhed.

Harry considered asking who or what the Al Bhed were, but decided against it because of the look of unease on the womans face. Okay, thanks. I think I got what I needed, he said, nodding. So, those knights training here, under that Captain Agros, was it? Theyre Chocobo Knights?

Captain Adrak, and yeah, Dnana nodded, looking relieved that he had changed the subject.

Since summoning was out and everything else seemed a bit long-shot - and because of the convenience of being at the same place at the same time it wouldnt hurt to try. You wouldnt happen to know where, exactly, theyre training in here? he asked, while looking at the chocobo that had taken a liking to him, wondering how well it would take to a saddle.

After getting directions and wishes for good luck from Dnana, Harry and the chocobo that was still following set out again, making their way across the grassy pains of Calm Lands. While walking the wizard thought through all he had heard, wondering. So many things to remember and investigate. Sin itself was getting a better shape in his head, but the rest of it. Monks, knights, crusaders, Summoners, wyrms, Al Bhed what ever they were and so forth.

He couldnt wait to learn more.

Really interesting world, he murmured to himself, stretching his arms and then throwing one of them around the chocobos neck, as it came close enough to push at his shoulder compassionately again. And you too. Youre interesting too. Do you belong to the Chocobo Knights, perhaps? Or are you really just a wild thing that took a liking to me? Hm? he asked, but as he scratched the underside of the birds beak, it only warbled happily and didnt answer.

After hour or so walking, things other than Sin and Spira and how good everything smelled started to finally come to the Wizard. As he watched how the chocobo clawed some sort of root from the ground and ate it happily, he had to wonder about why he wasnt getting hungry at all. It

had been four, five hours since he had gotten a body, but he wasnt even feeling slightest bit like he ought to eat something.

Kid? Boy? Ghostly fella with sprinkles on top, you here anywhere? he asked, glancing around himself until he caught the shadowy shape of the boy in the corner of his eye. Sorry to bother you whatever you were doing, but this body - do I need to feed it?

Your physical form is the construction of your spirit and memories, given shape by the powers of this world, the boy answered. You cannot die because you arent alive.

So, thats a no then, Harry murmured. If he couldnt starve to death it made sense his body wouldnt need any food. Wont it be a bit suspicious if I never need to eat? Do I need to sleep? he wondered.

You dont need to, but you can, the boy said. Eat too, only you will get nothing from it.

Okay. Neat, the wizard nodded slowly. Being dead in this place was a much sweeter deal than being dead back on Earth - there the best he had been able to do was float around and occasionally scare people. Here he got all the perks of being human without the weaknesses. How many dead people are there here? Mean, do they all get this? he asked, pointing at himself. If everyone could get it, then the place ought to be full of walking dead.

Some. More than necessary, perhaps. Not all can, though, most get corrupt, the boy answered. And a Summoner has a power to Send the dead onwards, and to the Farplane.

That your version of Afterlife? Harry mused. And Sending is your version of exorcism. Okay. How does that work - and can people tell that Im dead? Because if some Summoner will just know, that will be a bit awkward.

If you take steps, they will not know - and a Sending is a prayer that takes time, if you are fast enough you can avoid it, the ghost boy answered. He hesitated for a moment. We, that is the Fayth know you are here. We can take steps to protect you from such things.

If Im to save you lot, Id suggest you get to it. Much good I will do to you all if someone just ups and prays me out of this world, Harry answered before frowning. Youre the Fayth? he asked. The Fayth Summoners pray to get their Aeons or whatever? How does that work?

The boy explained. The way Harry figured it was that the Aeons were creatures of spirit magic, that peoples souls gave form to. The souls were attached to crystals or whatever, and when a Summoner took enough time to ask for it, the soul of the Aeon, or the Fayth, granted him or her the ability to call the Aeon - by linking that Summoner to itself and to the Aeon, somehow.

So, basically, the temples housed the horcruxes of aeons and the power of Spira could go as far as to multiply the body for that horxcux if it was called right? No, that probably wasnt it, but trying to fit it into the terms of Earths magic made it simpler for Harry. It had been so long, but it still made better sense to Harry than the other stuff.

And theres how many of the Aeons?

Eight, and the Final Summoning, which works differently, the boy explained. Most Summoners only find half of them.

Okay, Harry nodded before giving the boy a look. I hope you dont expect me to get them all - or any of them - because me and praying, weve never gotten along. Especially since I died.

The boy looked a bit taken aback for a moment, before he let out a small chuckle. I dont know, he admitted. We were ready to give the Aeons to you, but if you dont want them what way do you think you can help us?

I dont know, Harry shrugged and grinned. Well see, shall we?

He found the camp of the Chocobo Knights shortly before the sun started setting and the air started to get a hint of coolness to it. He nearly missed the entire camp as he enjoyed the new smell in the wind, and in the end only ended up not missing it thanks to the chocobo, who started kwehing and warbling - to which several others chocobos warbled and kwehed back in greeting.

The camp was pretty simple, Harry noted as he approached. There were some tents and fences made from wooden poles that were connected by ropes. The chocobos were penned up in the rope fences, while some armoured people practiced with swords and lances while others tended to some chocobos on the side. One of them Harry noted with fascination, was fitting some sort of armour onto one of the chocobos. It looked fairly impressive.

As he walked closer and the people noticed him, he was greeted by waves and calls before couple of people approached him, eying him and the chocobo that was nuzzling into his shoulder anxiously, from between looking and warbling at the other chocobos. Are you here to join? a dark haired man with no-nonsense type of face asked, his chest plate impressively full of scratches.

Harry nodded. Sure, he said, and grinned. He hadnt thought it would be so easy. Where can I sign up?

It turned out to be a bit easier - there was no signing up. Apparently aside from being there to train, the Knights had also posted several recruitment posters all over the place in hopes of getting new recruits. He was among the few that had turned up.

People tend to rather go to the Crusaders - think they are bigger and better organised, not to mention under the command of the church, Captain Adrak explained, after hearing that Harry had heard of them from the merchant of the Calm Lands. It is true, of course, but we Chocobo Knights are much more flexible, and we obviously travel lighter and faster. Now, what kind of experience do you have?

Harry eyed field, where some senior knights were instructing their newest recruits on how to hold lances. Some, sir. Ive ridden feathery creatures before and Ive held a sword. Never done both at the same time, though - or either in excessive amounts, he said thoughtfully. Ive seen battles though.

Excellent, Adrak clapped his heavily gloved hands together before standing up and looking over at one of the tents, where slightly elder man was scowling at a badly chipped sword. Lets see how you do with a sword then. Oi, Tar, you think we got training armour that will fit what was your name again?

Its Harry, sir, the wizard answered, standing up as well.

Hm. Unusual name. Okay, armour for Harry here - and get me some training swords!

While the chocobo that had been following him made friends with the other chocobos, Harry was lead to an open area near the tents, where the slightly elder man named Tar handed him and Adrak a pair of wooden training swords. Curiously Harry waved his around, trying to get a feel to it. It was no sword of Gryffindor, definitely not - it was wood, for one, but also the blade was wider and longer, and the handle was long enough for both hands. Yet he was fairly certain it wasnt a two handed sword.

We usually use lances, rather than swords - they are simply more efficient from the back of a chocobo to use, Adrak said, while whirling his sword almost absently in his grip. But there will of course be times when we cannot fight whilst mounted, and in those times a lance might be too long.

Right, right, Harry nodded. Now what, sir?

A whole lot of training, it turned out. Adrak spent exactly three minutes testing Harry with the sword before dubbing him a complete novice, and putting him with the other novices. Harry didnt mind - because he was learning how to sword fight, and how awesome was that? Not to mention about the fact that he was moving and fighting and learning and feeling it all.

The high of having a body to experience the stuff with still hadnt gone away and Harry was starting to think it was never going to. He was pretty okay with that.

After about hour or so of sword training, of swinging again and again and again at this angle and that angle, of learning how to grip a sword right and how to brace for the impact of swords meeting and what not, their trainer called the training over for the day. As the other novices sighed with relieve and dropped their swords, eagerly making their way to a near by table where someone had laid out some sandwiches and what not, Harry waved his sword some more. He wasnt hungry at all - and seriously, sword fighting.

Harry. That chocobo of yours? Adrak asked, as he finally left the sword in favour of trying to hold onto the pretence of being living breathing human. Shes tame, isnt she?

Frowning, Harry glanced over to where some of the knights were trying to get a saddle onto the bird that had following him. The bird was ducking out of the way and flapping its wings threateningly at them, even while warbling excitedly like it was just a game. To it, it probably was. I dont know, sir. It just started following me earlier today. She? Harry asked.

Yes, its a female, Adrak nodded before giving him a considering look. A wild chocobo started following you? What did you do - lure her with greens?

No I didnt, sir, I just Harry trailed away, not entirely sure how to explain. It just sort of happened.

Ah, well. Some of the chocobos of these plains are like that. They all used to be tame at one point in history - the chocobos here are descendants of ones that were left behind or which escaped - or laid eggs onto the plains - and which then became feral, Adrak murmured thoughtfully. Some of them still grow easily fond of humans, if youre lucky enough to encounter one like that. I suppose we will have to see if she can be trained then, he mused and then glanced at Harry. Do you think you could put a saddle on her?

I could try, sir, but no promises, Harry answered, shrugging his shoulders. Right now it seems she just thinks its a game.

Its definitely better than it would be if shed thought it was an attack, Adrak said, clapping his shoulder heavily. Itll have to wait until tomorrow though. Its getting late. Now, how about you get something to eat and well see if we can fit you in the tents?

Sounds like a plan, Captain, Harry agreed.

He ended up not sleeping a wink that night and spent the entire night just lying in the bedroll assigned to him, staring at the roof of the tent while around him the other novices snored a way. It wasnt a bad experience at all - the sounds of people breathing and how the chocobos moved around in the pen, clawing the ground there were worse things to listen.

Like absolute nothing. That had gotten tiresome after few days - and he seriously didnt want to know how long he had been listening to it. Longer than any sane person had any business listening to nothing.

Sighing contently, Harry closed his eyes. He loved Spira. Such a hospitable place.

It took him a couple of days to get hang of the sword in the way that somewhat satisfied his trainer. That was about the time it also took to get the chocobo that had been following him to settle down enough to accept a saddle. Harry was pretty certain that once the chocobo had been saddled, it would be safe to try and mount her, but the Knights seemed to disagree, so he didnt.

Even if shes half tame already, shes still a wild bird and might take badly to having a man on her back. And chocobos kick can break a mans spine easy enough. Let her get used to the

saddle first, and see how we ride the other birds, the man mostly in charge of the chocobos and their gear, Mertyn, said. Then well see how shell handle it.

Sure, sir, if you say so. Im in no rush, Harry answered. Its just that Ive never ridden a chocobo, specifically. Maybe I should try it out before I try her - itll probably go better if one of us has an idea what theyre doing.

The man laughed and clapped his shoulder before taking him to his own chocobo, Berka, who was among the oldest and most docile chocobos in the regiment. With Meryns guidance, Harry fitted his new combat boot into the stirrup, before taking hold of the saddle and lifting himself up and astride on the birds back. It was surprisingly easy, though considering that his past experiences with winged mounts were mostly hippogriff and thestrals and he had never as much as seen a saddle before, maybe that was it.

Okay, now. Fit your legs along the shape of his wings, maybe a little bit underneath them, Mertyn directed. And squeeze your calves in, but not too much, dont dig your heels into his sides, but squeeze well enough to hold yourself steady. We need tend to need both our hands to hold lances or swords and our shields, so we dont use reigns in the battle and the way you guide your bird is mostly by the centre of your weight. If you shift forward, the chocobo will move forward, if you lean left, the chocobo will also. So you need to hold a good grip with your legs. Got it?

Yes, sir, got it, Harry agreed, and then tried. He had always had a certain bond with winged creatures - Hedwig, Fawkes, Buckbeak, the thestrals of Hogwarts, not to mention about all the other creatures that had came afterwards. But, after half an hour on chocobos back, he decided that the yellow birds were his new favourites. The way the bird followed his guidance reminded him a bit of a way a person guided a broom - and though it wasnt exactly flying, it was so much better than the hang-on-and-hope-you-dont-fall he had used to hippogriffs and thestrals.

Good job, Harry, good job, Mertyn said, after he had gotten the hang of the steering. Youre taking to this like chocobo to a green. Now, lets try some more difficult manoeuvres. Can I get a shield and practice lance in here?! he called to Tar, who grumbled and left the blade he had been tending to get the requested items.

It turned out that learning to ride a chocobo was nothing. Learning to ride one like a Chocobno Knight would probably take years. It was so amazing - like medieval knights, except on birds and with lighter equipment, and slightly less oriented towards raw charging and more to quick manoeuvring. A horse wouldve never moved as easily or lightly as a chocobo, after all - and man could the birds jump. They hop over each other and each bird was something like seven feet tall. At the very least!

Its a start, Mertyn pronounced after Harry wobbled down from Berkas back, his knees a bit shaky and his heart pumping with adrenaline. He felt so alive that for a moment he swore he had forgotten that he wasnt - he was even perspiring and everything! And his bum was probably on blisters! He could get blisters!

How long did it take for you to learn that weird zigzag turn, sir? Harry asked while rubbing his backside awkwardly. When Mertyn had demanded him to try the manoeuvre meant to be used to weave through a crowd, Berka had nearly knocked him off the saddle four times.

I invented it. Most of the manoeuvres of the Bevelle Chocobo Knighs are my inventions, Mertyn said grinning. It took a some doing to perfect it, though, and it tends to take some months before novices master it. Im shocked you stayed on saddle, people usually fall the first time.

That sounds vaguely familiar, Harry murmured, shaking his head. But if most of them were invented by Mertyn How old are the Bevelle Chocobo Knights anyway, sir?

Stop calling me sir. I got a name. And theyre not that old, less than ten years I think. The Djose Chocobo Knights are older, almost fifteen years or so, but in comparison to the crusaders were still just ducklings, the physically elder man answered, folding his arms. We started just around the time when the last calm was, wasnt it? Sin used to hang around the Calm Lands a lot before that, so no one here dared to try and tame chocobos - Im from Miihen road myself, born and bred. Thats where I learned to handle the birds.

Right, Harry nodded and stretched his arms. They were both still shaky after holding the heavy shield and lance for so long. He was aching - it was brilliant. I dont think me and lances agree much. Do you think I could use a spear instead sir? I mean, Mertyn.

Some do, but I think lances are better for ramming - the grip is designed for it, after all, the man answered thoughtfully. I think Tars working on a sort of split though. You could ask him. We have some other long weapons too, you can have a look.

Harry did. There were a lot of weapons from lances to spears to swords of several different length one of them being what looked like seven-foot-katana or something. There were also some things which looked like pitchforks and such, but the one Harry took immediate liking to was a weapon with a spear-like long shaft, and then what looked like a sabre for a blade.

A naginata, Tar grunted, after taking the weapon off the rack. Not bad choice for your build youre on the shorter side, not too heavy either. Let me adjust the shaft for you and then you can have a go at it.

Adjusting the shaft apparently meant cutting a great part off it, it turned out. Tar measured it very carefully though, leaving the shaft exactly as long as Harry was tall, with the sabre-like blade adding good thirteen inches of extra. Alright, lets see how you handle it, then, the weapon smith said.

It couldve gone better, but the wood of the shaft felt better than the leather of a sword grip or the metal of a lance. Harry wasnt entirely sure, but the thing mightve even conducted a magic a bit - it felt warm in his hand, sparkling. Can you do anything special with this, sir? he asked carefully, after spending a moment swinging the thing around.

All my weapons work as focuses, well enough, Tar said, glaring at him.

focuses?

Yes, damn it, they all conduct magic just as well as any crusader weapon, Tar snapped. Do you think that Id make sub-bar weapons, huh?

No, no, not at all, Harry quickly assured, holding his hands up in sign of peace. He heard a chuckle coming from behind him, and glanced over his shoulder to see their Captain.

You sound lively. Are you interested in trying some magic, Harry? Adrak asked, walking closer. He was holding a shield that seemed to have a broken strap. We have some knights who used to be warrior monks or were considering being in the crusaders, so we make sure that all black and white mages can use their skills without any trouble. The training weapons are the only ones who arent focuses - but thats because theyre only meant to be used to learn the forms of fighting, rather than to fight.

Harry nodded slowly. So, focus was like a wand, except all weapons were like that. And apparently magic users were common. White mages and black mages, huh? Interesting. He had to wonder which one he was. Mind if I try? he asked, waving the naginata experimentally. It would be brilliant if he could use old Earth magic.

Go ahead, if you think you can, Tar said, folding his arms.

Dont mind him, hes always like this. You can try over there - or if you want practice on a target, we can set something up, Adrak said, sizing Harry up. It would be great to have an experienced magic user in the Knights. Especially a white mage.

Let me have a go at first, sir, well see how I do and what I am afterwards, Harry answered, and walked to the area the Captain had pointed out. After few test swings and trying to get feel of the thing, he took the thing into both hands. Now how were these focuses used here? Was he supposed to point it like a wand, or thrust it, or swing it or Shaking his head and deciding not to over think it, Harry pointed the weapon forward, and at the grass before him.

The silent cutting hex came out better than he thought. A gauge appeared into the ground, not very long or deep, but definitely there. Blinking and then grinning, Harry pulled the naginata back and then swung it forward, this time sending jet of water across the high grass. The water attack came out at surprising speed and sharpness - it actually cut some of the grass down before breaking into a loose wave.

It seems to be working just fine, he mused, spinning the naginata and then holding it at his side. It was no wand though - the spells were somehow sharper than he remembered them to be, but not as powerful and that deep companionship he had always felt with his wand was completely missing. Maybe because the naginata had been given to him, and he hadnt won it.

So, youre a black mage then, Adrak said, approaching him. How much experience do you have with magic? What kind of magic can you do?

This and that, sir. My shield charms are better than my other spells, but I do well enough with attack magic too, Harry answered thoughtfully. So, attack spells made him a black mage. Alright. So as long as being a black mage didnt get him immediately branded as evil, he was fine with that. Do the knights have any white mages? he asked, wondering about that. What was white magic, if black magic was combat magic?

Tar, if you can believe, can cast some - he can even cast a Curaga in a bind. But thats about it. If the Miihen Knights or Djose Knights have healers, I dont know, the Captain sighed and thoughtfully ran his hand through his short cropped hair. How much magic can you cast in one go - whats your limit? And do you think you could learn other magic, say, Haste? Or do you know it already? And do you know if youre just black magic oriented, or could you learn some white magic, maybe Esuna? It would be useful to have at least one person who knows that one.

I dont know, Harry answered slowly. So, white magic was healing magic. He could get behind that type of categorising, though he had to wonder where stuff like levitation and banishment charms and such went, though, house hold charms and such. Or transfiguration and things like that. And what was Haste or Esuna? Well, Haste could mean only so many things, but How do you learn them? Its been a while since I learned the stuff I know now, so

Talk to Tar, he might be able to help. If he feels like it, the Captain said. If you could do it sooner rather than later, it would be better. If theres any chance you might be able to learn Esuna

Were in a hurry? Harry asked, glancing at the Captain.

We are training for a reason, Adrak said, and gave him a look. I suppose the others havent told you about it yet? Theres plans for a joint mission to fight sin in the works. Us knights will be part of it, along with the crusades and the Al Bhed, if they can get them to join the mission. Thats why were training here now, so that were ready if the mission will happen.

A joint mission to fight sin? Harry asked slowly. But sir, I thought Sin was unpredictable. How can you plan a mission against something when you cant know when or where it will be?

Adrak smiled slightly. I believe the Crusaders have captured Sin spawns, he said. Its believed that when enough of Sin spawns are brought together, Sin himself will show up. The idea is to lure Sin into a spot where we can attack it at all possible sides. Or, that is what they plan, but only if the Al Bhed join in.

Why only if they join? the wizard asked, wondering.

Because they have the forbidden Machina. We Knights and the Crusaders dont have any means of fighting something like Sin, not really, but the Al Bhed have cannons and such, Adrak said and then sighed. I dont much care for this plan myself, to be honest, but it is the best plan I have heard in a long while. Usually all we can do is fight sin spawns that the monster himself leaves behind and then help rebuilding what Sin destroyed. This operation, if it pulls through, might be the best chance we will ever get at actually doing something - aside from protecting Summoners and wishing them well.

Ah, Harry nodded. Sin came back for its spawn? That was fairly odd behaviour for a immortal monster. As Adrak headed away, Harry ran his hand over his messy black hair, staring up to the sky. Machina, if it was cannon, had to mean technology then and the Al Bhed were the only ones who had it? Well, if it was forbidden, he could maybe finally understand Dnanas

conflicted feelings about them a little better. Forbidden technology, Crusaders and Knights and great big whopping monster, immortal and nearly unstoppable what a world.

After a moment of thinking, Harry grinned. An operation to fight Sin was just what he needed to get a nice good look at the beast himself. Joining the Chocobo Knights had ended up being a better idea than he had thought.

Harry had just gotten over the disappointment after Tar had informed him that no, he couldnt teach him any white magic, when Adrak informed them that they would be moving from Calm Lands to Miihen highroad.

I got a message from Captain Lucil - she wants us to start training together so that all the knights can move as one when the time comes, and I agree with her reasoning. We need to move with same formations and to do that, we need to learn those formations together, Adrak said to the group of knights and novices. It doesnt seem were going to get any more recruits here, in any case.

And no wonder - its much more profitable to join the monks, so anyone in Bevelle who wants anything to for with fighting will rather go to them. Spoiled brats, Tar muttered in the back.

Quite, Adrak agreed with a sigh. I was hoping we could make use of the monster arena here, but I suppose it doesnt matter now. Its best we pack now and start to get ready to move as soon as possible - the sooner we go, the sooner we can join our brothers in Miihen Highroad.

Monster arena? Harry asked from another novice.

Yeah. Some weird guy has this arena in the west side of the plains - for the Summoners. When they come here, they want to train some more, so they go to the monster arena to test their skills and summons, because they know they wont get another chance after they go to Mt Gagazet, the novice, Egea said. Well, that was the original idea anyway. I think the Ronsos use it more than Summoners do.

As the other knights headed around, starting to collect their things and pulling the tents down, Harry wondered about such a concept as monster arena. He had seen some hints of beasts in the fields, but they had seemed to be avoiding him for the most part. It was pity no one had told him about the place - he wouldve loved to check it out.

You, rookie. Come here, Tar snapped him out of his ideas, making Harry turn around. The man was already walking away though, towards the supply tent, and Harry had to jog after him. Ive been remodelling some armour for you. Lets get this over with, the surly weapon smith said, pointing a spot. Stand there, take off that ridiculous jacket.

Its not ridiculous, Harry answered automatically, but undressed it. He rather liked the jacket, it was familiar enough, but he had to admit that the long hem had been a bit bothersome while training and he had ended up mostly going without it and just wearing his shirt instead.

Okay. Lets start with something proper. Here. Put these on, Tar said throwing him a short leather jacket and trousers with strange padding here and there. Rising a single eyebrow at it, Harry quickly pulled them on, despite how weird it felt to be wearing something that was so tight to his skin, knowing now better than to start arguing with the man. Tar had nearly stabbed him when he had asked about white magic one time too many.

The padding made more sense, when Tar started pulling out the pieces of the armour set. First guard that covered his shoulders, shoulder blades and upper arms, which were connected to each other and to guards that went to either side of his hips by long leather straps that went neatly over the padded points of the jacket. Then a chest plate and the matching plate on the back, also connected by straps.

As Harry marvelled the craftsmanship and felt fairly brilliant under the weight of the armour, Tar went about fastening shin guards around his legs and over his knees, before taking out plates which went over his thighs and were strapped to the guards at Harrys hips. The assembly was complete with long gauntlets and gloves of sturdy, thick leather.

All in all, the get up was heavier than he had thought, but not as heavy as he has feared - it definitely had a presence, but it wasnt overwhelming. The padding buffered the whole thing nicely and the weight wasnt concentrated anywhere, but rather spread all throughout. Harry also suspected that hed be thanking the padding to high heavens after few hours of wearing the armour - it didnt feel that much weight now, but after a while it probably would.

There, Tar said, after testing the armour by tugging on it here and there, and finally handed him a helmet. Now you look like a Chocobo Knight.

Harry eyed the helmet for a moment. It was definitely designed with the chocobo motif in mind - the visor was sharp and the entire helmet kind of reminded him of a chocobos head, especially since it had a tail of long yellow feathers.

The armour obviously has some openings - we cant make it fully covering without making it too heavy, Tar said. Im still trying to get the Captain to approve some chain mail, but that might have to wait until after the operation, if it ever happens.

Okay, Harry nodded, before lifting the helmet up. It at first felt a little loose around his head, and he said as much.

Ill see if I can add some padding, Tar agreed, taking the helmet. Not all knights wear a helmets, mind you, but the ones that dont are complete idiots. You fall of a chocobos back on full run and dont have a helmet - and its a trip to the Farplane for you next. Give me a moment.

Harry nodded thoughtfully as the man went to get the padding and waved his hands around a little to see how well he could move. It was a bit constricting around the shoulders, he couldnt lift his arms straight up, but other than that the armour wasnt really that stifling. And he wouldnt have minded even if it had been because he was wearing armour. He was a knight. How bloody awesome was that?

If all Chocobo Knighs dont wear helmets, does it mean that not all of them wear armour either? Harry asked.

Well, theres no form as far as the knights go. Were still new and we have next to no rules as far as gear goes - hell, most of us dont have the funds to kit ourselves properly. We Bevelle Knights got lucky with Captain Adrak - he can raise funding like no other, Tar said, coming back and lifting the helmet to Harrys head. Hows that?

Definitely better, Harry nodded, and lifted his chin as the man strapped the helmet strap under his chin.

With a satisfied nod, Tar slammed the visor down to cover the upper half of Harrys face. How well can you see?

Pretty well, Harry answered. Especially since he hadnt even thought of needing glasses since coming to Spira. Maybe death cured people of their eyesight problems? What about else where? There are other factions of knights, arent there?

Us Bevelle Knights, then the Djose Knights and the Miihen Knights. They both operate in mostly Miihen highroad, but the Miihen Knights also have people from Kilika and Besaid, while Djose Knights have people from above Miihen highroad and from Djose obviously, Tar nodded. We Bevelle Knights wear heaviest armours of all of the Chocobo Knights, he added proudly. Mostly thanks to myself, of course.

Of course, the wizard answered with a straight face. What kind of armour the others wear then?

Tar scoffed. The Miihen Knight barely wear any armour at all at times, just jackets and such. Were also the only ones who seriously carry shields - some of the Djose Knights carry them too, sure, but theyre mostly more spear and lance oriented. We have the benefit of bigger chocobos, though - the Calm Land chocobos grow good hundred pounds heavier than other chocobos do.

Cool, Harry nodded. So, when will I get a shield?

Right now, Tar said, and clapped him heavily on the armoured shoulder. Come this way and well find something that fits you and your naginata.

Harry ended up getting fairly light and small shield - usable, but definitely smaller than most of the Bevelle Knights used. It was Tars decision, the man had said that he needed a shield he could easily release if he needed to grip his weapon with both hands, but it was fine for Harry. He had only been in the knights about a week but he knew well enough it would take months and years before hed be good enough to make that sort of decisions.

Now. Lets find Mertyn and see what we can cook up for that bird of yours, Tar said, and Harry followed him out of the tent. To be one armoured man among couple of dozen was definitely better than to be the cloth-wearing novice, he decided, and smiled proudly to himself as they went hunting for the chocobo specialist.

It turned out that the chocobo that had been dubbed as Harrys chocobo had already been kitted up. The bird was now wearing a fairly new looking breast plate proudly, prancing around among the other chocobos and preening all the way. I didnt try putting a chamfron on her yet figured you ought to do that.

Chamfron? Harry asked, a bit confused, and was promptly handed what looked like a helmet for a chocobo. Oh, okay then. Chamfron, Harry agreed and made a mental note to see if the pieces of his armour had names. They probably werent all called guards or plates.

Shaking his head, he tugged the chamfron under his arm, before approaching the bird that had taken liking to him. She warbled with slight confusion, tilting her head to the side, before letting out an excited warble and coming closer. Realising that she probably hadnt recognised him under the armour, Harry chuckled softly and scratched the underside of her beak. He had yet to try and ride her, but in the last days she had gotten used to all sort of saddles and had carried even some luggage without a problem.

Lets see what kind of mood youre today, shall we? he asked, and as she cooed happily into his hand, he lifted the chamfron to her head. She took it surprisingly well, pulling back a couple of times and shaking her wings a little, but staying still as he, with Metryns directions, tied the chamfron on. Whos my pretty girl? You are, yes you are, Harry cooed to the bird once the face guard was in place, giving her all the scratching she desired.

Probably better you try riding her now, Mertyn said, as the bird cooed happily at Harry and Tar headed off to pack his things. If I know the Captain, well be moving out within couple of hours. Well need to know if you can ride her or if you will be riding with someone before then, the man explained and then grinned. Youre suitably protected now too, if she decides to throw you off.

Lets try it then, Harry agreed, chuckling.

The bird didnt end up shaking him off - somewhat anticlimactically, she only seemed slightly puzzled to have him on her back, but not too bothered by it. Steering proved out to be a bit of a problem as she wasnt used to be commanded around like that, and Harry, though he had learned some about chocobo riding, was no expert at it. After few starts and long moments spent just standing still, they managed to find something resembling of unity, and managed to ride a couple of times around the camp without trouble - before she decided that they were going for a run and nearly carried him off the camp entirely.

Harry managed to persuade her to turn back just in time, for couple of knights to see him and decide that him and his overly excited bird needed some weight to slow them down. While Harry tried to keep his chocobo still, the knights added some bags to the saddle, along with one of the already packed tents and some cooking supplies. The chocobo faltered a little under the weight, but mostly because of surprise than strain, and seeing that the other birds were getting even heavier loads, Harry didnt feel too worried.

Hour or so later, after everything had been packed with surprising speed and everything had been checked and re-checked, the entire company was ready to move. Harry, who hadnt seen all of the knights in one place before, was both surprised how many of them - and somewhat disappointed, because really, twenty seven knights wasnt that many when you knew that they were about half of the entire regiment. Fifty, sixty knights wasnt that much - and some eight of them were rookies like him.

Alright, Chocobo Knights. Its been a good training weve been doing, everyones been working hard, Captain Adrak said, as they lined up - Harry with some difficulty, since his chocobo wanted to get going already and standing still wasnt apparently fun for her.

Good job everyone, Adrak nodded, before looking ahead. Theres still a long way to go, but were definitely getting there. Now, first well go to Macalania woods, before we move onto Bevelle where we will spend the night. Depending on the time we arrive at Bevelle, you may get the night off. He eyed them in silence for a moment before nodding. Lets move out, he then said, and turned his chocobo around.

Harry shifted into a better position on his chocobos saddle, before leaning forward and setting out with the others, as with impressive thunder of talons against the soil of the plains, they left the camp site. He had no idea how long the journey would be or how fast it would be crossed - chocobos could run pretty fast, after all - but either way, he was fairly sure he was going to be sore by the end of it and, as wonderful as it was to feel things, he wasnt sure if that was a feeling he much liked.

Do you have a plan? the ghost boys voice asked, and glancing over his shoulder Harry saw the kid, sitting behind him with his back against the back plate of wizards armour.

Im working on it, the wizard answered, more in his head than out loud, and looked ahead again, grinning. I want to see Sin. As a knight, I think I will get the chance pretty soon.

The boy didnt answer for a long while. The others are considering alternatives, he then said, leaning his head back against the metal of Harrys armour. Or maybe youre the alternative. We didnt plan for you, but we planned other things. They think we should hold onto those plans.

Its always good to have backups. I might as well fail, Harry shrugged and glanced at the kid over his shoulder. Do you have other ghosts in your back pockets you can drag onto this world?

No, the boy shook his head. But we have dreams.

Macalania woods were incredible. Harry was sure he hadnt seen anything so beautiful in eons and he had seen the most incredible super novas and gas clouds - even gone through some of them. A forest seemingly growing out of ice as ice, glimmering and sparkling even in the slightest bit of light. And yet, despite being so icy, the place wasnt all that cold - it was damp, sure, but oddly warm considering that there was ice, everywhere.

The winds of the Calm Lands keep this part of the forest warm. Below Bevelle, the Macalania area is cold, Tar said when he mentioned the warmth. Better enjoy the warmth while it lasts because after Bevelle its Macalania lake for us, and then the Thunder Plains, and those are just miserable.

Now youre making me all happy and gleeful that I joined the knights. All the wonderful travelling you get to do, Harry grinned, lifting his visor and peering up to the sky. The woods had a canopy of what looked like ice flowers. It was just so incredibly pretty, making him seriously wish he had a camera. How long until we make it to Bevelle?

Not long - we should be there well before night fall, Tar answered. Well be on the actual road soon - travelling will be quicker then.

Harry hummed a little at that and shook his head. He wouldnt have minded if they had spent an eternity in the wood - but to know that there would be move of them after Bevelle was welcome. He could keep on staring them after wards. He needed to get a map of Spira, seriously. Or at least the local areas, just so that he wouldnt be completely in the dark about it.

Sighing, he leaned his head back, and let the chocobo follow the others as it willed, and just stared. Calm lands had been a practical feast for his sense of smell, and Macalania woods was definitely one for his eyes. The passing gratitude for having miraculously repaired eyesight returned now with full force and contently he smiled, knowing hed remember the place long after he had left Spira behind. It was just so very pretty

It was in the Macalania woods that both Harry and his chocobo started to feel the weight of their respective armours. Harrys shoulders were starting to ache and it felt like he couldnt move his arms at all, while below him the chocobo drooped a little, swaying as it took steps. While Harry considered cheating and starting to add featherweight charms onto everything, or maybe loosing some of the plates - of all the knights, only he and Adrak were wearing full sets - the knights at his side chuckled.

You dont think I put you in full armour for no reason, do you? Tar scoffed. No, you need to get used to the weight. You and especially your bird.

Oh. That makes sense, Harry nodded slowly. No feather weight charms then, it wouldnt be much of a training if he cheated. Sighing he patted his chocobos neck. Hang in there, girl.

Well be in Bevelle soon, you both can loosen some of the weight then, Mertyn chuckled and then gave him a thoughtful look. Have you thought of a name for your bird yet?

Harry frowned. He hadnt given it any thought. Glancing down, he gave the brilliant yellow chocobo he was riding a thoughtful look, wondering. Reaching out, he ran his gloved hand over the bright feathers of his birds back and nodded to himself. Sol, he said, and the bird let out a happy warble in answer.

Sol, Mertyn said slowly and nodded. What does it mean?

Its the old name of a star I once knew, Harry answered, smiling a little at the memory. When Earth had gone to icy sleep, sun really had tried to keep it warm. It hadnt felt so cold, with the sun always shining, even when the entire planet had been covered by miles of ice.

Shaking his head, Harry patted Sols neck before looking up ahead. By the looks of it, they had finally found the road - if it could be called that, it was really only a slightly wider path through the beautiful frozen forests. Ten more miles until Bevelle, Adrak called from the front. Lets step up the pace a little.

Bevelle was like nothing Harry had imagined. After seeing the tent-building of the Calm Lands store, and the tents of the Chocobo Knights, he had suspected that the city would be fairly simplistic, maybe a bit exotic in terms of design, but probably kind of plain.

It was so far from plain and simple that he felt a little embarrassed. It was incredible. It stood some twenty meters high on a sort of enormous platform, with walls looping around it, most likely to protect it from Sin. Inside the walls the buildings were mostly made of red stone and the designs were incredibly artistic - in the way Earths architecture had been once, before function had started became more important than outlooks, except in completely different way. The city arched and looped and so did the buildings - and more than that, the city reached upwards in form of sturdy towers and bridges that crossed between sections of what seemed to be a palace.

The temple gets me every time, Metryn sighed, looking up to the palace and making a strange gesture with his hands, like holding a ball, before bowing his head. Harry gave him a considering look and then glanced at the others to see that many of them were making the same gestures, bowing their heads at the temple. Looking up again, Harry wondered if he was seeing Spiras version of Mecca or something.

Alright. We will go straight to the barracks and tend to our chocobos, Adrak called to them, as they made their way idly down a wide, carefully paved street. Once we are done, you can have the night to yourselves. Go see your families if you have them - it is unlikely we will make it back to Bevelle in a while, once we join our brothers in the Miihen highroad. Just be back and ready to go by sunrise.

But just because youre going to have a night off, that does not mean you get to neglect your birds, Mertyn added sharply. I see one feather out of line and I will have your hides!

The knights chuckled at that, but Harry could see a couple of them sharing a slightly guilty glances, apparently having considered it. Grinning, Harry patted Sols neck and then leaned a little forward to urge the bird to follow others, as Adrak sped up and the others followed suit.

The Chocobo Knight barracks were a bit grander than he had suspected they would be, after the tents - but considering how rest of Bevelle looked, maybe it wasnt that big of a shock. The building was grand, with four stories and that same arching beauty that seemed to be designed into every building of Bevelle. The stables were in the first floor and the quarters for the knights were above judging by the looks of it - and there was a small pasture for the chocobos on the side.

They got down from their saddles in the front of the stables, and judging by the warbling and kwehing of some of them, they knew they were home. Harry and Sol followed Mertyn and Berka inside through high double doors obviously made to fit a chocobo, to see that the stables, while not exactly high fashion, also followed the same designs as the front of the building.

That ones empty, you can put Sol there. You can get some fresh hay from the back - and there should be chocobo feed on the pails to the left, Mertyn said. Better remove his gear and armour first, though.

Harry did, glad that he had been taught the motions even if he hadnt practiced them on Sol first. He undressed the chamfrom and the chest plate before going about taking off the packs and finally freeing his bird from the saddle and reigns. While Sol flapped her wings and stretched her neck, happy to be free of the burden, Harry turned to the stable.

Keeping a chocobo in the fields and keeping one in a stable were two different things and stables took some work than a simple green pasture did. Harry didnt mind the work, as he spread some hay for his chocobo to rest on, and then got Sol something to eat - though he wouldve preferred not being in a full bleeding armour while he was doing it. By the time he was done and Sol was happily making herself comfortable in the spot he had painstakingly made for her, he was sweating like a river and actually getting pretty tired.

A dead man getting tired. What a notion.

Come on, rookie, Tar said, after getting his own sturdy bird into a stable. Lets go upstairs, I want to see you removing that armour.

Yes, sir, Harry answered. After carefully hanging the saddle and the plates into their designated places, he collected what little belongings he had - which mostly consisted his old clothing, his naginata and shield - and followed the elder knight. Tar led him to the stairs and up to what seemed to be a common room of sorts, and then into a changing room where there were racks especially set out for peoples armour and gear.

Alright. Heres a spot for you. Get to it, Tar said, pointing at a locker and a rack and folding his arms expectantly. Sighing, Harry got to work.

Wearing armour was awesome. Getting it off after wearing it for hours was heaven.

Okay, passable, Tar said, after Harry has finished by hanging the shin guards to the rack. Well have to go through the motions a couple of times for you to get efficient at it, not to mention about the fact that you probably have no idea how to put the armour on, but well get to that later. Now, lets stretch you back to shape before your back gets permanently stuck in that slouch.

Correction, Harry groaned in his head. If getting armour off always included torturous session of stretching afterwards, then it was hell.

By the time Tar pronounced him about ready and went to get another poor novice to stretch out of shape, Harry felt like a all the bones in his body were screaming for a vacation, and his muscles were already trying to escape to one. The high of having a body was definitely coming down, he decided as he leaned his head from side to side and listened to his spine crackle. He hadnt though that, despite not needing food or sleep, he could still feel this sort

of tiredness and pain. It was still probably nowhere near as bad as it couldve been if he had been alive, but still. The deal with the dead of this world wasnt looking as perfect as it had.

Come on, one of the other novices said, clapping him on the shoulder. Lets get washed and changed and see if we can find a place to soothe our sores and aches in. Preferably with large amounts of liquor.

I like that plan, Harry groaned in answer and rubbed his aching shoulder. What was with these people and clapping other people on the shoulders? Especially when those shoulders were covered by armour-bruises and sores.

Regardless of that or how the other novice laughed at him he went, after a nice warm bath and quick change into his robe-cloak which was really a jacket. Bevelles nightlife turned out to be about as nice looking as its day life, with the pub they went to being one of the fanciest pubs ever - regardless of the fact that it was also, apparently, Bevelles cheapest. It had fancy lightning and fancy tables and fancy chairs and the waitresses were all very fancy too.

After a few shots of some berry liquor from Besaid, though, Harry didnt really care. Dead people could get drunk. Who knew?

Dead people didnt get hangovers, apparently, of which Harry felt very glad of in the morning when Tar kicked him and the other novices off their bunks. He wasnt entirely sure how or when he had gotten there in the previous night - or why he had decided to go to sleep when he even didnt need sleep. Things had gone a bit blurry after the fifth shot, and all he could remember was that there had been a really nice statue in the bar and that he had probably spent most of the night marvelling it.

Get up, you knaves, Tar spat at them. Were setting off in a hour and Adrak wants you lot washed and tidied before we go. Up, up and to it!

While the other novices moaned about sadists and Sin spawns, Harry stretched his arms experimentally. The kinks of wearing armour were still there, but not as bad as in the previous night. Happy and not just a little bit gleeful, he jumped up, and left his hangover suffering novice mates to their gruelling tasks of trying to get up from their beds, and went to find a shower.

You know, I say this with all the respect I can possibly muster, but youre weird as hell, said one of the other novices, after staggering to the shower as well.

It was a pretty statue, Harry said a bit defensively, though he couldnt remember much about it. You are talking about the statue, right? he then asked, wondering if he had done something else except marvel the statue. He mightve.

Well, that was weird too, but Im talking about the girl. She kept throwing herself at you and you, what, taught her how to do tricks with gil? the other man frowned, trying to remember.

Oh, that. Meh, Harry answered, and turned to the shower. He remembered it, vaguely. A young woman with long bright red hair. She had been pretty alright. She had also been a she. And a redhead. Not my game, that.

Not your game? The hell?

Harry shrugged. Lost my taste in women after my first marriage, he answered honestly. Ginny had been a handful, yes she had been. And you dont need to be so mad about it - I tried to push the gal to you, didnt I? Can you pass me the soap?

The other novice gave him a strange look but passed the soap. After your first marriage. You still got married again?

Yeah, did. Three times. Just, not to women, Harry shrugged and got back to washing. There was a long silence before the other novice barked a laugh and got to work as well, shaking his head and chuckling every now and then. He probably thought it was a joke. Harry shrugged again and ignored it in favour of washing his hair.

After washing and drying and dressing up to the padded leathers, Harry got back to his armour with Tar watching the process carefully and correcting him when he was about to strap something wrong. Once he was done and Tar had moved onto helping the other novices, Harry got his things, his shield and his naginata, and then headed down to the stables to see Sol - who, like other chocobos, were warbling and kwehing in their stables, all ready to go.

Well, not quite. Harry sighed and set his things down so that he could tend to Sol - to gear her and get her ready for travel. Once she was set and waiting in the pen, he went about cleaning the stable. Another thing that had been easier to handle in the plains, he mused.

Good, were all here, Adrak said once they had all gathered outside - and that was really all of them. Harry, who stood in the side with Sol and the other novices and their birds, watched with little bit of awe as the fifty senior knights all stood in neat line with their armoured birds standing stock still beside them. How long had they trained, he wondered while doing his best to keep Sol from acting up.

Well set out in a moment. Lieutenant Darak will go first with his squadron, as theyre the fastest, then Lieutenant Harna and her squadron. Myself, my Knights and the novices will keep the tail. We will meet at the Macalania temple in two days, the Captain said. Any questions? he waited for a moment and when no one said anything he nodded. Alright. Darak, you can go.

Yes, sir! the man snapped and turned to the dozen knights around him. Chocobo Knights, move out!

As the first squad headed off, the talons of their birds drumming a tattoo onto the pavement, Adrak turned to the novices. Any of you unfamiliar with the southern Macalania? Dont be shy, we need to know if youre poorly kitted for the weather.

Harry lifted his hand, along with one other novice. Adrak eyed them and then nodded. Tar, see to that they have proper gear. We dont want any of us catching cold, he said, glancing at the armourer before turning to the novices again. Macalania mountains are cold, the coldest place you will probably ever see. The winds can push you down and if you fall into the rivers, it is unlikely that you will survive the aftermath. So I dont want any fooling around on the road - you stick to the path and follow your seniors, they know what to do better than you do. And if you know whats good for you, you will keep your bird constantly on move and warm. Their feathers will protect them, but not from everything. Any questions?

Harry lifted one hand. Just one, sir. Is it wise to wear armour in there if its so cold? The metals not exactly good for keeping warm. Even the senior knights were all in full armour now - as were their birds. It was very impressive looking, all the men and women gleaming in sunlight with their helmet tails bright and proud, but it wasnt very functional in cold weather.

Good point. However, the mountains are infested with fiends. We need the protection of armour more than we need to stay warm - fiends will kill us faster than the weather will, Adrak said and nodded to them. Tar, see that the novices are kitted, he said, turning away. You have half an hour.

Right, right. Come on you lot, lets get to it, Tar said, and leaving Sol to the hands of Metryn, Harry followed him with the other novices.

Kitting in this time meant the addition of cloaks and capes to their outfits. Dark red leather cloaks which went over the armour and fur lined white capes which were attached to the shoulder guards, to be exact.

These wont save your life in the tundra, but they will keep you warm while you ride. I suggest you keep your helmets on and your visors down, itll protect you from the wind, Tar said, after showing them how to attach the capes. Now pack them up. You wont be wearing them until we make it to the mountains - pull them on before and youll boil in your armour.

After bundling the new pieces of cloth, Harry and the other novices returned outside, where the second squadron of knights had already left.

Alright, lets mount and move out. Were wasting the morning, standing around here, Adrak said, and after he had exchanged a few words with the knights who would be staying behind in the barracks, he left the knights out of Bevelle and towards south.

The knights hadnt been kidding about how cold it was in the Macalania mountains. Few miles in into the more snowier areas of the mountains, Adrak stopped their advance so that everyone could pull their cloaks and capes on. Some even added woollen hats under their helmets for extra warmth - Harry nearly wished he had one too, before just going with the easiest solution and casting a warming charm to the thing. Then, with capes flapping behind them rather dramatically, they set out again, the chocobos trekking in the snowy paths with ease.

The mountains, though excruciatingly cold, were magnificent to see. High and pure white and shining in the sunlight. Harry had to wonder if they were Spiras highest mountains or if there some other higher ones somewhere - and how was it that they were colder than the calm lands, which were a more to the north but in the end, it didnt matter that much. All that really matter was getting through them without freezing to death. That, and enjoying the spectacular view while it lasted.

They spend a fairly miserable night in the side of one of the mountains, cooped up in tents and trying to keep warm. Mostly they succeeded, huddling together and sharing body warmth, but for Harry it was a long and boring and cold night, as he couldnt have slept in the howling of the wind, even if he had figured out the trick of sleeping without alcohols involvement.

He blessed his death-born insomnia though, when the knights in guard sounded the alarm via a horn, calling FIENDS! for all the camp to hear. Harry was first one of the novices up and armed, and among the first knights ready to fight, when the pack of canine-like fiends attacked.

Snow wolves, Adrak snapped. Fastest fighters to the front, those on back will pull back anyone who gets hit with status attack! Harry, to the side, try and hit them with magic when we distract them!

Yes, sir! the knights snapped. Harry ran around the knights to the side, and while Adrak, Tar and Metryn attacked, he swung the naginata to the front, trying to figure what to use, what would be safest to use without needing to fear hitting the other knights.

The fight started before he could decide, and he was forced to act, rather than think. The wolves were fast, flitting around the knights and trying to take bites out of their ankles and knees. Harry, though, was more worried about the two wolves on the side, who were dashing towards the wind-shield they erected to protect the chocobos from the elements.

Reducto! Harry growled, swinging the Naginata heavily and sending the cutting magic at the wolves. He grinned fleetingly as the creatures were instantly sliced - and then raised a eyebrow at the way they just burst apart and into flickering lights that seemed to spread to each direction. It was kind of pretty, but definitely weird. Was that how things died here, they just.. turned to little flaming balls of magic?

He didnt have the time to wonder about that now, he decided, and turned around - just in time to see a monster making its way towards him. Hurriedly he raised his shield and fitted the naginatas handle into the lance-hold on his armour, before stepping forward like Tar had tried to teach him, and bracing for the impact. The wolf realised the danger too late and slammed right into the blade of Harrys weapon, where it hung for a moment, growling, before bursting into flickering lights as well.

Around him, the other wolves were bursting apart under the attacks of the knights, but there was still more of the wolves advancing - and there was already handful of knights down and being dragged back by the others. While wondering what they were exactly and how the whole fiend thing worked, Harry released his naginata from the lance hold and swing it forward again. A stupefy saved one of his fellow knights from being slammed into, and another redactor curse took care of another wolf.

Adrak took care of the last of the wolves, having managed to avoid being hit. He used a lance like a master, Harry noted while watching amazement how the man thrust and pierced a wolf after another, leaving only trail of flickering lights behind him. It was obvious he had been in fights before.

Report! Casualties? the Captain barked out as soon as all the fiends had been taken care off.

No deaths. Janeh, Metryn, Dan and Hara all got hit by Sleep, though, Tar grunted back from where he was checking the four knights. Hara got hit bad, he added, nodding at one female knight who lay on the snow beside him. I doubt shell be waking up anytime soon.

Sleep? Harry frowned slightly and stepped forward, winging his naginata to his shoulder. Ive never fought these fiends before, he said smoothly. They make you sleep?

Yeah. They have magic that, if you get hit by it, knocks you out cold. They can also block magic, but its the sleep that usually gets people, Adrak said, coming closer. He sighed, running a gloved hand over his chin. I guess we have to use a remedy on Hara at least, he sighed. I was hoping to save those until later.

Sir, mind if I try something? Harry asked. If its just sleep, I might have a spell that might wake them up?

You said you didnt know Esuna, Tar said, scowling at him.

I dont, Harry agreed. But I know another one, thats specifically meant for waking people up. Should I try it, sir?

Go ahead. If it will save us some potions, Ill be more than happy to let you cast any magic you can, Adrak said, and then watched how Harry pointed the handle of his naginata at sleeping Hara.

Rennervate, it turned out, worked just as well against magically caused sleep as it had back on Earth. All the four knights woke up after Harry hit them with the spell, looking a little disoriented, but none too worse for wear.

Good, thats good, Adrak said, after Tar had checked the four over. I wouldve liked it better if I had known you could do that before, but now that I know I will keep it in mind. It will no doubt save lives before long. He nodded and stood up, looking at the other knights and the

messed up campsite. We cant stay here - the Pyreflies will attract more fiends here. Best we start packing up and get going - its almost morning in any case. We can rest when we get to the Macalania temple.

Yes sir, the now yawning knights answered and while couple of them made them some hasty breakfast, the rest pulled down the tents and repacked them. Harry helped here and there before going to check up on Sol. The chocobos had been a bit spooked out by the fight, but other than being a little wild around the eyes, they looked more or less fine.

Theres my good girl, Harry said, approaching the chocobo to scratch her neck compassionately. A miserable night, wasnt it? Lets get you and the others something to eat, shall we? he asked, and after she cooed her slightly sleepy answer, he turned to help Metryn with taking care of the chocobos feeding.

Hour or so and some lukewarm soup later, they were on the move again, taking it a bit slower this time, since it was still a bit too dark to go at chocobos running speed safely. As the sun begun to get up from behind the mountains, the early awakening stopped seeming like such a bad thing - the sunrise was magnificent sight as it shed light onto the white mountain sides, making them glimmer and glow.

It couldve been a start of a beautiful day, if the fiends hadnt attacked soon after the sun had risen.

By the time they made it to Macalania Lake, they had ran into four different packs of fiends. The fights in those time had been easier to handle, with all the knights mounted and in their element the wolves hadnt stood a chance - and neither had whatever the other beasts had been. Harry hadnt even needed to cast awakening spells more than three times, and two of those times he had had to do it on chocobos, rather than their riders.

Despite the easy victory in the fights, there was relief in everyones faces when they arrived at the Macalania lake. Just few more miles and well be at the temple entrance, one of them sighed, stretching his arms. I cant wait to have a go at the baths.

I just want some shut eye for longer than couple of hours, another answered, and cajoling about what they would enjoy at the temple, they set forward again, Harry listened to them curiously, wondering. The way he understood it was that the Summoners got their Aeons from temples - like the huge palace of a temple at Bevelle and this one. But the way the knights talked about it, they made it sound like a luxury hotel, rather than spiritual place.

Have you ever been to the Macalania Temple? Metryn asked Harry.

The only temple Ive ever seen is the Bevelle one, and Ive never been inside it, Harry answered honestly. What is it like, the Macalania temple?

Its the second biggest temple - just after the Bevelle temple, of course, the chocobo specialist said. Its the only place where people can stop between Thunder Plains and Bevelle, though, so among all the temples, the Macalania one has the best accommodations for travellers. You have to pay for it, of course, unless youre a Summoner or a Guardian, but its well worth it. Especially since High Priest Seymour took over High Priest Adarkans role. The man sighed and smiled wistfully. He added the baths.

Harry grinned slightly. I guess that would make the place a whole lot more attractive in this place, he murmured, looking around them. Ice, ice and more ice. Very pretty, but a hot bath sounded pretty awesome after all of it. Ill be looking forward to seeing the famed baths, then.

The Macalania temple itself turned out was neither on the ice or the lake, but underneath it. The entrance, which stood unassumingly in the side of a icy cliff, let them into a enormous ice cavern where, in the middle, stood the temple. Harry wasnt entirely sure what it was made of, or how, but it looked like one of the most important building materials were ice and snow. Even the bridge leading from the cavern entrance to the temple suspended in the middle of the cavern was ice.

Keep your chocobos in reign. If you fall from here, you wont make it even with the luck of Sin himself, Adrak warned them, before they started making they way across the icy bridge and towards the temple. Harry was having hard time hiding his awe at the whole thing - the whole thing was just, in word, magnificent. How anyone had managed to make it he had no idea. Magic, maybe? A whole lot of magic. Epic amounts of it.

Harry shook his head slightly, and finally managed to close his mouth, as they carefully made their way down to the temple entrance. And he had thought that Macalania woods were pretty. Merlin.

They were met at the temple entrance by a couple of men, one of them wearing very impressive sets of robes and another looking fairly peculiar. He had long arms with almost sharp looking long fingers with what looked like branches and roots for hair.

You must be Captain Adrak and his knights, the man with branches for hair said, as the Captain dismounted. The branch-haired man did the weird bal thing with his hands. Welcome to the temple of Macalania. I am adept Giyal, at your service.

Thank you for your words of welcome, were very honoured to be here, Adrak said, answering the bow in kind. I trust everything has been well here, at the temple.

Oh yes, we have been enjoying a very peaceful and quiet month, the adept nodded and then motioned them to enter. Your lieutenants have already arrived and we have made accommodations ready for you and your party. This way.

We need to tend to our chocobos, Adept Giyal, Metryn said, stepping forward to take Adraks birds reigns. Do you mind if we head straight for the stables?

Of course, of course, please do, the adept said, and nodded at the robed man at his side, Priest Denet will show you the way.

Harry ands most of the knights followed the human priest, while Adrak headed inside with the man. Youve never seen a Guado before? Metryn asked, noticing Harrys slightly confused look.

Hm. You could say I grew under a rock, Harry shrugged sheepishly. Im sorry, I didnt mean to stare.

Its okay, not many are adjusted to seeing them so much. They dont come out of the Guadosalam much, Metryn nodded thoughtfully. It hasnt been more than twenty years since Maester Jyscal took the word of Yevon to the Guado, has it? And the Guado are pretty withdrawn folk anyway, I havent seen more than four or so in Bevelle in my whole life. Except for Maester Jyscal, of course.

Right, Harry nodded, as if he knew what he was talking about. He made a mental note to keep his ears open for Guados and Maester Jyscal, whoever he was.

The temple stables were even finer than the ones the knights had in Bevelle, and remarkably well stocked considering that the place was almost literally in the middle of nowhere. Harry took his time using the fine brushes and such of the stables to tend to Sols plumage after taking off her gear and to warm the bird up a bit before feeding her and leaving her to rest in the stables. There was no point wasting a fine thing when it was offered, after all.

He and Metryn entered the temple proper together, and again it was all Harry could do to stop himself from gaping like the tourist he was. The front hall of the temple alone was amazing, with crystal for a floor and statues and paintings and such everywhere. There were other people there, what looked like priests and few travellers who were resting and talking amongst themselves - few were, by the looks of it, praying.

This way. The residential quarters are up here - that ways to the Cloister of Trials, its off limits for everyone but Summoners, Metryn said, nodding towards the stairs leading up directly in the middle of the room. Harry nodded absently and followed him to the other way, up a staircase and across a corridor to a large meeting room, where the rest of the knights were. Adept Giyal was there, talking with Adrak.

is here? Adrak was asking. Would it be at all possible to arrange a meeting with him? I would very much like to pay my respects to the High Priest.

I am sorry. High Priest Seymour is currently performing the Prayer of Silence, and it is unlikely he will be emerging from his chambers anytime soon, the adept said, shaking his head. I will be happy to bring your regards to him, but I do hope you understand that a High Priests spiritual duties will always take the highest priority in a temples life.

Of course. I would not wish to disturb the High Priest, Adrak nodded. So as long he knows we appreciate his hospitality.

Indeed, the adept nodded his head slowly. Now, if you will excuse me, I have duties to attend to. All the areas of the temple are open for you, except for the Cloister of Trials and of course the personal quarters of the priests. I hope you all will enjoy your stay here and do not forget to spend a moment in prayer for those lost and those still wandering. The adept bowed again, doing the weird hand gesture, before turning and heading away.

Well then. It seems we have some time to relax here, Adrak said, turning to the knights. Im sure youre all eager to, so I wont keep you from the baths. Just keep a civil tongue in your heads and do not disgrace the knights. You are all dismissed.

Sir! the knights answered in unison, before scattering. While following a couple of the other novices towards what he assumed was the bathing areas, Harry had to wonder about the temple. It had so easily enough space to accommodate some sixty knights? The place mustve gotten some enormous traffic - not to mention about funding.

Then he saw the baths and decided that he really didnt care. Because, seriously, hot baths.

After bathing and taking a moment to see if his armour needed any work done, Harry pulled on the leathers and the cloak and cape of a knight before venturing out to explore the temple. Almost every other knight was doing the same, so he didnt see any harm in it - and there was no way he was going to let the opportunity to pass. The place was too beautiful, way, way too beautiful. The corridors, the stairs, the ceiling of all things - not to mention about the incredible scenery behind every window

Maybe it was no wonder the place was big and so well made and funded - Harry couldve lived in the place quite happily and never gotten bored to. There was just too much to watch, to look at, to stare like idiot at. The mixture of human handiwork and natures own designs, it was just fascinating to watch.

So you are him, a quiet female voice spoke from behind him as he looked out one of the windows, and glancing over his shoulder he saw a ghostly figure of a robed woman standing there. You are the one from space.

I suppose you could call me that, Harry answered, turning to face the woman. She felt the same as the ghostly kid. You are one of the Fayth? he guessed.

Yes. I am the Fayth of Shiva, the woman nodded. Like the boy you have met before was the Fayth of Bahamut, she added and then spent a quiet moment eying him. He has told us that you do not wish to become a Summoner. You do not think you need our aid.

It probably would be useful, yeah, and I might end up only messing everything up and failing spectacularly but no, I dont want to become a Summoner. Its the praying I cant handle, though, not you especially, Harry answered. Im not that big on that sort of things these days, sorry.

The woman eyed him silently and then smiled slightly. If what he told us is true, then I do not wonder that, she mused, stepping forward and looking out of the window. After a moment, she sighed. I am not like him, she admitted. He is old. Oldest one among us. I became long after him, with the help of Lady Yunalesca, she said. I do not feel as tired as he does. But the pain is the same.

Harry hummed in answer, before sitting down onto the elaborate windowsill. Im not surprised, if its the way I figure it is, he mused, looking outside. I am going to try and help. Seriously, I am. But Im going to do it my way.

Yes, and in the meanwhile we will do what we can, however we can do it, the woman agreed.

As you should, Harry nodded, leaning his head against the windowsill and closing his eyes for a moment before looking up to her. You were normal human once, werent you?

She nodded. I was a priestess of Yevon, four hundred years ago. They allowed women into the higher priesthood back then, now they can only ordain as nuns or acolytes, she mused. I was also a Summoner - born and raised in Kilika.

What made you become a Fayth? the wizard asked curiously. How does that happen anyway?

Lady Yunalesca has the power to grant that ability to a soul. She is the one who waits in Zanarkand, and grants Summoners with the Final Summoning, the Fayth said, and sighed. I went to my pilgrimage alone, and I thrived and I succeeded. I collected the Aeons, I mastered all the summoning arts. But when I arrived at Zanarkand, I was alone. I never had a Guardian, so I wasnt able to become a High Summoner.

Harry paused a little at that. You need a Guardian for the Final Summoning?

He didnt tell you? the female Fayth asked. I dont wonder. It is not the exact highpoint of a Summoners career people make it seem. The Final Summoning as people think it does not exist - there is no Fayth in Zanarkand, only Lady Yunalesca, the first Summoner to ever have defeated Sin. She can, however, create Aeons - and among those she can create is the brief, most powerful creature this world will see, the Final Aeon the living Aeon, created from the soul of a Summoners sacrificed Guardian.

Harry scowled. So that was it. And together they defeat Sin? he asked quietly.

Yes. Only, the energy required to call upon the Final Summon will drain the Summoner - and the power driving Sin forward is endless, and cannot be destroyed so as long something remains. Sin dies - and the power that creates it takes its vanquisher. And so the Final Aeon, the Guardian of the new, deceased High Summoner becomes Sin. The Fayth shook her head, sighing. Yunalesca told me this. I could not do it, I had no Guardian, there was no one

in the world that wouldve helped me in that moment. She offered me an alternate way to keep on fighting Sin, and I took it. And so I became the Fayth of Shiva.

She was quiet for a moment and Harry didnt know what to say, exactly. Sometimes I wonder, if it was the right choice. So many winters has passed since then, so many Summoners have prayed to me and Sin still remains. Sometimes I wonder, if the world is getting smaller, or if Sin is getting bigger.

Things may seem that way, after a while, Harry nodded, thinking of Voldemort. But nothing is forever. Not even Sin. If it can be stopped momentarily, then there is also a way to stop it completely.

You truly believe that? the Fayth asked quietly.

Immortality is never anything but an illusion, and even monsters tend to have soft, squishy insides, Harry answered calmly. He smiled at the Fayth, who eyed him, looking like she didnt dare to hope. I cant promise with absolute conviction that I will succeed. Im not stupid enough for that. But I can promise to try as long as I am just able to. If there is a way, I will do what I can to find it.

The Fayth sighed and then smiled. I believe you, she whispered. I wondered why he did. Especially when you declined our Aeons, our aid. I wondered how someone like him, such an old Fayth, such a wise Fayth, could still believe you but I see it now. You have something special.

Its called a lack of survival instincts, Harry laughed, and reached out to pat her shoulder in the way so many knights had patted his. But dont put all your eggs in one basket. Whatever I am, Im still just one guy. I will do all I can and more, but if I fail well, then I fail, and thats that.

Yes, the Fayth agreed. We will move forward also, but perhaps

She trailed away and turned around. Harry blinked and glanced up as well, to see that they had company. There was a man standing near by where the corridor arched away, and for a moment Harry could only stare with shock. Not only did the man have the most elaborate robe he had seen yet in Spira, but his hair was awe striking. And gravity defying. And blue.

Please forgive me, the man said softly, and Harrys gaze zeroed into his eyes. I did not mean to interrupt your conversation. I shall leave, if you wish it so.

Harry didnt answer at first, just staring. The knowledge that the man had over heard came to him somewhat belatedly, following with the thought that the man could see the Fayth. Feeling oddly dull minded, Harry glanced at the female Fayth, who sighed.

It is time I return to my crystal. I am not as strong as he is, and straying too far leaves me tired, she said, turning to Harry. You will keep your promise, she said, and it didnt sound like a question.

I will, Harry promised, and stood up. He wasnt going to do that weird hand thing everyone did, it just looked silly to him, but he did bow to the Fayth. She had been pleasant enough conversationalist - not to mention about great source of information. It was a pleasure to talk with you. Give my regards to the other Fayth.

I shall, she nodded, and bowed to him, fading away before she managed to straighten her back. Sighing, Harry ran his hand somewhat sheepishly over his hair, and turned to the blue haired man. Blue haired, blue eyed, and with a great face.

Merlin, but he loved Spira. Even the people were so pretty.

Sorry about that, he said and smiled. I hope I didnt bother you or anything. Are you a Summoner? Had he been keeping the Fayth from her duties?

In a fashion, I suppose I am, the man agreed, leaning back a little and giving him a curious look. You are one as well, I suppose, seeing that you are capable of conversing with the Fayth.

Harry chuckled, shaking his head. Nah, he answered. Ive met a couple of them, but Im no Summoner, he answered, sitting back down to the window sill. Smiling, he glanced outside. After spending some minutes looking away, the view outside looked almost anew - and even more spectacular than before. This place is so beautiful, he mused and glanced at the blue haired man, who had left the side of the wall and was approaching him. Have you visited this place often?

I suppose I have, the man said, and as he stepped closer, more of his face came to view. He had blue veins across his forehead and cheek bones - and somehow, they made him look even better. No to mention about the fact that he had very revealing neckline in his robes. And

tattoos on his shoulders. That cloak the man said, looking at Harrys clothing. You are one of the Chocobo Knights spending the night here.

Just a novice, Harry admitted, grinning and then frowned. If you see them, dont tell them about the Fayth, okay? Its a long story, and not really their problem.

But surely they would be only glad to know that among them is someone who can converse with the Fayth, the man said, folding his fingers elegantly together and hiding his hands in the large sleeves of his robes - but not before Harry saw how incredibly long nails he had.

Its not what I want to be known for, all I would do was stand out and make myself seem like something Im not, Harry answered honestly. The less he was known the better, it tended to be.

Like a Summoner, the man agreed thoughtfully, casting him a considering glance. You would not wish this, even if it would open you doors, grant you privileges?

Whats the fun in that? Harry asked, laughing. Nothings worth anything unless youve shed your sweat and blood to get it, he shook his head, and looked outside. To have privileges and things handed to you because of them would be boring. If I wanted them, I wouldnt have joined organization such as the Chocobo Knights.

Indeed? the man asked and hummed when Harry only shrugged his shoulders. I must confess, I overheard some of your conversation with the Fayth, the blue haired man admitted after a moment, and only age and experience and former career in politics made Harry stop himself from freezing at that. You promised the Fayth that you would defeat Sin.

I only promised to try my best, Harry corrected. There is a difference.

Yes, but she believed you. She trusted you. A Fayth, the man said, meeting his eyes head on with his own, nearly electric blue ones. And you are not a Summoner.

You dont think anyone but a Summoner could do it? Harry asked and shrugged, looking away before he would get tempted. The mans face when he was serious and blimey, his hair was tempting. Harry probably was more curious than he ought to be about how the mans hair defied gravity. Was it gel or maybe some sort of device or Think what you will, he said, more to distract himself than to answer. It makes no difference to me.

A Fayth trusts you, a non Summoner, to defeat Sin the man murmured. Do you think you can?

Let me get back to you on that after Ive tried, Harry grinned at the mans reflection in the glass of the window.

What powers you have, I wonder, to gain you such a trust? the blue haired man pondered. What strength?

Harry shook his head, smiling. Why did people get so hung up on that? So many people on Earth had too, in the years since Voldemorts death, asking him what special abilities he had, what kind of unique spells he knew, to grant him such a victory.

Its not like that, he said, like he had to so many people before, and shrugged his shoulder. Its not the power you have that matters - its the strength that builds up to face the challenge ahead. The weakest man of the world can become the strongest, with enough motivation. He smiled and shook his head. True power doesnt come to those who seek it - it comes to those who need it. Thats what I reckon anyway.

Then, you think that to seek it is foolishness, the man said, now with hint of edge in his voice.

Not necessarily. Everyone wants to become stronger - hell, I train every day to become stronger, Harry laughed. And I probably will for a while longer. But power like, say, power to save someone or maybe the power to kill someone. That cant be practiced for, or accumulated. It comes if it will, if the time and place and everything is just right. You cant command something like that.

I think the power to kill someone is easily gained, the blue haired man murmured, looking up and through the glass of the window. Curious, Harry glanced up at him over his shoulder and, for a moment, he worried.

People are easy to kill, he said finally, quietly. So easy, in fact, that whats the point?

The blue eyed and haired man frowned, and turned his eyes down to face him. Whats the point? he asked slowly. It could be everything.

In the end, its nothing, Harry promised. A week will go by, a month - and then you wonder what couldve been, what opportunities there mightve been. And you will wonder it for as long as you have a mind left to wonder.

The blue eyes narrowed slightly. It sounds as if you speak from experience, knight.

All death is the same. Be it natural causes or sacrifice or murder by your hands or anothers. People always lose more than they gain, Harry said, and stood up. He was nearly heads worth shorter than the blue haired man - not to mention about the fact that the mans hair made him seem even taller, thanks to the gravity defying style.

The wizard didnt care though. While the man eyed him thoughtfully, Harry reached his hands up and then, grinning, ran them through the thick blue locks, and then right through the strange horns they seemed to form. His grin widened into surprised laugh as he realised that it was natural, the mans hair had no gel or any other substances in it whatsoever! Blue hair which, naturally, formed into the weirdest shapes he had ever seen!

Spira was really such an awesome place. Even the hair of the people of this world was just incredible.

His marvel over the mans hairstyle was cut short, as something impacted him to the side of his forehead, and then sharp pain split its way down his skin, over his eyebrow and to his cheek. While the blue haired man quickly backed away, looking outraged, Harry blinked dully, more because of surprise than anything else.

How dare you? the blue haired man demanded, lifting his long nailed fingers and running his hands over his hair - which was already returning to its former shape. You how dare

Harry blinked - and then, as blood trickled down to the corner of his mouth, he laughed with pure delight. The blue eyed man was blushing. You are without doubt the most mesmerizing creature Ive yet to encounter on this world, Harry pronounced, running hand over the wounded side of his face. His palm was completely covered in blood when he pulled it back. The wizard laughed again. He could bleed! He hadnt thought he could, honestly.

A night of great discoveries, indeed.

You are mad, the blue haired man said, giving him a look that was somewhere between disgusted and begrudgingly fascinated.

No doubt, Harry agreed, stepping forward. The other man looked, for a split of a moment, like he wouldve liked to back away. He didnt and instead lifted his chin slightly and faced Harrys eyes proudly, with hint of icy anger in them. It only made Harry grin wider.

Fear not; Ill take my leave, the wizard said, amused as he snatched the mans long nailed hand up - the same that had scratched him, by the looks of the stained tips of the sharp nails. Grinning, he pressed a kiss to the mans long fingers. You were delightful company, my most beautiful stranger, he said against the mans pale skin, and before the surprised man could pull his fingers back, he kissed the knuckles again, before pulling back. Try and not kill anyone. There are so many more interesting things you could be doing.

The man didnt answer, only scowled at him while squeezing his hand into a loose fist. The faith the Fayth have in you. I believe it is misplaced, he said, as Harry turned to leave as he had promised.

That is your problem, not mine, Harry said, licking the blood from the corner of his mouth. He needed some bandages, probably. What a notion, a dead man needing bandages. If you get the chance, watch me. I will prove you so wrong.

With a chuckle, he turned away to head back towards the residential quarters. If he would ever see the man again, he would do more than run his hands through his hair - especially if the edge hidden behind the tempting beauty remained as sharp. Grinning, Harry wiped his hand over the fresh cuts again. They were really bleeding, much like any head wound did. The man had really gauged him good.

But in the end, it was only worth anything if you sweated and bled for it. He had bled. Next time someone would sweat.

What the hell happened to you? Tar asked, when he entered the common rooms rented by the knights. Did you run into a fiend?

Yes. A ferocious blue beast, Harry answered, and grinned again.

He had ridden in miserable icy weather for hours, he had enjoyed the most awesome bath ever, he had talked with a incredibly powerful ghost about all the things that mattered, and he had gotten mauled for a nearly innocent touch.

It was, hands down, his best day on Spira so far. He could t wait to see the day that would top it.

The next day, Harry carefully fitted his helmet over his recently bandaged cheek. The cuts had actually been as deep as they had felt and he had been lucky not to loose an eye, according to Tar. The man had been a bit miffed when Harry hadnt wanted a healing, telling him he was wasting energy and time healing naturally, but he hadnt cared. Harry wanted the scars, and if the man applies any Cures or Curas into the cuts, he wouldnt.

Whatever. Ruin yourself, see if I care, Tar had finally sighed, throwing his hands up in the air and marched away, while Harry had plastered the band aids on. It worked just as well for the wizard, and once he had an helmet on and the visor down, no one said another word about them. The helmets padding pressed against them rather uncomfortably though.

The squadrons led by Adraks lieutenants headed off first, with promises to meet at the Thunder Plains Travel Agency next. After Adrak had exchanged some words with Adept Giyal, the last squadron left the temple proper too and made their way to the stables to find their birds well rested and fed. Gearing them up didnt take long, and though Harry could feel that Sol was a little reluctant to leave the warmth of the stables in favour of the cold of outside, he did manage to steer her to follow the others out and across the icy bridge.

He spend a moment looking back at the magnificent temple, wondering about the blue haired man who had cut him. It was pretty unlikely he would get to see the man again, he knew. Worlds tended to be big places, and unless people had way to communicate at a distance, chance meetings were a bit rare, borderline impossible. It was nice to hope, though. The man had been very beautiful - he had fit the temple well. Maybe, if Harry would get the chance to visit the place again

Lets move out, Adrak said, and sighing Harry made to turn his eyes to the front, before seeing a flicker of shadow across the icy bridge, near the entrance of the temple. Shivas Fayth stood there, along with the ghostly figure of a woman Harry had yet to meet. As Harrys eyes zeroed into the two of them, Shivas Fayth elegantly made the hand gesture everyone seemed to like so much, and bowed her head.

I wish you all the luck in this and another world, he could hear her voice singing in the icy air, with hint of what he had heard in the space in it. The simple, beautiful hymn. Be strong, Sir Harry. Be valiant.

Ill be bold and headstrong, Harry answered and with a grin. He eyed the other woman - who wore simpler, casual clothing - curiously for a moment, wondering if she was another Fayth, but as the dark haired woman said or did nothing, simply waved his hand in good bye. Then he turned Sol to follow the other knights out, and to the frosty air of the Macalania lake.

He could feel them watching him even as he left the cavern of the Macalania Temple behind, but ignored it.

The weather seemed even more miserable than before, after the warmth of the temple. The wind had picked up a little and the clouds above them were promising them some more snow to make the journey even less pleasant. The atmosphere between the knights turned sullen with the weather, and they trekked in silence, only the steps and the unhappy warbles from their birds making any noise in otherwise silent place.

Until they got attacked for the first time that day, of course, but even the fight and the easy victory over the fiends didnt lighten the mood much. While refitting his naginata into the holster he had on the saddle for it, Harry wondered about the fiends once more. They had already killed more than thirty while on the journey, but there seemed to be no shortage for it. What where they and where they came from - and why did they break apart to flickering lights when they were killed?

Are fiends the same everywhere? he asked from Metryn, who was just pulling the furred collar of his cape closer around his neck.

Everywhere? Nah. They tend to change to fit the weather - like here, theyre fortified against the cold. And they change to fit the prey too, so in Miihen high road for example theyre fast and so forth, the man answered, waving a gloved hand dismissively. You can expect the nasty critters to be nasty everywhere.

Harry nodded thoughtfully, and then glanced at the others, wondering if he dared to ask. It could be one of those things that everyone knew and he would just make his ignorance known if he asked - but he was honestly curious. Where do fiends come from? he asked.

Metryn blinked and turned to face him, looking a little incredulous. You dont know?

Of course I know, Harry answered smoothly, cursing himself mentally. Its just you know. I was just wondering if theres more to it. Theres so many of them.

The elder knight shook his head, leaning back a little. Too many dead, too many Pyreflies, he said, still looking at him oddly. You know, the people who die and get Sent by a Summoner, thats a fraction of a percentage. I know the church makes it seem that most of them get Send, but its a lie. Whole lot of people die out of reach, in places where people dont see like here, for example. Who knows how many lives the tundra has taken - and after they die and no one Sends them, they get bitter and wander around and then become fiends. And attack us living.

Harry frowned slightly. Fiends were made from the spirits of the dead? He had thought that the Unsent in Spira - the dead who didnt move on, as it were - became like him. I thought the Unsent

Nah, thats just those who got real motivation - something larger than life. Most people, they just wander around in life aimlessly, and do the same in death, Metryn said, shaking his head. They become fiends, we kill the fiends, the Pyreflies fly off and become fiends again. Rinse and repeat.

And thats it? Harry asked. Its always going to keep on happening?

Unless someone Sends them, and theres not that many Summoners in the world - and those who are, theyre either concentrated onto their pilgrimages or they give up their talents completely when they chicken out of their tasks, Metryn shook his head. Theres some Summoners who Send every Pyrefly they ever encounter, but theres too many of them, and more appears each day, so it probably wont ever stop. All you can do is keep fighting on, really.

Hm, Harry murmured, frowning, wondering. Spira had a whole boatload of troubles with their dead, didnt it? And here he had thought that the ghost of Earth had it bad. What would happen to the dead of Spira when the time came for the planet to die? Especially if there was so goddamn many of them. Its a pity no one but Summoners can Send, he said after a moment.

Yeah, it is, Metryn agreed.

They kept on going and around the later afternoon after several battles that made not a little bit more sense to Harry, they passed by a construction site, where Adrak stopped to talk to the construction workers. While the chocobo knights took the chance to try and rub some warmth to their limbs, Harry looked back to the lakes direction. He still felt like the Fayth of the Macalania Temple were staring at him. Or that someone was. Maybe it was more fiends?

Its going to be another Travel Agency, the Captain said, after returning. Probably a good thing on foot its days journey from here to the temple and people probably need to stock after Macalania woods.

Does that mean were almost at the woods? one of the novices asked eagerly.

Almost, Adrak nodded. Lets go. We can camp in the forests - it will be warmer there.

Harry frowned at the icy plains once more before turning to follow the others. They rode on, until the icy terrain started to give away to a forest. The icy trees, sparkling in the light of the cloud-shaded sun didnt seem so remarkably beautiful after Macalania temple, but they were still a sight to behold. The trees were bigger and more complicated than in the forest north of Bevelle, forming bridges and walkways above the ground. As Adrak led them up those walkways, Harry realised that they were actually used as the main roads, rather than the ground.

Pretty, he said out loud, as he saw a cluster of beautiful blue and red butterflies flickering about.

Yeah. Be careful not to touch the red ones, Metryn said. They attract fiends.

Harry shook his head. Fiends everywhere. What a world.

You, know, Ive been wondering, he started carefully after while, when in one crook of the strange branch road they passed by a sturdy looking chest. It wasnt the first he had seen in the woods - there had been one he had seen in the mountains too, but he had ignored that as someone having tried to lug it with them and then given up half way through the mountains. There had been so many of them now, though, that he had to ask. What with the chests?

Metryn gave him a strange look. Havent you seen them before? Theyre places for travellers to leave the things they dont need that others might be able to use. Its just common sense and common courtesy.

I havent done that much travelling in Spira, I guess, Harry answered with a sheepish smile. Common sense and courtesy, huh? Even people of Spira were hospitable - on Earth those chest wouldve gotten stolen long time ago, never mind their insides.

They made their camp beneath some bridge-like branches that night, setting their tents wherever there was a little bit of straight ground. There was no fire set that night, aside from what they had in lanterns for light - apparently, the keepers of the forest didnt care for fire, and people preferred to stay on their good side.

Harry, who was put into the guard duty, enjoyed the night immensely regardless the lack of extra warmth. The forest was beautiful and the butterflies flickering about gave him something interesting to watch, even if the chocobos and keeping them quiet and content hadnt done it. Still, the thought of Pyreflies and fiends - and the blue haired man - intervened every now and then.

This worlds magic and the way people work is pretty complicated, he mused out loud, while stroking Adraks chocobos neck in effort to make the stout bird to settle down.

Too complicated? familiar voice asked from behind him, and glancing backwards, Harry saw the hooded boy there.

Nothing wrong with that, the wizard assured, patting the chocobo again before turning to face the boy. Have you been following me? he asked. Because Ive have had this annoying feeling of someone staring at my neck all day. Its starting to freak me out a bit.

No, the boy shook his head, giving him a look. Maybe it is a fiend, he suggested before asking, Wasnt things like this in your world? Was your magic different?

Harry shrugged. My world lived by a simpler method, at least as far as it came to life and death, but who knows if it was better. The efforts people went through in order to live after death, they werent pretty.

Did you? the boy asked.

Sighing, Harry shook his head, crouching down beside the kid. I lusted for life, he answered, leaning his elbows to his knees. Too much to let go. I remained as a ghost, nothing but a mirage of what I used to be, a memory if even that. What I am now is just fraction of what I used to be - the rest of me went on. He shrugged his shoulders. He had no illusions of being whole - no ghost was. Its funny how here its backwards - it takes effort to go, rather than to stay.

Yes, the boy agreed. It makes this world strong. And weak.

Harry nodded, and looked towards the tents, where the other knights slept. I know about Pyreflies now, and how fiends work. Tell me. Does Sin work that way too? the high Summoners sacrificed guardian became Sin, but there was lot between a human sacrifice and great monstrosity. The overwhelming strength that terrified people, it had to be more than that.

In a manner of speaking. Like fiends and like the Aeons, the shell that is Sin is formed from Pyreflies, the boy answered, bowing his head a little. That is part of the reason why it kills people - it gains strength from the Pyreflies people become, it regenerates like that. But it is only the shell, and it changes. The inside of it, that stays the same, even when it changes.

The Aeons are formed from Pyreflies too? Harry asked, frowning. It was like the whole world was full of necromancy - like it was made from it.

Yes. That is the power of the Fayth, of the Summoners - that is what summoning is. The Fayth give the shape and the form, but what makes it is the Pyreflies wandering this world. That is the essence of Aeons. That is why only Summoners can Send - because they have the power to command the Pyreflies.

Harry shook his head, looking away. It was all getting a bit twisted. He had thought that Aeons were actual creatures summoned from somewhere. But they were more like transfigured souls? As was Sin - or its shell anyway, whatever that meant.

Voldemort wouldve loved this place.

You know what you people need? You need a legion of exorcists, Harry sighed, standing up and stretching his arms.

The boy turned to look at him. Exorcist? What is that?

Harry chuckled. A type of wizard - or a priest - my world had. Their job was essentially to Send dead spirits and souls to Afterlife - our version of Farplane. Especially so when those souls were causing trouble, he explained. Pyreflies create fiends, Pyreflies form Sin, Pyreflies cause a whole lot of trouble getting rid of them seems like the place to start, in the attempt of saving this world. You want to take someone down, attack their food supply. It definitely worked in Earth.

The boy was quiet for a moment. Do you want the ability to Send? he asked - and he almost sounded hopeful.

Not, if it includes praying, or summoning, Harry laughed, shaking his head. But its a thought to consider. How does the ability to Send work, anyway?

The ghostly boy considered it for a moment. Summoners naturally attract Pyreflies, because of their connection and abilities, he said after a moment. Sending essentially lures the Pyreflies to gather even more and then the Summoner charms them to do what they wish. The Summoner commands them to move on, and the charmed Pyreflies do as they are ordered, using the Summoners power as a gateway He trailed away and then sighed. It doesnt always work. Peoples will to hang onto life is strong. Some always escape.

Harry chuckled. Spira had more issues than the time magazine had had. We got our work cut out for us, dont we? he mused, stretching his arms again and then crossing his fingers behind his neck. Good, he murmured. One wouldnt want things to be boring.

After a day or so spent wandering around the maze of Macalania woods, they made it to the Thunder Plains. It was, Harry decided, either his favourite or least favourite place in Spira so far. It didnt have the aesthetic beauty of Bevelle or Macalanias various parts, and seemed to be dark grey and murky everywhere but it was so exciting. The dark area of the plains had seemingly eternal layer of thunder clouds over it and lightning struck nearly constantly and, if you stood still a little too long, it struck you.

And wearing armour well, that only made things more interesting.

Okay. We will cross over the plains as fast as we can. The lightning here is weak and wont kill you even if you get struck a dozen times in a row, but it will strain the chocobos, so try and avoid getting hit, Adrak said. Now, we aim for the Travel Agency and we will do it as fast as possible. Lets move out.

And then they ran, with lightning dramatically flashing at all sides. Though the rain was awful and the place was fairly unpleasant to look at, the chance to shake off the stiffness build in Macalania woods winding roads was definitely welcome. Even Sol seemed to brighten up, even though it took no longer than half an hour for the poor bird to get nearly soaked in the rain.

Even whilst squeezing all the speed out of their birds they possibly could, they still didnt avoid getting hit. Metryn was the first to get struck, and though judging by the way the man and his chocobo just shook it off, he had experienced it before. The novice who got hit next had a little harder time, especially since his chocobo nearly panicked. Then it seemed that the clouds had decided it was open season on Chocobo Knights, and it got easier to count who hadnt gotten struck.

Damn it, Harry hissed, the second time he got hit. It wasnt bad - he had gotten worse shocks in magic duels - but the way his armour rattled was a new and rather annoying thing. Sol, who ruffled her feathers and let out a irritated warks seemed to agree.

Who gets hit the most will buy everyone drinks at the agency! someone in the side decided, and the knights got a new motivation to avoid getting struck - no one wanted to be in charge of paying for some dozen knights boozing.

By the time they made it to the travel agency, the only ones not struck were Tar and Adark, and everyone else had suffered stings from left and right. Harry himself had been struck some four times, and Sol did not seem too happy about it - she was starting to look like a bright, wet puffball, with her feathers standing up.

Tend to your birds, Adrak ordered, as they made their way straight to the stables. Ill settle our accommodations.

Take some special care, Metryn added. Theyre going to need some work before they can relax after all that - and theyll need their rest tonight. Theres more to where that came from tomorrow, after all.

Harry took heed of the mans words, and spent good hour brushing and stroking Sol into better mood, before spreading a blanket over her back and leaving her to her dinner. When he entered the common rooms of the agency, the most of the other knights were already eating.

We should reach Guadosalam around afternoon tomorrow, so we wont be staying the night, Adrak was saying, as he sat down. We will take a couple of hours there, so that I can pay our respects to Maester Jyscal if he is present and that everyone can visit the Farplane, but thats the only time we can spare. I want to reach Moonflow before the night.

Harry blinked and glanced up. Visit the Farplane? He glanced at the others, but no one seemed to think there was anything unusual about the sentence, so he hurriedly turned his attention to

the food instead, even whole his mind raced. There was a way to visit the Farplane in this Guadosalam place? The hell?

He needed a guidebook to this world, pronto.

After a night spent listening and counting the lightning strikes, the Chocobo Knights embarked once more, making haste again in order to avoid getting hit and, maybe, avoid getting too wet in the mean while. It was a more or less useless attempt, though, as the rain was persistent and somehow got inside their helmets and rained down the gapes between their armour plates, until the were soaked through.

Im almost getting used to being wet, Harry mused. Maybe I can now pursue my lifelong dream of forever smelling like a wet dog.

Id say were all more or less there already, another knight sighed, and they drudged on, wet and sullen, which the gloomy atmosphere of the Plains did little to alleviate. The only thing that made the journey seem worth it at all to the knights seemed to ray of hope in the distance, named Guadosalam.

Few hours into the riding, Harry even begun figuring out why. Not only did the Thunder Plains apparently end just before Guadosalam, but there was something very special in the place where the Guado lived.

I was about five, I think, when he died, one of the novices said to another, with Harry listening over the conversation while pretending to be more interested in sullenly ahead. He was a Crusader. There was some mission - I dont know what, though, it was all hushed up - where whole bunch of Crusaders died. There was a Sending ceremony, of course, but it was held in Bevelle and well, they never recovered the body.

The man smiled dryly, shaking his head. I guess Im still kind of hoping that I wont see him, in the Farplane - but in the same time I think it would help, if I did. Give me some closure.

What will you do, if he isnt there? the other novice asked quietly, leaning back in her saddle.

I dont know, look for him, maybe? Probably not. Be pretty damn pissed off, most likely, the first novice answered, sighing. Have you ever seen the Farplane? he asked, glancing at Harry.

Nope, never been below Bevelle - before now, Harry answered. Whats it like?

Ive never been there either, but they say its really beautiful. Theres water falls and flowers and Pyreflies everywhere, the novice sighed. They say its peaceful. Well see soon, I guess.

Tar, who had been listening to them from the side, snorted. The Farplanes noisy, is all it is, he answered. You know the noise Pyreflies make? Multiply that by a million and you get the Farplane. With a harrumph, he turned to the side and rode a little ahead.

Dont mind him. He has had some bad experiences with the whole thing, Metryn said from the side. Not that its my business to tell, of course.

How anyone could get anything but bad experiences while visiting a version of Afterlife, Harry didnt know. Still, it was becoming a bit clearer. He still didnt know how, but apparently there was a entrance to Farplane in Guadosalam, where people could go and see their dead loved ones, or something like that. It seemed more than a little iffy to him, but then, the only entrance to Afterlife earth had was the Archway of Death, and he definitely had some bad experiences with that.

Shaking his head, he glanced over his shoulder, trying to once more see who the bloody hell was staring at him - but once more, there was no one and nothing there. Scowling slightly he turned to look ahead again. Maybe he was getting paranoid - though how could a dead man get paranoid was anyones guess. The worst things of life had already happened to him, after all.

Like Adrak had estimated, they arrived at the end of Thunder Plains little past afternoon. At the entrance of Guadosalam, which looked interesting to say at least, like a mountain all made of roots, they were greeted by pair of Guado in wide-sleeved coats.

Greetings, the captain of the Bevelle Knights called, dismounting his bird. He bowed his head and did the hand thing, which the Guado answered in kind. And good day to you.

Same to you and welcome to Guadosalam. I am Tromell Guado, servant of Maester Jyscal and keeper of the palace here, at Guadosalam, the green haired Guado in front greeted them.

Am I right in assuming you are Captain Adrak? Your lieutenants have been through here already.

Yes, theyre travelling a bit ahead, so that we dont descend upon anyone in too big a crowd, Adrak agreed, chuckling. Is Lord Jyscal present? he asked then, turning serious. If he is, I would very much like to pay my respects to the Maester.

The green haired man nodded his head. Yes, his Grace is presently at the palace, he assured, Since we had a word of your arrival from your people, we have made ready for your arrival, Captain - if you would come this way, I can show where you can take your chocobos to rest and after that, you may meet with the Maester.

As the Chocobo Knights dismounted and followed the Guado through the cave-like entrance and into the forest-born city, Harry felt himself being stared at once more. This time, however, it wasnt by something invisible, but by the Guados, who glanced at his direction and then spoke in hushed tones to each other behind their palms. Harry looked back at them frowning. No, they werent staring at the knights in general or anyone - they were definitely staring at him and him alone.

Harry wasnt the only one who noticed - couple of knights did too, as did Tromell. As the Guado keeper gave Harry a thoughtful glance, Harry frowned back, now starting to feel more than a little freaked out. What were they all staring at - did he have something in his face? After all the rain, it wouldnt have surprised him if he had, and he certainly had smelled better but it wasnt like the other knights were in better shape.

It was especially bothersome since being stared at he couldnt really take the moment to enjoy the way Guadosalam looked - it was probably one of the more interesting places he had seen, and he barely noticed it because he was too busy trying not to feel uncomfortable as heck.

The Guado said nothing though and neither did the now curious looking knights, and soon the chocobos were taken into stables without a hitch. After Tromells assurances of it being alright, Adrak gave the knights the permission to visit the Farplane if they wished it, before turning to follow the servant towards what Harry assumed was the palace.

Captain, perhaps you would wish some of your soldiers to accompany you? Tromell suggested, giving Harry a steady look. Him, perhaps.

Harry? Adrak asked, and then frowned, giving Harry a look. Harry met it with some confusion, which only got worse when the Captains expression darkened. Alright. Harry, come with us.

Sir, Harry answered with somewhat cautious nod, feeling like a eleven year old caught smuggling a dragon. Not entirely sure what was going on but figuring it couldnt be anything good especially since the other knights suddenly were exchanging looks and some of the senior ones were frowning at the wizard - he followed behind the servant and his Captain. It was strange - and kind of exciting too, he mused and then smothered a grin while entertaining himself with the notion that the Guado wanted human sacrifices from people who crossed through their lands. Wouldnt that be something?

They made their way to the middle of the wooden city that looked almost like it had simply grown out of the forest. There was a wooden staircase there - not cut and sawed and pieced together like normal ones, no, this one was made from living wood like the rest of the place. While following Tromell and Adrak up, Harry tugged a glove off and ran his fingers over the knotty handrail at the side of the staircase. It felt interesting - like branches and roots and life.

Inside, the Guadosalam palace was pretty much the same it was on the outside - living and growing as part of the tree it looked like from the outside. It was bigger than Harry had suspected, with enormous staircases and such, and wide entrance hall with beautiful crystal floor that seemed to glow.

This way, Tromell said to Adrak, giving Harry yet another sideways look. They followed the Guado through the entrance hall and pass doors in the back into a what looked like throne room without a throne - some sort of reception area, perhaps? There were couple more Guados there, and one blue haired one who was wearing especially impressive set of wide sleeved robes with orange vest on top of them. Judging by the way Tromell immediately bowed at the man, Harry suspected the impressive looking Guado was Maester Jyscal.

Milord, I present to you Captain Adrak of the Bevelle Chocobo Knights, Tromell said. And, the servant looked at Harry. The Unsent, Harry.

Harry raised his eyebrows at that, while Adrak took half a step to the side and gave him a sharp look. Now how had Tromel known that, the wizard wondered. Or actually it hadnt been just Tromel, he mused, recalling the way the other Guados had been looking at him too, even before Tromell had. Could all Guados do that? Why hadnt the one in Macalania Temple said anything? And why hadnt the Fayth warned him?

Welcome, Captain Adrak, Jyscal said, turning to them and doing the hand gesture thing. You and your knights are most welcome.

You have my gratitude, and that of my men, Adrak nodded, bowing back and then looking at Harry again. I apologise for Harry, however. I was not aware that he was an Unsent.

That is quite alright, Jyscal said, nodding and stepping forward. Unsent rarely mention such things.

Harry huffed, placing his hands to the armoured plates at his hips. I still have ears, your Grace, and talking about people, even if theyre dead, as if theyre not present is very rude, he said, before looking at Adrak. Im sorry about fooling you, sir.

The man sighed, giving him a mild frown. Youve been dead all this time? he asked.

And a long, long while before it, sir, Harry shrugged. He had been dead probably before Adraks ancestors had learned how to utilise sharp sticks. Its not a big deal, really - there are worse things.

And there are better things. Unsent should not wander the lands unchecked as they tend to do, Jyscal said, stepping in front of them, frowning. The fact that you can, however, speaks of great conviction. The willpower required to maintain a humanoid shape is more than average person can manage. Remove your helmet, Unsent, I wish to see your face.

Shrugging his shoulders, Harry removed it, rubbing his hand over the bandages of his cheek to make sure they wouldnt slip off. Sorry about the smell, my lord, he said, tugging the helmet under his arm and running the fingers of his free hand through his hair. Leather, metal and armour oil mixed with the weather of Thunder Plains makes one heady mixture.

Adrak scoffed slightly, looking like he wanted to actually chuckle but was holding it back because of principle. Why join my knights? he asked, folding his arms.

It seemed like a thing to do, Harry asked. You were conveniently there, and motivated by the same things. I figured it would make things easier for me on the long run.

Things? What things?

Unsent can only hold onto themselves through unfinished matters, Jyscal said thoughtfully, lifting his long fingered hand and running it over his blue beard. Tasks left incomplete, missions

failed. Your conviction is strong enough for your mimicry of life to realistically react to injury, the man mused, eying the bandage. What is your mission, Unsent?

If you think thats what keeping me realistically solid, youre wrong. I hold onto life for lifes sake, Harry answered, grinning. Fighting Sin was nothing in comparison to feeling and sensing and experiencing, as motivations went.

Explain yourself, the Maester demanded.

Perhaps I can offer some explanation, a voice said somewhere behind Harry, making him frown as the feeling of being stared by invisible eyes intensified. While Jyscal jerked his head slightly, Harry glanced at Adrak, who seemed to not have heard the voice at all. Glancing over his shoulder, the wizard saw why.

It was the plainly clothed Fayth woman he had seen at Shivas Fayths side at the Macalania temple. Sir Harry, she said, nodding her head to the wizard who raised a confused eyebrow at her,

My lady, Harry answered, stepping aside to let the woman through while Adrak gave him a strange look. The wizaes didnt care though - too busy wondering what it was with Fayths and appearing behind him. Bahamuths Fayth, Shivas Fayth, and now this one. All appeared directly behind him. It was like they were trying to unnerve him. This one even had succeeded in it.

How is this? Jyscal stared, his voice wavering with surprise, before quickly snapping out of it. Leave us, he said, waving hand at the other Guado in the room. The Guado seemed familiar with such orders, as they only bowed their heads and made their way out without word of complaint or as much as a strange look, Tromell following them and leaving Harry and Adrak alone with the Fayth and Maester Jyscal.

Whats going on? the Captain of the Bevelle Knights asked.

A Fayth made her presence known, sir, Harry answered to him, shrugging his shoulders. Most people dont see them, or so Ive heard.

And you can see her? the taller knight asked dubiously. Harry just shrugged his shoulders again, before looking between the Fayth woman and Jyscal curiously. They were making what could only be called googly eyes at each other - it was kind of weird.

How can you be here? the Maester finally asked, his voice quiet.

My power differs slightly from that of the others, because my Aeon only had one Summoner - I have the power to follow, she answered, and gave Harry a look. I have followed Seymour for several years now, but when Sir Harry came to Macalania Temple and had a discussion with Shivas Fayth and she sighed and shook her head, turning to Jyscal once more. Sir Harry is performing a task for the Fayth.

Truly? Jyscal asked, looking at Harry.

I wouldnt say a task, my lord, lady - its more a favour, really, Harry answered, shaking his head and wondering. Fayth who followed High Priest Seymour? Interesting. Pity he hadnt gotten the chance to meet the guy. The Fayth did a bigger favour for me, asking me to do it, though, he added. Seeing that I got a physical form out of it.

What is the favour? Jyscal asked intently, looking between Harry and the Fayth woman while Adrak looked at Harry, frowning more with confusion than anything else. What do the Fayth want him to do?

The woman hesitated, lifting a hand to rest on Jyscals chest before looking at Harry over her shoulder. Sir Harry will defeat Sin once and for all.

Hey, all I promised was to try, Harry answered. I havent even seen the thing yet. I might not be able to do much.

The Fayth disagree. We can feel your power, the woman said, turning to Jyscal again.

The Maester was scowling. Him? An Unsent? Is he even a Summoner? Was he ever a Summoner?

No. His powers lie in other things, things we do not understand, but we can feel. In knowledge and experience and strength that overcomes the boundaries of life and death, perhaps, the Fayth said, shaking her head. Then she smiled. He has already done a favour for us, Jyscal. Because of him, Seymour has drastically altered his plans.

Jyscal drew a sharp breath - or what was sharp for a Guado, they were somewhat lethargic lot as far as Harry could tell. He has? the man asked, lifting his hand and closing it over the womans transparent one. The Maester looked like he barely dared to hope and suddenly Harry felt pretty much how Adrak mustve, hearing only part of a conversation. For for better?

Its still early, but I hope so, the woman nodded, smiling slightly. Then she shook her head and turned to Harry. Sir Harry must be allowed to make his journey, where ever it will take him. His influence over people is great and I truly believe he will be able to defeat Sin. He cannot be stopped now, so early.

If the Fayth wish it, then so be it, Jyscal nodded, giving Harry a thoughtful look. You must hold within you something special, to earn the trust of the Fayth, Sir Harry.

Just happy accident of being in the right place at the right time, sir, Harry sighed. It was Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived thing all over again. Not that he actually minded - he wouldve happily fought ten of Voldemorts, just to enjoy place as pretty as Spira. So, no Sending for me, then?

From our part no. You have an important mission to accomplish and the Guado will under no circumstances stand in your way, the Maester said, turning to the Fayth. We however cannot grant our aid in this, not openly. Even if he was chosen by you, an Unsent is an Unsent.

The Fayth woman nodded, and turned to Harry. I must return to Seymour now, she said. I wish you well, Sir Harry. You shook Seymours beliefs, for which I will be forever grateful. I did not think that it could be done, but you did. Hopefully, if you meet again, you can shake them even more.

Harry nodded, though he couldnt help but feel more than a little bit confused. As he and Jyscal watched how the Fayth faded away, he wondered when he had supposedly met this elusive Seymour. He didnt think he had, unless

Well, Sir Harry. For now you are welcome in my house - and I will inform the others not to bother you now or in the future, so as long as you keep on your chosen path, Jyscal said. I am however serious of not being able to lend you our aid. This might change in the future, but the Guados standing against the Unsent is firm. Or, as firm as the times permit.

I think I can do without help, sir, for now, Harry said, wondering what as firm as times permit was supposed to mean. Then he remembered the Captain of the Bevelle Knights, and glanced at the man guiltily.

Adrak was pinching the bridge of his nose, with a vein throbbing on his neck. He didnt look too happy - actually, he looked like he was fighting off a headache.

Harry grimaced slightly. Uh unless I will be kicked out of the Knights. Then I might need a map or something, he amended awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck. Without the Knights he would have no idea where to go. In that aspect, he was kind of lame saviour.

Lets talk about that after you explain everything to me, Adrak said a little forcefully and lowered his hand. Starting from the beginning.

That might take a while, sir, the wizard answered. Can we start from, say, a month ago? That will take a little less time to explain.

Why a month ago?

Because thats roughly how long Ive been an Unsent, Harry shrugged, crossing his hands behind his head and grinning sheepishly. Adrak faced his grin with a flat look for a long moment, before Jyscal cleared his throat.

Captain Adrak, Sir Harry, he said, making the two armoured men turn to face him. I too would like to hear the full story, unless you are in a hurry to move on. To this end, I invite you to join me for a late lunch. We can discuss everything over some food.

Adrak sighed and nodded. Thank you for your invitation, Maester Jyscal. We humbly accept.

Little while later, they were seated at the end of a long dining table, with some vegetarian dishes spread out between them. Jyscal and Adrak were both staring at Harry, who was enjoying the food for the tastes sake. I know, Unsent dont need to eat, he said, shrugging. But Unsent can still taste things, and this is good.

Im glad you approve, Jyscal said, bridging his fingers over his plate. However, you have a story to tell, Sir Harry.

Alright, my lord, Harry sighed. Party poopers. Lets start with the basics. You know that Spira is not the only planet in the universe, right? he asked, to which Adrak frowned and Jyscal nodded. Well, Im not originally from Spira. The world Im from was is called Earth - or was called, back when there were still people alive there to call it anything.

You are is this a joke? Adrak asked sharply.

No, sir, Harry snorted. Though I suppose it could make a good one. Earth and whatnot doesnt really matter, really - just the fact that we had a bit different system with our dead. Your Unsent were called ghosts on Earth and unlike your Unsent, ghosts were never physical, at the best of times they could have same effect as light breeze could on solid objects, but that was about it. Thats why no one really cared much about them, so they were left alone and no one generally tried to Send them. Ghosts were more like mirages or reflections than anything else, and those cant hurt anyone.

Fascinating, Jyscal murmured.

Confusing is what it is, Adrak answered. If youre an Unsent of another world, is that what youre saying? If so then how are you here? It doesnt make sense.

Harry shrugged motioned at himself. I was a ghost, sir, yes. And when my world died, I remained along with thousands of other ghosts. It wasnt like the eternal winter that took Earth could hurt us, the way we were, he shook his head. It just got incredibly boring, mind dulling. Nothing happened, and all there was snow and ice and little more snow to keep us company - along with each other, and that got boring after a while too.

How did your world die, Sir Harry? Jyscal asked, curiously.

There was a war, and people used weapons that did some messed up things to the atmosphere - I think the worlds axis shifted too, somewhere along the way, but Im not sure, Harry waved a hand. The world is still alive, though, but everything on the surface died - the winter lasted for too long for anything to survive.

If this is all true, how did you get here? Why? Adrak demanded to know.

Harry shrugged. Earth got boring, like I said. So whole bunch of us ghosts got together and we decided to leave. Space is nothing to a thing that doesnt need to breath and doesnt need warmth and what not - so we just floated away. It was a stupid idea, really - Earth had nothing on space as far as boring things go, I went mental after a while, but by that time it was too late to go back. So, I kept on floating, drifting away from earth.

And you drifted here, Jyscal nodded, leaning back in his chair. It must have taken a long time.

Tens of thousands of years, probably. I slept through lot of it and space does have some cool things in it, so it wasnt as bad as it couldve been - but it was still pretty bad, Harry shrugged. I probably wouldve kept on floating on, if the Fayth of Bahamut hadnt caught me just above this world.

And then he asked you to do a favour for him? Adrak asked, folding his arms. Why you? If you ghosts really are the way you say they are, then what use couldve you been?

I dont know why he asked me. I figured it was because I wasnt from Spira - maybe he thought if would give me an edge, I dont know, Harry answered. Besides, just falling down to Spira made me an Unsent, gave me an body. Your world is very hospitable when it comes to dead people.

The Pyreflies are powerful. They can give form to mere straying thoughts, if the thoughts are strong enough, Jyscal agreed. It is as fortunate, as it is unfortunate.

Adrak hummed, eying Harry with a frown. Why join the Knights? he finally asked.

It seemed useful, sir, Harry answered, shrugging his shoulders once more. He was doing it a lot but then, the sound his armour made when he did it was pretty cool. In annoying scratching metal sort of way. I fell to the Calm Lands first and when I made it to the Calm Lands store and the salesperson told me about you guys I figured it was worth checking it out. And with Sol, my chocobo, following me so happily, it seemed like fate.

The wizard grinned. I stayed for the armour, though, he admitted, lifting his hands and grinning at his gauntlets. I mean a knight. You have no idea how cool this is for me.

The Captain of the Bevelle Knights harrumphed, but he looked a little less severe now. He smothered the amusement under a frown, eying Harry seriously. What is the favour the Fayth asked of you? he asked then.

I thought that would be a bit obvious by now, sir. They want me to defeat Sin, Harry said, and then smiled crookedly at the way the other knight stared at him incredulously. Yeah, I know, it seems like longest shot ever, and Im not even Summoner or anything. But I did promise to try. And since you Chocobo Knights fight Sin, well. It seemed easiest to go with you guys.

This is ridiculous. An Unsent, from another world, fighting Sin ludicrous, the Captain murmured, pushing his chair back and standing up so that he could pace along the length of the room. What are the Fayth thinking?

Dont ask me, Harry shrugged. Mind reading was never art I managed to master. I guess they feel a bit of what I used to be when I was alive, that might explain a thing or two, he mused. When Jyscal gave him a curious look, he shrugged his shoulder. I was a wizard. Kind of like your mage, except I was born as one.

Thats where your magic comes from? Adrak asked, turning to Harry. I thought there was something strange about it. Your spells are strange.

They work, Harry answered calmly. Not as well as they used to - the naginata I use has nothing on the focuses I used back on Earth - but they still work. Thats enough for me.

Adrak hummed and continued pacing for a while, before stopping. This explains a few things, he finally admitted. There was something strange about things you didnt know. Fiends and temples and such. Your world doesnt have them, does it?

No, it didnt. Well, something like them, but not like you do, Harry agreed. Fayth, Aeons, Pyreflies all new stuff for me, sir.

The captain nodded, frowning. Then he glanced at a clock on a near by wall and sighed. Its soon time for us to get going, he mused and frowned at Harry. I want to speak to you in private before we join the other knights.

So, I will be allowed to stay with them? Harry asked hopefully.

Maybe. I need to think this through and right now I cannot think anything straight, Adrak sighed and turned to Jyscal. My lord, I thank you for your hospitality and for informing me about

Harrys Unsent state. This has brought up a lot of questions for me, but I am better off knowing, than remaining in the dark.

You are most welcome, the Maester nodded. Before you go, however, I would wish to exchange a few words in private with Sir Harry. It has to do with a personal matter, he said, placing his eating utensils down. If you do not mind, Captain.

Adrak hesitated before nodding. As you wish, lord Maester. I will be waiting in the hall, he said, and bowed his head, doing the hand gesture. He sent another glance at Harry, before collecting his helmet and walking away.

Ive been curious about that, but I havent been able to ask without giving my ignorance away. What is that thing people do when they bow, sir? Harry asked, mimicking the weird gesture.

It is the Prayer. It is a symbol of respect and unity, a way of people to show that they think themselves connected to others through the bonds born living in same circumstances, Jyscal explained. Under the sky and under the threat of Sin, were all united.

I see, Harry mused, leaning back. Okay, Ill keep that in mind. What did you want to talk to me about, my lord?

The Maester was quiet for a moment, before leaning forward a bit. She, the Fayth of before she said you have affected Seymours plans. I wish to know what you said to my son.

Your son? Harry asked frowning. Then his eyebrows lifted up, as he eyed the mans blue, branch like locks of hair. Blue. Just like the hair of the beautiful, ferocious man back in Macalania temple. That was High Priest Seymour? he asked with surprise and then, Hes your son?

Jyscal nodded, frowning slightly. You did not know?

Theres little I can ask without sounding like a fool, sir, Harry shrugged awkwardly. So I dont. I met a man with blue hair like yours, but I didnt realise he was a Guado. He didnt, I mean, aside from the hair, he looked like human. And I didnt know he was the High Priest, I thought he was a Summoner at first, seeing that he could see the Fayth I was talking with.

Seymour is a Summoner, and yes, he is my son. The Fayth you saw before, she was my wife, Jyscal sighed, looking down for a moment. Our union was my foolishly nave and optimistic attempt to connect the Guado and the humans closer together, by siring a half blooded son. It did not turn that way. Seymour

Harry frowned as the man sighed. So. The beautiful man was not only High Priest Seymour, but a Maesters Son, and a Summoner - and his mother was a Fayth. And, what had the woman said, that her Aeon only had one Summoner? Sir, the wizard said. Could you start from the beginning? This doesnt seem like something I should get misconceptions of.

Yes. Of course. The truth, Jyscal sighed, and covered his eyes with his hands for a moment. Then he started, I married Seymours mother, a human woman, not out of love, but foolish hope. It was soon after I had managed to bring my people to the faith of Yevon, managed to connect them to the wider Spira. I thought that as a son of both Guado and the Humans, Seymour would have unique perspective on both races and that one day he would take over my place as the Maester, and bring our people fully to light. As a race, we Guado are small and fading and hope of a better future is something we desperately need.

The man sighed again. Of course, it did not turn out that way. My choice to marry a human was never approved by my fellow Guado and Seymours birth was not the happy event I wished it to be. Not only did my wife caught a terrible illness soon after the difficult labour, but Seymour was immediately cast out by the Guado and the Humans. He was called abomination, before he could even talk.

Harry frowned, folding his arms. Something mustve changed, considering that the abomination was now in charge of a temple with a Aeon in it, but he wasnt about to ask. It was always best to get a story in the proper order.

In the end, before my son was more than few months old, I was forced to send him and my wife away for their protection, and to limit the strife among my people, the Maester sighed. I sent them to the island of Baaj where they could live comfortably, but in solitude, until things changed. I had hoped that in time the relations between Guado and Human would warm enough to make people accept my wife and son, but

But? Harry asked, as the man trailed away.

But my wifes illness got worse. The first word Seymour ever sent to me, that did not go through her hands, was his demand to take her to Zanarkand. She wished to go through the rites to become a Fayth of a Aeon, but by that time she was too weak to write the letter herself, Jyscal bowed his head. I permitted it, and I sent several of the priests serving under me to

assist them on their journey. Seymour was only a child back then, only twelve years old. I do not think he ever forgave me, for allowing them to go through it.

There was a moment of silence, during which Harry closed his eyes, savouring the tale. Damn, even Spiras family drama was so fascinating. Do you know why she wanted to become a Fayth, sir? he asked, trying to picture a young Seymour in his head.

To continue being with Seymour, I imagine. Wishing that this way, Seymour could be accepted in this world, if not as a human or as a Guado, then as a Summoner, the Maester said, shaking his head. It did not turn this way - though Seymour did become the Summoner of her Aeon, of Anima, he did not receive any pleasure from it. Despite my assurances that he had a place here, he took her statue, and returned Baaj where he lived in solitude for many more years.

The Guado man sighed. So many mistakes happened there. A twelve year old with that power, that trauma - all alone where no one could see him and without no one to ease him through his mourning. Im afraid Seymour grew twisted, his views of Spira distorting with his experiences, his loneliness. Jyscal trailed away for a moment before continuing. When I called him back and demanded that he ordained as a priest in Macalania temple, I think it was already too late. He had already made his dark plans.

Harry nodded slowly. He had glimpsed those plans, hadnt he? He frowned, thinking back to the beautiful blue haired man who had scratched him. There had been no fire in the mans eyes, only frosty determination. Do you know what he planned? the wizard asked. The Fayth had made it sound like she at least knew, but

I believe that for a while now, he has plotted my death, Jyscal admitted. Should I die, Seymour would take my place as one of the Maesters - and then he would have all the power he needs to do whatever it is that he plans. I try not to imagine it usually, but you can see it in his eyes. He wishes nothing but death. For himself - and for everyone else. This, he thinks, will free Spira from the agony of Sin, and from the sorrow it sows behind it.

How gloomy. Harry rocked back in his chair thoughtfully. Sounds like your son needs to learn to enjoy life, sir, he mused.

Yes, Jyscal agreed, with a weak chuckle and looked up to him. I had thought changing his plans at this point would be impossible. And yet you did something. You said something to him.

Harry grinned, somewhat self-deprecatingly. I have no idea, sir. We talked about the Fayth and about Sin and about power. I told him theres no fun in getting things handed to you, though

I doubt that was it, he said, scratching the edge of his bandage. He seemed like pretty frosty guy, until the end. I riled him up a bit, and he scratched me.

Jyscals eyes widened slightly. Seymour scratched you? he asked incredulously. What did you do?

Harry laughed. I wanted to see if his hair was natural, he shrugged, and swung his chair straight again, the legs of it impacting the crystalline floor with a bang. He grinned at the memory. I dont think he was expecting that. I even managed to make him blush.

For a moment the Maester just stared at him, looking like he was between being outraged and amused. Finally he shook his head. Seymour has always led a withdrawn life. I suspect after his mother, no one has had much cause to touch him, he mused, eying Harry thoughtfully. Why would you ever Seymour is, he has always been though a -

Abomination? Harry asked, shaking his head. Your son is the most beautiful creature Ive seen this world. I told him as much. He thought I was mad. Chuckling, the wizard shook his head and stood up. If I see him again, I will try rile him up again. Maybe I will be able to shake his plans a little more, who knows. But I cant promise anything. Its pretty unlikely we run into each other again.

If you could I would be grateful. Seymour has greatness in him, but it is smothered under his darkness, Jyscal said, standing up as well. I think I now see what the Fayth see in you, Sir Harry. You are different.

Thats a way of putting it, sir, Harry chuckled. Does this mean I have your permission to mess around with your son, my lord? he asked, amused beyond belief. Getting a mans permission to seriously screw around with the mans son, that was something new. I might be bad influence.

Jyscal chuckled tiredly. I think Seymour has had all the bad influence one can has, he said. Anything from here on can only be called an improvement. So yes. You have my permission.

Harry blinked with surprise, not having been too serious. Now, though, now it sounded like he had been just given Seymours hand in marriage. Whoa, he said softly and then grinned. Thank you sir. If I get the chance, I will make the most of it, he said, and then bowed his head. It was a pleasure meeting you, my lord.

You too, Sir Harry. I wish you all the luck upon Spira in your task - in all your tasks, the Maester said, and performed the Prayer smoothly.

Thanks, Harry nodded, before remembering something. Before we go, though, theres something I want to know. There was a Guado at the Macalania temple, but he didnt seem to notice me at all. If he did, he certainly didnt say anything about it.

Jyscal smiled. We Guado do have keen senses when it comes to Farplane, but they are not infallible. In presence of such power as that of a Fayth, our powers become overwhelmed. It is most likely what kept Seymour from recognising your existence.

Harry nodded slowly. So, in temples and near Fayths, he was, hm, unnoticeable as an Unsent? That was good to know.

Now, come, the Maester said, motioning towards the door. I will escort you out.

After they had said their goodbyes to Maester Jyscal, with Harry once more promising to do what he was supposedly tasked to do, and Jyscal assuring that no Guado would stand in his way, Adrak turned to lead Harry into a solitary corner of Guadosalam.

Taking into the count what Ive heard so far, what Ive witnessed the captain started, sighing. I have mixed feelings about this, but as you have a Maesters approval, I cant but permit you to continue in the Knights.

Sure you can, sir, Harry disagreed with a smile, just rocking back and forth on the heels of his feet as the man frowned at him. I joined the knights out of whim, the wizard admitted. Sure, I like the chocobo knights, I like the whole lot of you, and staying with you will be easier than going at this by myself. You know where to go while I have no idea, and you have information I havent, so thats handy. But if you kick me out, Ill probably figure another way.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. He probably would get some help from the Guado - at least they would be able to point him to the right way. As Unsent, he didnt really need the comforts offered by the Knights either - he could go without eating and sleeping, so that would be fine. All he would really lose was all the cool gear. So dont fight your morals on count of

that, he said. If you cant stomach seeing an Unsent on your troops, its okay, sir. Just tell me to go, and Ill be off.

So easy? Adrak asked, sighing. You are a strange man, Harry. Shaking his head, the captain stepped closer to the baluster that separated the walkway they were standing on from good twenty-foot drop to the lower levels of the wooden city.

It is strange to think it now, but for all my life I have lived in the knowledge that Sin can only be defeated by a Summoner, the Captain said slowly. Even when I joined the Bevelle knights, even when I took over as the Captain I maintained that belief.

Harry frowned. That seemed a bit strange, considering that the Chocobo Knights were supposed to fight Sin. So you dont think I can do it either, the wizard asked, crossing his hands behind his neck. Thats okay.

Adrak frowned, folding his arms and for a while saying nothing. I have seen Sin seven times in my life - mostly passing, twice in hopeless battle me and my men escaped only by luck, he admitted. It is bigger than I can comprehend. Bigger than any strength I could muster to fight it. One man could never face such a force and win. Unless that one man was a Summoner, with the Final Aeon at his side.

The man turned to Harry. You are not Summoner. So what makes you suitable to become the one chosen for this task?

Harrys casual smile faded away, and for a moment he just looked into Adraks eyes. The man was seriously asking it from him - not like Seymour had, with disbelief, not like Jyscal had, unable to even hope. The captain was asking it from the bottom of his heart.

Suitable? Who knows. Maybe nothing. But in my world, I lived to be hundred and twenty seven years old, the wizard said, looking away. In Spira he didnt look like it - he definitely didnt feel like it, with his new Pyrefly-born body being suitably fit and under thirty, but he had been old. And after that I remained as a ghost for hundreds of years, before Earth slumbered away. Its a long time to learn a trick or two.

But not enough to save your world? Adrak challenged.

Harry chuckled. There was little point, in the end, he murmured, thinking back. The final years of humanity as he had known hadnt been pretty. Sure, he couldve tried to offer them the

means to survive, but by that time well. The ones that wouldve accepted hadnt deserved it, and those that wouldve hadnt felt themselves deserving, not after all the devastation. In the end, humanity had faded away with whimpers, but it had gone away fairly peacefully, majority of it accepting its fate.

Shaking his head, the wizard turned to look at Guadosalam. Spira isnt like Earth, anyway. In a way, the people of my planet deserved what they got. Considering that Sin has been plaguing you for thousand years, I think its save to bet that if there ever was a person responsible for its existencethat person is long gone. Even if I hadnt already fallen in love with this world, that would make you easily worth saving.

Sin is the embodiment of our crimes and greed, the punishment for our vanity, Adrak said. It sounded like a quote. We are all responsible.

If thats it, then why only thousand years? Sin shouldve been there since the dawn of your selfawareness, not just this small moment in time, if it was the embodiment of your sins, Harry shook his head.

It came, when the machina wars got out of hand, Adrak said and made a thoughtful sound. Much like in your world, in Spira there was time when the people had enough power to destroy this world. They nearly did - before Sin came, and destroyed all the machina cities as punishment for their greed.

Harry shrugged - though it was interesting. No one had yet to mention a war. It doesnt really matter to me what you think - Ive never believed in the concept of sins in any case, he said. If there was a war, and Sin had appeared in middle of it - or at the end of it then maybe the monstrosity was a Spiras version of a doomsday device, someones last desperate means to fight in the war. Doomsday device that had gotten out of hand.

Next time he saw Bahamuts Fayth, he would need to ask about that.

The captain eyed him for a moment. You dont believe in Yevon, he said suddenly, making it sound like revelation.

Faith and religion and whatnot, theyve never been my thing, Harry agreed, and glanced at the man. Is that a problem?

Adrak scoffed, looking away. Your very existence is a problem, he said. A Unsent, non Summoner, someone not even from this world defeat Sin? I cant wrap my head around it. It seems utterly absurd. After a moment of tense silence, the Captain sighed. But if there is even the slightest chance that you could be the one to end Sins circle of rebirths forever, the one to bring eternal Calm it is not something I can ignore.

With a shake of his head, Adrak lifted his helmet and put it on, bringing the visor down. You can remain within the Knights, and you have my aid. But know that I dont approve any of this.

Yes, sir. I will remember that, Harry answered, and leaned back against the wooden baluster while the captain walked off, back straight and posture stiff. Shaking his head, Harry turned his gaze first to the ground and then to the wooden city around them. Adrak was a good man, stout in his believes. Even if it meant that the man loathed his very existence, Harry could respect that.

I guess in this world Im heathen of the worst sort, he mused, smiling slightly before turning to lean his elbows to the baluster and leaning forward for a better look. Guadosalam was a fascinating place. Before Adrak called the knights together for their departure, he would enjoy the sight of it.

Harry wasnt entirely sure what Adrak told the other knights about the way the Guado had reacted to Harry, but he mustve said something since the strange and somewhat dark looks Harry had gotten before had evaporated. As they left the wooden city, Harry wondered about that, and about the Guado in general. It seemed that they all had the power to sense an Unsent - and that everyone knew it. Something to do with the entrance to the Farplane they had, maybe? It didnt really matter as such, but it was interesting.

Harry, to the front with me, Adrak called from the front, as they mounted their chocobos in the crystalline clearing just beyond the southern entrance of Guadosalam. Frowning, Harry mounted Sol and hurried to the captains side. I havent informed anyone of what I have found out, the Captain said, as they rode ahead and slightly out of the hearing range of everyone else.

Thank you, sir, Harry nodded.

There are some issues we need to address, however, before we join our brothers from Djose and Miihen highroad, Adrak continued. Namely, your ignorance about Spira. If you wish to blend in and not be discovered, you need to stop asking strange questions. Also, there is

your magic. While effective, it is not the same as the magic used by the mages of this world, and thus will stand out to anyone who has little more experience with such matters.

Alright, Harry said slowly. You have point there, sir. But what can I do about that - theres no one among the knights to teach me the magic of Spira.

No, there isnt, Adrak agreed. Therefore, once we make it to Miihen highroad, I suggest you take some time to visit Luca. The libraries there should give you some idea about how to proceed there. And until then, you will refrain from using magic, unless lives depend on it. In the mean while, I will do what I can to fill the holes in your understanding of Spira.

That sounds like a plan, the wizard nodded, and leaned back a bit in his saddle. So. What will we start with?

As it seems the main concern of your mission lets start with Sin.

Had Harry known that lecturing was one of Adraks many hidden talents, he wouldve declined the offer. What followed was indeed that, a lecture - if not an actual preach - about Sin, and how the beast had supposedly came to be. There was lot said about arrogance of humans and how they had tried to defy natures laws by their machine and how Sin was their punishment. If Harry hadnt known at least a little about the man, he wouldve thought that Adrak was intentionally trying to rot his head with the greed and vanity and arrogance talk as revenge for his Unsent-heathenish ways.

What followed, though, was more interesting. Harry knew a little about Yunalesca, but not all, for one he hadnt known about Zaon, her Guardian and husband, who had helped her defeat Sin - and became the Second Sin, most likely, though Adrak didnt know that. He also hadnt known about the way summoning had changed along the way, because in the beginning there hadnt been so many Fayths, or how the Pilgrimages of Summoners and the Yevonite religion had blended together, and how the temples originally had had nothing to do with the Yevonite religion but had been sort of mixed into it later on, and so forth.

How Adrak could believe in the Yevon religion even after specifically explaining how the thing had transformed along the years and more or less amalgamated bits and pieces of other religions to itself, Harry didnt know. It didnt really matter at this point either, and it wasnt Harrys job to tell people what to believe and what not to. All he had to do was listen and remember and figure the best ways to untangle the whole mess.

The more he heard about the Yevonite religion, the summoning and Sin, the more he realised that to defeat one, he would have to destroy it all. Summoning was integral part of Sin, and

Yevonite religion revolved around them both, so, if he defeated Sin everything else would most likely fall as well, like house of cards. It was still a bit early to think that, he still havent even seen Sin after all, but still.

The whole mess was bigger than he had originally assumed. Not just a monster, but religion and art of magic and believes of entire societies and way of life for millions of people. And he had to tackle it all.

What fun.

As Adrak moved onto explain more about the Yevonites and about the temples and whatnot, they soon arrived at Moonflow, which turned out to be a large, slowly drifting river. It was yet another of those beautiful Spira things, Harry also found, as they stopped at the river bank to rest for a moment. The entire river was covered by beautiful purple lilies - Moonlilies, apparently - and above them flickered dozens of Pyreflies.

Well be following the river thorough the evening and until the night, so well be seeing the Pyreflies gather, Adrak said, while giving his bird a light brushing. They do it every night especially so during full moon.

Its pretty, Harry answered with a sigh and a smile, crouching down at the waters edge and soaking his fingers in the water. It was warm. Your entire world is so pretty. Aside from the Thunder Plains, I have yet to see an average looking spot in this place. Or an ugly one.

Im glad you appreciate it, the Captain answered with a frown. You really like this world, dont you?

I do, Harry agreed. Spiras been incredibly hospitable. And it is beautiful, he said, reaching out and snapping the stem of one of the lilies, drawing the flower into his hand. Plus, after who knows how long in space its nice to just experience things again. Spira gave me that, and Im never going to forget it.

The captain hummed slightly before putting his brush away. I suppose theres something in that, that makes you suitable, he mused. We people of Spira appreciate our world. But, deep inside I think we all also hate it. Our love, for as long as Sin remains, will never be unconditional or untainted by sorrow.

Harry shrugged. Cant blame you for that. Living in constant fear would make it hard for me too. Being Unsent eases the strain somewhat, I suppose, he said and stood up. Grinning, he attached the Moonlily to the chest of his armour. It smelled wonderful. Though I suppose thats not a state of existence people would wish to share.

Indeed, Adrak mused and glanced at the other knights, who were tending to their birds a little further away. Five minutes, and then well move out. Well be camping at the crossing, and I want to make it there before sundown, he called to the knights, who answered in affirmative before turning to quickly finish their tasks.

In your world, what did you do? There was no Sin to fight there, so I imagine life was easier, Adrak assumed.

In a way yes, in a way no. The thing about great monsters like Sin is that they unite people everyone shares the same opponent so everyone has something in common, something important, Harry said and sighed. Earth didnt have that, so people were always fractured. Into nations and sets of beliefs and whatnot. And always there was someone out there trying to exploit this and that flaw in the system - or just simply exploit those around them.

Shaking his head he turned to Sol who was finished eating her greens, and mounted the bird. I was a law enforcement officer for about twenty years, politician for another thirty, and then I became a trainer, a teacher, he said. And then I became a bartender. It was all bit convoluted really.

A bartender, Adrak asked slowly.

Yes. Best way to retire really, tending a bar, Harry grinned. What about you? What made you join the chocobo knights?

Adrak frowned, before lifting himself up to his chocobos saddle. Hopelessness, he answered after a moment. My wife died on the Calm Lands, attacked by fiends. The Crusaders stationed there delivered the word of her death to me, but never managed to retrieve her remains for burial or Sending. I wanted to ensure it would never happen to anyone else.

The man shook his head. I thought of joining the Crusaders first. At that time the Bevelle Chocobo Knights were a small organisation, they only had twenty members and their duties among the knights were light - most had jobs and being part of the knights was more of a hobby for them, for the few chocobo enthusiasts in Bevelle. The Crusaders on other hand were two thousand strong and ever growing, not to mention that they functioned under and with the churchs funding.

What made you join the Knights instead?

Adrak smiled, snorting softly. Cowardice, he admitted. Crusaders are a busy organisation. They travel and they fight Sin - and they do it often. I wanted to help people, but to be honest I did not want to fight Sin. Bevelle Chocobo knights on other hand only patrolled the Calm Lands, and that was about all they did at the time. That was what I wanted.

Harry raised his eyebrows. After having seen the man in battle and heard his speeches about Sin it was hard to believe that the man had joined the knights out of cowardice. Especially since it was apparently Adraks doing that the Bevelle Knights were so strong now. I guess something changed.

Hm. I saw the potential in the Chocobo knights, Adrak agreed. I met with Metryn, and Tar - the oldest members of the knights. They had so many great plans, for armour and gear, and for manoeuvres that took the advantage of a chocobos speed, strength and agility. I wanted to see them come into fruition. When the previous captain retired due to age, and I was voted to take over, I did my best to see my Chocobo Knights achieve that efficiency. And they did.

Together they watched as the other knights mounted. They were, even after all the time spent among them, impressive sight to Harry. Armoured and sturdy, moving into easy formation immediately. The formation training shone through in every efficient move, as did the training to take all the benefit out of their gear. With shields and lances and spears shining in sunlight, they looked like a force to be reckoned with.

You said youve seen Sin before. What was it like? Harry asked thoughtfully, wondering how they fared against it.

The couple of times Ive fought Sin was utterly hopeless, like fighting a mountain. Mostly we fought against Sin spawns than the beast, but fighting Sin is always about fighting the things it leaves behind. Only Summoners can fight Sin itself, Adrak said. Thinking back to those desperate battles this operation will be the first time we will be truly fighting it.

Harry nodded, and then watched thoughtfully while Adrak ordered the knights to move out.

That night they spend in the banks of the Moonflow river, watching how the Pyreflies gathered. It was beautiful sight, the whole river seemed to shine and glimmer with the light of the ethereal fires, and watching it Harry could almost forget that he was essentially watching lost souls.

While the other knights made a fire and dined, he stepped to the edge of water, wondering why no one had ever performed a Sending there. With singe glance he could see some half-hundred Pyreflies, and he was seeing, what, a fraction of a percentage of the rivers entire length? How many Pyreflies were there dancing there, hundreds, thousands?

This world seriously needs some exorcists, he mused, sitting down to the shoreline and throwing a rock into the water. Only the water was disturbed - the pyreflies didnt even seem to notice.

Will you become one? a familiar voice asked, and sighing Harry stopped himself from glancing behind his shoulder. If the Fayth insisted appearing where he couldnt see the boy, then the boy could just enjoy not having eye contact.

Maybe later. Right now I still have things to figure out, the wizard answered. Tell me about Sin and Yevon. It all ties together somehow, doesnt it?

The boy was quiet for a moment, before saying, Yevon is the power that recreates Sin, he said after a moment. You know of the war between Bevelle and Zanarkand, correct?

I heard there was a war, but thats it, Harry answered, frowning. I didnt know it was between those two.

It was. The arts of summoning came from Zanarkand originally, while Bevelle was known for its machina, the Fayth said. They were both powerful, and wanted to become even more so. Who knows which side started the war, or what was the original spark, but it raged on ferociously.

The boy shifted closer, and stepped on top of the water. Harry glanced at him curiously, as the boy reached out his transparent hand to touch the Pyreflies. The war was brutal, but though Zanarkand fought with all it had, Bevelles machine had advantages Zanarkand lacked. So, Zanarkand eventually begun loosing and the citys destruction was imminent. It was then that Zanarkands leader, Yu Yevon, came up with the desperate final plan, and created Sin.

Harry frowned. And Yu Yevon was a man? he asked.

A man, a mage, a powerful Summoner. A desperate warrior, fighting a loosing war. He used the surviving people of Zanarkand to craft an armour for himself, and that armour is Sin, the

Fayth said quietly. But he could not control it, and the weapon he had poised at Bevelle attacked Zanarkand instead.

Oh, yikes, Harry muttered. Talk about falling on your own sword.

We Fayth could not let the city go afterwards, and so we begun to dream of Zanarkand as we remember it. In the mean while, Yu Yevons daughter, Yunalesca, took upon herself to defeat the monster her father had created. She did it, at the cost of the life of her husband, Zaon, and herself. The original Sin was destroyed by the mighty Aeon Zaon became, but the power of Yu Yevons creation was relentless - power of Yu Yevons own desire to remain was overwhelming. And so it took the first Final Aeon, and so the Second Sin was created.

And it goes on and on from there. Yunalesca is a Unsent, I suppose? Harry asked, recalling what Shivas Fayth had told him.

That she is. She creates the Final Aeon, the Aeon and Sin fight, and the Aeon becomes Sin after its victory, the Fayth sighed. And in the mean while we Fayth dream and dream and dream.

Harry nodded, wondering. You said that this world was plagued by a dream, he said, thinking back. Was that the dream you were talking about, you dreaming of Zanarkand?

That, and Yu Yevons dream too. Only his is now a nightmare, and he cant see beyond it, the Fayth shook his head. We hold onto our Zanarkand, because it is all we can do. It distracts us and Sin draws power from it. It is a vicious circle.

Hm. I guess, Harry answered, and shook his head. How does the Yevonite religion fit in all this? he asked. If Yu Yevon is Sin

It was Bevelles attempt to appease Yu Yevon. It grew beyond it in time, and now it is a machina onto itself, unable to cease functioning. Much like Sin. The Fayth stepped back to the shore, shaking his head. You were discovered, he said suddenly.

Yeah, apparently Guado can sense these things - which is something I wouldve liked to know before hand, Harry answered, giving him a look.

Im sorry. We thought we had succeeded in hiding you, but the power of the Guado is greatest in Guadosalam - they, like Summoners, can draw strength from Farplane and Pyreflies, and Guadosalam is connected to them intimately, the Fayth said. We will take further steps.

Like what? Harry asked, frowning.

There are ways through which we can intensify your life, and mask your death, the Fayth admitted. We would make you alive again, but we do not have that kind of power.

Probably better you dont, being dead gives me a bit of an advantage, Harry shook his head and stood up. If you can mask me, Id appreciate it. It couldve been worse than it was, being discovered, but Id prefer it didnt happen again. Also, if you can do something about the whole Sending thing, Id appreciate that too.

Well do what we can, the Fayth promised. Sleep tonight. It will make it easier for us.

Harry nodded and watched as the Fayth faded away. He then cast a last look at the glowing Moonflow, before turning to head back to the camp.

Good talk? Adrak asked as he approached the man.

Illuminating, sir. Ill try to be more inconspicuous next time, Harry answered. I need to get some sleep. Do you need me for anything?

Adrak shook his head and motioned at his own tent. Go, he said, and little awkwardly Harry did. Behind him he could heat Metryn and Tar asking something from Adrak - most likely what was going on. Adrak was giving him some special treatment, Harry knew, and after Guadosalam people couldnt help but notice, regardless of what the Captain had said to them.

Well, hed let Adrak handle it now, he mused while starting to loosen the straps of his armour. He would probably be cornered about it eventually, but right now he had some Zs to catch.

Okay. This is interesting, Harry murmured, after finding himself staring at a magnificent technological city that put the enormous muggle cities of Earth in shame. Sleep black metal and glowing lights - and water just about everywhere, raining down like waterfalls from the buildings, and floating in the air, defying gravity. Here and there, it even formed the walkways and held the buildings up.

This is Zanarkand, the boy Fayths voice spoke from behind him, making Harry sigh with slight irritation. As we remember it, in any case, but weve held onto our memories as well as we have been able to.

It was incredible, Harry said, crossing his fingers behind his head and then noticing that he was wearing his gauntlets. Glancing down he saw that he was in full armour. Interesting. So, is this my dream or is this your dream or are we somewhere in between?

This is our dream. We brought you here because it will make things easier. And I wanted you to see him.

Harry frowned slightly and then turned around, to see that he wasnt standing on a bridge of some sort after all, but that he was actually on a boat - and he wasnt alone. There was a crowd of people there, mostly teenage girls and kids, who were chattering amongst themselves, giggling. Just about all of them were holding strange balls of blue and white in their hands.

Him? Harry asked after a moment, glancing down at the Fayth. No one there stood out, exactly.

Him, the Fayth nodded ahead. Looking up again, Harry saw a blonde young man coming across the ships deck, approaching the crowd. He is the son of Jetch, who is the current Sin.

Harry nodded slowly, tilting his head a little to the side and glancing the boy from head to toe. What a getup. Wait, he said. The current Sin, you mean, the Guardian of High Summoner Braska? But I thought this was a dream.

The Fayth sighed, shaking his head. We tried, he said. Jetch was the hero of this dream Zanarkand. He was strong and proud and different. We thought we hoped that he could be the one to end the spiral. So we brought him out of the dream, and into Spira The boy shook his head. But he failed, and everything happened the way it always did.

And you think this kid will have a better chance? Harry asked, thoughtfully. What makes him special?

Like Jetch, he is a hero. And as such, he is the best formed individual of the dream, the Fayth admitted. He has strength the other dreams here lack, because we Fayth all love him the most. Like we did with Jetch.

Ah, right. Youve paid more attention to him, so hes more rounded than the rest, Harry mused, glancing at the other people on the deck. They were kind of bland feeling, in comparison to the boy. Forgettable and faint, while the kid was strong and bright. So, if I fail, its up to this kid, huh?

Or vice versa, the Fayth agreed.

Harry hummed thoughtfully and lowered his hands. This is a dream, right? he asked.

Yes.

And you create it - you can change it and transform it, right? I mean, you have to, if you brought the current Sin out of it

The Fayth frowned. What are you thinking?

I dont know, exactly, Harry admitted, stroking his fingers over his chin - the only part of his face that was in view, thanks to the visor of his helmet. But if I were you, I would buff that kid to high heavens. If I fail, hes the one who has to do it. And if Sin is as bad of a bastard I think he is, the kids gonna need all the help he can get him. So, dream up some advantages to him, give him weapons, knowledge, power. Anything.

The Fayth frowned. You have no such advantages.

Harry snorted. Thats what you think. I havent really needed to do anything yet, so havent. But really, I can create all the advantages I need - I am a wizard, you know, and we bend reality, he said, shaking his head. I suppose the kid has to have something special in him, since youre choosing him over the rest, but little bit of extra wouldnt hurt, I bet.

The ghostly boy looked away, and towards their chosen dream, while the dream stepped forward and chattered among the people on the deck. To Harry it looked a little like they were his

fans or something - which, judging by the sight of him signing the balls, was probably the truth. A sports hero, maybe?

Teach us how to blitz! a group of the dream kids demanded, making the blond hero scratch his neck awkwardly.

Hey, I got a game to play, he said, to which the kids demanded he taught them afterwards. Uh, tonight. Well

You cant tonight, the Fayth interrupted, making the blonde glance backwards at him and Harry. The teen frowned at them, and then turned back to the kids, as if seeing a slightly transparent boy and a knight on the deck of a ship in a highly technological city was nothing out of norm.

Tomorrow then, the blond promised to the kids, who thanked him by performing the Prayer on him.

You dream strange dreams, Harry noted, a little amused by the way the blonde scratched the back of his neck again, looking sheepish.

The Fayth nodded. Advantages, he murmured thoughtfully. Like what?

Something that would be, I dont know, advantageous? Harry asked, snorting. Especially against Sin.

The boy frowned and looked away. Something that is advantageous against Sin. But we do not wish him to become a Summoner, he said, sounding almost sullen. Summoners fail and die and the spiral continues.

Harry shrugged. Then dont. There are other powers, he said, and then grinned as a thought came to him. Make him an exorcist, he suggested, folding his arms. Or something like that. That way maybe he can make a bit of a dent on Sins forces, and make sure any fiends he encounters wont just reassemble themselves.

The Fayth blinked and looked up to him. You really think that would be useful? he asked thoughtfully.

Dont you? The fact that theres Pyreflies everywhere for anyone to grab is pretty much what powers this whole mess. If you can get rid of those, there wont be any fiends and Sin will be weaker, Harry answered. Sure, I guess that would affect Summoners too, and of course, one man cant exactly do it all, but you already said that Summoners cant do the trick and everything has to start somewhere. So. Try an exorcist. What do you have to lose?

There was a moment of quiet at the Fayth thought it through. Maybe, he said finally.

Harry nodded, satisfied. And whatever you do, dont leave him in the dark about what hes supposed to do, he added, sharply, thinking back to his own years as a boy-hero. Dumbledore had kept him in the dark for years and it had only gotten people killed. Hell have much better chances if he knows what to do, trust me. Especially if he knows more than just what he has to do.

The boy beside him shifted uncomfortably. We cannot be upfront, he said. His existence relies partly on his own belief of himself - if he knew

Then dont tell him that, but tell him everything else. Voice of experience talking here, Harry said. The more he knows, the better for everyone. Ignorance is not bliss when the world depends on him knowing what to do.

The Fayth dibbed his head a bit but not in agreement. After a moment the boy turned to look at the teenage hero again, who was now heading off, apparently to go to his game. Its time, the Fayth said, turning to Harry. We will alter you now, then we must attend to Tidus. He will be arriving at Spira tonight, and we need to concentrate onto that.

Tidus, huh, Harry murmured and nodded. Hed remember that name. Alright. Lets get to it.

Harry felt a little bit strange when he woke up. It took him a moment to realise why. Lifting his hand up, he eyed his fingers thoughtfully, spreading them wide. They felt different. His whole body felt different. It felt more solid. Meaty, in a way.

Hm, he grunted, and shimmied his fingers past the collar of his leather jacket and to his throat, searching for his pulse. He found it soon enough, beating heavily and just tiniest bit

erratically. He had had it before, he knew, he had even had blood and everything, he had been able to bleed. But it had all seemed so automated, following a simple pattern. Now it was more chaotic, hesitating just slightly when he breathed in deep - and that was interesting too, because breathing felt a bit different. Deeper.

Shifting into a seated position, he ran his fingers over his face and smiled. His skin had felt oddly smooth before, even with the bandages. Now he could feel slightest imperfections, early indents that one day could become wrinkles, the slightly rough feel of his pores. It was like someone had added the finishing touches to him.

The Fayth had done as they had promised. He could feel it, though he was still very much dead, the mimicry of life was more thorough now.

Swinging himself up from his bedroll, Harry glanced at still sleeping Captain, before quickly collecting his armour as quietly as he could and sneaking out of the tent. The knight in guard glanced at him and said nothing, as Harry made his way to the shore line of the Moonflow, leaving his armour to a rock near boy. He wanted to jump into the water, and take some good strokes among the lilies to enjoy the new details of his body, but he knew there wouldnt be time for that - any moment now the others would start getting up and ready to move out.

Well, it didnt matter. Soaking his hands in the water up to his elbows, and then dunking his head under the surface was almost good as. And it felt great. He hadnt realised it before, but before his sense of feeling had been a bit off here and there - but now he could feel the water soaking his hair all the way to his scalp, and how it trickled down the lines of his ears when he pulled up again.

It was magnificent - and Moonflow was blessedly cold.

Didnt think that Unsents needed baths, a familiar gruff voice noted, steps approaching Harry who looked over his shoulder. It was Tar, who like him had yet to put his armour back on. Feeling still a little euphoric with the heightened sense of feeling, it took Harry a moment to catch up with what the other knight had said.

Tar snorted as Harry gave him a worried look. Im no fool, he snapped, crouching down beside the wizard. With the way the Guado were all glaring at you, it could only be so many things either you had insulted them horribly and maybe burned half of their forest down, or you were an Unsent - and with you staring the place like someone had struck you on the head, I figured it was the latter.

Ah. Well. I suppose, when put that way Harry trailed away, pushing his wet hair back and away from his forehead. As his thumb grazed the line of the bandage, he realised with a grimace that he probably shouldve undressed it before dunking his head - it was soaked through. So, what are you going to do? he asked while starting to peel the sodden bandage off.

Do? About you being Unsent? Not a damn thing, I suppose. Adrak obviously knows, with the way hes been hovering over you. And since Maester Jyscal let you walk out there without Sending, I suppose theres a purpose for it, Tar answered, making a cup of his hands and lifting some water to his face. After washing for a moment, he wiped the water away and stood up again. All I want to know is if youre going to be a hindrance or an asset.

The wizard eyed the armourer for a moment before humming thoughtfully. Id like to be the latter, but I need to keep it all quiet. I have stuff to do and letting people know what I am might hinder that - and I really wouldnt want to be Sent, just yet. I have a bit of immersion problem though. Its been a while since I was alive, he admitted. Adraks told me Ill be going to Luca to learn some magic once we make it to Miihen. After that, hopefully Ill be more of use than Im now.

Hm, Tar grunted and nodded. Ill talk with him, see what hes got in mind, what I can smooth his plans along the edges. He tends to think straight as a sword, that man, and thats not always good enough, he mused. Metryn suspects too, by the way. And the rest are stupid if they dont suspect something.

Ill keep that in mind, Harry promised and watched how the elder knight gathered his armour and headed off. After a moment the wizard sighed, rubbing his wounded cheek. So much for keeping things secret, he mused. Then he shook his head, and dunked his head under the water one more time, just before he could.

After washing and enjoying the new details of his body as well as he could without becoming completely indecent, Harry spent some minutes pulling on the plates of his armour, before making his way to camp again. However after seeing Adrak, Metryn and Tar deep in hushed conversation a little further away - and the way they all glanced at him when he arrived - he decided to go the other way instead. Whatever Adrak and the others were talking about would probably go better without him there, making things more complicated than they had to be - and right then, he wasnt feeling like getting into the conversation of how could an Unsent do anything, when he wasnt even a Summoner. The day was too nice to ruin it with that.

So, pushing his wet hair back an away from his face, he made his way to the chocobo pen that the knights had set up in the previous evening. Sol kwehed happily at the sight of him and while the other nights begun coming out of the tents and getting about making some breakfast, he tended to first his own chocobo - and then to the others, who came closer at the sight of Sol

getting brushed. He was almost done with just about all of them, when the knight in charge of cooking that morning called the others to eat.

In the end, neither Meryn nor Tar said anything about his Unsent state, even if Harry was perfectly certain that Adrak had told them the whole deal. Whether the man had told the defeat-Sin part he didnt know, but he had definitely said something meaningful, because both of the armourer and the chocobo specialist acted no different than before. Tar even went about checking his armour as if he hadnt been getting it right for days now, and Metryn nodded approvingly after seeing the chocobos.

What it meant, Harry wasnt sure, but he took it as a good sign.

Well cross the Moonflow just mile north of here, Adrak told them all, after the breakfast had been eaten and the tents had been packed. After that it will be couple of hours ride until Djose but we will most likely just past the Djose Temple on our way to the Mushroom Rock. After that, its the highroad, so we wont be stopping for anything unnecessary. Itll be a long ride, of course, and Mushroom Rock is always tricky terrain to cross, but unless we run into trouble, we will make it to Miihen Highroad just before midnight.

He eyed them all, waiting for questions and objections and when none was voiced, he nodded. Lets mount then. The sooner we get onto the road, the sooner we will arrive.

Crossing the Moonflow was a quick, wet affair - even on Chocobos back the water reached Harry to mid thigh and after the minutes spent going from one shore to the other, it felt like he had all the water and slime of the river in his boots. Sol seemed to agree with his dismay and spent the next ten minutes of riding trying to ruffle her feathers and flap her wings to get the water out.

After that, though, the journey was more than pleasant. The shore of Moonflow was very beautiful and fragrant, with flowers growing all over the place - and they spent good hour following the river southwards before Adrak led them off the road and to rather thin path through the forests. The forests them selves didnt last for long, before giving away for more rocky terrain where only grass grew abundantly.

What is that? Harry asked after some time of riding, peering up ahead. There was a sort of mountain or very rocky hill up ahead, and for a moment it had looked like there was light coming out of it. Sort of sparkling light.

Thatll be the light of the Djose Temple. Itll get clearer when get closer to it, Metryn said, for the first time in a long while not giving him a strange look for asking. Instead the man looked at

the other novices. Chocobos tend to get a bit nervous about the noise the temple makes, so keep a good grip on your reigns, all of you. Stay calm and your birds will follow your lead.

It soon came clear why a noise from a temple would make a bird worried. As they came to the actual road, which soon became cluster of bridges that crossed over the water of what Harry first thought was a fractured lake, but turned out to be shoreline of the sea instead. Eastern sea, to be exact, Metryn said. It doesnt look like much, but in the Mushroom Rock Bay its pretty impressive sight.

I see, the wizard answered, rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully and giving the man a thoughtful look. He wasnt only not looking at Harry weirdly, but he was explaining things before the wizard got the chance to ask. But there was somehow a weird distance in that. Are you mad at me, Metryn?

A bit, the man admitted, giving him a crooked smile. Adrak told me why hes keeping it quiet so Ill keep my big mouth shut too. I just cant see why we cant tell to the others.

Harry raised his eyebrows. Thats what bugging you? he asked with surprise. Not me, I mean he motioned at himself. Thing?

Metryn waved his hand dismissively. My father came back to tell my mother some things when I was still a kid, and it wasnt that big of a deal really.

Harry eyed the man and shook his head, chuckling softly. I wouldnt mind everyone in this world knowing, Metryn, if they also knew to leave me alone, he admitted. But they probably wouldnt, so what can you do?

Hm. I suppose youre right about that, the chocobo specialist mused and then gave the wizard a thoughtful look. One thing, though. How old are you really? Because some of the things you say, they dont make too much sense.

I really have no idea, Harry laughed.

They soon came to the front of the Djose Temple and Harry saw exactly why the chocobos would get fidgety around the place. Like the Macalania temple, Djose seemed to embody a element in its design, and though it was most obviously a very rocky place, it was definitely not earth. While he stared up to the lightning flickering above the temple, where enormous rocks

floated, suspended by the wild energy sparkling about them, he had to wonder if the rest of the temples were like it.

Only when he looked down from the impressive display of power, he saw that he was being expected. Um, sir, he called up ahead and to Adrak before nodding back at the temple and at the male Fayth who stood by the entrance.

Adrak frowned before pulling at his chocobos reigns to turn it towards Harry. I shouldve considered it, the man murmured while leaning in to speak to Harry in semblance of privacy while the rest of the knights eyed them curiously. How long do you need?

I have no idea, the wizard admitted, glancing at the Fayth. He was impressive looking fellow, and he was scowling rather fiercely at Harrys direction, looking impatient. Ill try to be quick? he offered somewhat uncertainly.

Even quick is time we cant waste - not if we want to make it to the highroad in any reasonable hour, Adrak frowned a little, glancing at the temple but unable to see the fayth. After moment of furious thinking the man glanced at the other knights - who were now whispering amongst themselves. Alright, he said, and turned to Metryn. How fast would you say Sol is?

Hm. Well, shes a big bird - and shes got the benefit of having been wild all her life, so shes pretty used to moving. Id say shes among five fastest birds we have, once she gets some proper training, Metryn said and gave Harrys mount a thoughtful look. I think shed be able to catch up even if you got a hours head start - even more so, once she gets chance to rest.

That sounds about right, Adrak nodded.

Yeah, except for the fact that Id probably get lost within ten minutes, Harry said, eyeing his captain a bit incredulously.

Dont be stupid. Ill be staying behind with you, Metryn said, patting Berkas neck. My boy might be older than most our birds, but hes still a bird from Miihen, and no Miihen bird will lose to a Calm Lands bird in speed.

Good, then it is settled, Adrak said, nodding. Ill see you in the Miihen Highroad in the latest.

Yes sir, Metryn nodded, and while Harry scratched the back of his neck awkwardly beneath the stares of the rest of the knights, he and Metryn waited was Adrak called a move out, leaving the two of them behind.

So, Metryn said once they could only see the tail feathers of the other chocobo knights. Now theyll all think youre a Summoner, probably, he said, grinning.

Would be easier if I were, I bet, Harry sighed, but smiled regardless. Then he turned towards the temple, dismounting from Sols back while Metryn slid down from Berkas saddle.

You go on ahead. Ill just wait in the Travel Agency, after I put the birds into the stable and see about getting some greens for them, Metryn said, and with a thankful nod Harry handed Sols reigns to him, before turning to the Fayth waiting for him.

So, youre the punk Ive been hearing about, the Fayth said, as Harry stepped closer. I gotta say, you look better than that Tidus fellow the rest of them are so keen about, thats a damn certain, the man added, nodding appreciatively at Harrys armour. Youll float like a boulder, I bet, but its definitely better than nothing. It might even take more than fraction of a second for Sin to squish you.

Um, thanks? Harry offered somewhat awkwardly, and the Fayth barked a laugh at him.

I gotta tell you, I dont much care about this whole business one way or the other. Ive been Fayth for a while now, and at this point one supposed hero looks just about the same as the other one to me. I get what makes you special, or what makes the others think you are in any case, but really, it doesnt matter one jot to me, the man added, before motioning Harry to come closer. Come on. Theres some stuff I need to tell you that everyone else is too chicken shit to talk about.

If you dont care, why do you need to tell me? Harry asked, but more curious than objecting, and followed the man to the doors of the temple.

Because if theres a chance you actually might pull it off, then using the time to tell you is moment well spent, the Fayth said, shrugging his shoulders. I hate Sin as much as any other Fayth, make no mistake. Probably more than they do, I lost practically a whole fleet of ships to the bugger. Id feel a whole lot better knowing that its not bothering sailors out there no more.

Okay, Ill buy that, Harry murmured, pushing the temple doors open. Inside the place wasnt as impressive as the Macalania temple, but there was definitely the same design to the place the same circular space for the entrance hall, similarity statues here and there. Only where Macalania had had ice and crystals, Djose had rock and lightning. Whats the name of your Aeon? Harry asked curiously, after making sure there was no one near to hear.

Ixion, the thunder unicorn, the Fayth said, snorting. Thats another thing. Aeons are formed from the inner spirits of us Fayths - from what we value and what we fear - and what we respect. I had a healthy fear and respect for storms, I got Ixion. Shivas Fayth was a cold hearted witch in life and she got Shiva. Makes you think whats the deal with Bahamut, being a dragon and all.

Okay, Harry nodded. So, Bahamut was a dragon. He hadnt known that.

Come this way. Theres no one but the priests here, since this temple isnt that popular by travellers - they tend to pass this place by and head to Moonflow instead, since its prettier, the Fayth of Ixion said, and led Harry to the common rooms which were much smaller and simpler than those of Macalania as well. If anyone comes in, you can just tell them you needed to take a piss, or something.

Ill keep that in mind, the wizard promised. So, what do you want to tell me?

The dirty bits the others tend to avoid. You got the gist of aeons and stuff from Bahamut and Shiva, right? Good, that aint my field anyway. The other stuff isnt either, but you overhear a lot of things in a temple like this - its so noisy that people think no one will overhear them, the Fayth grinned somewhat nastily. So tell me; how much do you know about the Yevonites?

Um, Harry hesitated. He hadnt though hed be getting a lecture on religion - but then, the Fayth had the sort of look on his face that told him it wasnt really going to be a lecture. Gossip, more likely. Well, I know the Yevon they actually worship is the origin of Sin, and that the religion started because they wanted to calm Sin down. And that the Yevonites sort of run everything now? he offered.

Mm-hmm, and its been a happy little joust to that control, the Fayth agreed. The thing Shivas Fayth says about herself, that she became Fayth to keep on fighting sin? Complete bullshit. She didnt have choice - after she couldnt get the Final Aeon, she was pretty much sacrificed to Yunalesca by her priest buddies. Shes not the only one, the Fayths of Valefor and Ifrit are pretty much the same - there was bit of a shortage of Aeons back then, with people trying to steal them and destroy them.

Why would anyone want to destroy Aeons? Harry asked, frowning.

To stop the pilgrimages. It is sort of like open secret now, the Final Summoning, but there was time when people didnt know at all - and when they found out, they got pissed. They tried to hide some of the Aeons to stop the pilgrimages - some three were destroyed because they didnt handle them right. The statues are pretty fragile, they dont handle moving too well, the Fayth scowled. After all that, Yevonites needed to bolster the ranks of the Aeons, so they had Yunalesca make more. Regardless of if Fayths-to-be agreed to it or not.

Harry nodded slowly. He had known all wasnt right with Yevon already, so it wasnt that big a shock. But that was hundreds of years ago.

Maybe. Doesnt mean that theyve changed their ways - creation of Anima is just proof of that, the Fayth of Ixion said. And thats not all I got to tell you, anyway. Chances are youre going to end up going head to head with the head honchos of the church sooner or later if youre any good at what youre doing, so you need to be on your toes. The Chocobo Knights are new and just sort of stumbling along right now, and the Church doesnt much mind them, but if you make noise about yourself, and youre probably going to, theyll take a notice of you.

And it would be better if it they didnt, Harry mused, frowning.

Nah. Shake the bastards up as much as you can, they need it. Just, dont let them manoeuvre you, if you can stop it, the Fayth said. The Crusaders used to be a free organisation too, before the Yevonites put up their witch hunt for them and Lord Miihen and all. Theyll do the same to you, if they think the Knights are going to be something special - and if youll let them, theyll notice you too, and thats a can of worms you dont want to open.

Whats the worse they could do? the wizard wondered.

Think about it for a moment, the Fayth snapped. Dont you think they dont know about Sin, about what it really is? Of course they know. And theyve known for thousand years - and what have they done about it? Theyve cashed it in, turned it all into a business, the man snorted. Thats why they took the Summoners and made the temples their own, thats why they made more Fayths when they lost their old ones. They like having the temples, they like having followers and believers and they like the money and power their followers give them. Its damn good business, being in charge of saving the world.

oh, Harry murmured, eyes widening.

Yeah. It would be bad for business if some upstart knight went and defeated the thing their whole empire was based upon, the Fayth nodded grimly. You can imagine what theyd do, if they got the chance.

So. I should keep quiet, Harry mused.

No, no. Be as noisy as you can. Just, about the right things. And dont let them put you under their thumbs, the Fayth said. And, as little as I care for the brat, you being noisy will be good for Tidus, in case you fail. Easier for him to go unnoticed.

Harry smiled faintly. Theres that. Did Bahamuts Fayth take my suggestion? he asked.

The Fayth of Ixion barked out a laugh. For all the good itll do us, he said. Right now the brat doesnt know the sea from the sun. Which reminds me of another thing. Two things, actually. If you ever run into them, keep in mind that Mika, the Grand Maester of Yevon, is also an Unsent. He died about ten years ago, but kept coming to work anyway. All the other Maesters know but they say nothing about it because whatever he is, Mika is good at keeping the house at Yevon.

He is? Huh, the wizard muttered. Frowning, he recalled what Jyscal had said, about Guados standing against the Unsent being as firm as times permitted. That mustve been what the man had been talking about. How did Tidus remind you of that? he asked, just so that he wouldnt start wondering why Jyscal hadnt bothered to mention it to him.

Because for the last ten years, hes been taken care of by a Unsent fellow by the name of Auron the other one of Braskas two guardians, the Fayth said, and grinned crookedly. Hes a bitter old bastard, the other Fayth dont much care for him - hes bit of like thorn on our collective backsides, really, and it always felt weird to have him in the Dream. I kind of liked the guy, though. Tidus was a bit too much of a whiner for me, Auron was much more interesting.

But, uh You mean hes Unsent, from the actual Spira, who went into the dream? Harry asked, confused. And watched for Tidus. How the hell does that work?

When you think about it, the Unsent are only their own memories about themselves. But yes, it was difficult - he had to ride Sin in and out, it never wouldve worked otherwise. Tidus we couldve pulled out without any trouble, but Auron was never natural part of the dream, which messed it all up for everyone. The Fayth are repairing the dream right now, after Sin smashed it up, the Fayth said. But never mind that. The thing Im getting to here is that Auron could use a leg up.

okay, the wizard nodded slowly. Ill help my fellow Unsent out, sure. What do you want me to do?

Pick him up, the Fayth said and nodded towards the door. Hes lying on the shore about two miles south from here. Sin nearly absorbed the Pyreflies that form his body so hes kind of breaking apart the seams.

Harry frowned at that. Absorbed - can Sin do that to me? he asked worriedly.

No, not to you. Bahamut took steps, remember? You can still be sent if the Summoner is powerful enough to break through the barrier Bahamut set, but Sins attraction over Pyreflies is more passive that what Summoners do, the Fayth assured. Just find Auron, slap him about the face a couple of times, something like that. Id hate to lose the one interesting person of this play so soon.