He who seeks does not find,
but he who does not seek will be found.
– Kafka –
“… A terrible battle ensued! Those who sought to break the Seal of Aleph wanted Lady Dohletia and Lord Ishtarius at all costs! Surely they cannot have a clear understanding of What it is exactly they are trying to release, for if they did… I truly believe that other would be their desire. To blindly awaken these terrible beings from their deep slumber, and yet they are only mere servants… Alas! I thought such dark forbidden knowledge was destroyed, but instead it was merely hidden.
Even the wise are not immune to foolishness when the matter at hand concerns the destruction of that which they most value. The Order of Zarûthra failed in their endeavour. Had they done the task that was entrusted to them properly, Lord Odin’s incredible sacrifice would be unnecessary, but now the completion of the ritual is the only hope we have of strengthening the Aleph. Once the Seal is tightened, these terrible beings will become dormant again…”
After Selph dropped us on the north side of the Talle Mountain Range, we mounted our Chocobos and rode to the Kashkabald Desert. Whoa! This place is massive big! It kinda took me by surprise how huge the place is! Definitely, flying over the desert in the Ragnarok is not the same as us being down here mounted on a Chocobo, an’ being cooked alive in this friggin’ heat! All we get to see for miles and miles with no end is sand, sand and then… more sand!
Talk ‘bout lookin’ for the impossible! How the Headmaster thinks we’ll be able to find some weird soundin’ GF in this humongous pile of dust is beyond me! Man! How the hell d’you start the search aroun’ here? I don’t even know what it looks like! I keep on playin’ that little track Squall gave me over an’ over again an’ it just makes no friggin’ sense!
“…Seek ye the Guardian Force Djinn.
Seek ye Ormus Descendants.
They who dwell in the city
that hath never known light,
beneath the Sea of Gold…”
Yeah…so I get the ‘Sea-of-Gold’ part… Like we’re standing here in the middle of the friggin’ ‘Sea’, staring at all this ‘gold’ stuff! But does it tell you where you’re supposed to be heading?… C’mon, like a ‘head North, dudes’ or ‘walk towards the palm tree’ or somethin’! Anything! Even after I read over all the notes Quisty left behind, I’m still not sure how we’re gonna go ‘bout this! An’ city… What friggin’ city?
We were supposed to have left a couple of days earlier, but the Headmaster postponed it so we could all attend Nida’s wedding. Man! That was some serious awesome partying! Heh-heh! Quisty showed up with Mr. Ego himself… No surprises there! Told that asshole when I flew him over to Esthar, I’d kick his ass if he ever made her cry! Man! He made it sooo obvious at the graduation party! He hasn’t changed at all! Wouldn’t allow any outsider to dance with Quisty at the wedding! The Trepies were fuming ‘cuz Seif wouldn’t even let them near her! Too bad for ‘em… Quisty looked hot! Meh! She always does anyway…
Heck! I’m so glad Quisty’s okay! From what Seif told us, they were waitin’ for her… Had he not shown up to pick ‘er up, maybe… Aw, shit! I don’t wanna think ‘bout it cuz it really messes me up! Quisty’s real important to me, to all of us in the orphanage gang! I gotta admit I was glad Seif was with her that night! Asshole or not, he’s one mean sonofabitch fighter! Heh! She thinks she’s indestructible! We all did… Until we saw her lying there on that infirmary bed… Man! That sucked big time! She looked so helpless! I never realized how fragile she truly is! I’ve always looked up to her. I guess I’m kinda glad she’d got that arrogant asshole to watch over her…
I can’t believe Ma has taken such a shine to him! Heh! It’s alright… If Ma and Matron like him so much, he’s gotta be an okay guy… ‘Sides, the pounding we gave each other that first time we met in MY friggin’ room kinda cleared it outta our system! It was real bad! Ma had to douse us with pail of cold water before we destroyed MY room! …I gotta give it to that asshole! His fists are friggin’ made of Adamantine! Damn! He whacked me real good! ‘Course, I did my own damage! Heh! He was definitely no chick magnet for at least a whole week! What do they see in him anyway? …I still can’t believe Ma let him stay in MY ROOM!…
“Huh? S’up, Su?”
“I’m not sure… but I think that whirlwind over there…”
Su’s looking okay. Not too bad for someone who spends most of her time in the library… She seems to be holding up pretty good! But…why did she volunteer to come? …I was kinda embarrassed when she told me she liked me at the graduation party. I was sort of flattered too, but she’s not really my type or anything… I mean, she’s cute an’ all… Ah, shit! It’s too complicated! I hope she didn’t come with the idea that she and I…
“Zell! Man! That’s a huge sandstorm!”
“Yo! Ren! Calm down, ‘kay? I know all ‘bout these suckers!”
I dunno ‘bout Ren… For a guy who used to go under the tough name of ‘Club’ an’ calling himself a ‘CC Knight’… –Humph– He sure looks like he’s gonna pass out any time now! What a misnomer! He hangs aroun’ the cafeteria most of the time… Heey! Mebbe he’s the dumbass responsible for eatin’ all the friggin’ hot-dogs! Now that I look at him, he sorta looks like he should be spendin’ more time in the gym…
“Er… Squad Leader! Our Chocobos are gettin’ kinda restless…”
“Shouldn’t we look for some sorta shelter?”
“ –Sigh– Oh, hell! Everyone FRIGGIN’ CALM DOWN! We’re heading North. That storm’s blowin’ to the West! ‘Sides, it only looks close but it’s way off!”
I’m so glad I took the time to read stuff ‘bout the Kashkabald Desert! The way these people whine… Hell, are we SeeD or what? Heh! If that asshole were here he would be whipping their asses! Me? I’m way too nice! …
“…I’m afraid I was exhausted by the ordeal. It took almost all of my power to undermine the will of the Master Caster who had awakened the ‘Army of Bloodless Warriors’… We have only been able to make it this far by suffering great losses. Only in the Great Beyond which awaits us all, shall I be meeting my sons Armitage and Zemus again, but I do not have the luxury to mourn them now. Soon I will be losing my beloved daughter Onna as well, the eldest and wisest of all my children. She’s the only one I can entrust to deliver Lady Dohletia to her destination in the North. I shall deliver Lord Ishtarius personally.
I am so very proud of these young children! To suffer such a great loss as they have at such a young age, and still be so very valiant! The lineage of Odin and Xioma is a very strong one! I know that as they grow, these children will only become stronger and more stalwart. They don’t know it yet, but more sacrifice will be demanded of them… I haven’t told them that they are to be separated…”
We’ve been at it for days now! Travelling aroun’ this friggin’ place. It’s boiling hot during the day, but once the sun sets… It becomes a damned iceberg! Man! What I wouldn’t do for some delicious hot-dogs right now! I’m tired of eatin’ SeeD Standard Rations… Yech! Also had to fight a bunch of Cactuars. They’re such a nuisance! An’ fucking quick! Heh! If you try to hit ‘em but miss, those suckers shower you with their 1000 needles attack! Man! Does it ever hurt! Poor Ren, he’s like the slowest one here, an’ got hit a couple of times … Heh-heh! I shouldn’t laugh, but dammit you ‘Don’t-Turn-Your-Back to those things! Aw! His butt must’ve really hurt… An’ yeah…Su was not very happy with me for laughing my ass off! No pun intended… But hey! I wasn’t the only one…
“Squad Leader! I scanned the horizon with the zoomscope an’ nothin’! Everywhere I checked looks the same as the last place I checked!”
“Zell… Can I have a look with those?”
“Err…Sure Su! Hey, Kessler! Giv’em over to Su here!… She might spot somethin’ you missed…”
I should’ve done that before. Su’s now head of the library committee. She’d be more into looking at small details… –Sigh– I just wish she’d stayed home. For starters, she’d be safer! But after she volunteered, the Headmaster insisted she come with us. Squall as usual, when I looked at him to say somethin’ just shrugged his shoulders an’ said, ‘Whatever. She wants to go, let her…’ What kinda friggin’ comment is that? How does Rina put up with that guy?! I mean, Su made SeeD ‘cuz she’s real smart, but she’s not fighter material… I guess her smarts will come in handy when we find our GF… If we ever find it at this rate… After several days of travelling, all we’ve been able to find are friggin’ sand dunes, and more friggin’ sand dunes… They all look the same! Damn! It pisses me off to think that we might have to return to Garden empty-handed!
“I think I see something…”
“Huh? Where, Su?”
“Towards the East, a couple of degrees North…Almost like following the wake of the last sandstorm…”
“Uh, explanation, please!”
“Oh, sorry, Zell… I was speaking to myself. Quistis and I talked ‘bout it when I was helping her assemble together those notes she left for you.”
“Wow! You’re so lucky you got to speak with Instructor Trepe, Susana… That Almasy guy’s sooo mean! An’ sooo scary!”
Ah, shit! We have a friggin’ Trepie in our squad… These people are like everywhere! This is the middle of the dammed desert for Hyne’s sake! I can see how Seif might get upset ‘bout it! Hell! I think I’m gettin’ a bit upset too! Quisty’s one of us! Somehow, it’s just wrong for an outsider to have the hots for her! Kessler’s real lucky I’m not Seifer…
“Huh? Oh, yeah sorry Su. What d’you have?”
“Well, as you know Quistis and I found a very ancient record in the Shumi database… Because it was a protected one, we had to ask the Headmaster himself to request permission from the Shumi Elder to allow us access…”
“Yeah… I was kinda surprised that the Elder said yes!”
“I agree! The Shumi’s are known for being very tight-lipped about their sealed knowledge, but…yeah…the Elder was very forthcoming with the information! We got the material very quickly, but to our dismay, great chunks of it were written in a language we’ve never seen before!”
“Yeah… I got ya! Quistis did mention that in her notes, but she couldn’t do anything ‘bout it ‘cuz she got sent to Esthar… so she asked me to continue with the research…”
That’s good ol’ Quisty for ya! Always thinking of ways to help her friends! She left me some real good notes too!… Seifer’s one lucky asshole to have her helpin’ him!
“Didn’t she mention it to you?”
“Err… Mention what?”
“That I would be taking over her research…”
Oh-oh… I think Su looks kinda hurt… Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Quis did mention somethin’ like Su would tell me more… But hell, thanks to Nida I’ve been running aroun’ all dammed week doin’ littl’ errands for that tyrant Selphie! It completely slipped my mind!
“Uh, yeah… She did mention it somewhere, but…”
“It’s okay, Zell…”
Aw, shit! I think she looks even more down now… And what’s wrong with that littl’ ass Ren? Why the hell is he glarin’ at me for?
“…As I was saying, we both examined closely the ideograms used in the old records. It occurred to us that some symbols resembled old Centran… So upon Quistis’s advise, I got Instructor Aki to help me decipher some …”
“ –Phew!– Whoa! You got ol’ Aki to help ya?”
I could see Su was real confused by my question… Earth to Susana Mendoza! Aki is like the-most-feared instructor in ALL Gardens…!
“Yeah… Anyway, Instructor Aki is very knowledgeable of ancient scripts because of their magic incantations… I think at one point, the Instructor even served as advisor to Odine when Master Norg brought the doctor over to discuss the possibilities of GF junctions…”
“Zell! The records mentioned that at some point in history there was a large migration of people from the surface to the underground…”
Man! This chick gotta think I’m real dumb… Heh! I’m gonna show ‘er! I crossed my arms over my chest and adopted a more brainiac pose… I’ve seen Quisty do this a lot when she was my instructor…
“I know, Su, we’re supposed to be lookin’ for an underground city… ‘cuz that would explain the part ‘bout ‘the city that hath never known light’…”
“That’s right! Instructor Aki and I also found out from these old records that the Northeastern tip of Kashkabald desert used to be connected to the Southern part of the Esthar Continent…”
“You mean, like Abadan Plains?”
“Yes! The records indicate that a large migration of people left an area that we call nowadays Abadan Plains due to unspecified reasons to go south towards the desert…”
“Huh? What was it called before if not Abadan… an’ how d’you know?”
“The Shumi records contained an ancient map!”
“Well… It’s not something we can use to help us now, Zell… I mean, this map looks nothing like today! Apparently the instance of Lunar Cry that changed the landmass of Centra Continent some eighty-odd years ago was not the first one to happen, nor the most devastating…”
“Su, you mean there was a worse one!”
“Yes, it seems that something similar but more devastating happened in Esthar Continent maybe… a thousand years ago? Even with Instructor Aki’s expert linguistic help, the sealed records were hard to figure out! We could only decipher bits and pieces here and there…”
Wow! Su’s really bright! Man! She sounds like… like Quisty! ‘cept no fanclub! Though I think she’s pretty popular… I wonder why she wants to be a librarian? I know she likes books. Heh! So do I, but I’m sure as hell ain’t gonna be spendin’ my whole day with ‘em! With her smarts she could easily apply for an instructor’s license, but she wants to spend the whole day with books…
“… so that Pupurun Sea in Southern Esthar was a result of that; nevertheless…”
Oh, shit! I wasn’t listening, but I better nod at whatever it is she’s sayin’…
“Huh? Are you saying that you agree with that? There’s no scientific evidence to support that!”
Hell! I better cover up!
“No… I was thinkin’ that you and Aki are really good, Su!”
“ –Blush!– Actually… we couldn’t make sense of the map, so Instructor Aki’s good friend Professor Thiong’o from Balamb University was drafted-in to help us.”
“Whoa! Aki has… friends?”
“–Glare!– Zell! Prof. Thiong’o is a world renowned historical cartographer! We were lucky to secure his help! All thanks to Instructor Aki!”
Geez! It just blows my mind how anyone could dedicate their whole life lookin’ at a bunch of old maps?
“Uh, sure, Su! So… the Shumi’s were okay with that?”
“The Elder agreed to give permission only if Prof. Thiong’o were to take the Oath of Secrecy.”
“…The Prof. agreed?”
“Well, yeah! To have access to such a rare and ancient artefact, let alone being able to touch it… was like a dream come true for the professor.”
Man! I’ve heard ‘bout the Oath of Secrecy, but I’ve never met anyone who’s actually taken it! It’s supposed to make you forget completely everything you’ve seen an’ heard except with the people included in the… Hey! Wait a minute…!
“Su, did you have to take it too?”
“Of course! Both Instructor Aki and myself were asked to do so…”
“How come you’re talkin’ to me?”
“The Shumi Elder included you in the pledge… In fact, the Elder included all of Mrs. Kramer’s children…”
I know I gotta look as confused as Su does! What the hell does all this mean? Was it because we defeated Ultimecia? But wait a minute… How ‘bout Seifer?
“… But I’m pretty sure the Elder said seven children, but there’s only six of you in Garden, Zell… Who’s the seventh?”
“Huh? Oh, that must be Ellone…”
“As in Ellone Loire?”
“I thought she was only a good friend of Mrs. Kramer’s!”
“Well… that too!”
“Oh! … In any case, going back to the map… It was Professor Thiong’o who determined that the second migration wave started somewhere on present day Abadan Plains and moved slowly Southwest towards the Talle mountain range.”
“…An’ that’s important because?…”
“…Professor Thiong’o knows a bit more of the old languages given his line of work and says those people called themselves ‘Kaskabad’…”
“Huh? What does it mean?”
“Oops! Sorry, Zell. It means ‘Kaskabad’ or really ‘Kashkabald’ to give it a more modern sound…”
“ –Humph– Even if we have a better idea of which direction to take… D’you know how friggin’ huge the area is? I just wished they’d left us like a big sized ‘x’ that would say somethin’ like, ‘Yo! We’re here!’…”
“Well… They did! Maybe I wasn’t very clear on that… The records say that large groups of people suddenly disappeared ‘as if swallowed by an immense whirlwind of sand’… ”
“Damn! That’s why Selph gave me all those sandstorm scans!”
“Oh, yeah! I asked Selphie to give us the most recent meteorological readings of sandstorms in the area… Sorry I didn’t tell you ‘bout them before…”
“Meh! It’s okay, Su. You’re tellin’ me now, so that’s what matters. Anyway, good job!
“Err… –Blush– Thanks Zell! It means a lot to me!”
“YO! Zell!… Over here! I looked in the direction that Susana indicated, an’ I see another sandstorm brewing in that area!”
“Let’s head there, people!”
“You heard me! Let’s go!”
“–Mutter– He hasn’t had any hotdogs for a week…”
“–Grumble– Yeah… finally lost it!”
“YOU! I heard that!… Double food rations for you!”
“Bunch of losers, that’ll teach ya to piss me off!… LET’S GO!”
…These ‘Legio Bellatoris Exsanguis’, commonly known as the ‘Umbrae’ are to be feared, because they cannot be defeated by ordinary means. They are impervious to most magical and physical attacks, except for the strongest. And these will only serve as a temporary deterrent before they recompose again. If you ever have to face them, your only hope is to break the mind-hold of the magic caster who controls them… However, be warned! This course of action only serves to disperse them. It will not destroy them. Even if the caster where to die, this person would simply be replaced by another…
My child, if the Umbrae were to be given a choice, it is my greatest belief that they would choose to quit their painful existence. You should fear them, for they are a formidable adversary, but you can also pity them, for they have been robbed of their free-will. They are the unliving: Not dead, yet not alive. Every moment for them is a torment beyond anything you or I can ever hope to comprehend… Neither light nor darkness affects them. It is in their nature to diminish everything that surrounds them. They are the captive souls of warriors who sought to prove their prowess in the battlefield, but only met with treachery and deceit from those they purported to serve… Unfortunately, they cannot be released from their neverending torment. The fate of the Umbrae is inextricably linked to the destiny of the one who has been sealed under the seven signs of power…
What the hell! Just when I friggin’ thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did! For starters, we lost our Chocobos! How the heck were we supposed to know that sandstorms would scare the shit outta ‘em! Not to mention we were attacked by a trio of Abyss Worms! Since when do those suckers travel in groups? And how did they EVER get so friggin’ strong? I don’t remember them being so difficult to beat! For all their whining, the team’s pretty good at kicking ass…
We had just set out camp when outta nowhere we were hit by a huge whirlwind of dust that spooked our Chocobos loose! We had not time to run after ‘em, cuz suddenly we were surrounded by three very ugly and humongous sandworms! Dammit! I hate this friggin’ desert! Everything has become way harder! We will have to do our trek on foot… It’s only thanks to Su’s quick thinking that we still have some supplies! While the rest of us were fightin’ those huge fuckers, Su ran after the Chocobo that was carrying our stuff… It was loaded up so it couldn’t ran as fast as the others! Man! It’s a good thing she’s quite handy with those daggers of hers or we’d have nothing! A quick flick of her wrists and she managed to release the packages from the running Chococo…
…Man! Have I mentioned before how friggin’ hot this damn desert happens to be? We’re low on food! We’re low on supplies! An’ what’s worse: We’re real low in morale! I hate this fucking place!
… If you are reading this now, my child, it can only mean one thing: The Seal of Aleph has finally been broken. Nevertheless, I shall place all of my hopes with you, because in you our blood has renewed itself. Mine and that of my beloved Erythraea. As the blood of Lord Odin and Lady Xioma has also been renewed. And the blood of the rest of the Seven who created the Seals of Goetia. It will not be coincidence that you are to meet with them, or perhaps have already done so, but do not know. Remember Onna’s descendent, Child of my Flesh, nekromantia is in your blood. I know, because you are reading this book. My book. The Book of Ormus can only be read by the one who is most like him…
Pensive eyes lifted from the book to stare out of delicate lattice windows. Beyond was a magnificent vista of the City of Baal. A city illuminated in its entirety by the huge glow flowers that hung from the stalactites above. The sleep gong had already resonated some time ago… ‘I wonder how surface people measure time… I know it cannot be determined by gauging the pulse emitted by glow flowers like we do here. These crystals only occur naturally in this cavern’s stalactites. What was it that the Matriarch said…? Ah, yes, they are the cumulative result of millennia of Lunar Cry…’ Snorting at her attempt to avoid thinking about what she’d just read, Zuleima placed her ancestor’s writings on a nearby table. Lifting her hands high above her head she indulged in a nice stretch, deliberately turning her back on the book and therefore missing the fact that it had started to glow ever so slightly…
Zuleima arched an eyebrow exasperated, ‘What can it be during the city’s slumber time that requires my particular attention?’ She went to open the door. She could sense no urgency whatsoever… so whatever it was, she would be saying no.
It was her birth-mother’s closest retainer, “Zuleima, the Matriarch requires your presence in her chambers…”
She suppressed a sigh before replying, “Thank you, Saedi, please tell her I’ll be there shortly…”
§ § §
“Greetings, Zuleima Alkhash-ka! Please be welcome to this humble Healing Aedis.”
Zuleima smiled at the Assistant to the Doyenne of Baal’s most important healing house, and returned the formality.
“Greetings, Oneida Baharaj. The Matriarch sends you and yours her regards.”
“We are very honoured to have you here, Zuleima Alkhash-ka. It isn’t an everyday occurrence that the Matriarch sends her only Birth-Child to check on the welfare of the people we have under our care… Although it is true that our humble establishment has admitted recently some very extraordinary patients. It is an honour for us to be able to tend the first surface dwellers to ever enter the fair City of Baal in more than a millennia!”
In normal circumstances, Zuleima did not object to Oneida’s pompous and incessant chatter. She was a very kind person, but at times her obsequious demeanour and gossipy nature was vastly annoying. This was one of those times… ‘Where is Doyenne Ayashashi when she’s needed?’ The question was purely rhetorical as she already knew the answer. Ayashashi Centzontotochtin was in Valefor tending her kinsman, the Kazar. –Humph– ‘ I knew that unctuous toad would find ways to irritate me!’ She refused to acknowledge the fact that she was being very unfair to the poor ailing Kazar.
“The surface dwellers are very young! It’s to be expected. Only the young, either surface or here in Baal, can act so foolishly! They were very lucky to be in the route of your Cousin, that nice young man, Omar Roshd. Although I don’t understand why he brought them here?… Usually, stray surface dwellers would’ve been taken directly to the Trading Post, but these were brought here to us! One of them in particular caught my eye!…”
“…Oneida Baharaj …”
Zuleima tried valiantly to put a halt to Oneida’s gossipy streak, but it was a known fact that once started it was almost close to impossible to make her stop without being extremely rude!
“…He’s a very handsome young man with hair the colour of bright gold, and the most intricate patterns etched on a side of his … Zuleima Alkhash-ka! Let go, child!”
Upon hearing the description, she had seized Oneida’s arm in a dead grip! She ignored Oneida’s scandalized expression, knowing very well that come the wake-up gong it would be all over Baal that the Matriarch’s Birth-Daughter had reacted very strongly to the surface dwellers’ presence.
“Oneida! Where are they!”
“I’ve placed them in the Esuna Chambers…”
“Take me there!”
“Very well. Follow me…”
§ § §
To be continued…
Some cultural practices of the Kashkabald People:
They do not use honorifics nor do they use titles to address each other.
To be called by one’s full name is a sign of respect and courtesy.
Only intimates or close family friends may call one by their first name.
People in public office may addressed by their designated rank or task:
Such as Matriarch, Kazar, etc…
People can also address each other by their relationship:
People can also be addressed by designations they have earned or is proper of them:
Child of Sand
It is considered to be extremely rude to shorten people’s names or to call them by their first or last names if permission has not been granted to do so. In the more remote satellites of Baal, such an infraction can result in a heavy fine.