Fandom: Final Fantasy X-2
Theme(s): #9, Fire
Disclaimer: Characters, places, and themes from FFX-2 are copyright Square Enix.
Notes: A tidbit from Paine's childhood. Based on the backstory I created for The Confessional. This was originally going to be for a different theme ("Monk"), but it quickly decided that it wanted to go another direction.
Three children hid in the shadows behind the open door. The shorter of the two girls craned her head into the doorway, then whipped it back, out of sight of the warrior monks who patrolled the entrance to Kilika Temple's inner sanctum.
"They're still in there!" she hissed, the sharpness of her whisper carrying across the courtyard. "I don't think they're gonna leave."
The other girl winced. "Shut up, they'll hear us."
"I dunno, Paine." The lone boy, who crouched closest to the wall, shook his head. "You're the one who said the monks leave for dinner at the same time every day. So they shoulda left ages ago. Lilli's right, they're never leaving."
Paine shrugged. "Up to you. But I thought you wanted to find out what's really inside."
The boy shuddered. "Not enough to risk gettin' caught. C'mon Lilli, let's get outta here."
Lilli took another look around the door, then glanced between the other two children. "But you promised..."
"That was when I thought Paine knew what she was talkin' about," he snapped. "Let's go." He stepped out of his corner and, after a pause to scowl up at Paine, grabbed Lilli's hand to pull her away. He marched across the courtyard, Lilli tripping after as she cast an exasperated and apologetic glance over her shoulder.
"Whatever," Paine muttered under her breath. Now she'd have to lay low a while longer. But maybe it wasn't so bad -- if the two monks still on guard had heard the argument, they might assume that all the lurkers had gone. She rearranged herself into a more comfortable position, the silence that had settled back over the courtyard broken only by the crackling of the flames that burned day and night, even though no one ever seemed to tend them. The priests had assured the children that the fayth's devotion kept the torches lit, but Paine had her doubts. Sin had been killed only a year ago; wouldn't the fayth want to take a rest? So she had taken to watching the warrior monks, learning their schedules and patrol patterns. And her diligence paid off: she'd discovered a hole during the dinner hour, when only one monk patrolled the area. She was convinced she could slip past him and discover the secrets of the temple.
Minutes passed. Paine closed her eyes so that she could hear better; after what seemed like ages, she was rewarded by the faint sound of footsteps coming from behind, shortly joined by the burr of a soft conversation. Paine pressed more closely to the door, gripping the stone with her fingers, and tried not to breathe. The voices and footfalls grew louder, then swept past her. She cracked her eyes open and watched the monks walked away, then slid around the door to hide behind its other side. She had gained the main room of the temple, and it was empty, her only companions the High Summoners and the fayth, including a half-finished memorial to Lord Braska.
After another glance around, Paine took a deep breath and made her break. She ran up the stairs, doing her best to keep her footsteps light just in case the one remaining monk was within hearing range. She pushed open the stone door at the top of the stairway, then slipped inside. This room was tiny, nothing here but Yevon's sigil carved into the floor. Heart pounding in her ears, Paine slowly stepped forward until she stood in the center of the room. The whole floor shuddered, and Paine's legs almost gave way when the ground beneath her feet began to sink. She wrapped her arms around herself and held back an instinctive cry of fear, forcing herself to take calming breaths instead. This was the temple, where summoners came -- it had to be safe, didn't it? Unless this was one of the dangerous trials the priests had told her about..
But before Paine could explore that thought much further, the platform stopped moving, so suddenly that she nearly lost her balance once again. She jumped off the platform and then paused to look around, her breath shallow, electric tendrils of excitement and fear running along her skin. She had entered another simple stone room, lit by torches and by a red-orange flame burning atop a pedestal.
Paine wasn't always sure she believed in Yevon, but she knew the aeons were real; she had seen a few summoners call Ifrit, and now she could feel him in the undercurrents of power that filled this plain, dark room. She approached the pedestal, drawn to it even as she feared it, each step infusing her with a greater sense of awe. She stared into the flame that danced in front of her, and she searched its patterns for the secrets she knew it contained. Slowly, reverentially, she reached out for the sphere that rested on the pedestal's edge, the heat of its mystical fires crackling, arcing to meet her fingers, filling her with light--
"Hey, kid! Get away from there!" The shout broke through Paine's trace as a heavy hand fell on her shoulder and yanked her away from the pedestal. The spell broken, she whirled around and looked up into the blazing eyes of a young warrior monk.
"You shouldn't be in here!" he barked, giving her a bone-jolting shake. "What were you thinking?" He half-marched, half-dragged her back to the platform, her heels skittering over the rough surface of the stone floor. The lift shuddered back to life, and Paine had time for one last glance around the Cloister before it was replaced by the tiny antechamber at the top of the stairs. Still gripping her shoulder, her captor pushed her forward, out of the room, down the stairs, and into the temple, where he shoved her one last time. Paine put out her arms to steady herself, then turned around to face him, a defiant response at the ready.
The warrior monk held up a hand, silencing her before she could say a word. "I should just turn you over to the matron and be done with it. Or maybe to the captain of the warrior monks; he'd teach you proper respect for Yevon and the fayth."
Paine crossed her arms. "I'd like to see him try." She stood up as straight and stiff as the statues that surrounded her and glared right back at him. After a moment, he broke the staredown with a chuckle and a shake of his head.
"Well, you're a spirited one. All right, we'll let it go this once."
At the reprieve, all of Paine's defiance fizzled into relief, and she allowed her shoulders to slump, just a little. "Thank you, sir."
The monk nodded. "But I'd better not see you in here again unless you're here for prayers. Or ten years from now as someone's guardian." Paine jerked her head up at suggestion; his mouth had quirked into a small grin. "Now go on, get outta here."
Paine resisted an urge to salute. Instead, she nodded her thanks, then ran out of the temple, her mind churning with new possibilities.