The unchanging breezes of the river port brought withthem the distinctive smells of machine oil and brine, and the deepviolet shade of the sky seemed to swallow the last rays of daylight asthe sun dipped below the horizon. Looking up from the docks, one couldsee the pale flicker of the street lamps struggle feebly against thegrowing darkness of twilight.
Port Bastok is now one of themore prominent ports in the continent. It was not until recently,however, that the bridge spanning the Dalha River, let alone the eventof airship travel, even existed as a visible symbol of the town'sprosperity.
At least, so my companion Roger had told me, drawing onthe memories of a youth spent living on the outskirts of Bastok. Hiswords played through my mind as I walked along the wharf, the weatheredboards creaking with every step.
Roger had lost his father in the Great War.
I,on the other hand, had been fortunate enough to be born across the seasand far from the flames of war, where the details of such momentousevents were nothing more than another tedious history lesson to beendured.
And so it was that sleep was a long time coming on the evening he imparted the tale I shall now share with you.
It was twenty years ago, the year I was born...
Notlong after the war had begun, a conscription notice was delivered toRoger's home. His father, who had labored in the shipyards, had beendrafted to work as an engineer on a Bastokan warship. He left his sonwith the simple words "Take care of your mother."
In the days that followed, Roger busied himself with helping his oft-sick mother while waiting for his father's return.
And then one day, there came a knock at the door of their riverside home.
Itwas not the face of his father that greeted him on the doorstep,however, but the dour visage of a Galkan army captain. His father'sship had fallen victim to a nighttime Sahagin assault. The vessel hadbeen sunk out at sea, and the bodies of the crew lost to the relentlesstides.
After relating this tragic story, Roger had merely shrugged and said, "That's all in the past now." But the tale explained much.
Rogerleft his hometown behind and took up the mantle of the exorcist in thehope that he might discover his father's drifting soul and finally layhim to rest. Until that day, the war would never be over for Roger.
Asthese musings occupied my thoughts, I was suddenly struck with an imageof the Dark Lilies. Perhaps Roger had seen an echo of his father'splight in the aimless wanderings of those lost spirits.
"Trick or Treat!"
I stepped off Rye Bridgeinto Bastok Markets, and was greeted by the high-pitched voices ofchildren as a group of youngsters ran out from an alley beside theMetalworks.
They must be excited for the coming HarvestFestival, I thought. The children already wore the hollowed ogrepumpkin and witch hats.
A boy in the lead shouted a command, andthe entire group raced off towards the fountain, laughing and gigglingas their running footfalls echoed off the cobblestones.
Istopped in my tracks as silence once again claimed the streets. I wouldnever forget this place--it was where I had sent the souls of twowitches to rest at the side of the Goddess.
"Brian. Gertrude. How do you fare?"
A familiar voice spoke through the linkpearl I kept at my left ear.
It was Roger, contacting us from the distant nation of Windurst.
"This is Brian. I've just arrived in the city of Bastok."
"Gertrude, here. I arrived in San d'Oria two hours ago."
Gertrude was a year younger than I, and I considered her a little sister.
Although,with maturity born from her impressive talents in the field ofexorcism, it probably seemed to her that it was I who was the youngersibling.
"I trust you are not too exhausted from your journeys? We shall begin the Wake of the Lilies tomorrow, as planned.
Twoof the townspeople will be chosen to walk the streets in the guise ofwitches. And I think it fitting that the adventurers who aided in ourduties should also have the chance to participate. The Dark Lilies willnot have forgotten them, I am certain."
With the help ofadventurers, the tales of those six tragic figures had spread acrossVana'diel in what seemed the blink of an eye. Youthful mages enamoredwith the idea of wielding such colossal magicks, as well as others whoremembered that troubled time, shed tears at the songs sung of the truestory behind the witches' fall into darkness.
In a strange twist of fate, the Dark Lilies had found more acceptance after death than they ever had in life.
It was this outpouring of emotion that led us to visit these cities once again.
Usingthe Harvest Festival as a turning point in events, we decided to hold aceremony in honor of the redeemed coven--the Wake of the Lilies.
"The Dark Lilies are no longer outcast..."
"Yes, and this surge of empathy from the people should not be wasted. Let us guide it to where it belongs."
It was then that Roger whispered just loud enough to be heard:
"And perhaps other painful memories may also be allowed to fade..."
When at last I looked up from speaking into mylinkpearl, night had well and truly fallen. The moon shone brightly inthe eastern sky, its illumination sharply outlining the low-hangingclouds.
I continued on towards my lodgings, and marveled at theview afforded from the top of a bridge as points of cozy light began toappear one by one in the buildings below. Perhaps some of those lightswere jack-o'-lanterns carved in preparation for the coming festivities?As the thought crossed my mind, I felt a familiar presence brush thefarthest edge of my consciousness.
I lifted my face to the night sky and spoke thus:
Tomorrow, this town will begin the Harvest Festival in earnest.
May the warmth and joy of these people reach and comfort you..."
Illustration by Mitsuhiro Arita