So this story happens after FFXIII but before FFXIII-2, which is why Lightning is still a knight and Etro is still alive. I see some of you that are not familiar with FFXIII series, so I'll try to explain what is happening briefly in the ending note if you're curious.
If you're familiar with the series, please note that I changed some of the lore to suit this story so don't complain if everything isn't canonical. This is the chapter that I've been waiting for by the way! I've been waiting to write this scene since the beginning and I hope you're as satisfied by this as I am!
I was listening to An Arrow Through Time on repeat while I was writing this, by the way. It's so beautiful and soothing, perfect for writing.
Disclaimer: I stole some lines/scenes from FFXIII-2 Fragments After because I'm ~uncreative~. Anything you recognized is not mine.
(I suggest you to read this chapter in AO3 if you want to see the links I put in the notes and story itself).
Like A Fire in the Dark
"Nea, watch out!"
Aurys cried out as he ran to cover the Dragoon's back from the Tall's greatsword. He gasped as he was staggered back even though he had successfully blocked the attack. Damn these Guardians and their monstrous strength.
"Go!" He shouted, righting himself just as Aranea jumped high in the air with her spear to execute her signature attack, joining all the Kingsglaives that were warping up to attack the giant Guardian's head.
Everything just fell into chaos so suddenly.
First the king was attacked by flying swords, then his emperor was kidnapped by the Bladekeeper, then the Astral threatened Lunafreya and the prince to not change 'the preordained future' bullshit, then she started screaming at the Astral to give the emperor back to them and argued that she will not sacrifice the life of anyone if they didn't have to, and suddenly Bahamut had summoned the spirit of the Tall and have him attack the city.
King Regis was quick to recover and deployed his Glaives at once when he found that he couldn't control the spirit and ordered them to disable the Tall while the Crownsguards evacuated the people to safety.
Aurys didn't know what was happening anymore but knew that he had to support and protect everyone in his liege's place.
At the thought of the little emperor, Aurys felt his eyes burn with frustrated tears.
Gods, this was the person who won over an empire and ascended the throne at the age of 13—the person who freed him and countless others from years of being imprisoned in their own minds with just a wave of his hand, the person who secured peace for their countries after more than a century of war.
He refused to believe that his liege was gone, no matter what the Bladekeeper wanted them to believe.
Iudicias Aldercapt was alive and he will definitely come back, so he had to keep everything together for the time he will return to them.
Taking a deep breath, he composed himself and jumped back into the fray.
"Loqi, are you able to contact our bases yet?" he said to the communication device he wore on his ear.
"It still won't go through. Something's jamming our connection there," Loqi's staticky voice answered back, his frustration was clear even through the communication device. "Shit. I can't join the fight like this. I'm a pilot, damnit! Not a melee fighter!"
Aurys took a deep breath and ducked as the Tall swung his chainsaw-like broadsword down again. He was as big as a building, how could he be so fast?
"Just focus on protecting Lunafreya right now and keep contacting our bases," he told the younger man who agreed even with his frustration for being helpless.
When the Tall began to destroy the city, King Regis had lowered the Wall around Insomnia, choosing to focus the barrier into this section of the city to trap the guardian in with them. Safety of the people was always first on his mind before everything else.
The King's Shield tried to get him to the safety of the Citadel, but King Regis stubbornly remained and provided back up for his soldiers in the form of magical barrier, enhancements to boost their strength, as well as strong magical spells here and there.
Naturally, as the dealers of the most damages, the King was targeted the most by the Tall, but thankfully his barrier was stronger than the Tall's attacks and his Shield was there to protect him when his barrier failed him.
Aurys had ordered Ravus and Aranea, their strongest fighters, to join the Kingsglaives in subduing the Past King's spirit when everything went down and commanded what little Magitek Soldiers they brought along with them to attack from afar.
"Aim for his joints!" he had shouted at them before he, too, joined the fight.
Aurys couldn't do extraordinary attacks like Aranea or do magic like Ravus, but he was strong in his own rights. He did what he could to aid the others; attacking the Warrior from below, blocking attacks meant for unsuspecting others.
As he was flung back from a blow he failed to see, he saw a flash of white from the corner of his eyes and saw Lunafreya running to a wounded soldier. He had told Loqi to take the Oracle somewhere safe at the beginning, but the girl proved as stubborn as the King.
Lunafreya had darted around the battlefield to the aid their fighters, making simple barriers as she used her oracle magic to heal the wounded. Somewhere on the chaos of the battlefield, Aurys could see that the prince was out there joining the fight with his own Shield and Adviser too.
Damn these royals and their selflessness for making their job to keep them alive really challenging.
He saw the greatsword swinging down at him a little too late to raise his sword to block the attack and was convinced that that was the moment he would die when crystalline shards zapped into him, throwing him into the side to avoid being crushed to bits.
The Glaive laughed and grimaced at the same time as he pulled Aurys's arms, helping him up. Aurys could see the deep bleeding gash on his back and glare at his savior. This man was wounded and still came to his rescue? He took his 'Hero' moniker way too seriously, honestly.
The Tall's sword suddenly lunged at them as they were recovering, but Captain Drautos was already there with his own ready to shield them before they could get their bearings ready.
"Get him to the Oracle," Drautos ordered him as he swung his sword and warped after the Tall.
Aurys glanced at Ulric and nodded, supporting the other male's body with his own as they limped towards the Oracle's position. Just as they were limping away, he heard the sound of something heavy hitting the asphalt and twisted his neck to see what was happening.
The Tall was down, disintegrating into tiny golden particles.
In his wake, the giant body of the Fierce materialized into life and raised his mace, before swinging down to crush the Glaives below him who thankfully warped away just in time.
Aurys felt his blood running cold at the sight.
If he was correct in his suspicion, even if they managed to bring down the Fierce right now, another would come and take his place as well. As far as he knew, there were twelve known Guardians of Lucis, so eleven more of this? They were already struggling so much with the Tall before, could they endure so many more rounds of these fights?
He closed his eyes in frustration.
What should I do, Iudy? How can help everyone?
"The goddess Etro?"
Iudicias frowned, never hearing of the name before. He saw the woman in the Valkyrie armor, Lightning, rose from her bow and nodded at him at his question, but didn't elaborate.
"How do you know my name?" Iudicias asked her instead because he was sure that he had never seen her before in both of his lives.
"You can see everything from Valhalla, and I have seen you and what you will be," Lightning answered, but her cryptic answer only made him even more confused. She saw his confusion and smiled, shaking her head slightly as she nodded at him again.
"Follow me. You will understand if you meet the goddess yourself."
He followed as Lightning led him into a series of tall hallways and stairs, all made of stones. There was no one else in this temple, giving him a sense of gloom that he couldn't seem to shake from his chest.
After some time, they finally reached an open area.
An empty throne sat upon a crystal pillar that was erected in the middle of the hall, bathed by a light that seeped in through the gaps on the ceiling, creating a hauntingly beautiful image that raised the hairs on Iudicias's neck.
Even though he couldn't see it, he felt a strange presence from that throne.
Instinctively, he knew it must be the goddess Etro.
The goddess was there, even though he couldn't see her. It was different from anything that he had ever felt before, even unlike the feeling he got from Bahamut. He felt like something was smiling down at him—like a gentle presence was watching over him.
Lightning stopped before the stairs that would lead them directly to the throne and turned around to face him.
"Go on. She's waiting for you at the throne," she told him, nodding as she stepped aside to let him through.
Iudicias glanced at her briefly before he continued to walk down the stairs and the small path that leads to the throne. He stopped and raised his head to stare at it, and suddenly, his surroundings turned black.
He whirled around but couldn't make out Lightning's form anymore.
He was alone, in the realm of the goddess.
Iudicias swallowed, suddenly feeling a bit nervous, but still he marched forward to face the goddess.
Before long, he could see a faint light. It was a weak light that seemed as if it was going to disappear any moment, but regardless he could feel an extravagant power inside that weak light. There was a mighty entity slumbering there whose power was incalculable to any human.
Iudicias felt that he was being beckoned, and though uncertain, he stepped forward to that welcoming presence.
He outstretched his hand without noticing it, reaching towards the light as if he was getting pulled into it. He spontaneously opened his eyes that he didn't even realize had been closed. However, what laid in front of his eyes was no longer the world he had been seeing.
These were the goddess' Eyes.
In that instant, he understood why he was brought here by the goddess.
He saw what the goddess was seeing and felt what she was feeling—her memories, her pains, her fears, and her hopes—in that brief moment they were connected.
He saw a pair of twin sisters, abandoned by their paternal creator, the god Bhunivelze.
The sisters loved each other very much. All they had was each other so they took care of the other as best as they can, but Bhunivelze, who feared and envied their powers, decided to tear them apart one day.
One-half of the sisters had most of her powers taken away and was sent to the realm between, where time didn't exist, while the other was banished to a realm that no other can touch, where she was to spend her divine life alone and isolated.
Eos and Etro.
They were those sisters.
Even though they were apart, Etro kept watching over her sister from her throne in Valhalla. She saw Eos build her own world despite everything, creating little creatures she called 'humans' and other beings to share her immortality with that she called the 'Astrals'.
Etro was proud of her.
The star that she resided in grew and prospered, but then the war between the Astrals and the humans began and she could only watch as her sister was devoured by her sickness—a sickness that in time would take her life.
"Lunafreya's stories… they were true." He realized as he watched the memories unfolding before his eyes.
But Lunafreya didn't tell him that Eos was carrying children when the war was brewing. She was pregnant with the children of her human lover. Was that why Lunafreya said that Bahamut thought that Eos was impure? Because she was carrying human blood inside of her?
Eos gave birth secretly and entrusted her children to the hands of her beloved before she retreated to the depth of the star in order to isolate her sickness. Etro was watching everything that was happing to her from Valhalla, but she couldn't do anything to prevent her death from happening. Her sister died in the end, leaving behind only a shard of her crystallized heart and a pair of twins—a girl that inherited her body and a boy that inherited her soul—as the proof of her existence.
Those children, in time, would become the origin of the Oracle and the King.
Lunafreya and Noctis.
They were Eos's descendants.
Despite her sadness, Etro kept watching over the lives of her sister's descendants over the millennia, for even though her sister was gone she had left something of herself behind for Etro to remember her with. But then, one day, Etro saw a vision of the future.
A future where the Draconian Bahamut had manipulated the future to have her sister's descendants eliminated from that star.
Bahamut lied to generations of Kings and Oracles to have them act the way he wanted, manipulating the events to go how he wanted it to happen and called it a 'prophecy'. He orchestrated to rid himself of her sister's descendants and extinguish her sister's light while at the same time also save himself from being swallowed by the darkness that he helped spread all throughout the star.
It was vile and Etro didn't understand how he could have done that, didn't understand why he hated her sister so much when he was one of her creations.
She wanted to save Eos's descendants, but she, who had most of her divine power taken away, couldn't do anything to change their fate. Etro, with her abundant love for those children, could only weep over their fate from her throne in Valhalla.
It was at that moment that she saw his wandering soul that was heading to the next world.
"It was you," he whispered softly in realization. "The reason I was born to that world. It was your doing."
Indeed, it was her that did it. She saw him, and in her desperation to see her sister's descendants live, she sent his soul to the realm where Eos was banished to be reborn there, hoping that he would be able to change the future and saved her sister's blood from fading away.
She didn't think what it would mean for him or if it was selfish of her to do that. Without any bad intention, she just wanted to keep those children safe, and so she did it.
That time, when Bahamut send the chaos to swallow him, the gentle presence he felt when he heard the bells' tolls before he lost his consciousness was Etro herself, opening the gate to Valhalla to save him so that he wasn't written out of history as Lightning did.
Iudicias felt Etro's light flickering and he reached out his hands even further in order to cling to the vision she was sending him.
He saw an era of destruction, where darkness overtook the entirety of Eos. He saw a future where Noctis and Lunafreya died in order to save the world.
He saw the moments when the immortal Accused was thrown away by the gods and saw how the man turned into someone who would destroy the world. He saw himself, swallowed by the chaos and returned to nothingness. He saw his newfound family, whom he loved so dearly, was killed by the machinations of Bahamut as they struggled to defend their home.
He saw a future where Lunafreya and Noctis got married. A future where they had children together. A future where the Accursed was freed from his demons, where nobody has to die or suffer from the constraints of fate.
He heard the laughter of their children as they played in the gardens of the Citadel. He saw the fond look on Ardyn's face as he watched over the happily running children as Noctis napped under the tree and Lunafreya sneakily braided flowers into his hair.
He saw himself there amongst them, lying on the grass with a smile on his face, surrounded by the people he loved.
Iudicias felt his eyes becoming blurry with tears as she revealed to him her request with that last vision. He couldn't hear her voice, but he understood it all the same in his heart.
He lowered his head, kneeling on one knee as she bestowed upon him what little remaining power she has left unto him.
Light blinded his vision and he slowly returned to his senses.
Just now, what he had seen through the Eyes of Etro—from the tale of the two sisters to the futures that could come to pass—even though it felt like a long journey, in reality only a second had passed.
White feathers swirled around him as the goddess blessed him with her power and he looked upon himself and saw that his robes have been replaced by a suit of armor similar to what Lightning was wearing, but instead of the skirt of white feathers, he had a golden translucent cloak rested upon his shoulders.
A magic staff materialized in front of him and he intuitively curled his hand around it. He felt his body thrum with power as his fingers touched the staff and looked at the staff in reverence.
The silver staff had a similar appearance to a trident and was longer than his body in height, the tip shaped like a crescent moon pointing upwards with a spherical ruby in the center, a pointed tip that extends through the gem and was decorated with ornate golden carvings.
Iudicias raised his hand when several objects—other gifts from the goddess—appeared before him, suspended in the air with crystalline sparks surrounding them. A silver ornate ring, a silver trident, and a clear crystal with a golden tinge that was shaped like a sylleblossom flower.
The white feathers that were entwined in his hair rustled as he looked up at the throne, sensing that the goddess had gone back to sleep.
Iudicias lowered his head once more before he rose from his kneel. The gifts and his staff disappeared with a crystalline light when he stood, but he knew that when he needed them, they will appear once more to respond to his needs.
Lightning was there again when he turned around, waiting for him at the end of the path.
"You've received her blessings," Lightning said to him knowingly.
Iudicias nodded as he answered. "I have."
"So you've seen what will happen," she asked him, and he swallowed before he nodded again.
She let out a faint breath and closed her eyes briefly.
"You know what to do, then."
Lightning opened her eyes again and smiled at him before she turned around; nodding at him, motioning him to follow after her.
Iudicias gave Etro's throne one last look before he trailed after her, their footsteps echoed loudly through the dark stone walls, giving him a sense of the loneliness that Etro must have endured throughout the years alone here in Valhalla.
"You are her champion now, Iudicias," Lightning told him solemnly. "You cannot fail the task she has given you. The future depends on every step that you take from now on."
He was about to nod at her again, but there was one thing he didn't fully understand from all of this.
"Why did she choose me to do it? I am not anyone special."
The goddess never specified why it was that she choose to send him to Eos. He was just a retired grandfather who loved good wine and having fun with his family.
"One might argue with that," Lightning huffed lightly, lips quirking into a smile as she glanced at him. "Do you remember those items you united in your previous life?"
"What items?" Iudicias asked her, frowning in confusion. The answer appeared into his mind before Lightning could answer him. The images of a ring, a wand, and a much-beloved cloak flashed briefly behind his eyes and he gasped softly.
"The Deathly Hallows?" he asked doubtfully.
Lightning nodded at him.
"Those items marked you with death the moment you united them and you became their master," she revealed to him. He didn't know why she would know about that, but then he remembered her previous words to him.
"You can see everything from Valhalla, and I have seen you and what you will be."
"Etro is the goddess who ruled over death and chaos," Lightning continued as they walked through another series of hallways. "Divine though Etro might be, she cannot interfere with the events of the living realm of another world with her own hands. But you—who have the mark of death in your soul—you, she can touch."
He saw a pig-like creature with pink crystal on its head flew over to Lightning, who greeted it with a fond pat to its cheek. It fluttered over him, making strange noises as it looked at him curiously, but Iudicias was far too focused on Lightning's words to pay attention to it.
"She chose me because I accidentally became the master of some trinkets?" He asked, a little incredulously. He didn't even realize that the Hallows were that special.
He vaguely remembered long ago when Dumbledore told him that becoming the Master of Death meant that he accepted death or something. Did he not know about this, or did he knew but chose to conceal it from him?
"It was precisely because of those trinkets that she could touch you in the first place," Lightning told him with another quirk of her lips. "She saw your life the moment she touched you. She knew you would give everything you have to prevent the fate that would befall her sister's descendants. She knew that you would help them protect that world from being swallowed by the darkness, and she was right."
Lightning turned towards him then.
"The goddess doesn't really understand how humans are. I know that you didn't choose any of this and that it's unfair to you, who was supposed to rest after your passing, but… even knowing the fate that awaits you, you will fight anyway. Am I wrong?"
The way she looked at him, she knew what his answer would be.
"No. Even if she didn't give me that task, I will still do it. Even if she didn't bless me with her power, I will use my own to accomplish it. Eos is my home now. I have a family there, and I will do anything to save them," he told her honestly, and she twisted her head to the side slightly to give him a smile.
"She chose a good person this time, at least. I'm glad," she said simply.
They emerged outside of the temple. The gray sky kept flashing with lightning and the sound of thunder. They were still pretty high up, but there was a series of stairs that lead down from their current location.
Faintly, Iudicias could see a bright light of some kind of portal near the bottom of the city. A Time Gate, the world around him provided. That was the thing that will bring him back to his friends.
"Use the gifts from the goddess, it will aid you in your task," Lightning told him as they descended down the stairs. "And… remember, you are not alone. Don't try to bear the burden by yourself. Eos's descendants will become your strength if you let them, even the one who is blackened with the sickness."
"I know," he nodded. "Thank you, Lightning. For everything."
They stopped near the floating, glimmering portal, and Lightning turned to face him, nodding.
"It's almost time. Whenever you're ready, the Gate will send you back to your world."
Iudicias was about to step into the Time Gate but stopped at the last second. He turned back to look at her with concern.
"What about you?" he asked, gripping the edge of the gate tightly. "If you stay here…"
Knowing what he meant and what he was concerned about, Lightning shook his head at him with a reassuring smile.
"I will remain here," she told him resolutely. "Just like your future needs you, my future needs me as well. It is my role to protect the goddess while she rests. As her champion, I will fight."
The same way that she knew about him and what will happen to him, he saw about the future that will happen to her, too. He knew she would eventually be defeated by her adversary and lose everything, and yet she chose to stay for as long as she could to do what no one else can.
Things that need to be done, huh…
He narrowed his eyes in determination and nodded at her, signaling that he was ready. Lightning threw something at the gate, making its glimmer shine even brighter.
He knew then that it was time.
"Be the key that opens the future, Iudicias Aldercapt," he heard Lightning said softly as he was about to go. "May Etro protect you, always."
With one last look at Lightning, he jumped inside the gate. He knew his friends were fighting right now and that they were losing. He had to go help them, but there was something else that he needed to do before that.
"Bring me to Niflheim," he told the gate, and his vision was blinded with light.
End of Chapter Seven
I hope I managed to convey my ideas clearly because it really made sense in my head so if it didn't make sense to you, I don't know what to say lol. Lightning and Etro won't appear again after this by the way. They will be mentioned again though.
Just to clarify, the enemy Aurys and the others are fighting is not the Old Wall, but instead the summoned spirit of the kings like when Somnus came to Regis's rescue in Episode Ardyn. If you're wondering why the spirits are attacking the city, in canon Bahamut have the ability to control the spirits of the dead (examples: Aera in Episode Ardyn and the Kingsglaives in FFXV: Comrades).
If you think Etro is confusing here, it's because she confuses me. In the FFXIII-2 novel, it was said that she didn't actually have emotions and merely imitates what she thought humans are feeling. In here I tried to make it like she actually has feelings though. The scene where Iudy connected with the goddess is like that in the novel too, but Lightning's in Iudy's place and she saw different things.
Brief FFXIII summary (spoilers!):
Basically Lightning and several others were turned into a l'Cie (something like a servant of the gods there) and was given a focus (mission or task). If a l'Cie completed their focus they will enter a crystal stasis, becoming living a crystal statue and are granted eternal life (they could return back into a human under certain conditions no matter how many years have passed).
At the end of FFXIII Lightning and her friends entered the crystal stasis, but the goddess Etro released them from their stasis out of compassion immediately after. In doing so, however, she caused a rift in time that opened the gate to the realm between the dead and the living. Chaos slipped through the rift and dragged Lightning away to Valhalla, erasing her from history and the memories of all her friends except her sister, Serah.
In Valhalla, Lightning found Etro on her throne, and she saw the future of mankind when she connected with Etro. She realized that Etro was the only one who was keeping the chaos from claiming the living world, but also that she was fading away. Lightning received Etro's blessing and chooses to stay in Valhalla as the goddess's champion to protect the timeline and atone for her sins of killing a lot of humans in the events of FXIII.
And that's when Iudicias was saved by Etro in the last chapter. Search (FFXIII-2 Lightning Explains it All) to see the full explanation! Lightning is so beautiful I got chills every time I saw her in that scene, honestly.