I open my eyes, startled to hear a voice besides that of the guardian that softly spoke...
I almost feel dismayed at what I see before me.
The blue expanse, the menacing figure, the voice... It was all a dream. I'm just on a wagon, a small little carriage that I had paid a few gil to ride in. I stretch my legs out with a sigh, disappointed that I would never see the end of that encounter.
Apparently I was mumbling and sweating in my sleep, and my fellow passenger decided it was time to wake me up. Wish he had just left me to my feverish dreaming.
Though honestly I'd rather sulk and ponder the outcome of that dream battle, the old man doesn't seem to recognize the disappointment on my face. He proceeds to tell me that it must be the aether that caused my sleeptime disturbances, and that some people are just more prone to the sickness than others. I scowl at his assumption, but who knows?
All regret I may have had at feeling anger towards the guy fades quickly as he reaches for a large bottle that is snuggled beside him, and he takes a long swig. If there is one thing I've learned in my short lifetime, it's that you should never trust a drunk.
My scorn quickly dissipates as a blaring horn rattles my eardrums. I turn to the left, towards the end of the wagon, and immediately smile... strange, chubby creatures flutter next to me, and though I don't know what they are, they're just too ADORABLE to pose any threat.
"Feeling better, kupo?" one asks, and I grin and nod in appreciation.
They seem surprised that I can even see them, and quickly explain that they are moogles, and live in the woods we are now traversing. I glance around at the rest of the passengers in the wagon, and realize that none of them are even acknowledging the newcomers. The moogle without a horn notices my confusion and flies over to the drunkard. I watch, puzzled, as the plump creature does a ridiculous dance in front of his face as the inebriated man seemingly ignores it.
No... he's looking THROUGH the moogle. The little thing solves the mystery for me with some odd information...
Not everyone can SEE moogles, they tell me, and the hornless moogle flies in front of the two impish-looking Elezen across from my seat to no reaction. I just hope those two and the Hyur with the booze aren't following the rapid movement of my eyes.
A thought then invades my mind, distracting me from the current situation... I have never had such a vivid dream such as the one I had before. And now, moogles? Creatures that nobody seems to see or hear?
Maybe that guy wasn't speaking old wives' tales of aether sickness, and I really am going mad!
Almost as if he (at least I think it's a he) has read my mind, he asks me...
"The woods have been restless of late - lots of strange things happening. Have you chanced to witness anything suspicious?"
My mind automatically flits to my dream, but I quickly shake my head. I had a dream in the woods, but surely he asks if I've seen anything, not dreamed anything. Do moogles count as something strange I saw in the woods?
I hear a gurgling noise to my right and realize the other moogle has grabbed the drunk's bottle... and is GUZZLING it down like a heavyweight alcoholic!
"But of course you haven't - you've only just arrived," he says sorrowfully. I stare blankly, still mulling over in my mind whether or not he's a figment of my own imagination. He bids me adieu, saying he will just have to keep up his search.
As he flutters away the other moogle joins him, and I can't help but notice the other moogle's flight seems unaffected by the drunk's booze. Alright... maybe I losing it, there's no way any creature that size could hold down that much alcohol, without any effect!
I see other moogles join the two in the treetops as the wagon continues, and I rub my eyes hoping that when I open them my field of vision will be free of fantastical, invisible flying things.
Instead, what I see just confuses me more.
The drunk reached for his bottle again, and tilted his head back to take a swig... only to find it empty. Maybe the moogles were real after all.
"Gridania is still a fair way off, in case you were wonderin'..."
I guess he mistook my confused expression for a struggle to calculate how long I've been sitting here for.
"Seein' that you're awake, how's about you keep me company till we get there?"
I glower, half-wondering if there is any menace behind his proposition...
"Them younguns don't care much for conversation, see?" He motions towards the two Elezen at the far end of the wagon. I guess he does have a point, those two are an enigma. They didn't even bat an eye at his statement! Should I be surprised, though? I'm pretty sure they haven't moved once since I boarded this little caravan in the first place.
I sigh in surrender. Alright. I'll bite.
Before I even have a chance to get a word in, he's off talking about himself.
He introduces himself as Bremondt the peddler, and I can't help but wonder if that booze was some of his unsold stock. I'm about to introduce myself in return, but the idea of having someone to talk to has seemed to loosen his lips quite a bit.
"Judgin' by your unusual garments, I'd say you're one of them new adventurers. Am I warm?"
I stare blankly. Am I really that obvious?
New adventurer... I guess that's what I could be called. A naive Miqo'te with a dream.
I nod noiselessly, and Bremondt shouts out like he's won a game of Chocobo Chess.
"I knew it!" he yells, the smell of alcohol on his breath becoming very obvious. "Goin' wherever the wind blows, seekin' fortune an' glory - now that's what I call livin'!"
I feel the scorn for this man return. Sure, that's what a peddler would want. Gil, relics, whatever he can get his greedy hands on. This journey means more than that.
Despite my stern visage, he continues to blab.
"Well... so long as you avoid dyin', I mean. Ain't no secret that adventurin's a risky business - these days especially."
Business! This is not business...
I take a deep breath, insistent on reeling in my temper.
He's just a man, a man you'll probably never see again. Just relax. Breathe.
...and then the kicker.
"What attracted you to this in the first place?" he asks, and I bite my tongue to keep from telling him to mind his own business.
For once, he seems to be able to read my face accurately.
With a sigh, he says he won't pry if I'm not willing to tell. Good, because I wouldn't tell even if you paid me. You interrupt my dream, then I start questioning my sanity as fat little fairies flutter around me, (I mean, they had wings, could moogles and fairies be related?) and now you pry into my reasons for being here? I can't hardly wait to arrive in Gridania and be rid of this man.
Not answering his question hasn't seemed to stifle his talkativeness, because he proceeds to tell me that he himself has dozens of secrets, and doesn't stick his nose where it's not welcome. Really, now... You could have fooled me.
He proceeds to attempt to lecture me that being alive is better than any kind of fame or fortune, as if I didn't know that already. I didn't come here unprepared... but neither did I come here thinking that death could not be a door's knock away.
I'm about to roll my eyes, but suddenly the wagon halts with such a lurch that I quickly scramble to hold onto the seat, worried that I will fly off the wagon cart itself.
"HALT! GO NO FURTHER!"
I peer over the edge of the cart, and my heart almost stops when I see a figure wearing a half-mask standing in the middle of the road... but the mask isn't a blood red, and there is no dark cloak over his shoulders.
Bremondt shifts in his seat, obviously unsettled by the sudden stop.
My ear twitches as I sense something wrong. Without warning, an arrow flies down into the cart, nearly missing Bremondt's head.
I hear the carriage driver panicking up in front, and the masked man yells out that a skirmish has broken out ahead.. with the... Ixal?
My mind races as I remember a rough image in a book, a grotesque creature that looked as if it was a result of an unholy union of man and bird...
Right on cue, Elezen with the same wooden masks appear in a clearing ahead, clashing with monstrous humanoids that could only be the mentioned Ixal. They look less demonic that the drawing in the book had portrayed, but still just as lethal.
"Bloody hells! We shall hold them here! Try and break clear!" the first masked Elezen screams, and the carriage driver doesn't waste a split second. He cracks the reigns and the chocobos pulling the carriage rush into a steady canter, away from the sounds of blades and shields.
As we pull away, I squint to catch a glimpse of the battle... And there, I see it.
The Elezen that had stopped us holds a long lance, like that which I long to wield.
... a lance that I WILL wield.
I know with this brush with danger, my journey has officially begun.