Subject: [FFML] [FF/Original][Fanfic] Tales of Jibaulder
From: Turtyl
Date: 2/18/2004, 3:01 AM
To: ffml@anifics.com


Greetings,

         This is being sent at the behest of my SO, who is in need of C&C
regarding this fanfic.  I'll be happy to relay any replies that are on
this list, though if you want to send any personal replies, my SO's e-mail
is alsaihn@hotmail.com.  Thanks!  -Lany

-----

All Final Fantasy concepts and characters are, of course, copyright
SquareEnix. The original characters and world are copyrighted by me.


Tales of Jibaulder: Ch 1


"Hold and speak" A guard at the western border of the gathering camp called
into the night. The darkness beyond the ring of light cast by his fire was
thick on the ground, but the sky still held a tinge of sunset to the west.
He was a member of the Grey Foot, a family-clan of the southeastern plains.
Riders were rare during the week of Rain Festival, especially ones traveling
as quickly as this one. The sound of his steed's gait came from the southwest,
straight from Oasis Town, instead of from the Trade Road to the south; another
anomaly. The steady pace of the large riding bird, the Chocobo, slowed as
steed and rider approached the sentry.

"I'm Tora, a messenger from Oasis Town. I have a package for the leader of
Clan Riger." The creaking fo harness and breathing of the bird continued as
the messanger stepped into the circle of dim light. The flickering firelight
barely illuminated the light tan Chocobo and its rider.

The fine breeding of the Chocobo was apparent to the guard before he even
noticed the rider. Stong bones and miscles showed under the rough skin of the
great bird's legs. The Chocobo's feathers darkened gradually from the palest
tan on the tired animal's chest to a muted copper in her crest feathers and
wing tips. The bird's head and wings drooped a bit and her legs were slightly
splayed under the weight of her rider. The guard frowned at the sight of a
fine mount so mishandled.

With a flapping of her cape, the messanger dropped to the ground, visably as
tired as her mount. The guard raised his opinion of the messanger slightly
when he saw that her condition matched that of her Chocobo. When the large
animal reached down to nuzzle the side of Tora's head, his opinion went up
even more.

"You're a Rider." The surprised guard uttered softly. The wearied Tora nodded,
trying to replace the hood her mount had knocked to one side. It was only then
that the guard noticed the crest of Oasis Town on the messanger's belt. The
diamond-shaped cottonwood leaf glowed against it's bright blue field. The
glowspell had been shaped by Guild Master Tulmasis in Oasis Town, and was the
symbol of an official messenger from either the Town Council or Master
Tulmasis himself.

The guard bowed to the messenger and turned to a bundle of woolen cloth and
leather.

"You boy; get up now." The guard's toe found a vulnerable spot and nudged the
bundle. A blond head and a pair of thin shoulders struggled out from within
the bedroll. "Up you get." The guard reached under the boy's arms and, none
too gently, hauled the still half asleep form to his feet.

"Show the messenger to the stables then to the Riger tent. I'd show ye myself,
but Lobos have been heard these past nights." The guard apologized.

"Oh, I understand. We passed some day-old scat a few hours ago. Come on Dun,
lets get you to the corral."

The boy and messenger started walking towards the fire-lit circle of tents 
and wagons by the small oasis. The Chocobo followed her rider without the 
guide
straps used for less intelligent riderbeasts. In fact, no guide straps of any
kind could be seen on the large, pale bird. Even saddles were only used on
long rides for the comfort of both Chocobo and rider, and were much different
compared to other saddles. The Chocobo saddle is simply a pair of sturrups, a
little padding and a few straps for security, instead of something designed 
to keep a person on the back of the large bird. If a Chocobo doesn't want 
anyone
on their back, no amount of gear will keep them there.

The path taken by the boy and the messenger wove through the outermost ring of
wagons and then the outer ring of tents of the Grey Foot clan. Guard hounds
growled at the two humans and Chocobo from tent flaps and wagon wheels, but
did not bark an alarm. The only other sounds to be heard were strains of
music, laughter, talking and cheering around the bonfire in the center of the
gathering.

"You're in the Oasis Town Guard?" Tora turned her attention from her
surroundings to the youth walking beside her. He was studying Tora carefully,
paying close attention to her clothing, her gait and how she carried herself.
The boy noticed Tora watching him, blushed, and looked away.

"Yep. I'm an apprentice. Do you belong to this clan?" She pointed to the Grey
Foot clan symbol painted on the side of a wagon. A stylized, grey Chocobo foot
was pictured grasping some dried grass.

"Grey Foot? No. I'm from Riger. We're camped just the other side of the
corral." The boy looked over at Tora and smiled, still blushing. "You've a
fine Chocobo. What's her name?"

"How do you know it's a she?" Tora teased. She knew that anyone raised in one
of the herder clans could rate the worth of any herdbeast and tell the sex of
a Chocobo at a glance. Instead of becoming more embarrassed, the young man
lifted his head in pride.

"She's got a hooked claw." He smiled, not even bothering to glance at 
Tora's face to see of he'd been right.

"Her name's Dun. Do you work much with Riger's Chocobos?"

"Yep, but we don't have any as pretty as her. Ours are mostly full coppers or
chestnuts. Where'd she come from?"

As the conversation continued along the relatively safe lines of Chocobo
training, the boy grew more confident. Tora revised her estimate of his age.
He must have just recently had his Coming of Age ceremony, last season
perhaps. Tora told the young man about how she'd raised Dun in one of the
trader's caravans and how she chose to be an apprentice.

The two talkers and Tora's Chocobo arrived at the corral a few minutes 
later. The corral was a circle of smaller wagons with a gap pointing 
towards the
oasis. A pole was laid over the gap just at breast height for the youngest
Chocobos, leaving the older birds free to come and go as they pleased. With
the occasional cry of a lobo drifting over the prairie, all of the birds from
the three clans were within the enclosure. The lead mares would watch over the
entrance all night, keeping their herds safe. Chocobos of every height and
color were bedding down for the night when the trio roused the Grey Foot and
Cottenfall keepers. There were three tents near the opening of the coral, one
a silvery grey, the next the color of the newest leaves and the third a darker
muted green. They were larger than must of the tents the trio had passed so
far. The size and good condition of the tents showed the importance of good
animal herders to the clans of the plains. The quality of the animals they
raised and the meat and hides they sell directly affect a clan's prosperity.
The youth ducked into the darker green tent for a moment before the other two
handlers emerged from their tents.

"Well, now, who're you, my beauty?" The older of the two men approached Dun,
immediately dismissing from his attention the two people with her. the second
man looked Dun over from where he stood before turning to Tora and her guide.

"Devan? What're you doing here with a Chocobo and her Rider?" Tora smiled at
the old man's words. He'd named her Dun first, a sign of a good Chocobo
handler.

"This is Dun. Her Rider's to see Riger after we saw to her Chocobo." Devan
answered. The old handler squinted at Tora again.

"A Rider from Oasis, huh? Aren't you a bit young for a Rider?" He joked. Tora
smiled and patted Dun's neck.

"She doesn't seem to think so."

The old men glanced at each other and shared a laugh before leading Dun, Tora
and Devan into the corral. Three Chocobos stood up and started walking towards
the Chocobo following the group of humans. The two chestnuts and the copper
were the herd mares of the three clans gathered here. They were curious about
the light-colored stranger. Cottonfall's handler intercepted the three mares
and spoke quietly to them while Tora removed the saddle from Dun. She took a
package and a bag out of her saddlebag before putting it with her Chocobo's
other gear. Grey Foot's handler approached with a blanket and some lead
straps.

"I'll walk her around a bit till she cools off, then bed her down for ye.
Don't you worry about Dun, here. She'll be just fine." Tora leaned against Dun
for a moment longer before allowing herself to be shooed out of the corral
along with Devan.

"Come on. Riger's Tent is right over here." Devan led Tora away from the
corral and towards the bonfire still going strong in the center of the
gathering. Stepping past the last row of tents, Tora and Devan headed towards
one of the three large tents around the central cleared space. The sight of
the guard at the door of the tent made Tora stop moving. Devan stopped when he
noticed that Tora wasn't following him anymore. He followed her gaze to the
guard and turned back to the Rider with a smile. He'd gotten accustomed to the
strange look of the guard and hadn't considered how Tora would react.

The firelight glinted off the guard's armor. It took a while for Tora to
realize that she was looking at a leather tunic sewn with circular pieces of
metal. A metal plated shield leaned against a post at his feet and a spear
with a gleaming head was standing against the tent behind him. The apprentice
Rider had never seem so much metal in one place before and, like many
Jibaulderians would, she stared.

"Tora, this is Geterik He's been on contract with Riger this last season." The
guard finally shifted his glance to the pair. He nodded to Devan and Tora in
greeting.

"What do you need in your leader's tent, boy? And who's this with you?"
Geterik asked. His voice was low and heavily accented, and sounded accustomed
to giving orders and being obeyed quickly.

"This is Tora. She's a Rider from Oasis Town." Devan announced proudly. The
guard frowned at Tora as she stared at her boot toes and blushed. Devan
glanced between the hired soldier and Tora, not knowing why the Rider was so
uncomfortable all of a sudden.

"Um.. I'm to make sure she sees Riger and return to the western sentry post."
The young lad shifted his weight uneasily, trying not to look at either the
glaring warrior or the embarrassed young woman.

"You've done your duty then. I'll make sure she sees Riger. Back to your post
lad." At the soldier's gruff words, Devan bowed his head in deference before
heading back towards the corral and the western sentry post. Once Devan was
out of sight, the soldier returned his attention to the young woman standing
in front of him.

"Your name is Tora? There weren't any female Riders at Oasis Town when I
left."

"No sir. I'm an apprentice." Tora folded her cape back over her shoulder and
showed the soldier the braided cord around her bicep, indicating 
apprenticeship. A golden feather from her Chocobo had been woven into the
weave, signaling her desire to be a Rider. The guard hurumphed and told Tora
to wait before he disappeared into the lighted interior of the Riger tent.
Freed momentarily from the stare of the metal-clad soldier, Tora looked around
the circle of rents. She recognized the pennants of Grey Foot and Cottonfall
flying above their clan tents. In the center of the rough circle, a fire was
blazing, casting it's light on the many people still celebrating the first
rains of the season. The ground was still muddy in some places from the
downpour of the last few nights and the scents of wet hay, sod, berry cider
and roasted meat surrounded Tora. Looking up and away from the firelight, the
young apprentice could barely make out the three stars that made up Bahamut's
eyes and nose and the Sun Courter who still shone above the tents to the west.

Tora smiled, remembering the story told about a youth who climbed the tallest
peak in the western mountains just to be able to touch the beautiful Sun
Maiden. The Sun decided to carry the boy into the heavens, but she gets tired
of his company very often. Most of the boy's time is spent either chacing
after the Sun Maiden, or running from her wrath. The short times they are
together are times for betrothals and marriages throughout Tora's homeland.

Her attention was torn from the night sky when Geterik ducked back out of 
the Riger tent.

"Go on in, girl. Riger'll see you." The metal-clad guard stepped aside,
holding the tent flap open for her.

Ducking under the flap of heavy herder-cloth, Tora found herself in a small
alcove full of cloaks and mud boots. Most of the cloaks either bore Riger's
colors or were the dull brown worn while working. Tucked among the brown and
dark green were the bright grey of Grey Foot and the pale green of Cottonfall.
It seemed that Riger was entertaining guests tonight. She hung her own cloak
on a hook hanging from one of the beams and shouldered aside the inner flap.

Candles set in reflective, obsidian scones cast a soft light on the woven
woolen of the inner walls of the tent. Each candle was hung carefully on the
dark wood supports. Lightweight beams stretched overhead. In the center of the
tent stood a larger, weathered pine pole, girdled about the lower section with
a layer of rock-hard river clay to guard against fire damage. A diamond of 4
fires surrounded the central pole, providing the warmth and extra light needed
for a tent this size.

Groups of people sat talking, eating and laughing around the outsides of all
four fire pits. On a wooden stool, laughing with members of Grey Foot and
Cottonfall, sat the leader of the Riger Clan. An aging man with salty-grey
hair and muscle slowly turning to gut, Riger was still a very imposing figure
and Tora suddenly felt very nervous. The main tents in the caravans where she
grew up were never this big. Even during the one council gathering in Oasis
Town during her stay there, she'd never seen so many people being so noisy in
so small a space. It was daunting for the young apprentice, so used to the
close, quiet nights in the caravans, or, more recently, the shorter free
periods in the barracks at night. At the beginning of her apprenticeship, Tora
had been frequently dazed by the clamor and activity of the early military
morning. She was frequently saved from embarrassment by Dun during the morning
exercises, the mount slightly more adaptable to their changed environment then
the rider. Thinking of Dun, Tora straightened her back, lifted her head and
sternly reminded herself that her Chocobo wouldn't be nervous. The young
Rider's apprentice started making her way through the only open space in the
tent; along the walls. Stepping over and around sleeping children and rolled-
up belongings, Tora slowly approached the cluster of merrymakers at the back
of the tent.
***

After putting a line of dark green tents between himself and the guard, Devan
slowed to a walk and headed towards the corral. Just after passing the last
wagons, he could hear the low murmur of a handler talking to one of the riding
birds. When he stepped over the low bar, he saw three figures in the middle of
the corral; the handlers were trying to get Riger's lead mare to accept the
golden newcomer. The chestnut female repeatedly flared her crest feathers and
wings at Tora's mare and tried to get around the handlers to get a closer
look. The lead mare of Riger clan was strongly territorial for a herd mare and
was clearly agitated by the presence of the paler Chocobo. Lighter-colored
Chocobos in free herds on the plains were often stronger and bigger than
darker birds. Their feathers trapped less heat during the day and blended with
the grasses better at night. They used less energy keeping cool so they had
more available for growth when young. Pale Chocobos, such as Dun, often became
herd mares or protector males. Riger's lead mare recignized Dun as a possible
usurper and refused to be calmed by the handlers.

Noticing the young man, Cottonfall's handler called him over, "Devan, isn't
it? Grab those leads and walk Bet around till she's calmer, will you?"

"Yes, sir." Devan answered, already reaching for a set of tanned lead straps
draped over the fence. The two men continued to head off Riger clan's lead
mare as she began whistling and bobbing her head. The other two lead mares
began approaching the scene in the center of the corral, getting interested in
what was happening. While pale Chocobos might tend towards strength and speed,
Coppers were noted for their intelligence. Bet knew that the handlers wanted
her to calm down. This only made her more suspicious of the younger, lighter
bird.

"Steady there, Bet. Come on down, now." Devan crooned. When the mare lowered
her head to eye and smell him, Devan slipped the straps over the crest
feathers of the large bird. She fought the leather for a moment before calming
under Devan's low voice and gentle hands. He turned the bird away from the
Rider's mount and took her out of the corral.

"We'll just walk you up to the guard post and let Gren know what's going on,
ok?" Devan continued to talk to the dark chestnut bird while walking through
the outer wagons. His low monologue alerted the guard hounds to his presence
as well as calmed the still-antzy Chocobo walking beside him.
Retracing the path he, Tora and Dun had walked, Devan could see firelight
reflecting off the tents, through much of the laughter and music had died with
the deepening of twilight. Gren heard the double set of footfalls long before
the pair gained the top of the gently sloping hill.

"She's your lead mare, isn't she, boy?" Gren asked when the pair had
approached close enough to throw auburn highlights over the boy and mare.

"Didn't take to the Rider's Chocobo, eh?"

"No, she didn't, sir. Cottonfall's handler asked me to walk her around till
she settles down." Devan replied, circling the firepit.

"So where was your handler, then?" The old Grey Foot guard was slightly
snearing at the boy.

"He's down sick with a fever."

"And what about that sumoner of yourn? Can't she even heal a fever?" The
haughty sneer widened on the guard's face in the low firelight.

"She said that summoners can't heal fevers but that's why they study herbs.
She gave him some to help. He was much better today." Gren hurumphed while the
young man again circled the fire. "I'll walk Bet around the far side of camp
then back to the corral." Devan stayed long enough to see the guard nod before
heading back down the hill. Now well hidden by darkness, the young man 
briefly hung his head. Bet, sensing his mood, dropped her head to thump his 
shoulder. Absently petting the Chocobo's shoulder, Devan craned his head to 
look southwest.

"I'm gonna go to Oasis Town some day, Bet. And I'm gonna breed the best
Chocobos anyone's ever seen!" The chestnut bird danced a few steps at the
fierce determination in Devan's voice. By the time the two arrived back at the
corral, Bet was calm and slightly bored, having seen and smelled the outsides
of this camp for the last 3 days. Reaching the corral, Bet again caught the
scent of the stranger, but having already scented her before, the lead mare
was merely curious, not hostile. Devan removed the straps from his clan's lead
mare. Bet walked over to Tora's mount but Devan knew that there would be no
more trouble from her. The two birds circled one another once before Riger's
mare satisfied her interest in the lighter bird. Devan returned the straps to
a hook on the side of a wagon and left the birds to settle in for the rest of
the night.

Devan cut through the wagons to the open center area of the camp on his way
back to the guard post. He quickly drained one mug of warm berry cider,
scanning the area for a bright green rider's cloak. realizing that Tora wasn't
there, he grabbed two more mugs of cider and started for the outskirts of
camp, wondering why he felt disappointed.

Reaching the sentry post, Devan handed one mug to Gren and went back to his
bedroll. Gren hrumphed his thanks, unwilling to actually voice thanks to a
member of Riger clan. Devan nodded slightly, his head buried in the steam
coming off of his cider.

Flame wings fluttered around the campfire, bathing their wings in the heat and
glowing like tiny fires in the night sky. The Sun Courter finally slipped
below the horizon and the dry season stars were rising to replace their wet
season cousins as the two small moons wandered the heavens. Far to the south,
the desert lions were hunting and young mist dragons gathered in the hollows
of their swamp, talking and playing the night away. All creatures knew that
the rains had come to the north, and the long, hot, dry days were behind them
for another cycle of seasons.

___________________________________________________________________
Delany Brittain
   turtyl@montana.com

   BA English, University of Montana; Aspiring, Author
-----

         Ranma-onna did her best 'Kawaii' routine, sparkles and all.
         "With a smile on my face and a song in my heart."
           --Saotome Ranma, "Kasumi and the Gaki" by Jack Staik

         The difference between involvement and commitment is like
         an eggs and ham breakfast:  The chicken was involved - The
         pig was committed.
           --Anonymous

         If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must
         first create the universe.
           --Carl Sagan


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