My surroundings reflected the mood I was in and not in a way that brought comfort as it sometimes does, but rather as if it were mocking me. Taunting me with my own melancholy. The landscape was barren and nearly bereft of life. The sky was cold and dark. The very air felt still as if I had awakened in a centuries old tomb.
I was on my way to Bastok and the the Gustabergs were unrelenting. I felt alone and this wasteland only made me feel more so. I didn't even pause in the Fumaroles to have a chuckle at the "Lizard Watchers". I had heard of these deluded souls before. They spend countless hours among the rocks here, waiting and hoping to catch a glimpse of a certain lizard they have dubbed "Leaping Lizzy". A few of the more dedicated (or mad depending on your point of view) watchers actually believe that if they are able to touch Lizzy, they will be imbued with a magic that makes their movements more precise. I just shook my head and moved on.
As I approached the gates to Bastok I felt a fear grip my heart that was so cold it stopped me in my tracks. I was not afraid of what I had to face here, but rather that I would not find absolution for what I had become or, at least, a way to bury the hate if forgiveness was beyond my grasp. After a few moments I managed to pull myself together and I walked through the gates.
The hustle and bustle of this industrial city did little more to my mood than make me annoyed. I didn't want to deal with the crowds of people and their bazaars or the regional merchants hawking their wares. So, I put my hood up and pulled my cloak about me in an attempt to disappear while still remaining visible.
I soon put Bastok Markets behind me and entered Bastok Mines. The feel of this part of the city was drastically different then the one I had just left. There were more locals here who tended to be aloof with strangers and people interested in conducting their business then getting on their way with little interference. I was one of the latter.
It took me some time to locate Gumbah's house in the maze of the residential area of the Mines. When I did finally locate it I paused outside the door. Should I knock or just go in? Does this Gumbah know why I have come to see him or will I have to tell my dreadful story to this stranger? Given my past life as a prince this indecisiveness was uncharacteristic for me. So I shook off these feelings of unease, mustered up my courage, and opened the door.
I really hadn't thought about who I was to find inside, but I was definitely taken aback. Before me stood a galka child, turned so that his back was to me. This youth could not possibly be the wise one that would help bring me to redemption. But once he turned to face me I looked into his eyes and saw an intelligence and wisdom that belied his age. I knew the answer to my question before I even asked it.
"You are Gumbah?"
"Yes I am." he replied.
"Kensu told me to seek you out. That you could help me." I stated before he interrupted me.
"I know not of this Kensu you speak of but I know why you have come. You have come like all the others, to learn the way of the sword, the scythe, and the darkness."
"Many that have come before you were not worthy" Gumbah continued, "as they were lusting after the power the darkness brings, but I sense that is not so with you."
I replied, "This is true. I come seeking a way to banish the darkness that threatens to overtake me. To absolve my soul of the things I have already done and protect anyone else from harm."
He stared at me intently as he spoke the words that made my spirits fall, "This is not to be. You must embrace your destiny. If you deviate from this path now all that you fear will come to pass. If you stay true, you will not find absolution, but you will gain control of that which threatens to destroy you and all you hold dear. Control is the key, not redemption, you are beyond that now."
I was stunned. My head was spinning and my legs felt weak. I crashed to the floor on my knees as my legs buckled, not in acquiescence of the path that lay before me, but in defeat, in failure.
Before I could get my wits about me Gumbah went on to say, "Unfortunately you are not yet ready. You are not yet strong enough to take the next step. I can give you no further guidance at this time."
"But I'm losing control when I go into battle and I'm afraid of harming those around me!" I stated in protest, "Is there nothing that can be done to take away the hate I feel?"
"No." he said flatly, "You will derive power from your hate. In time you will learn to control it and it will cease to lord over you, but it will always be with you. For that is the way of the Dark Knight."
I was stunned once again. I had heard of these mysterious knights. Clad in black armor from head to toe, feared by many, understood by no one except their own kind. I was not ready to accept that my destiny was to join this brotherhood, but the realization struck me that perhaps they were not the evil force everyone thought them to be. But rather that they are just like me, trying to maintain control in the midst of their chaotic lives.
Sensing my inner turmoil Gumbah said, "The reason you have been losing control is because you are fighting enemies that have a strong tie to the darkness. They are amplifying your hate to a point where you no longer have control over it. As I stated before, you are not yet ready for the next stage of your journey for it would surely overwhelm you. Go to the jungles, gain more experience there. You will not be fighting things bred of the darkness so you will be fine. When you are strong enough, return to me and I will reveal the next stage of your journey. You will know when you are ready. Trust your hate. It will be your guide and is the first step in learning to control it."
With that, Gumbah turned back to what he was doing when I first entered. I got up and walked out of the house. My business here was finished for the time being. I would have to head back to Jeuno in order to reach Kazham and the jungles that lay beyond the Mithran town.
Since I had yet to obtain an airship pass I headed to the chocobo stables. It would be a long and bumpy ride atop a chocobo back to Jeuno but I doubted that I would even notice. I was feeling quite numb after leaving Gumbah. Both the young galka and the revelation he provided had not been what I was expecting. A Dark Knight, I could still not see myself as this. Although it seemed I had little choice. Fate had conspired with destiny to bring me to this juncture in my life and it was the only thing I could do if I was to maintain some semblance of sanity.
I made a vow as I mounted my chocobo. I would not seek out Kensu or Kegnia until I gained the ability to completely control my hate and the darkness. As I set my path towards Jeuno, I noticed the sky had cleared, but a cloud still remained over my soul.
Edited, Wed Aug 24 12:18:44 2005 by Norsalik