stardustproxy: Clap. Clap. Slap. (Garnet)
Title: To be a Summoner
Medium: Fic
Request(s): Dagger and Eiko, learning what it is to be a summoner. They're the last of their kind. Any background or cultural details regarding Madain Sari are a plus.
Fandom(s): Final Fantasy IX
Characters/Pairings: Garnet, Eiko, Moogles
Rating/Warnings: PG
Feedback: That would be nice. ^^
Spoilers: Vague spoilers through the end of the game, definite spoilers through Madain Sari.
Word Count: 2376
Summary: The origins of the summoners, a fable told with the help of many voices, some more unexpected than others.

Notes: I wanted it to come across as a bit like a folklore, and I had an unexpected amount of fun writing it. It's also kind of sweet. Special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kenkai_chan (forgive my terrible tenses!) and [livejournal.com profile] jessicamariek (forgive my typos!) for much help with beta work and general idea bouncing. First written for Chocobo Down for [livejournal.com profile] ff_exchange!

Edit 9/10/09, now with even more fixed tenses. So many conflicting tenses... @.@ I hope I have them all now.



The sun hung low in the sky over Madain Sari, and the pieces of the fallen Iifa Tree loomed disconcertingly in the distance. That afternoon, the last two summoners had entered the village. Eiko had lit incense along the Eidolon Wall, trying to make amends because she’d broken the promise to her grandfather and left. Garnet followed the younger girl’s example, but her incense was lit to seek forgiveness for forgetting.

Now, the sun was rapidly setting, and Eiko was lying on the ground near the entrance to the Wall. Squished between Momotose and Mocha, her breath heavy and low, the trio napped contentedly. Her yellow ribbon had come undone, and it was rustling over her eyes haphazardly.

Garnet approached quietly, looking for Eiko. When she saw that the younger girl was asleep, she paused, unwilling to disturb her. Garnet stood a quiet distance away, studying the wall. It called to her, like a memory just out of reach, and she was content to watch the sunset reflect off the wall.

Eiko stirred before sitting up and stretching carefully, unwilling to disturb her moogle friends. She blinked twice before noticing Garnet nearby. Rubbing sleep out of her eyes, she went over toward her friend.

“Why didn’t you wake me up! It’s almost dark already. I promised to help you and Morrison with dinner!”

“You didn’t sleep very well last night,” Garnet tilted her head to the side and offered the girl a soft smile. “Moco’s helping with dinner, in any case. They made me get out of the kitchen, sent me to find you.”

Eiko shuddered. “I hope that you’re not very hungry, Dagger. Because those two cooking? No offense, but yuk!”

“Consider it an adventure of sorts, and we’ll get by. We’ve had worse, after all, haven’t we?”

With a nod, Eiko smiled brightly. “Yeah. Remember the time we tried to make Amarant cook?”

Garnet nodded, but didn't laugh like she normally would have at the memory. Instead, she found herself staring at the Eidolon Wall again. The wall stood as a testament to time, a mass of weathered rock, all that remained of the summoners’ culture. Again, Garnet wished she could remember something more about the first six years of her life.

“Yo! Dagger! Are you all right?” Eiko was waving a hand in front of the Alexandrian queen’s face, trying to get the attention back to her. “You’re staring off into space.”

“The Eidolon Wall,” she replied absently. “I was wondering about the wall. And about the summoners. Eiko, what was it like in Madain Sari? Before?”

“I don’t remember much.” Eiko leaned into Garnet’s skirt, toying with the hem of it nervously. “I wasn’t born until after nearly everyone was gone, but my Grandpa used to tell me stories about the summoners. He said that our horn was special, and that the wall was special. That we’re special, because we have a bond with the eidolons. We do what no one else can.”

“But what else?” Garnet asked, taken aback by her sudden need to know, right now if at all possible. “Can you tell me some of the stories? I don’t remember them.”

Eiko looked behind Garnet’s skirts, toward the kitchen, where a trio of moogles are bickering over the large stew pot. “Chimomo’s trying to help, too.”

“Eiko.”

“I don’t know if I’d be any good. I’ve never tried to tell them before. And I haven’t heard them since my grandpa died.” A note of panic creeped into the young girl’s voice. “What if I can’t remember them all? How am I supposed to be in charge of all of that? I should’ve paid more attention when my grandpa was telling me the stories.”

Dagger kneeled down, wrapping the small girl into a hug. “Eiko. Remember that you’re not alone. You’ve got so much information inside of you, but you’re not responsible for the entire history of the summoners of Madain Sari. I asked because I wanted to know what you know. Not to make you sad, or feel pressured to remember it all.”

Eiko blinked back a tear. “And you’re a summoner too. I’ll tell you the stories, and you can tell your children the stories too. Like how my grandpa told me.”

Garnet’s ears flushed faintly pink at the mention of children, and she’s grateful that her hair covered most of the red blush. It’s growing out now, in the middle of an unruly stage where it liked to hang messily in her face, refusing to stay pulled back for long. Eiko did not notice the flush, and Garnet breathed a small sigh of relief.

Eiko was now sitting on the ground, her legs crossed as she leaned against a rock. Her overalls are covered with dirt, moogle hair, and bits of grass, but they don’t bother her. “Okay. I’ll tell you the one I know best. My grandpa knew this one and I think it was his favorite, ‘cause he told it to me lots.”

Garnet gave a quiet nod, before sitting down across from Eiko. She adjusted the skirt of her dress, then turned toward Eiko attentively. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

“All right, so long ago, hundreds of years before any of us were born, there was a war. A great big war between two countries on the Mist Continent, and Grandpa said the war was so long ago, even before Lindblum and Alexandria were the two big cities of the world. And because of this great big war, there were two sisters separated. One sister was on one side of the conflict, and the other sister was on the other side of the war.”

“Is this about the beginnings of the summoner tribe?” Garnet can’t help but ask, wondering if this might help fill in some of the blanks in her memory.

“I’m trying to tell it, Dagger!” Eiko said, making a face. “I’m gonna mess this up.”

Garnet gave an apologetic smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, before taking a seat next to Eiko, pulling the little girl into her lap. “No, you’re going to be just fine. I’m sorry for interrupting. Please, continue?”

“These two sisters were very close, and the only reason they were living in separate countries is because the older sister, Madain, fell in love with a soldier from that country, and moved there to be with him. Sari stayed behind, to care for their mother. But the two were close, twins. So they wrote letters and missed each other so much.”

Eiko cuddled into Dagger’s side, taking care not to poke the older summoner with her horn as she wrapped herself in Dagger’s skirt.

“But the war made it hard to stay in touch. Towns were broken, and people died. Sari’s home was burned to the ground, and her mother died too. With nothing left to lose, Sari went to her sister’s. It was a long trip, and she had to be careful, ‘cause of the war. But she made it to Madain’s, only to find that Madain was in mourning clothes, because her husband had been killed in the war.”

A single tear slid down Garnet’s cheek, and she brushed it aside quietly. The story seems to resonate with her in not altogether wanted ways.

“He’s still alive.” Eiko patted Garnet’s leg gently.

“I’m not crying because of that, Eiko. The story is just sad, that’s all.”

Eiko rolled her eyes, not believing it for a minute, but continued on. “So Madain and Sari decide that the war has cost them enough, and they need to stop it, to end the destruction. So they decided to travel to the Iifa Tree. Together, they would plead to the goddesses and gods of long ago, and seek their advice to stop the war. The Iifa Tree is supposedly really like um, a meaningful place to speak to the gods from.”

“It’s very spiritual,” chimed in Mocha, who has finally woken up from his spot near the Eidolon Wall. He’s already started lighting a campfire, for full dark has fallen. “We came from the Iifa Tree too, but that’s another story for another day.”

“You remember the stories, too, Mocha?” asked Eiko, curious. “I thought I was the only one left that knew them.”

“Miss Eiko, the moogles, kupo, have been around Madain Sari nearly as long as the summoners, kupo!” Mocha smiled and settled in next to Eiko. “We have a long history as well. But this is your story to tell tonight. Kupo!”

“Oh! Right! Anyway, the two sisters go to the Iifa Tree and beg the gods for help to stop the war. And Ramuh greeted them. He wasn’t the most powerful god, but he was considered the oldest and the wisest. And Ramuh came down to the sisters and told them that the gods could not come down from the mighty Iifa Tree, but they could help in another way.”

“And that’s how, kupo, the gems were given to Madain and Sari. The first summoning stones, kupo!”

“Mocha, I thought you were going to let me tell the story!”

“Oh, right, Eiko, I forgot. That’s my favorite part though, kupo!”

“Madain and Sari used the summoning stones to call forth many summons, like Ark and Alexander and their power was used to end the war, but it was at a great cost. More people died, and more cities were destroyed. The cities were eventually rebuilt as Alexandria and Lindblum, I think. But anyway, the sisters felt really, really guilty. They wanted to end the war, not kill more people. So they went to the Iifa Tree for further advice.”

“Oh! I like this part. Did you get to the part where the summoners isolated themselves yet, kupo?” Another moogle had wandered up to hear the story.

“Not yet, Momatose.” Eiko nudged Garnet with her shoulder. “You’re staring into that fire awfully intently.”

“Just listening.” Garnet let out a sigh. “Continue, please?”

Eiko patted her leg again. “So they went back to the Iifa Tree. Ramuh came to them again and said that war was a part of human nature, and stopping it completely would be impossible. The cities of Lindblum and Alexandria would wage war against each other many more times before the end of time. Sari was broken hearted, and she started to cry, to weep at the feet of Ramuh. Madain looked angry, ready to cast the gods aside, for leading her down this path of destruction.”

“Oh, here’s the best part, kupo!”

Eiko glared at the two moogles, then blinked when she realized that the two moogles were now five. “Is everyone out here listening? What about dinner?”

“We were tired of waiting on you, Miss Eiko, kupo! We’ll eat when you finish.”

“Two moogles appeared, from the branches of the Iifa Tree. Madain wasn’t placated. She said she wouldn’t be bribed. But Ramuh told her that the moogles were to help her raise the child that she carried. They’d be the protector of her children, and her sister’s children, and the children to come in generations to come.”

“We’re the official guardians of the children of Madain Sari, kupo!” Morrison proclaimed this proudly. “Over the generations, we’ve also taken to protecting the Eidolon Wall, and to guard the stories and the history of the summoners, kupo. Just call us walking history books!”

“Moogles have left the village to roam the world, kupo,” added Mocha. “But there have always been moogles here at Madain Sari since the beginning of our existence.”

“Sari still wept, and still mourned the loss of life. So the two sisters decided to create this village within sight of the Iifa Tree, to remind them of the cost they paid for the peace they tried to bring. Neither sister married again, but they accepted outcasts and orphans from the war, welcoming anyone who needed shelter from the dangers of the outside world. Each of these children were given a moogle guardian, and a gem containing their first summon, their traditional summon. The sisters agreed to retain the power of the summons, for fear that letting the power get into the wrong hands would destroy all of Gaia as we knew it.”

Eiko leand back, stretching her arms over her head. “Is it okay if we finish the story over dinner? I’m so hungry! Do you think we can eat outside? The fire’s so nice, and the stars are really pretty tonight.”

Garnet’s stomach gave an undignified grumble, which caused all the moogles to chuckle. With a smile, the five moogles trotted off to carry the pot of stew down to eat near the fire.

Eiko took the bowl of stew happily, and wolfed some of it down before she continued her story. “Soon, Madain had a daughter, and she was born with the first summoner’s horn. The horn was an apology from the gods, a way to make amends for giving the two humans the power to summon them without explaining the risks. It was a way for us to speak to our summons, and to consult with them before doing anything that might cause great suffering.”

Garnet’s heart clenched in her chest slightly, and she set her stew down, barely touched. She had to know the ending to this story.

“Over time, the summoning gems were lost, and but the power to summon the gods was retained through the blood, through the history, through the spirit. The summoners took in outcasts, but over time the village distanced itself more and more from the rest of the world, and eventually, every new child born to the tribe had the trademark horn, and they became our symbol. And so we prayed to our gods, to our responsibilities, to our history. And we became the summoners of Madain Sari. It’s just you and me now, Dagger. The last of our kind.”

“Not the last.” Garnet reached out and squeezed Eiko’s hand gently. “The moogles know the stories, and you’ll teach me more of the stories. You’ll teach me how to offer prayers at the Eidolon Wall, and we’ll light incense to mark the important days. And we’ll teach our daughters, our sons. We’re not going to be the last.”

Eiko squeezed Garnet’s hand back, and she felt content.

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