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Chapter 1: The Meeting

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

When Moonsun first saw her there was a spark, and he knew he wanted to know her. Oh, he’d seen beauties before, there were plenty of those, here in this god forsaken place and everywhere else, but there was something different about her, something extra. As the wagon rounded the dusty trail, allowing him his first glimpse of the promised Ul’dah, a breeze kicked up, Cooling the travelers, and she smiled the most remarkable smile. It was the loveliest and most uncommon thing he’d ever seen.

He stretched his arms above his head, flexing a little, hoping she’d look back. She may or may not have, he didn’t know, but he hoped she had. He was vain in a simple way, a young man headed for the big city to make his fortune. At least, that was the appearance he gave. There was more to that story for sure, but even he didn’t know all of it—maybe not even most of it.

Ul’dah rose from the desert like a vulgar, disfigured demon. Once inside the gates there would be excitement, risk, gambling, influence, and money—lots of money. There were the good, the bad, and everything in between. It was not at all like the place Moonsun had been born and raised.

He looked back for the Girl, the Miqo’te, and found she’d moved closer, and was now standing, craning her long neck to look at the city. He had little experience, though he thought he had more than he did, and was by no means a ‘ladies man.’ He scooted a few inches towards her and said: “does the view of the city please you?”

She slid a small knife from her belt, silently, placed the blade in her mouth crosswise, so that the sharpest part of the curved blade almost dimpled her left cheek, before sticking it into a sheath at her breast. All of this happened in seconds. Moonsun was amazed by her stealth. “I’ve seen it before,” she said. “But it never ceases to inspire.” Her outfit was that of a commoner, but she moved like a princess, or worse, an assassin. Watching her breathe, gently controlled, made his heart beat faster. There was a sense of something unknowable about her, something out of his grasp.

The wagon halted. There were travelers and merchants, and free citizens everywhere in the common areas before the gates. The girl bolted, but Moonsun got caught by the wagoneer while attempting to follow. He was forced into a small conversation of ‘niceties’ before he was allowed to jump down, and by then, the girl was gone.

He checked his pack and the wooden box gilded in gold and pearl which was to be delivered this time. He had never failed his father, and this mission represented an obvious step above, a promotion of sorts, to a new level of responsibility. He felt proud to have earned it.

He entered the city without incident. The gates had been wide, allowing all free people’s to pass unhindered by the guards. On previous missions, in other smaller cities, he’d experienced more resistance. There had always been some uprising or commotion clotting-up his arrival, and sometimes departure. But Ul’dah was as promised—an open gate to the wiles and fortunes of freedom and openness. The streets were wide and full of every kind of amusement and temptation. But his orders were narrow and clear. He was to make his way to the Quicksand, reserve a room, and wait for further instructions. Of course, there would be some sort of exchange, but he neither knew nor cared how that would come about. It always went off without a hitch, so long as he stayed on track.

The room was comfortable and large. There was a bed and a writing desk an running water facilities. Moonsun stripped off his clothes and made for the bath right away. Twelve days on a dusty trail had left marks. Marks that could be scrubbed away by a long hot bath. While he soaked in the heated basin, he thought about the girl. Where had she gone? Would he see her again? He closed his eyes and pictured her silky black hair flowing in the wind. He pictured her leaning on his shoulder, holding his hand, her soft mane draping down his back and chest. He rewound the scene in his head a dozen times, soaking in the pleasure it evoked. When he rose from the bath he’d made a decision. He’d go down to the bar and maybe see if there was anything, anywhere, to this woman. Was she a ghost, or real flesh and blood? He knew It was almost impossible for him to find her in a city this large, but maybe there was some fate at work, some magic.

The room came with a clean set of clothes hanging from a hook on the back of a door. He put them on and was surprised they fit like they were made for him. How did these Lalafell do it? He knew the girl was not part of the plan. His father would be angry if he found out what he was doing but he was a man now. He could make his own decisions. Besides, what could the old man know from so many miles away. Moonsun was not a singer, but he found himself softly singing a song he’d heard somewhere: “I don’t know where, but she sends me there...”

He placed the wooden box under the bed and shoved his dirty clothes on top of it to hide it. It would be safe there and he would only be gone for a few hours. He’d promised his mother he wouldn’t drink or fight like his brothers often did on trips like this. But he wasn’t like his brothers. They cared nothing for fine things and high thought. They cared nothing for art or music. They were little more than barbarians, and Moonsun didn’t see how their father could put up with such animals, or trust them for anything.

He descended the polished stone stairs from the floor his room was on and crossed the circular marble pavers to the lounge. There were all manor of travelers and creatures dotting the roundway, sitting at the bar, talking loudly (or quietly) in small groups, and bustling about their business. He took a table with a view of the two sets of wooden entry doors and thought of a cold drink. Before he could utter its name it appeared on the round oak table in front of him, glowing blue and delicious, just like back home. These Lalafells, how do they do it, he thought.

He watched the doors and the people coming in and out and nursed his drink with relish. He was so engrossed he didn’t notice the old man pull up a chair next to him until he spoke.

“So, what brings a bright young man to this dark and depraved hole of a city, eh?”

Moonsun startled. “I—uh... I’m looking for someone,” he said. “I don’t know what you mean by dark and depraved. It seems like a lovely place to find oneself.”

“Perhaps,” said the old man. “But one can get up to no end of trouble in a place like this pretty quickly.”

Moonsun moved his hand to the haft of his short sword. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

“No no, son, you don’t have to worry about this old man. I mean you no harm, and any harm I could do to a young buck such as yourself has long fled my grasp. I was simply inquiring as to your position among things. You know, making small-talk as they say.”

Moonsun relaxed. He looked back at the doors as a giant of a man entered, looking pissed off, and then met a bunny and a puppy in the roundway and rolled onto his belly for a scratch. “Yes,” said the boy. “This place can be strange. But sometimes I think strange is just something one’s not used to. The world is full of difference, but at the heart of it all we’re all really the same.”

“This is the view of an optimist,” said the old man, scooting his chair closer.

“I guess I’m that.”

“You are boy, you are, and it’s marvelous to see such a positive outlook these days. You give me goosebumps.”

Moonsun put his hand back on the haft of his sword in an exaggerated gesture, and both men laughed like they were children for a moment. Then they were silent for another moment, both thinking of some far off memory, some place beyond this one. The old man placed a feeble hand on Moonsun’s shoulder.

“I’m looking for a girl,” said Moonsun.

“A girl, eh?” said the old man. “Just any girl, or a certain one? You look like a man looking for a certain one if I’d have to guess.”

“She’s a Miqo’te,” he said. “She...she...well, I’ll not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say she is the loveliest creature I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

“There are plenty of lovely creatures here and there,” said the old man. “If you don’t find her I could maybe help you procure another.”

“Thank you sir, but I’m not interested in another,” Moonsun said. “She’s more than beautiful. There’s something else, a fire. I can’t put my finger on it.”

“My my then. We must find this one,” said the old man. “Has she a name?”

Moonsun frowned. He leaned closer to the old man feeling comfortable now, and said: “I didn’t get her name. I should have, but I didn’t.”

The old man pulled a small black sketchbook from his tunic, scooted closer to Moonsun, and opened it so they could both see. “I’m an artist,” he said. “Perhaps I could draw a likeness of her, or perhaps I’ve already done so. Here, look at these and see if she is there.”

Moonsun scrolled through the pages. The old man had an eye for beauty, that was for sure. There were pictures of beautiful women of every race, on every page. Although, in the end none of them were her. The old man patted his back in sympathy and offered to buy him another drink. He stood from the table with obvious effort and turned directly into the blade of a curved knife, attached to a thin arm which was attached to a beautifully supple shoulder, which rose up a long neck to a jaw that opened and said: “this old man has been pick-pocketing you for twenty minutes. I was going to let him but something in me decided enough was enough. Go on, check your pockets.”

It was her. She stood plainly, but resolutely before the pair. “Go on then. Check your pockets.”

Moonsun checked his pockets and found them all empty. His Gil pouch, his watch, his compass, and a dagger given to him by his father, all gone.

“I’m going to recommend you place everything on the table,” she said to the old man. The old man shook a little and complied. He dropped all of his gains in the middle of the large oak circle and then slipped away like a man much younger than he looked.

Moonsun was astonished and jubilant. “How did you—? I mean, where did you—?”

The woman sat down in a chair to his left. “My name is Joon,” she said.

“My name is Park Moonsun,” said Moonsun. “I’m more than pleased to make your acquaintance.”

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