“Why, exactly, is Zenos yae Galvus standing outside?”
There are many things you could say about Thancred: he’s surprisingly sensitive, painfully self-sacrificing, and pretty quick on his feet in strange situations. That being said, there was literally no situation, past or present, that could have prepared him for the absolute nonsense that has become of his life after meeting the Warrior of Light.
Case in point: the sadistic former-Prince and now-Emperor of the Garleans standing outside of the Rising Stones looking bored.
Thancred turned from staring out the window of the bar to look at the Warrior of Light, recently changed back into their casual gear after wearing dark robes for over a year now. The color scheme was still monotone, but at least they were branching back out into their preferred style before… before their last fight on the First.
Right, with that somber note out of the way: “How is no one noticing him? The bastard’s got to be eight-bloody-feet tall! He’s not exactly subtle.” Thancred leaned against the window pane, hand going to his gunblade.
A cup slammed onto the bartop, followed by the scrape of the barstool being shoved back. The Warrior of Light, face grim, stalked over to the door and flung it open. Instantly, Zenos’ eyes were locked on them.
“What the fuck do you want, Zenos?”
Thancred almost dropped his gunblade. Well… I suppose they’re on a “first-name basis”, nowadays. The Warrior had basically shouted the name, alerting some passersby in the square that quickly took their leave.
The Warrior (and Thancred) were treated to a slow and, frankly, chilling smile that crept over the Garlean’s face. Dear gods, the psychopath can actually smile… I kind of wish was never here to see it. Steeling himself against the shuddering in his very bones from seeing the murderer looking downright intoxicated at the Warrior’s voice.
“Ah, my Friend,” came the low, rumbling growl. “I have come to alleviate my boredom.”
“So, watching the Empire tear itself apart has become boring?” Despite Zenos’ gleeful voice, the Warrior remained stoney.
A rough sigh from the Emperor. Followed by the Warrior’s reigned tone. “Just don’t start hunting here, alright? Ten minutes, over the ridge, toward the Crystal Tower. I want Midgardsormr to watch,” the Warrior snarled. It sent another shiver through Thancred’s body.
He swallowed, watching as the Warrior stalked back into the Rising Stones to collect their gear. Outside, Zenos lingered for a moment longer before sauntering off to the western gate of the town. Unwilling as he was to let the monster out of his sight, Thancred hurried back into the home of the Scions behind the Warrior.
He took the time to really look at them: they were loose-limbed, as if some persistent tension had lifted from their shoulders; they were silent as they moved, calling to mind (dare he say it) a coeurl on the hunt; and, most damningly, they wore a small, bloodthirsty smirk (so like him). An aura of violence followed after them, like a robe of thorns keeping him from getting too close. This is… What has become of you, my friend?
Luckily, Thancred has had some experience ignoring obvious warning signs for the greater good.
“So...you and Zenos, is it?”
The Warrior stuttered in their steps for a second, but recovered and leveled a glare at him. “‘Is’ what, exactly?”
Thancred raised his brows at them. “Are you serious? I could cut the tension between you two with a knife… Forgoing the obvious and most pressing concern of, oh I don’t know, him being the emperor of the enemy nation trying to subjugate Eorzea . I can’t help but wonder what you plan to do with him, friend--”
A sharp bark of laughter cut him off. Having gathered their weapons, now sorting through their assorted soul gems, the Warrior looked vaguely amused.
“Is this ‘fatherly concern’ I’m sensing?”
Thancred gaped. “I-- You-- HE’S--!”
“Because I’m quite sure we left Ryne on the First,” the Warrior finished coldly.
And then a growled, “That was a low blow.”
Finished packing, the Warrior paused and has the good grace to look remorseful. “Yeah. I’m sorry.” They looked him in the eye and said, “You just-- I’m not gonna lie and say I know what the fuck is going on in Zenos’ head. But, and this is a huge ‘but’, he’s quieter when I try to kill him.”
The Warrior let out a sigh. “He’s… You know he’s basically immortal, right? It’s… it’s not sitting well with him. He’s probably gonna do something incredibly stupid soon, like try to eat a god again, and I like to think keeping him from getting bored is a way to kill time.”
They winced. “Yeah, poor choice of words--”
“No, you absolute fucking idiot, you’re babysitting Zenos !” Thancred cut in.
The shout honestly caught both the Warrior and Thancred off-guard.
He recovered quickly, in a more subdued tone. “You aren’t responsible for that fucking psychopath just because he’s fixated on you.”
“That’s not it--”
“Then what is it?!”
“I need him.”
“...I’m sorry, you’re going to need to elaborate. Because that sounded awfully close to a ‘confession’ and I need to know if I need to call in Y’shtola to hold you down to see if you’ve become a fucking Tempered !”
The Warrior weathered the tirade with a dull, almost pitying, face. They looked worn out.
“Look,” they sighed, “I get how it sounds. But, you were the first to go, Thancred.”
“...You’re talking about the Exarch’s summoning.”
They nodded. “You didn’t see it: everyone tearing at the seams trying to figure out ‘why’, Eorzea at war because of a fool with ambitions too big for his lifetime, and our allies desperately begging to lend help they couldn’t give. They were, all of them, useless.”
Well, turn up the heating, because it was getting cold in here.
The Warrior continued, their glassy stare becoming distant and pained. “And they tried-- gods I know they tried--to help and unite and stand as one, but it wasn’t enough . It’s never been enough.” They looked up, eye feverish and bright. “I don’t-- this star doesn’t need empty platitudes hoping for the best, soldiers that cannot defeat a legion on their own, nor would-be heroes so quick to fall. What we need is power.” They smiled suddenly. “ I need power.”
And like a switch was flipped, that spurt of derangement faded. The Warrior was left looking more tired than before. “You all rely on me. But when you’re all gone… who do I rely on?”
The Warrior searched his eyes for a few seconds more, face tightening in pain at what they found. They shook their head and walked toward the exit, brushing past Thancred as they went.
They paused at the door entering the bar and called back, “You know,Thancred: I came for you. I came for all of you. And, with the First’s help, we remedied G’raha’s mistake and brought you all home.” They looked over their shoulder to deliver a last piercing blow:
“Zenos came back to me on his own.”