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The cost to keep weapons at hand for everyone isn’t much.

Just a little tug on the edge of your consciousness when Ignis swaps from a lance to daggers or Gladio grabs his greatsword. Just a little extra tiredness, at the end of a long day. You’ve long since stopped noticing any of it.

(Of course, it was another story when you first started learning. The first time you managed to summon a sword, your dad had to catch you before you hit the ground and, like, impaled yourself on it. But he’d been expecting that. His whoop of delight had canceled out the drag of weariness that had blanketed you.)

The cost to chase daggers through the night sky and slip away from harm into Crystal’s endless blue is your stamina. Every warp and phase draws down on it, and it takes time to build those magical reserves back up.

The worst is when you overdraw. That cost is steeper — stasis that knocks you down, fills your head with static, and makes you an easy target until someone can toss an elixir your way or you’ve thrown yourself behind a boulder to recover.

It sucks, but it’s not forever. It always builds back up.

The cost to channel the power of fire, ice, and lightning is one you feel in the sear of heat, the shock of cold, and the jolt of electricity that rattles down into your bones when you reach out a hand to claim the elements for your own.

As a kid, the power went down easy. You once stuck your finger in an outlet and charged up a lightning storm to go along with your temper tantrum (the governess had quit that night). You could grab the flames from candles and pull snow-heavy clouds over to your bedroom window to watch the flakes swirl down.

But something went wrong when the Marilith’s blades went through you. You can’t do any of that any longer. It jars, to draw in the power. It jars to let it back out, too. You have to slowly let it bleed into flasks, rather than unleashing it from your fingers like you could as a child.

The cost to fight with the royal glaives of your bloodline is nothing less than bits of your own health, stolen away hit for hit.

In the moment, you’re unstoppable, cutting down enemies and protecting your friends — the thrill of battle singing through you, as if you’ve borrowed bloodlust from your ancestors, too — but more than once, you’ve been so lost in slaughter that only Gladio frantically thrusting a phoenix down into your chest could bring you back.

The cost to summon an Astral is yielding yourself.

The gods will not be denied. They will not compete. They are loud. They fill and flood you with their unyielding demands, their loyalty bought by steep sacrifice. When you give into that call, the power that rips through you is too much for a mortal. It takes all you've got.

Worse is after, when you turn to face your friends, to see if they’re alright after whatever battle went so wrong that divine entities saw fit to intervene. You pay another price, then, when they see your violet eyes and know you are changing into something not-quite-mortal. It’s the widening crack between Noct and Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum that threatens to rend you in two, more than any jolt of lightning from the Fulgarian.

(Of course, there was another cost to forge those covenants. And her life is the one price you will always resent.)

The cost to wield the Ring is your father.

You could never welcome such an inheritance.

All your life, you’ve known that one day, you’d wear it and it would mean you were alone. Kings don’t retire, after all. Power and burden and grief are an inextricable braid wrapped around your throat to choke you.

It should be an easy choice, to put it on, but it’s not. It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever forced yourself to do. You know it will erode you just as surely as it eroded him. If it hadn’t been for Prompto waiting on you, captured because of your own stupidity, who knows how long it would have taken.

The moment you put it on was the moment you grew up.

Giving into the Crystal was nothing compared to that.

The cost to bring back the Dawn is ten long years of darkness covering all you hold dear. The death of Eos, the lands you roamed and grew to love wasting away without sun, the streams you used to fish choked with the bones of dead animals, the people you met along the way slaughtered or starved or daemonified or scratching out some kind of lightless existence in a world where evil ruled over an endless night.

The cost is written in the faded scars that cross your brothers’ bodies, a tapestry of struggle embroidered into their skin. In the agony they’ve endured. In the tears they cry now.

When it comes down to it, after everything they’ve paid, it doesn’t seem like a bad trade, that the cost to bring the Dawn is all the rest of your days.

You’ll pay in full.

You always have.