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A Crystal Heart

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Pearl grinned in excitement, barely containing her desire to wriggle in excitement in order to maintain her dignity in front of the people she was now to lead. It wasn't really her fault she was so excited, though. She was queen now, and as queen, she'd be expected to go on a pilgrimage to the land of the gods, Sabaysi. It would be a quest filled with danger, excitement, and lots of fighting, until she could claim an artifact (no one had told her what, exactly, the artifact was, just that she'd know it when she found it) that would ensure the Farmlands had bountiful harvests during her reign. And her quest would be entirely in the dark.

"Praise to the Sun, provider of all life!" Pearl cried, in the customary speech to begin the Quest. "Our great giver of safety, I hide myself from your light until I have proven worthy to lead the people that you bless, a feat only you can truly claim!" Immediately after Pearl finished speaking, some young nobles threw a black cloak over her and bustled her into the shade, where she'd stay until nightfall.

As the last rays of the sun disappeared below the horizon, Pearl found herself reviewing again what she knew of her quest, which wasn't all that much. A true ruler of the Farmlands had to prove themselves worthy of leading the people of the Sun, rulers had to follow the path of the sun as it went to rest in Sabaysi, and all the rulers of the Farmlands would never give too many details about what they went through or found.

Annoying, but Pearl at least had the first of her directions. As night fell, she went west.

After walking for two nights, Pearl came across the smoking ruins of a farmhouse at the edge of the Farmlands, with a young man around Pearl's age sitting on a broken down stone fence sobbing.

"What happened here?" Pearl demanded.

"My sister!" the young man wailed. "She's gone off to join the pillagers, and she helped them burn down our farmhouse! It was the only thing left of our parents!"

"Do you want me to help you hunt her down?" Pearl asked. "I can only travel at night, but I'd be happy to help you seek revenge."

"I suppose it couldn't hurt any. All my harvest is ruined, anyways," the young man sobbed.

It was three nights after Pearl met Gil that they found the pillager patrol and attacked them.

Gil wasn't much of a fighter, and was immediately put on defensive by one of the pillagers. Pearl jumped into the remaining four, her sword through the captain before he could even register that she was there. The surviving three immediately backed up, the woman who was obviously Gil's sister shooting a crossbow bolt at Pearl, which she dodged, using the momentum from her turn to drive her sword into the man behind her. The final man she was facing ran screaming, but Gil's sister held her ground and shot another bolt at Pearl. Pearl dodged around it again, lunging towards Gil's sister with her sword outstretched, but before Pearl stabbed her, Gil screamed out, "No!"

"What?" Pearl growled. "Your sister betrayed you. You should be glad she's going to die."

"I'm not! She's still my sister, you know," Gil called back.

"I can't claim to understand you, but fine. Your funeral, I guess," Pearl sighed.

"You're the chosen queen, aren't you?" asked Gil's sister. Without waiting for a reply, she continued, "The passage you seek is in a cavern about ten minutes to the west."

"Thank you?" Pearl replied, starting to back to the west, staring at Gil's sister and Gil.

"Aura," Gil said.

"Gil," Aura responded, her hands no longer on any weapon. Pearl counted that as a victory and turned to the west to find the cavern Aura had told her about.

It didn't take Pearl all that long to find the entrance to the cavern. It looked similar to many other cavern openings, except above its mouth was a golden statue of the Sun smiling down on her. Pearl grinned to herself, glad to be this far along on her Quest, even if she was somewhat surprised about how convenient Aura's knowledge had been.

The cavern itself turned out to be one long passageway, leading Pearl somewhere through the darkness.

As she hurried along, she noticed the air feeling heavier and heavier, until she struggled to take a breath. Pearl noticed, then, a sliver of sunlight in the distance. She knew that she couldn't go into the Sun, so she sat down to become accustomed to the heaviness of the air and wait until nightfall.

When the night did come, Pearl was breathing much easier and had little trouble climbing out of the cavern into a land she did not recognize. There was an abandoned compound in front of Pearl, glowing softly in the night air. Pearl walked towards it, trying to find the source of the glowing. 

Climbing onto the wall, Pearl saw a particular home in the compound had the glow to it, coming from a crystal heart placed in the open window. That heart, Pearl knew, was the culmination of her Quest to Sabaysi, which meant that these dead woods and empty compound were the home of the gods. It twinged at her heart to know that the land of the gods was so lifeless, but that was not Pearl's business.

Pearl jumped from the wall, gliding to the crystal heart. As soon as she held it in her hands, she heard a voice ringing out to her, You, who are known for your unforgiving nature, have passed my test. This heart is yours, to see forever the light in all things, to remind you to be quicker to forgive than to become angry.

When Sausage was corrupted, all Pearl could see was his desire to protect and see justice done shining through. She could hear a young man who never was asking her not to kill his sister. And her crystal heart beat in her chest, marking her as a true ruler of the Farmlands.