The Lion of Ivalice is a Final Fantasy TacticsFor Want of a Nail fanfiction that alters a key decision in Ramza Beoulve's life: after the events of Fort Ziekden and the deaths of Teta and (supposedly) Delita, he turns down the canon offer of becoming a mercenary and sneaks into the Bethla Garrison instead. Orlandu catches on quickly, and is rather skeptical as to why he wants to join the Southern Sky, suspecting him of being a spy of sorts. Ramza, however, makes it clear he holds more honor as a Beoulve than his brothers, and has no one else to turn to. Seeing Balbanes in him, Orlandu agrees to take him in as a soldier of the Southern Sky.From there, the plot of the story takes a very different turn from the original game, but the verdict is still the same; Ramza uncovers the Lucavi plot and works to stop it. Things, however, aren't as easy as they seem, because the Lucavi quickly learn not to pull any punches when dealing with their enemies. The character dynamics and interactions are also noticeably different than in canon, yet still fit in with the characters as they were originally envisioned - and with how the storyline evolves - rather plausibly. The main pairing is Ramza/Meliadoul, with many other Beta Couple pairings by the side for measure.The story is split into three arcs, which effectively comprise the traditional Three Act Structure:
Adaptation Distillation: While certain story elements are expanded upon, the author doesn't go overboard in either description or character explanation, simply opting for the crucial storytelling elements. This is why the battles, conflicts and relationships are streamlined whilst still being plausible, making for a tight yet still-compelling read.
The battles are a load more streamlined than in canon. For instance, there's less overuse of magic by the Lucavi to focus instead on their individual skills and strengths and the unique strategies required to defeat them. And while the events of the plot follow elements of canon almost symmetrically, they're more compressed so that the repetitive re-matches against certain enemies and the pointless squabble fights either don't happen or are extremely brief rather than dragged out into genuine tactical conflicts.
Adaptation Expansion: The opening battle of the War of the Lions, the Siege of Lesalia, had a single paragraph written about it in the game. This story has an entire chapter devoted to it.
The Lucavi are given somewhat of a greater spotlight, letting their motives and individual traits develop a little more. See also Ascended Extra for the characters who recieve more development thanks to the plot.
An Arm and a Leg: Wiegraf, who loses his left arm in Chapter 35 in a fight against Velius.
Anti-Hero: Ramza has slight shades of this, leaning into Type II territory due to both his Dark Knight training and the massive breaking the story's putting him through. Gafgarion started as a Type IV but has since shifted to Type III (and may be heading towards Type II). Meanwhile, Wiegraf & Delita start as a Type IV & III respectively, before sliding upwards by one level each.
Anti-Villain: Wiegraf, just like in canon although more emphasised, particularly when he keeps his word in letting Alicia and Lavian go in exchange for Ovelia's co-operation. Delita is more definitely this regarding his actions, as is Agrias. All three eventually Heel-Face Turn, deciding to focus their energies fighting the true enemy.
Anyone Can Die: Roughly halfway through the story, this trope sets in to full effect. While certain characters don't actually die, a few of them are still subjected to Scars Are Forever, such as Wiegraf losing an arm and the twins' wounds under dark magic.
Apocalypse How: With Altima's revival, the entire province of Lionel sinks under the sea. The water eventually recedes, and looters and pirates move to salvage anything of value in the province.
Those are the good guys. Bad guys include Rudvich, Duke Barinten, and Balk & Rofel of the Templar Knights. They are all Lucavi hosts.
Kletian of the Templars as well. Without being a Lucavi host, to boot! And out of all the Lucavi, Velius manifests in the mortal realm without a host body. But this is probably because the Gates of Hell were opened at Murond.
Izlude especially counts. In the game, he was a minor supporting character who died in the same Chapter he was introduced; here, he's Ramza's most constant friend and companion, and the third most-important character after Ramza and Meliadoul. When Mel was put out of action, he essentially earned Deuteragonist status. Heck, the author hadn't even planned for him to be a permanent fixture of Ramza's Five-Man Band at first!
The Atoner: Agrias & Delita, after a Heel-Face Turn; also Wiegraf, even though his demeanour might suggest otherwise. Gafgarion's loyalty to Ramza is also all about this.
Bittersweet Ending: So now Altima and her 12 Lucavi generals have been slain AND sealed back into hell, Ivalice still stands, and Delita, now king, has given the country a democratic reform with the commoners able to vote for their representatives to speak issues alongside the nobility. The only downsides is that a good deal of Lucavi escaped beyond Ivalice and some of their friends, including Ramza, are dead.
Breakout Character: Mustadio. ObsidianDawn intended for him to appear only briefly in the story and be written out; instead, he becomes an Ascended Extra in Part II, and he them comes to play a key role in Part III.
Ramza himself counts; just think about it. His foster siblings (presumably) both die at Ziekden and it's his brothers' faults. He finds belonging and friends at the Southern Sky only to discover much later that not only is Delita alive, but he's become ruthless enough to massacre the Northern Sky for his own ambitions. He has to kill his demon-possessed elder brother. Many people he's considered friends or allies are either against him or in danger because of him. He's in love with a woman who's psyche has become fragile due to her beliefs being tested, and he ends up losing her to the Lucavi when her brother is temporarily killed, followed by losing his beloved sister. To top all that off, his desire to learn Dark Knight training has twice pushed him to the brink of cold-blooded murder and yet it's a key element of his strength. I'd say all that definitely qualifies as somewhat 'broken'.
Came Back Wrong: Izlude was revived, sure, and evidently gotten stronger too, but Shemhazai didn't mention her deal of reviving him included 'company'. An example of Type III of this trope, which would have led to Izlude killing Ramza if not for the now purified Taurus stone, which banishing said demon (who turns out to be a shade of Chaos, the stone's iconic demon.
Cerebus Syndrome: The story gets gradually darker as the plot continues. The first two parts have major climaxes, but things generally cool off a little afterwards... until Part Three, that is.
Character Development: Protagonists aside - and they get plenty of growth, of course - a number of characters with rather predictable personalities were given more depth than they had in canon (see Alternate Character Interpretation). Ruvelia, for example, is a Broken Bird who ended up in a loveless marriage and grew resentful of both her position and of her former lover Cid, who refused to fight for their relationship. Gafgarion is a Death Seeker plagued by guilt for causing the death of a young Dark Knight named Cerra, who was like a daughter to him. Not to mention Olan, Valmafra, Mustadio's... the list goes on.
Gafgarion's hometown is called Raithwall, named after the legendary Dynast-King in Final Fantasy XII. Word Of God though states that it is not the same place as the Tomb of Raithwall dungeon in that game.
There have been several hints that the Lucavi's incredible magic and abilities are a result of them being able to manipulate and control the Dark.
Ramza as well - despite coming close to snapping twice, he's so far managed to keep the darker urges that come with training in the class well-checked. For now, anyway...
A Day in the Limelight: Several "side quest chapters" in Part Two, which focus entirely on groups outside of the central characters but still serve to develop the plot: Chapter 19 focuses on Olan's group, but also on Mustadio; Chapter 20 focuses on Gafgarion and Cid; Chapter 21 focuses on Agrias and Zalbag.
Deal with the Devil: The Lucavi's modus operandi, of course. Also, Meliadoul makes one to bring back Izlude, just like Rafa in canon. Unlike Rafa, Mel ends up being possessed by the Lucavi demon Shemhazai.
Death Seeker: Gafgarion, for reasons connected to his past revealed in Chapter 20.
Defeat Means Friendship: Having bested Gafgarion and later Wiegraf in a one-on-one duel, Ramza instead forces the loser to help him. Gafgarion teaches him Dark Sword techniques and helps him rescue Mel, Wiegraf leads them to the city of Murond. He gets much less trust and leeway than Gafgarion did, though with good reason given his actions caused much more trouble.
The epilogue indicates that while they aren't exactly Fire Forged Friend, Ramza's comrades - especially Meliadoul, due to their being Not So Different - have set aside their differences and quandries with Wiegraf, chosing to let go of the past and move on. It helps that his actions and sacrifices during the Lucavi War have largely redeemed him of his sins.
Demoted to Extra: Rafa and Malak get relatively minor roles compared to the others, and Mustadio almost fell in with them. Beowulf and Reis also suffer, but they're secret characters anyway. Heresy Examiner Zalmour Rusnada (whom Ramza fought twice in the game) got mentioned in one sentence, and never appeared proper in the story. The non-FFT cameos, Cloud, Balthier and Luso, are COMPLETELY absent.
The monster guests-turned-party-members are also MIA: Boco the Chocobo was replaced by an original Black Chocobo named Atro. The Reaver Byblos doesn't show up either, but considering the fact that only TWO Tactics fanfics have ever remembered Byblos exists (which were back in 2002 and 2005), the odds of it appearing were never good in the first place.
On the villains' side, aside from Larg and Goltanna appearing less than in canon and both being killed in Part One, Cardinal Draclau & Dycedarg Beoulve are even less important here. Both face Ramza's group in a Dual Boss fight - as Lucavi - and die without much fanfare (heck, Dycedarg/Adramelk is singlehandedly defeated by Ramza).
In-universe when Vormav/Hashmal pretty much gets kicked to the curb by Shemhazai. In more ways than one.
Somewhat averted with Mustadio, however - he was intended to be this, but makes a few key appearances starting Chapter 19 which give him a significant role. So although he's... well, stillDemoted to Extra compared to the original game, for the author he's... an Ascended Extra.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Rafa. In fairness, it did illustrate the way death in war happens very suddenly, plus it motivated Valmafra - who'd not done that much until then - to Take a Level in Badass and kill the murderer, Kletian.
Dual Boss: Non-game example: Adramelk and Queklain.
Unfortunately, the fight was over rather quickly (narrative-wise) and as a result, it feels rather like an Anti-Climax Boss.
Duel Boss: Gafgarion and Wiegraf, just like in canon. Also kind of seen in "Ramza versus Dycedarg/Adramelk".
Two others in Chapter 35: Valmafra vs Kletian and Wiegraf vs Velius.
Easily Forgiven: Averted on two different accounts. The first count is with Wiegraf, who attacked the Orbonne Monastery while Ramza was away, killed Izlude and kidnapped Alma. This drives Meliadoul further down to instability, as she willingly gives herself up to Shemhazai to resurrect her brother. Ramza then fights and defeats Wiegraf, and even when offered the chance to kill him, he refuses and makes him guide them to where the other Lucavi are. Even when Wiegraf saves Ramza's life later, its clear to both of them they can't forgive the other, both the cause of losing the other's loved ones, but decide they have to work together to stop the Lucavi.
The second is with Delita, who worked rather closely with the Galbados Church's goals and like canon, was willing to ignore it after being made king; even when queen Oveila gets kidnapped by them. He also makes it clear that he would do anything to reach that goal. He even opened the floodgate that accumulated enough blood to reawaken Ajora despite knowing the Church being behind this as well as working with them. It takes Zalbag and Agrias scolding him to travel with them; after the failed infiltration of Murond City, he openly admits to Ramza this wouldn't have happened if he'd trusted him before and hadn't been ignorant of the Lucavi plot. Izlude threatens him in a similar way as Ramza did towards Wiegraf, and reminds him they're only doing this for their leader, not him.
Concerning Delita, he (quite understandably) holds a grudge against Zalbag for the events at Ziekden.
Also related to Izlude's brief death is Mel's threat in her first meeting with Ramza. "I just want you to know that if you endanger (Izlude) in any way, it will be me you have to answer to." Shemhazai made sure that would come to pass.
Genre Savvy: After losing a duel with Ramza, the Aries stone calls out to Wiegraf. Instead of just listening to the stone convince him to take over his body, Ramza slaps the stone away when it's in view. Justified that unlike the original scene in the game, Ramza has seen AND killed enough of the Lucavi to know how they work.
Another example involving the Holy Stones is Mel's possession by Shemhazai. Ramza caught on immediately when he heard Meliadoul speaking, but was unable to get to her in time.
Get A Hold Of Yourself Man!: Executed in a unique case by Delita; he drew his sword and tried to behead Ramza after he couldn't talk him out of his Heroic BSOD. When he questions his actions of this, Delita 'believed' he wanted to die before the impending invasion took over the rest of Ivalice, but merely proved he still has some fight in him left by parrying him.
"Stop drowning in remorse. You're still alive, and you still have the chance to set things right. We both do." Delita said, sighing.
Golem: Construct 8, renamed Rattletrap by Mustadio.
Heroic BSOD: Meliadoul has one in Chapter 23; coupled with her beliefs being shattered much earlier and her brother's death in the chapter immediately after, it leads to her making the monumentally stupid decision to give herself to Shemhazai in exchange for her brother. Things just get worse after that.
Ramza has a big one in Chapter 29, what with his sister now being possessed by Ajora/Altima and the world literally starting to go to hell.
Heroic Sacrifice: Master Daravon, the teacher of the Dorter academy, in Chapter 23.
Followed by Lavian and Alicia, Agrias's knights, in Chapter 29.
And then Rattletrap, saving Celia & Lede's lives somewhere between Chapters 36 & 37. Only he wasn't quite dead yet...
Hero Killer: Marquis Elmdore managed to literally pull this trope off by - to the shock of many readers - killing off Orlandu of all people. Wow!
Humble Hero: Ramza, of course, but ObsidianDawn makes it a clear point that he doesn't fight for himself and doesn't let his own pride of power get to him. Hence the reason why he would accept Pashtarot, a Scion of LIGHT, to help him defeat Altima after almost beaten to death on his own.
I Am the Trope: Right before Zalbag encounters a Lucavi for the first time:
Zalbag: "What are you?"
Barinten/Zeromus: We are the future.
I Cannot Self-Terminate: Besrodio Bunanza, as seen in Chapter 37. He begged his son Mustadio to kill him in his moment of clarity, before the demons possessed him again.
Invincible Hero: The author works really hard to avert this with Ramza, who everyone knows can be an unstoppablefighter, especially after his Dark Knight training. A few signs of this are when he blacks out after the fight against Adramelk and later is worn out in his fight against Elmdore, but if not for Wiegraf reclaiming his confiscated sword and Zalbag's group showing up when they did, Zodiark could have very well killed Ramza.
Karmic Death: Elmdore. Excalibur ends up in the hands of Gafgarion, who combines its natural Holy powers with his Dark Knight abilities to shatter Masamune, before promptly slaying Cid's killer in retribution. Even more fitting because of the old mens' Odd Friendship.
Kick the Dog: A rather brutal one by Vormav, who insults Mel and her mother in the span of two sentences and breaks her spirit.
Bonus points qualify if you go by the theory that it was actually a Batman Gambit to weaken her resolve so that, when Izlude was killed by Wiegraf, she'd break completely and offer herself to Shemhazai, advancing the Lucavi's plans further.
Killed Off for Real: Master Daravon; Lavian & Alicia; "Thunder God" Cid Orlandu; Rafa Galthana; Besrodio Bunanza (Mustadio's father); and Rattletrap. Ramza looks to have also died, but his final fate is ambiguous.
Knight of Cerebus: Zeromus, possessing Duke Barinten, is the first Lucavi who in battle is shown to be a deadly-serious threat, almost killing Zalbag (who was being aided by Agrias, another seasoned warrior). A more lasting example is Shemhazai/Morrigan, who plunges the story - previously moderate in tone - into definite Darker and Edgier territory.
Morality Kitchen Sink: While Ramza is quite firmly a hero and the Lucavi are clear-cut villains, many characters notably run the spectrum: Gafgarion, Zalbag, Wiegraf, Delita and Ruvelia are chief among them, but Agrias and Meliadoul also qualify.
My God, What Have I Done?: Meliadoul. She didn't regret bringing back her brother, but she was ashamed that her actions brought calamity, death and bloodshed to Ivalice.
My Greatest Failure: Gafgarion is haunted by his failure to protect Cerra, a young Dark Knight who was his most gifted student and surrogate daughter, from the Ordallian forces - something her brother, the Dark Knight Cecil, never forgave him for. Cid even notes this to be a key foundation of his Death Seeker nature.
Zalbag comes to see his actions at Ziekden as this, condemning himself for choosing the Beolve name and his pride over the life of his foster sister Teta.
Same deal with "Hashmal" instead of "Hashmalum" - the author was simply picking the spellings he preferred, which mostly fell on the spectrum of the original Playstation version due a small level of self-confessedNostalgia Filter.
Mythology Gag: The common name gag of Biggs and Wedge. Two of the knights were named as such in Chapter 7.
Cecil the Dark Knight in Chapter 20. Shadow, Ramza's sword, was also a weapon wielded by Cecil.
The airship which appears in Chapter 19 is dubbed "The Valefor" by Mustadio. His new one in the Epilogue is called The Ixion.
Near Villain Victory / Deus ex Machina: Not quite to the extent that some works go, but still present. Notably, Ramza was only able to defeat Altima due to a form of divine providence - namely Pashtarot the Knight Star, the Scion of Light which is the other half of the Cancer stone (which Ramza was carrying), which offers its powers to aid Ramza in his Darkest Hour to defeat the demon.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Ramza notices that most Lucavi like to talk with an air of mystery, and the most evident of them is Elidibus/Zodiark. He was merely pondering on thoughts "humans wouldn't understand" until Morrigan talked him to fighting for the Lucavi.
Power Fist: Ramza sports one in Part 3, based on Rattletrap's technology
Private Military Contractors: The Glabados Church has shades of this in the story, as they hire out their Templar Knights to secular armies for additional training and experience. This is how Ramza gets to know Izlude.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Lucavi seem to be this at the start, since the first few who appear aren't too big of a challenge, and Zalera dies ridiculously quickly at the hands of Rattletrap (though to be fair, the author considers him a weak Lucavi anyway). The ones that follow subvert this, however.
Redemption Equals Death: Subverted - people who have sins they wish to atone for tend to find themselves alive, with a key narrative theme being to find a reason to continue living. Even Wiegraf gets away, though with a lost arm - but considering he was facing a Lucavi one-on-one, this is unsurprising, and in fairness it was probably enough payment considering his role in the post-war world. Given that a key theme of the story (unstated, but subtly implied) is to forgive and move on with life even after the trauma, making good of it regardless of what you've done... this is highly appropriate, indeed.
Relationship Upgrade: It is implied that Ramza and Mel had a LOT of alone time between Parts 1 and 2, and in "The Resistance", Ramza finds himself in bed with her after giving her a thoughtful birthday present.
They aren't the only ones, as the epilogue shows.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: As the Queen of Ivalice, Ovelia ascends to this trope during the final battle by secretly joining the Healers' ranks to help wounded soldiers. Delita is only Regent of Ivalice - and not yet King - so he doesn't doesn't quite count, but he's getting there too.
Sequence Breaking: Many of the events from Canon do take place, but in a very different order and context. Parts 1 & 2 are based on Chapters 2-4 from the game, with Part 3 diverging into a completely different plot.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Ramza's main motivation for joining the Southern Sky. He eventually fought against the Southern Sky too after Delita takes over, still with ideal beliefs.
Ship Tease: The early chapters of the story hint at Agrias being somewhat attracted to Ramza. This ends up not going anywhere, and eventually she becomes much more interested in his older brother.
Special mention must be made for the Agrias/Zalbag pairing, as it is easily the strongest example of this trope. During the first half of the story, she is in an odd relationship with Delita that doesn't have much of a foundation besides wishing to put a new monarch on the throne of Ivalice. Once that is done, the narrative all but spells out that the relationship is a very emotionally unsatisfying situation for her, and sleeping with him causes her to feel empty and guilty. Unsurprisingly, it quietly ends with little fanfare.
Spanner in the Works: Possessed-Izlude would have killed Ramza if not for his carrying the Taurus stone - because his "dark passanger" was Chaos, the stone's iconic demon, it was able to banish him for good and free Izlude. In turn, Izlude's saving Ramza enabled him to free Meliadoul and Alma & defeat the Lucavi threat, saving Ivalice.
Spared by the Fanfiction: A lot more than you would expect: Izlude, Zalbag, Gafgarion, Olan, Celia, Lede, Wiegraf, Ovelia... even some of the minor characters like Simon and Aliste.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Cid and Ruvelia became this when Ruvelia became Queen, but were finally reunited after many years and, putting aside their old resentment, re-establish their old bonds. Then Cid is Killed Off for Real.
Take Up My Sword: Gafgarion takes Excalibur by Cid's approval, in his dying moments.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ramza and Wiegraf. Well, more like Everyone and Wiegraf, but Ramza's the one most commonly seen. Justified on both sides: Ramza killed Wiegraf's sister, and Wiegraf's actions indirectly led to Ramza and Izlude losing their sisters & lovers, and hastened the rise of Altima. In the end, though the most personal parties can't outright forgive each other anytime soon, they've all reached an understanding, especially following Wiegraf's actions protecting Ovelia; Meliadoul in particular won't hold Wiegraf accountable, having also experienced a similar fall into darkness.
Time Skip: A few months pass between Chapters 13 and 14 (or more appropriately, between the end of Part 1 and the start of Part 2). A good chunk of Ramza and Meliadoul's relationship development occurs during this "offscreen" period.
Another occurs between Chapter 29 and Chapter 30. Not as long as the aforementioned skip, but long enough for Lionel Province to sink underwater and an army of demons to begin their invasion of Ivalice.
A minor one also happens between Chapters 8 and 9, where Ramza has just bested Gafgarion and Mel is suddenly captured. All the time between that is Ramza finding his sister, training under Gaff, and saving Mel with her brother.
Tranquil Fury: Ramza towards Wiegraf, who believed it would finally be his chance to extract his revenge for Miluda's death. Hewasdeadwrong.
Now it seems they're trying their luck on Mustadio.
Victorious Childhood Friend: Zalbag to Agrias: she recounts an incident to him in which they had met at Igros as children and involved him falling off a chocobo. Their relationship is pretty well solidified after this.
We Can Rule Together: Wiegraf gets an offer from Velius to join the Lucavi: they would give him the satisfaction of crushing the nobles that denied his rights before, as well as bringing his sister back. Wiegraf knows it is just a lie, and fights him.
Wham Chapter: Rather fittingly, Chapter 29. To elaborate: Ramza fails to prevent Ajora being resurrected in Alma's body; Lavian and Alicia pull a Heroic Sacrifice via You Shall Not Pass to buy everyone more time; and with Ajora rising, Murond sinks into the sea, followed by the Legions of Hell being allowed entrance into Ivalice.
Also Chapter 24: Wiegraf has killed Izlude and kidnapped Alma, and in a fit of grief Meliadoul surrenders herself to Shemhazai in exchange for her brother's life restored.
Where It All Began: Igros Castle and Bethla Garrison. The former is where Ramza and Delita started their days as Hokuten soldiers before the fanfic starts, and note how they never thought of being back when the Lucavi start invading in the beginning of Part 3. Meanwhile, Bethla Garrison is where Ramza relocates after Ziekden and has plenty of fond memories of fighting with his men, his friends, and the people he grew to love and trust. When he finally re-enters via sneaking for the fist time since the climax of 'Southern Sky', he couldn't help to think back on those memories and smile. Giving him all the more reason to drive the remain Lucavi back and to save his home.
Woman in Black: Meliadoul, as Gaff's third apprentice in the epilogue.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Meliadoul, giving herself to save Izlude, unleashes Morrigan/Shemhazai upon the world, and she proves to be a bigger threat than Hashmal!
The Worf Effect: How else can you view Elmdore killing Thunder God Cid of all people?
Yin-Yang Bomb: Wielding Excalibur after Cid's death, Gafgarion combines his natural Dark Knight abilities with the sword's Holy Hand Grenade powers, giving it the power needed to shatter Elmdore's Masamune.