Payback's a Bitch 2: Redemption Chapter 13
By Joe L.
"My Majesty, the crowd awaits your speech. We're having trouble controlling the mongrels. You couldn't believe how many people there are out in Town Square."
"Somehow Xalix," Zarin muttered dryly, "I doubt I will be impressed. Still, my people need me. We're going to war, after all. And our victory will be glorious."
"Yes your Majesty,' the servant bowed before his King, and left Zarin's private quarters. Zarin stared out the window and saw the cityfolk gathered in the Town Square, chanting his name,praying for his arrival. Zarin grinned out how they nearly swooned over him, how no doubt each and every one of them would kill themselves if he merely asked them. How they would hang on his every word, how they worshipped him more fervently than any God.
They are all sheep, Zarin. Nothing less and nothing more.
Yes. But these "sheep" shall witness my crushing of the pathetic Rebellion.
Now you must appease your sheep, so when it comes time for winter, they will gladly let you shear their coats. Zarin wasn't sure exactly what that analogy meant, considering Bakaar never experienced winter. Still, he didn't particularly give the remark much thought. He had an appointment with his people, after all.
The Town Square of Dacar was literally teeming with life in every nook and cranny. Every single Ghiite, man, woman, old, young, had gathered to witness King Zarin's speech. Considering Zarin's apathy towards all media and press and his usual desire to stay away from making grand speeches before the commoners,this would be a momentous occassion no matter the outcome.
Almost instantaneously the roaring crowd hushed as they saw their beloved King gracefully stride to the podium that was placed in the very middle of the crowd. The podium had no official insignia, was made out of nothing other than regular timber from Uikoan Forest, and seemed quite out of place for such an event.
For a moment, it looked as if Zarin was hesitating to speak. However, there was no hesitation in Zarin's mind. He looked at his people and bit back to urge to laugh out loud, to call them fools and mock them as they worshipped the very person who had promised them peace and love but would bring them only hate and death. Then His Majesty spoke in his booming bass.
"My countrymen........ we stand upon the eve of the greatest battle that Bakaar has ever known. Many of our dear brothers and sisters have fallen victim to one Ghiite's delusional ramblings and has in turn split our magnificent Kingdom in two. And for so long we have all suffered the hardships of their polemic, barbaric, dispicable actions. There was no honor to be gained in their attacks, not even the slightest bit of civility....... But now the time for retribution is near. Let the trumpeter's call signal our march towards victory and for a final peace on all Bakaar! Rejoice, my dear countrymen! The time is at hand!"
With his speech ended, the crowd burst into uproar and hysteria. Filled with grandoise delusions inspired by Zarin, the Ghiites chanted his name with such a ferocity that the guards overseeing the crowd were afraid that they would try and the Palace. However, no such event ever occured. Long into the night, the denizens of Dacar formed small huddles outside the Palace, singing hymnals and praises, and chanting Zarin's name to secure his place as the greatest of all the Kings of Bakaar. During the night, Zarin walked out of his private quarters, and past the red curtains that led to the balcony which overlooked the Town Square. Zarin couldn't keep a silly grin from crossing his face as he watched his folk dance and sing his name. Some Ghiites had gone so far as to start campfires in the Square and erect tents to spend the night in. With his highly sensitive ears (if they could actually be called that, considering they were merely small holes in the sides of a Ghiite's head) Zarin could hear their faint snores and moans in the night.
Down in the Town Square, a young Ghiite boy was sleeping by a campfire with his parents and his siblings. They had been in the Square nearly all day, and the boy was growing quite restless to say the least. His parents had commanded that he go to sleep as to not keep others awake, but the rambunctious youth could not find the willpower to stay asleep more than five minutes. The slightest movement of a small insect scampering across the cold stone ground would have the boy awake and wild, much to the disdain of his parents. However, he had been quiet the past half hour and the boy knew that his parents and his sibling were most definetely asleep. Smiling to himself, the boy quietly threw off the blanket and with as much stealth and dexterity as any Ghiite youth possessed, he crept away from his campfire and past others.
However, the trek across the Town Square was not without its dangers. At every step, the boy had to be sure he did not stir another Ghiite from sleep by stepping on the ground to loud, or worse yet, putting his foot in their face. Eventually the boy made it to the other side of the Square, where no people slept or camped or sung or danced. It was at moment that the boy looked at the Palace, and his young mind was taken back by the sheer power that the Palace possessed. To put it lightly, the Palace was a monolith of solid black obsidian. While he tried to tell himself that it was only a building and that it could do no harm to him, he felt a strong power being emanated from the Palace. It was as if it had a life of it's own, a conciousness.
As the boy peered harder, he saw a lone Ghiite standing out a balcony. The boy squinted a bit and could make out some of the Ghiite's features. He was wearing ceremonial robes all fitting of Ghiite royalty, and had a strange smile plastered on his face. The boy then noticed the seal on the Ghiite's robes, the seal of the Ketsuo family. This was his king, Zarin Ketsuo.
Zarin saw out of the corner of his eye a young Ghiite boy who was standing on the street looking straight at him. The two regarded each other for a few moments. Zarin winked at the young boy, and then retreated back to his quarters.
Back on the street, the young Ghiite's mind raced. Wow, that was the King! Wait till I tell my parents what happened!
He had no recollection of how long they had been traveling, nor if they were anywhere near their destination. For all he knew, there was almost an excellent possibility that they were walking in gigantic circles and were getting nowhere. Still, there was a primal urge, an instinct that burned within him and coerced him to keep moving, that they were getting close.
Damn it's hot, the Ghiite known as Sh'kaar Nali thought as he wiped the sweat from his green, scaly brow. He guessed it was probably middday, as the sun had reached it's apex in the clear sky. As he turned his head around to see how his companions were doing, Cloud was not all surprised to find them in the same shape as he was. Tired, sweaty, and looking like every step they took was a battle in itself.
"I'm beginning to wonder if this whole quest isn't madness," Gyver muttered nonchalantly, to nobody in particular but himself. Sephiroth's lips curled into a bitter smile.
"Who's idea was it that we should go to the Great Desert? Hmmm?" The former SOLDIER laughed mightily, though it had nothing to do with humor.
"Better than being caught by Zarin's troops," Cloud retorted quickly.
"We could have tried to find members of the Rebellion, and helped them prepare for Zarin's offensive which I would guess has already started. What we're doing now is slowly getting ourselves killed. We have no food nor water left, no idea which direction where are going, and chasing a Ghiite that for all intents and purposes has been dead and turned to ashes generations before you or me were even born. Better than being caught by Zarin's troops indeed........."
Cloud wasn't even sure the last time he had a bite of food to eat, or when he last even had a sip of water. All he knew that he wanted to rest. Forever. No more traversing in the heat and try to reach some unattainable goal. He looked back on the desert sands. There seemed to be two figures laying face down in it, not moving. For the life of him, he couldn't remember their names or if they were even his traveling companions. Perhaps some tourists that got lost, eh? Cloud muttered to himself, and laughed giddily at his own vain attempt at a joke. It was at that moment he realized he was on the desert sands on his back, facing the sky and sun. He also noticed a scorpion type creature crawling on his stomach. He watched in awe as the creature seemed to carefully contemplate it's each and every step, as if it were crucial to it's survival. It is going to kill me? Am I it's meal? Well, be done with it then, Cloud thought bitterly as he looked up to the sun. So hot, so very hot............
"You live. Excellent," a voice spoke in an rasp, ravaged by time and toil. Cloud opened a skeptical eye and found himself in a small room, lighted only by a single lamp that a figure was holding. The figure was a Ghiite. He wore nothing but a robe made of bits and pieces of other robes. He could see where this Ghiite had stitched together his makeshift acouterments. When he saw the Ghiite's face, it was wrinkly. The skin was not the brilliant, dark green of most Ghiites but rather a pale, almost sickly shade of green. The eyes were deeply set in the face, and they too were not black, but a dull gray. The Ghiite's hands were bony, and the flesh seemed to sag off his bones. Needless to say, this Ghiite was obviously ancient.
".....where.....Am......I?" Cloud muttered incoherently. Cloud then noticed that has lying on the ground, which seemed to be rock and gravel. Have I died?..... Is this the afterlife? A dark room?.......
"My humble adobe," the voice replied, with a hint of sadness that only he could understand. "Your two friends are here as well. Once you are ready, then we shall begin with the training."
"Training?........But," Cloud began, but his mind and body would not permit him and he slipped back into unconciousness.
"Why yes Cloud...... That is the reason you came to see me, is it not?" The Ghiite spoke, a grin purveying his scaly features.
"No. You still don't understand, Cloud. Let loose your hardships, your pain, your worries, your ambitions, your desires....... Let go of it all until there is nothing left but the body, the mind, and the spirit. Then......" Yama's voice trailed off as he concentrated, sitting Indian-style around a small fire in the cave. Sephiroth and Gyver were asleep, but Yama insisted that Cloud stay and practice.
"I can't, Yama! I can't do it......... There is so much ahead of me. My journey hasn't even begun..... How am I supposed to defeat Zarin? How can I get home? What will they say to me? What will they think of me?" Cloud said, grimacing at every thought that entered his head.
"Let me show you something........." Yama words dispersed in the cold air and suddenly Cloud felt a hand touch his head. That was the last thing he remembered.........
When he awoke, he and Yama were standing on a grass field. Far away. He was sure he was on Bakaar, but he didn't know where. Very far away from the Great Desert. He saw bodies on the ground. Hundreds. Thousands. In pools of their own blood, of enemies blood. Charred. Skinned. Husks of what once would have been living creatures. It was nightime, but the sky was constantly being lit by faint sparks on the horizon. Cloud heard the cries of men in the throes of death, of other's giving orders, of footsteps of soldiers marching. In the sky, he saw some type of aircraft littering the ground with shots of energy, destroying whatever lay in it's path, be it the tiniest insect, or a group of soldiers.
Yama guided him to a battalion of soldiers huddled in a few small, abandoned houses. It appeared to be some type base of operations, as he saw a number of Ghiites in armor yelling at each other and pointing to various maps and such.
"Damn it, we've got to attack them now! Our scouts have said that their leader is now out on the front line, fighting along side his troops. If we throw everything that we have at them right now, we might be able to win!" One soldier called out among the pandemonium of his comrades. Another Ghiite, with the seal that signified him as King, spoke up.
"Yes. We attack now. And I shall lead the strike." The other Ghiites were shocked at hearing their King speak such bold words.
"My liege," one of the Generals began," we cannot allow you to take such a risk. If you were to be injured in battle, or die......."
"Then you shall lead whatever remains of our forces, Gyver....." The King spoke, with such steel that Gyver knew the King would not be swayed.
"I see. How many troops do we have with us right now?" Gyver asked and one of the other General, who wore a seal which signified him as a Grand Master.
"We have 500 ground troops here right now. The rest of our troops are out on the battlefield, getting pummeled no doubt by those bastards. I was informed a few moments ago that our last three divisions of Fists are engaged in combat outside Helchior with a large force of the enemy. Seems our Fists have driven the maggots back from Fort Kulzior... If that is the case, then we may be able to destroy the blockade and we can finally resupply our troops in the West where the most intense fighting is. My liege, if I may be so bold....." The Grand Master stuttered, waiting for his King's approval.
"Speak Ulyez," the King nodded in approval.
"My Majesty, I suggest we abandon this place and retreat back to reinforce our troops fighting at Helchior. As I've stated, if we can recapture Helchior and Kulzior, we can begin to have our troops in Dacar and in Felmion fall back and fight with our troops in the West, and retake Kobioshi. This talk of a direct assault is madness I say."
"My liege, we don't have the manpower to destroy them and you know it! Don't you see how they destroy our troops with such ease, as one flicks off a bug? Our attacks are nothing more than a quiet gust to them."
"I think you exaggerate, my dear Grand Master."
"No, I do not. My King, I experienced the Xandran's wrath first hand. Their powers........... it's almost as if they aren't even mortals....... And their leader....... The scouts tell me the hell that he brings.... We must retreat now! It's our only hope for congregating our forces in a better defensive position, and perhaps fighting to Xandran to a draw."
"Perhaps this plan of yours hides your cowardice, eh?"
"Never. You know I would die right now by your bidding. You should know, my great King, how many times I would have willingly sacrificed myself for you and the people of Bakaar."
"You know I am right, my liege. Please, reconsider your plan. I swear by my honor that I am in no way conceding to the bastards. I know giving up Dacar to the Xandran seems impossible, but it's the right choice. Please, my Majesty, reconsider." The King rubbed his chin for a moment and closed his eyes, in deep contemplation. Not a sound was uttered in the room, no Ghiite had the mind to take a breath. All their thoughts, hopes, desires, goals, futures, depended on what their King ordered. They only hoped it was the best one.
"We shall meet the enemy in glorious battle, friend Ulyez. If we die this night, we shall not die like dogs with their tail between their legs, hopelessly begging the heavens to spare them such a cruel fate. No my dear Ulyez, tonight we die as heroes, as great warrior-poets from legends long ago......" The King spoke in a commanding, triumphant voice, ringing clear as a herald's trumpet at dawn. There was no doubt in his mind. They would win this day. And the Ghiites would be saved.
Had there been a direct source of light, an on-looker would have noted one grisly detail. The fields outside Dacar were literally running red with blood. The blood soaked every inch, into every crevice, as if some alien life force. A horrible site to bear indeed, and the fighting in the area showed no signs of relenting. However, what an awe inspiring sight it was to behold, even for the astral forms of Yama and Cloud.
Do you see them, Sh'kaar? Do you see their determination? Can you feel it?
I don't know.........
Soon enough. Just keep watching, young one. All will be revealed.
The King, in full battle regalia, was an impressive figure to behold. He stood six feet tall, his build well muscled and honed to perfetion. He wore an ancient suit of mithril armor, the suit that the most ancient of Ghiite Kings wore in battle. Every piece, every square inch of the armor shined more brilliantly than the blazing sun. The King wore also a long, flowing red cape that fluttered ever so lightly by the faint breeze the night offered in reverance to the King. Atop his head, the King wore a full helm made of the same mithril. On the helm there was a long red plume, that hung down to the shoulders. However, it was the visor of the helmet that solidified it's place as one of the most magnificent piece of armor. As if the gods themselves had taken a piece of sun and given it to the Ghiites, the visor was crafted completely out of gold. The shape of the visor was that of a dragon's face, a great wyrm from ages long since past.
The King rode upon no steed however like previous King's did. Nor did he carry any weapon, though at this point most swords were used for ceremony, rather than combat. Rather he took his place right along side his last battalion of soldiers, all of the ones he could gather from the battlefields, hospitals, wherever he could find a living body. They numbered perhaps no more than 1,000, while reports estimated that there were at least 6,000 Xandran in the area. And those estimates were shaky, at best.
Off in the distance, the Ghiites saw their enemy. All of them. The Xandran. They were like some horrible creature from a child's nightmare. Freaks of science. They wore suits of armor, like the Ghiites, though there technology was far beyond the Ghiite's primitive ways. The Xandran's armor was almost like a living entity, as it nourished their bodies and kept them alive. The dull blue armor the Xandran sported was constantly making a random assortment of noises and the like, though they held up extremely well in combat. The Xandran's phsyical body however, was anything but reliable. They had two white dots for eyes, with two holes for ears. Their skin was a putrid yellow tinge, like sulfur from some distant volcano. They were skinny and sickly, as fragile as a newborn child. However, their greatest asset lie not in their bodies or their armor, but rather in their mind. Much like the Ghiites, they possessed incredible psychic talents, though the Xandran were much more skilled in their arts.
All this the King knew, but he cared not. He knew his death would not be in vain. No, not only my death, the King noted, but all my people's death. We shall live forever among the stars.........
"My lord, do we call the Trumpeters?" a soldier kneeled before the King. However, the King did not respond. "My lord? My-"
"Yes my boy. The Trumpeters clarion call shall ring all through Bakaar, more powerul than Mother Nature herself. Yes..... The Trumpeters....." The soldier nodded and ran back to his post, all the while thinking the King had certainly gone mad.
Within seconds, the Trumpeters tune broke the uneasy silence of the night, and the Ghiite's battles cries began. They started out slow enough, at a moderate tempo. It was more of a prayer than a battle cry, if anything. However, the prayer began to become faster, more guluturral. The warriors worked themselves to a panicked frenzy, and the din of pandemonium could be heard the the Xandran forces gathered on the other side of the field. The cries reached a fevered pitch, and then once voice rang clear above all others.
"SPARE NO ONE! DEATH TO THEM ALL!" The King cried out, and screaming at the top of his lungs, he charged the Xandran horde.
The fight lasted all night, into the breaking hours of dawn. Many lost their lives, both Ghiite and Xandran. The damage was irrepairable to each force, but they fought on still. The Ghiites fought bravely, as if they were possessed by some demon. They gave no quarter to the Xandran, offered no signs of retreat. The only way the Ghiites would stop their assault would be if they were all killed. By early dawn, most of the soldiers on both sides were either killed or horribly magled. Except for two lone figures on the field, facing one another with quiet resignation. One was the King, his armor covered in blood, the ruddy brown of his foes and the red that was his own. His milthril plates were dented in many places, and the King had long since lost his great helm. The other figure on the field was the leader of the Xandran. He was not like the others, he was not weak. He wore no armor like his allies, nothing to protect him from the elements. He wore the garb of a master of the martial arts, complete with his own gi. He was definitely an imposing figure to behold, even for the King. He stood at least seven feet and just like the King, every muscle in his body was honed to perfection. A perfect combination of mind, body, and soul.
"You are the King," the Xandran spoke simply, with no hint of malice nor hate in his voice. Standing tall, the King called back,
"Yes. And what is your name?" The Xandran grinned slightly at the remark.
"Of what importance is it to you?"
"I would like to know the name of the great Xandran warrior I am about to kill," the King retorted back, readying himself for the ensuing combat.
"Interesting, you creatures are.... My followers call me the One. And what is your title, warrior?"
"Very well then.... Caldan..... A duel to decide the fate of this planet, agreed?"
"Goodbye, Caldan." With that, the Xandran outstretched his arms to the sky, and began an arcane chant. With that, the ground began to shake, at first it was nothing more than a slight rumble, but as time passed and his chant continued the quakes became even more violent. A small blue globe of focused energy appeared above the One. The globe perhaps was the size of a speck of dust, if even that. However, it rapidly began to multiply in size and as it did, the earthquakes grew in force and frequency. Already, Bakaar's crust was being violently rearranged and huge chasms appeared in the field, swallowing up the bodies of dead soldiers as if they were Bakaar's snack.
The air became thick to breath, and clouds immediately began to hover over head, lightning crackling in the sky, illuminating it brilliantly for a few moments. And the One's globe kept doubling it's size. It was now easily the size of a small house, and was still it showed no signs of weakening. Lightning blots struck the ground, thunder claps now knocked over trees hundreds of miles away, the horrible screeching of the globe's power was becoming overbearing even for the King.
My god, such energy, Cloud whispered in awe.
Yes, it is quite impressive.
What is he doing?
The globe reached it's apex, and grew no more. The blue glob of psychic energy completely enveloped the sky, leaving the King staring in awe and terror as he saw his imminent demise at the hands of this Xandran. So this is how I will die, incinirated by this beast's terrible power, along with the rest of this world....... If only I could....... I must try........
The King outstreched his arms to his sides, and screamed a most horrific cry to the heavens. All around the King great streaks of red energy danced across one another, till they completely wrapped up the King. The aura of red energy soon gained in brilliance and in power, as it became as imposing as the blue glob of pure energy. Once he was sure he was about to die, the King screamed again and the brilliant red energy raced toward's the One's blue mass of destruction. The two energies met.
Time and space lost all meaning as soon as the energies met, distorting everything that people called reality. It was almost like an image frozen in time. The two energies almost seemingly had a sentience of their own, battling one another for control of the universe. And then just as soon as they met, the two globs of energy dissappeared. And after that, nothing.
The field was black. The sky was black. Everything was black. Is this death? Is this Oblivion? To the King's surprise, he saw another figure amidst the black, one that was very familiar. He walked over to the figure and saw that it was the One. His body was charred, his bright yellow skin turned black. Still, the Xandran lived.
"Incredible....... Simply amazing........ Bested..... I.... am....." the Xandran spoke it's final words and then the light that shone in it's eyes shone no longer. Nothing. The King looked and saw only black. The sky, the sun, had all been covered in the black soot that also covered the ground. But we have won. This day shall go down in the ages as our finest hour, our greatest triumph. Those that live to tell this miraculous story..... When we are old and decayed and time has ravaged our bodies, we shall show our scars from this day. And we shall be brothers.......and with a triumphant grin across his features, the King fell down on the charred earth, never to rise again.
"Wake up, Sh'kaar," Yama's raspy voice spoke to the dazed Cloud, who looked at the Ghiite in astonishment.
"That was your father?...... He defeated the Xandran......"
"I suppose.... It was so long ago..... These visions are the only thing I remember of Caldan......"
"That attack......... could that be able to defeat?.." At Cloud's remark, the ancient Ghiite laughed bitterly.
"My boy, you will need more than that to best Zarin."
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic