Where All Life Dies...
Location: Mobliz area, World of Ruin
Sickly rays of sunlight bent down on the still form lying in the dirt, glowing a sickening shade between violet and green. The combination, formed by the deadly upset of magic, transformed the landscape into a drab canvas from which all life took shelter. The girl on the ground below seemed to be the only living thing present in the ruined world, aside from the monstrous creatures with forms hideously twisted by magic that were now rampant across the dying land. Several of these creatures moved in to examine the tangled mass of jade locks, pallid skin, and tattered crimson cloth, but none ever attempted to harm her, perhaps sensing a kinship with the pathetic woman. After a long while, she stirred, woken by some unseen specter. Forcing herself into a sitting position with the groggy movements of a person long asleep, a face arose from behind the masses of pale hair; her face was ordinarily quite beautiful, but was now streaked with blood and clay. The unhealthy pallor of her skin was furthered marred by red scratches across her cheeks, bare arms and legs.
Where . . . am I? She thought, gazing at her surroundings. How did I get here?
The sights were alien, and yet somehow familiar to her. Tracing her thoughts back to her last memories, she caught and held them there, holding each one up to the sickly light in hopes an answer. The Floating Continent . . . back on the airship . . . the statues . . .
When the answer came to her suddenly, her throat clenched violently. Its implications sent her head reeling with shock, and she gagged in nausea. This world . . . and mine-- they are . . . one and the same. The magic was to blame; its delicate balance had been upset, plunging their beautiful world into chaos unsuitable for life. Terra looked at the grim land, and despondency began to creep into her soul. Magic-- my birthright . . . is to blame for this.
Her hair twisted in the breeze and shadowed her face, the wind assailing her with the smell of death. This, it seemed to taunt, will be your fate as well . . . She had failed! Where her friends were she did not know, but they had all failed to protect their home from this fate. And now it was too late; Terra could see what would happen in the future-- in this state nothing much was still alive in the way of plants. Animals and people alike would be deprived of nourishment; they would slowly starve to death, emancipated bodies seeking food but finding nothing but diseased carrion. In the distance, a glance at the ocean revealed a still body of water, once a diamond but now a dirty mass of poison. The water was so polluted that no one would ever quench their thirst with it unless they were willing to have it quenched eternally. The wind whispered to her its dirty tale of the death of life. She choked back a sob, feeling the deadly fingers of despair clutch her throat. This will be your fate as well . . . it breathed.
Succumb to this despondency, and it would be. Terra made a feeble attempt to get up, but gave up and fell back to the ground, allowing her aching body lay still. The wind followed her, lifting her tangled hair from her ears and bringing a promise of death.
"Kaitarin! She is waking up!"
Terra heard the words through a mist that obscured her vision. A dull pain held her body captive, and she welcomed the imprisonment. To move would be to waken-- to awaken would mean she would be forced to face the fact that she was still alive in this filthy shadow of a world.
"Kaitarin, the lady is moving--" the young voice said again.
No . . . Leave me . . . alone. Let me be. Please, she pleaded silently, seeing again the desolate vision of the future. The young woman-- product of an Esper and a human-- prayed that she could die, would rather have died than to see her friends live in a world of such ruin as this.
My friends . . . are they even alive? Will they . . . look for me?
Small hands grasped her right arm and shook it. "Get up!" a small, instant voice ordered. Terra groaned, feeling the sting of the childs hands against her abraded skin. The pain jolted her, bringing life back into the pallid face and hands.
"Get up!" This time the voice was not from the child, but from some small part within herself-- a part that desired life no matter what the conditions. No! Leave me be! she yelled back, angry when the mists before her eyes began to part.
"Ilyan!" a sharp voice reprimanded, "Leave that woman alone!" The child disappeared from her side, and Terra heard the sound of small feet running from the room. Please leave me alone . . . A warm, damp cloth was placed gently on her forehead. "Miss," the woman said again, this time softer, "Are you all right?"
"Get up!" Be quiet! Irritably, Terra succumbed to the urging and opened her eyes. For a moment she could see nothing, but gradually the form of a young woman-- presumably the reprimanding voice-- materialized above her.
"Are you all right?" The girl wiped the dirt and blood from Terras face carefully, and stepped back from the bed she lay on. No, she thought bitterly, Im not. Reminding herself that this girl would suffer the same future, Terra swallowed her resentment and sat up.
"Ive felt better," she said, slowly; the words were hard to pronounce with her thick, dry tongue. The attempt drove her to a realization of her thirst-- she hadnt noticed it before now, but it was quickly becoming unbearable. Running her swollen tongue over cracked and broken lips, she managed to ask the girl what she was doing here and where she was.
"My name is Kaitarin," the girl began. "Our town-- Mobliz-- was completely torn apart in the great earthquake." She spoke softly and obviously with great pain. "Most of it is gone now. Everyone except the young children is dead. Besides Duane and I, that is," she added. "Duane left in search of help yesterday; before he had gone very far, he came across you and brought you back to Mobliz. Youve been unconscious since then," Kaitarin said quietly.
Terra looked over the girl carefully, pitying her situation and yet marveling at the girls calm command of herself. Kaitarin was no older than Terra herself, maybe a year or so younger. Auburn locks fell in thick waves over her shoulders, framing a serious face. Her eyes were an ordinary brown, but the were kind, if haggard and tired. Although she was not extraordinarily beautiful, the face was clean and this girl had a gentle air about her which forced Terra to put aside any resentment she had felt earlier.
"Do you need anything?" Kaitarin asked politely. "We have little, but we will assist you if we can."
Blessing her silently, Terra said, "Water would be lovely-- if you have any to spare." Kaitarin nodded and left the room. As soon as she had disappeared, small heads and hands popped into view, tiny eyes peered around the corner in search of the strange presence who had graced their destroyed village. When they noticed their visitor had spotted them, the children quickly vanished. Smiling, Terra pushed the light blankets off of her body stood up slowly, so as not to send her head reeling.
Kaitarin returned with a small skin cup of water. Terra gulped it down greedily, using a small portion of it to moisten her cracked lips. "Thank you," she said, handing the empty cup back. Kaitarin accepted the container and smiled.
A door in the corner opened, and a young man entered, moving inside to stand next to Kaitarin. "I see youre doing better," he said.
Kaitarin led him towards Terra. "This is Duane; hes the one who found you."
Duane extended a rough hand. "Yeah, you were in pretty bad shape," he said as Terra clasped his hand in greeting. "What were you doing out there anyway? You arent from Mobliz."
"Thank you for bringing me here," Terra told the young man with a gratefulness she did not quite feel. As to answering his question, she debated over what to tell them. Quickly dismissing an elaborate fabrication, she decided instead on a half-truth. "I was . . . with some friends," she began. "We were separated and . . . thats all I remember." She sighed, and hoped they wouldnt ask any questions.
Duane nodded; he seemed unconcerned with details. There were probably more important things on his mind. He was a very plain man, his only distinguishing feature being his height, which was above average. Dark hair was clipped close to his head, marking him one who ignored current fashion (current mens fashion being longer hair, as she had learned from Edgar). His light green eyes stood out against deeply tanned skin, and thick brows lent personality to his otherwise expressionless face. He stared at her several moments before furrowing his shadowy brow. "You havent told us your name," he said.
"Oh, Im sorry; I forgot about that!" Terra gave them a small, embarrassed smile. "I am Terra Branford."
As he assimilated that information, the small heads once again poked their way through the door, pushing and shoving one another to get a better view. "Stop it, Jamie!" one cried after being elbowed by a larger child. Kaitarin quickly grabbed the "injured" little girl and carried her away from the doorway, motioning the others to come forward as well.
Kaitarin waited until the children had all gathered around before making the introduction. "Terra," she said, "These are the children from our village." There were quite a few-- seven, maybe more. Too many to be living in this one house, she thought. Most of them were very young, as well. Two looked more about seven years old, but all the others were younger.
"All of them . . . without parents?" Terra asked softly, pitying the children and their caretakers that were not much older than the children themselves. They would be claimed by the future that she had envisioned, most likely.
Kaitarin nodded, and changed the subject, advising her not to say any more about it in the childrens presence. "You are welcome to what little we have, Terra. You may stay as long as you like . . ."
Terra went outside for the first time since she awakened two days after being brought to Mobliz. It had taken that long to steel herself for the appearance of the land, and even now the sight of it horrified her. Mobliz was completely decimated, with only a few buildings left standing, and some of them had been so badly burned that they would never again be inhabitable. The wreckage of the other, not-so-fortunate houses lay in fragments around the town. Aside from the buildings, there was the ruin of the world around her. The suns rays continued to shine a hazy light, the dull illumination casting a dirty glare on the dying grasses and trees. The wind in turn carried the scent of decaying animals from outside the village, permeating the air with the smells of rot and death. For Terra, the entire effect was nauseating and terrible, a constant reminder of her vision.
Now that her world, her purpose, was gone . . . what was left to live for? Everything was gone that she had once fought for-- her friends, the Returners, her home. Left behind was a faded world of shadows and horrors that not even nightmares could conceive. Too many times Terra had aided and cared for others, without expecting anything in return; one thing only had she wanted in return-- to feel love for them. She had felt sure that her friends-- Locke, Sabin, Edgar-- would be the ones to help her fulfill her wish. Now that dream was destroyed, destroyed by the nightmare. If she thought realistically, Edgar and Locke were probably not even alive. Even if they were, it would take a miracle for them to survive in this hellish world long enough to find her. Would they even try to find me?
Yes, they would. Terras one comforting thought was that Edgar, Locke, and Sabin would look for her, at least. She didnt know the others very well, but she was sure they at least, would look for her.
But do I want them to? The thought was a jarring one, a possibility she hadnt meant to dwell on. Terra found herself strangely transfixed by the idea. What if they want me to fight? She didnt think she could fight, ever again; the well from which her courageous spirit flowed was suddenly dry. Whats the use? We fought once, and look what we gained, she thought bitterly, absently ripping an already burnt flower into minuscule pieces. A dying world and lonely separation from each other. She was lonely, she realized. At the moment she would have given her life-- not that it was that valuable to her right now-- to hear Locke call her "kid", to see Edgars charming smile . . . I may never see or hear that again.
Terras despondency surprised her; she was usually not the sort to become so utterly without hope. It was something about the reflection of the dull green light, the sickly scent of death in the breeze that allowed despair to obtain a tight hold on her being. If I dont get rid of this feeling I will die . . .
Might as well, it whispered back. Your world is nothing but a shadow of death now. Yes, and she and her friends had a chance to prevent this. Was it their fault, then? Their failing had allowed that madman to destroy the balance of magic.
No, Terra thought defiantly. We did fail, but the blame is not ours; at least we did what we could. The blame was Kefkas, always Kefkas.
And she would die if she stayed out here long; being outside in this atmosphere was affecting her.
Through the thin outer wall of one of the houses, Terra heard the pathetic wail of a child for his mother. Kaitarin did her best to comfort him, but she could not lend a mothers care to the other children who began to cry for their parents. An awful sadness crept into her heart when she observed Kaitarin, through the window, collapse and begin to sob brokenly when she could not assuage the wails of the orphans.
This world will claim them first, was her first thought. If starvation and disease did not threaten them, then the monsters would, when they began to grow hungry enough to advance on a village. Duane would proudly try his best to defend Kaitarin and the children, but he could never provide the protection necessary.
Would that be worth fighting for? Would it be worth it to provide for these destitute people? Yes.
Would it be better for them to live, if their only future were the eternal promise of death? Thorns of doubt crept into her mind, threatening to strangle the tiny seeds of newly planted hope. Wouldnt it be better for their pathetic lives to end sooner?
No! She shouted at their assault, grabbing hold of the thorns and uprooting them. I may be too tired to fight, but that does not mean others will be. Maybe one day someone will give the future life again. If so, didnt these people deserve to see its rebirth?
Perhaps she would stay with Kaitarin and Duane for a while. Maybe in some small way she could help these motherless children, until there was a rebirth.
Will there even be a rebirth? Somehow, looking out over the desolate landscape, where she saw nothing but the dead and the dying, she doubted it.