Terra: Part II Chapter 1

By Mintbaby

Terra sighed and dropped her eyes to the flagstones at her feet. Ever since Edgar had returned with her as his new bride, the Chancellor had taken it upon himself to tighten the security at Figaro castle. Many of the constant visitors, such as Locke and Sabin, saw it as a nuisance to be dealt with using extreme patience. The others, such as diplomats from other continents, sometimes saw it as an invasion of privacy and an insult to their credibility. Terra understood the Chancellor was only attempting to protect his king and his new queen from harm, but it had become old just the same.

“Who won’t listen?” Terra finally asked.

“The… gentleman who now waits in your receiving chamber. Not only does he refuse to relinquish his weapons, he will not tell me what business he has with you. He also threatened the guards with bodily harm when they attempted to detain him and the beast that was with him--”

One of Terra’s hands flew to her throat. “W-was it a black and brown dog?”

“A dog,” the Chancellor scoffed. “More like a Rhinox than a dog, but yes, it was black and brown. I only let him enter because I feared for my very life.”

“What does the gentleman look like?”

“I do not know, highness,” the Chancellor stated in a tight voice. “He was draped all in black. A very mysterious creature, highness, and not very trustworthy, I dare say.”

Terra heard nothing after the description of black clothes. “Shadow!”

She grabbed fistfuls of her extravagant gown and rushed down the hall toward her reception chamber. Shadow had seemingly vanished from the face of the planet after she and Edgar had been married. They had tried so hard to find him, even leaving word with the many merchant caravans that constantly left Figaro with supplies for other, smaller cities. Nothing, not one tidbit of information, had ever surfaced. Terra didn’t understand why she had such a desire to find him. She just had this pressing need to know he was okay. To have him suddenly show up on Figaro castle’s doorstep to demand entry in his typical way not only relieved her spirit, it brought a smile to her face and a twinkle to her eyes. ‘Oh, if only Edgar didn’t have meetings all day.’ But his determination to rebuild the Figaro kingdom – which stretched from Narshe to Jidoor and from Nikeah to Kohlingen – encompassed his every thought.

Second only to her.

Terra skidded to a halt in front of the reception chamber door and paused long enough to smooth her skirts and adjust her elegantly coiffed hair. She took in a deep breath and opened the door. Shadow stood in the far corner. He had changed. Never before had she seen his black attire anything but in the most perfect condition. She had always assumed that it was a matter of pride to his profession. Now, however, the black of his clothes was faded and dirty. Dusty. Stained with mud. There were tears and holes throughout, and his normally immaculate, embroidered sash around his waist was tattered to ribbons. He looked as though he had been through as many struggles alone as she and her friends had withstood together during the entire war with Kefka.

Terra pushed it aside and stepped forward with an eager but hesitant smile, producing her hands in greeting when he turned to face her. “Shadow, it’s been so long. I’m so glad to see you’re safe.” Shadow did not take her hands. He only stared at her with that emotionless gaze that had terrified hundreds of thousands of enemies. Terra’s smile faded and her hands dropped to her sides. She gestured to the armchair situated across from a well-stoked fireplace that burned with brightness and warmth. “Would you care for a seat.”

He shook his head, but said nothing.

She dropped her eyes and hesitantly turned away from him, making her way to an armchair. Her heart pounded in her chest with the surprising emotion of fear. “How have you been?” There was no answer and she changed her gaze to him. Shadow was still staring at her. The strength left her limbs and she slowly sat. “Would you care for some tea? Or wine? Are you hungry? I could have Cook prepare something.”

“I terrify you.” There was something different in his tone. Almost as if the emotion he claimed was dead inside him was beginning to awaken.

“N-no,” Terra denied quickly. “I-I just…” She dropped her eyes. She had never been afraid of him before. Never. Not in all the dark adventures they had experienced had she ever felt a moment of terror. Now, when he looked at her with those emotionless black eyes, she wasn’t sure if she was safe with him anymore. “All right. Yes. I am,” she admitted reluctantly. She raised her head. “What’s the matter, Shadow? I’ve never felt threatened by you… before now.”

He looked away, staring out the window onto the darkening sands of the desert just outside Kohlingen. Terra’s heart dropped. He was so far away from her. Further than he had ever been. How in the world could she get him to talk about what had brought him? How could she find out what he obviously needed to tell someone? She pressed her lips together, an odd yet familiar sense of rebellion sparking in her eyes. He was her friend. She cared what happened to him. Obviously he must have cared for her at least a little bit or he wouldn’t have risked his life to help her.

“I’m glad you’re here, Shadow,” she said. “The children have all been asking about you. I don’t tell the scary stories nearly as well as you do.” A wall seemed to go up around him, but it was more a sixth sense than an actual, visual knowing. He didn’t clench his fists. He didn’t straighten his already rigid form. There was just a feeling. Terra took in a slow breath and courageously pressed on. “It looks as if you’ve been away from civilization for awhile. I’ve never seen you look so haggard. Did you need anything?”

“I need nothing. I need no one,” he said in a flat tone.

“I see.” She tilted her head at him. “Well, then I guess I’ll go back to the children.” She stood and moved toward the door. “It was nice of you to visit. I hope you can stay longer next time.”

Terra’s hand reached out for the gold handle when there was a soft ‘swoosh’ and the ‘clunk’ of his dagger as it struck the doorpost. She flinched a little and then reached up to pull the dagger from the wood. When she turned, he was directly behind her. Terra handed the dagger to him and he took it sharply, sheathing it with a harsh motion as his dark eyes flashed with the surprisingly clear emotions of anger and rebellion. Terra didn’t say a word. She simply stood there, doing her best to hold his gaze.

After several long moments, he turned and strode to the fireplace where he gripped the mantle with a black-gloved hand. “Do not go.”

There was the barest hint of emotion in his voice and that, more than anything else, made Terra unsure of how to go on. She took a hesitant step forward. “All right.”

“Have you never wondered who I am?”

Terra hesitated again before coming to sit in the armchair closest to the fire. “Of course. We’ve all wondered about everyone. Where Celes’ parents came from and why the Empire was able to take her as a baby to be trained as a Magitek Knight. Who Setzer was before he became the Wandering Gambler and what caused the scar on his face. What kind of person Locke was before he became the Treasure-Hunter he is today. Curiosity is normal. You know that.”

“Yes. Yes, I know that well. Curiosity is the tool of the devil.” He turned his face toward her and his eyes sparked. “You wish to know? Do you wish to know where I have been? Why I have not visited?”

Terra hesitated again. “Only if you want to tell me.”

His eyes mirrored an inner battle. “My life has been darkness and secrets,” he said in a flat tone. “If I do not confess them, they shall surely eat of my soul and feast of my flesh.” Terra swallowed hard. He looked away, staring down at the fire as if it were the very maw of the darkest place in her imagination. “Look you here and see my soul. Captured by the very fires of Hell. Bonded by the very injustices that I first wanted to put right. Perhaps even the confession of my corruption will not save me from where I am intended to go. Where I should already be.”

“Where you--” Terra leaned forward. “What do you mean ‘where you should already be?’”

“I should not have survived the collapse of Kefka’s tower,” he said without emotion. “I do not know why, but the ground beneath me caved to reveal a secret exit. More than likely designed for Kefka to use at an instant such as that. After I jumped down, I followed it to the upper plateau.” He seemed to sense her silent question. “No, the demon Kefka is dead and sent to Hell where his soul shall be tormented just as he tormented the innocent.” He was silent a moment and his chin dropped to his chest. “Where I myself should be.”

“You? Why? You helped save--”

“At the expense of those I should have held most dear,” he cut in. “I was a tormentor of innocents as much as Kefka, and yet I have received a second and third chance to change my ways.” Shadow paused. “I have been a fool to spit in the eye of the Fates and continue my spiral to Hell. Now, I fear it is too late. My past will never take me back.”

“Why not? It’s never too late.”

“Not for you. Not for Locke or Sabin or any of the others for they have held firmly onto their second chances and changed themselves. Changed their very way of thinking. I have, instead, held to this mask and my obsession with power, control, and secrecy.” He pulled it from his head, suddenly, and stared down at it as he held it in his clenched fists. “This is what has kept me from that which I once wanted. This sudden desire to hide. This… this cowardice!”

Shadow tossed it into the fire with a harsh motion and it burst into flame. Terra watched it burn with wide eyes, almost afraid to see what had been hidden under the mask for so long.

“Burn,” he hissed. “Burn and to Hell where you belong! I have need of you no longer. You destroyer of family. You slayer of trust and honor.” His voice faded, the passion of his statement yet lingering in the air to meld with the intense crackling of the flames that danced in celebration of their action against the mask that he seemed to despise. “There,” he said in a dangerously quiet voice. “It is done.”

Terra stared at the remaining embers of the mask. What could she say? All of them had long wondered what could be hidden under the shroud he always wore, but all had known it was not a question to ask. Just as everyone had known not to ask about his past. Not unless they wanted a dagger to the throat. She swallowed hard when she noticed that he had turned his face full toward her. ‘Can I look? Do I dare look to see if what we have suspected is true?’

“Long have I wished to be rid of that foul shroud of death, but I did not have the strength of spirit. Not until I saw how you and the others faced your pasts and fought on. It was then that I saw my own cowardice.”

Terra took in a slow breath and then changed her gaze to his face. A face she had never before seen even after all the hours, days, and months they had fought side by side. He was well into the twilight years of his thirties, his good looks actually enhanced by the scars that were strewn about his face. His eyes were a dark blue, now that they were no longer darkened by the deceptive black mesh of the shroud, and his sandy brown hair was peppered with gray. What struck Terra the most, however, was the resemblance.

The eyes. The defiance. The spark of life. It was as if Terra was looking into the face of young Relm Arrowny.


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