Terra: Part II Chapter 2

By Mintbaby

Terra was speechless for a long moment. When he again turned his head away from her, she asked the question she had longed to voice. “Does she know?”

Shadow shook his head. “No. After so many years of hiding the truth from even myself, do you believe I would have the courage to tell her?” He stood with a sharp motion and began to pace in front of the fireplace. “All I have become was originally done for her. Yet, something went horribly wrong. Even I do not understand what it was. The weakness of my own desire to provide a better life for her. A safer one. Then there was greed and a self-centered desire for power.” He jerked off each of his black gloves and tossed one by one into the fire on top of the ashes of the mask. “Such was the reason she was abandoned. A desire to give her peace which was twisted into a lust for power.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad.” Shadow clenched his jaw and Terra continued to examine his newly uncovered face. It was a strange feeling to be able to actually read the emotions that crashed across his expression like the tides of the ocean during a storm. “Could it?”

Shadow paused for a long moment before turning his eyes from the fire to Terra’s face. “Judge for yourself.”

“All right.” Terra adjusted her position and then looked to Shadow when she was ready. “Go on.”

“Relm’s mother was Amanda Arlin,” he began in a strictly controlled tone. “She was a beautiful, fiery woman with a passion for life that attracted every youth to the challenge of winning her heart as their own. She was an artist with an innate talent to capture the very breath of life in her portraits. Her work was in high demand, much as Relm’s is now. This talent caught the Empire’s attention. All gifted people were seen as new blood for the Empire’s gene pool. Amanda was no different. She was taken and forcefully enrolled in experimentation with pre-natal infusion.”

Shadow’s face twisted with agony and rage. “I had already taken her as my wife when she was ‘recruited’ by the Empire for their greater good. Neither of us knew what was in store for her when the soldiers came. I was a simple man, then. A clerk at the local armory. What did I know of the Empire and it’s dark desires? What did either of us know of their intent? The officers came with the promise of glory and a better life. I had just taken a wife, so how could I resist this temptation? They assured me that no harm would come to her and that she would be back within a couple of weeks. So, we said our good-byes with the promise to celebrate our good fortune when she returned.”

The memories scorched his face and he turned from Terra’s eyes.

“Amanda was with child when she went to the Empire. Neither of us knew. If I had, I would never have let her go. Damnation! I would never have let her go if I had known then what I know now,” he snarled. “The Empire knew of her background. They knew of her ancestry being directly linked to the Blue Magi from the War and the power that went with it. It is what they counted on! They wished to have that added assurance of a special Magic power when they infused her innocent child with an Esper’s life.”

“That’s where Relm’s gift came from? From an Esper?”

Shadow ran his hands through his hair. “For the most part. Yes. As did Celes and General Leo’s and thousands of other Magitek Knights’ power. Life after life was enhanced and twisted for an evil purpose, not realizing or caring that another life was being drained in order to do so. When Amanda discovered this, she left the Empire and returned to Thamasa, enraged with what they had done. She attempted to tell others what she had discovered, but they did not care. After all, what did it have to do with their petty lives?”

“What happened then? Did the Empire just let her leave?”

“Why would they not? She was infused and carrying their experiment to term. They knew she wouldn’t kill it, for it was her child. Our child. They dared not do anything to her for fear that her precious cargo be damaged!” Shadow’s expression grew suddenly distant. “Precious cargo. Yes. That was what she was. When Relm was born it was as if a miracle had been delivered to me. I could hardly believe it. I had a family such as I had never thought possible…”

Terra’s heart nearly stopped beating. “What happened?”

Shadow actually paled. He dropped his head and clenched fistfuls of his hair. “They came to take her away. My little baby. They wanted to test her. To prod her as if she were an animal bred for their pleasure. Amanda was incensed. Relm was barely a month old and they had come to take her! Amanda refused. She said that if they wished to do any tests at all they would need to bring the equipment to our home and perform them there, under her watchful eye. They agreed. A few days later the caravan of scientists arrived with their myriad of equipment. They began the tests. Only problem was Relm didn’t exhibit any special abilities. No magical powers of any significance. The scientists were disappointed, but their experiment had failed and Amanda was pushing for them to leave. What could they do?”

“Did they?”

“Of course. All too eagerly,” he said in a dark tone. “Life seemed to get back to normal, as much as it could with what we had been through. Then, one day, I returned from a trip to Nikeah and found her gone.”



“Where had she gone?”

Shadow clenched his jaw. “At the time, I didn’t know. I was frantic. I searched the surrounding area, but found nothing. I asked friends and neighbors if they had seen anything out of the ordinary, but they hadn’t. All I knew was that she had left Relm with her father, Strago, and then left to supposedly visit her sister in Miranda.”

“What really happened?”

“The Empire had threatened the life of our daughter in order to get Amanda to cooperate with another experiment. When I discovered this, I was furious. I headed out to Vector immediately, barely taking the time to pack suitable supplies. I nearly starved to death on my way, but I didn’t care. The Empire had again torn my family apart. It was too much. I finally arrived at the Magitech Research Facility, but it was too heavily guarded. There was no way in. So, I waited for the next merchant caravan to arrive and smuggled myself in as an armory merchant. Once inside, it wasn’t too difficult to discover where the experiments were performed. That was the central hub of activity.” He dropped his hands from his hair and looked over at Terra. “When I found the room, I also found the man responsible for her kidnapping. He was experimenting with the Empire’s newest infatuation: mind-control.”

“Ledo,” Terra whispered.

“Yes. Another demon bred by the Empire’s all-consuming desire for power.”

“He didn’t… he didn’t operate on her…”

Shadow clenched his jaw, his eyes dark with misery. “He did more than that. He operated on her and then left her to die when they malfunctioned. He had decided that her life wasn’t worth the time or effort to remove them! Even when the removal would have saved her life!”

Terra choked on a sob, her own memories resurfacing of the pain and near-death experiences she’d had at the hand of this same man. “Oh no…”

“I found her body,” he said in a gruff voice. “Even in death she was vibrant…” He cleared his throat and looked away. “Ledo appeared as I was attempting to leave with her. We fought, I lost. I hadn’t trained as a soldier. I was a salesman. For some reason he didn’t kill me. This would have been a merciful act considering he had already killed my reason for living. Instead, he had me taken to a holding cell to await experimentation. I do not remember how I was able to get free. Vague images and running feet are all I remember, I was so close to death. I awoke in Thamasa.” Shadow shook his head. “I tried to forget her. To raise Relm and go on with a life that now felt only half lived. Each night I would awake to imagined screams and horrible cries of suffering. After 2 years I could take it no longer. My conscience demanded action.”

“You left?”

Shadow nodded. “It was the most difficult decision of my life, but I was determined to make a difference. I was determined to change the world and make it a better place for my daughter to live. So, I left her with her grandfather…”

Silence descended and Terra watched Shadow’s face, the memories colliding against each other to form guilt and rage almost at the same instant. “So, what happened, Shadow? Why didn’t you come back?”

“I knew that what I desired for her would take time. Training was what I needed. So, I studied with whomever would have me. Each instructor warned me of the same failing, my rage. They urged me to bury it deep. To kill it in order to better focus on the goal I had taken. At first, I believed this was an impossible order. A dream. Then, as my training increased in difficulty and my talent improved, it became easier. The memories faded. The pain subsided. The numbness I felt was a release from the torture I had endured for years and months.”

“But why didn’t you come back?” Terra pressed.

He turned on her with eyes flashing in anger. “I could not,” he snapped harshly. “As long as the Empire ruled in force, she was not safe! I could not return a failure. I had to accomplish what I had set out to do.”

“But you didn’t,” Terra went on. “You forgot about her.”

“I did not forget,” Shadow insisted in a dangerously low voice. “How could I forget a life that had once been the epitome of happiness? That pressed me on. It moved me forward to increase in power so that I would be able to undermine all that the Empire attempted to do. It urged me to discover more--”

“You forgot,” Terra interrupted. “Admit it, Shadow. Don’t keep lying to yourself. You can’t get your life back if you lie to yourself.”

Shadow clenched his jaw and then stood with a harsh motion. He strode to the window and glared out to the desert scenery, his hands balled into fists. “I did not forget. I chose not to remember. It is different.”

“Was it because you hadn’t done what you wanted? Did you think Relm wouldn’t want her father back just because of that?”

He turned sharply. “A father? Was I ever a father? Would a father have--” Shadow cut off and looked away again.

“See? You felt guilty about all the failures and so you stayed away instead of facing them.” Terra came to stand beside him. “So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to let your pride keep you away from her still? I’m sure she’ll be angry, but don’t you think you deserve a little of that? You’ve had all this time to tell her who you are and you haven’t. She’s not exactly going to feel very wanted.”

“I do not deserve to have a family again. Shadow never had a daughter. Relm is Clyde’s and not mine.”

“So, is that going to be your excuse then?” Terra hesitated. “Why did you even come here if you had no intention of owning up to who you are?”

He leaned forward suddenly and pressed his palms against the window, dropping his chin to his chest. “I do not know! I told you once that I had killed the emotions within me. It was a warning to you to never do the same. Now they rage within with a force that would stagger your imagination. How can I admit to her who I am when I fear I will lose control.”

“Life is not about control,” Terra said passionately. She turned him with a grip on his arm, ignoring the warning spark in his eyes. “Life is about learning. Loving. Helping others. Be honest with yourself, Shadow. You never felt so alive and so real as when you were helping us help others.” She shook him when he didn’t say a word. “Admit it!”

He pushed her away. “Do not try my patience.”

“Then don’t come in here and try mine. You came here for help. Fine. I’m trying to help you. Don’t go back and forth between decisions because that doesn’t help anyone. Just a few minutes ago you were admitting that you made the wrong decision, now I don’t know what you’re admitting. Make up your mind and stick with it!”

Shadow clenched and unclenched his jaw as he glared at her, his hands balling into fists. “Tell me what to do, Terra,” he said after a long moment of silence. “Tell me what to do.”

Terra shook her head, her throat tightening on the tears that came when she saw the clear expression of confusion in Shadow’s eyes. “I can’t, Shadow. I can’t.”

He stared down at her for another long moment and then turned away, moving for the door without a sound. Shadow paused a moment before opening it, but said nothing as he opened and closed it behind him. Terra stared after him, the tears running freely down her face. After several minutes she turned away and stared out the window, desperately hoping she had said all the right things.


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