The Creation of Heaven and Earth Chapter 8
A man knelt quietly in prayer before an altar. He was resting on a straw mat with his head bowed. The altar in front of him was a thing of beauty, a golden statue resting on a marble base. The base was etched with an intricate and detailed relief of dragons and angels. The statue was also of a dragon. It was flying vertically and its wings outstretched in the shape of a cross. Its surface was polished to perfection. The light from the ceremonial candles in candelabras that flanked the praying man reflected off of it. The rest of the room was unmemorable simply bare stone walls and a velvet curtain covering the arched entryway.
The praying man wore long white robes that were lined with red, the uniform of the white mages of old. His hair was shoulder length and a light brown in color, but was peppered with strands of white and gray. He was an averaged sized man and looked to be in his late forties, early fifties. His face wore the expression of someone who had seen evil in the world and grieves because of it. A large mustache which reached past his chin was completely gray. His eyes were closed and his lips moved only slightly as he said his prayers, words that only he and the Creator would know.
"And the Creator be praised. Farlem." He said aloud finally, finishing his vigil. The man stood up and opened his eyelids revealing dark black pupils. The man exited the small room and stepped out into a flagstone floored foyer. Wind from a large opening at one end of the foyer rustled his robes slightly. The man turned and walked toward the opening which was cave like in structure. Calcium stalactites and stalagmites lined the 'o' shaped rim. Then he stepped out of the 'cave' and outside to a rocky ledge. Beyond this ledge stretched the snow capped peaks of the Phoenix Mountains. The white powder shined brightly in the light of the full moon overhead. The air was chilly, but the man had lived in this mountain for the past seventeen years and he was used to the temperature. His breath formed into clouds of vapor as he stood there, simply taking in the scenery.
His attention was drawn away however, when something strange caught his eye. Curious he peered up into the sky and the instant he did, he stumbled back, slack jawed.
The moon had changed. It was no longer the silver pearl in the night sky but blood red. The light it gave off transformed all shadows, twisting them into vile, demonic shapes, and changing the colors of the surrounding into different hues of crimson. The man's robes themselves seemed to have turn a dark red.
Dread began to stick in the man like pins as he watched the shadows upon the moon twist and writhe. He tried but couldn't breathe or move. He could do nothing but watch as the chaotic figures that danced across the face of the moon became coherent images, visions of what is to be, and what might be.
In the first image, four crystals encircled an unseen figure, a skeleton of man, his face hidden from the white robe. In the next a statue of a proud and haughty ruler was broken down and a statue of a grotesque beast with six wings and a body of human. The third caused the man's blood to turn to ice, for it showed the impossible.
The heavens, abode of the Creator was embraced by a black cloud, the silken skies becoming black as onyx. Then from the clouds two large hands came forth, the nails long enough to be claws. As the man watched, the demonic hands gripped the heavens and tore them apart and the souls of the just and righteous where scattered across a black abyss. Demons issued forth from the abyss and grabbed onto the souls, pulling them, kicking and screaming into the darkness.
The man beheld the image in terror and awe. 'How?' his mind screamed. 'How is that possible?' He lost all feeling in his legs and crumpled to the ground, sobs of anger and fear escaping his throat. But even then the nightmare was not over.
The shapes on the moon shifted again and the man beheld Armageddon, black clouds raked across a blood red sky like monstrous claws, and demons fell upon the world and its inhabitants like rain. Men, standing over the bodies of their slain loved ones, damned the heavens for allowing such a cataclysm. And sitting on a throne made of human bone, encased in black armor, eyes glowing like fire, was the Hatred of All.
"Dear God!" He called toward the heavens, out load this time, caring not who heard his plea. "If there is some way to stop this, show me! Who is responsible for this?"
The images on the moon shifted once more returning to the vision of the man surrounded by the four crystals. But the image lasted longer than the few seconds it originally had. This time the man, dressed in black robes, turned to face the white robed man. When he beheld the face of the one responsible, his brain exploded into white hot rage and burning anger, not at the one responsible but rather toward himself.
The man pushed himself up and buried his face in his hands, begging for forgiveness. "Lord forgive me, for I have unleashed your killer!"
Dragonhead made every attempt to thread Nico and himself through the tightly packed market place of Albrook. He had a few minutes to get both him and the large bird to the ship or he would be stuck here for the rest of the week, and he wanted to be as far away from every grim reminder that existed in this village as soon as possible. But getting two creatures of considerable size through such a crowd would be like trying to fit either of them through the eye of needle.
'C'mon move it' Ayin said to himself, despite how useless it was. 'Of course, even if I did say it out loud,' he told himself, 'they still probably wouldn't budge an inch.' A sly grin appeared on his face. 'Maybe I should order them to come to complete stop.' The bounty hunter considered following through on this mental wisecrack, but decided against it. The big man simply paused for a moment as the bottleneck tried to clear up.
Up ahead in the distance, Ayin could make out a pair of Imperial soldiers walking in his direction. Curious, Ayin came to a stop in front of one of the fruit stands. He stood there for a moment, realizing that there were two other soldiers standing a few paces behind the first ones. They had swords drawn and ready. 'They're escorting a prisoner.' he realized. The captive was short, too short for the bounty hunter to see in the crowd. Somewhere in the crowd a dog was barking and growling loudly.
"Filthy bird!" There was the sound of dull 'thwack' and the bounty hunter felt a tug on the reins as Nico cringed back. Ayin and a few other bystanders turned around to see the bird clucking angrily at the vendor who ran the stand. In his hand he held a small stick. Ayin looked down at the bird's feet to see several partly devoured pieces of fruit. Had the vendor not hit Nico, Ayin probably would have laughed.
The annoyed vendor looked in Ayin's direction and jabbed the bounty hunter in the stomach with the stick. "Hey buddy, this your bird?"
'Master of stating the obvious.' The big man thought dryly before answering. "Yes, and what of it?" he said in the deepest, most intimidating voice he could muster.
The vendor swallowed and put the stick down, acting like he had seen Dragonhead's size for the very first time. "Ummmm...Are you aware that he ate several pieces of my finest Jerboa fruit?"
Ayin nodded, "Yes."
"Very well then." He said then looked away. Ayin had to hold his tongue to keep from chuckling. Instead the bounty hunter turned to his steed and patted him on the spot where the vendor had struck him. The birds black jewel eyes looked at him, showing that the animal's pride was all that had been hurt. Once Nico had been pacified, Ayin turned away from the animal to catch a glimpse of the prisoner the soldiers were escorting.
'Clyde!' was the first thought that entered the bounty hunter's mind as all of the color drained from his face. Was this another appearance of the specters that haunted him in every moment in both his dreams and his sleep?
Ayin was able to see the face clearly now. It wasn't Clyde, the features were too feminine and the prisoner was too young. In fact, it was a young girl. Her arms bound together with iron shackles. A soldier who was ordering the crowd to move aside, carried a large duffel bag, perhaps the girl's belongings. The two soldiers that pulled up the rear were being harassed by large black and brown dog that was constantly nipping at their heals. After a few attempts however, the animal's jaws closed around the man's ankle.
The soldier swore loudly and spun around, kicking the animal in the side. The dog let out a loud whine then scampered off into the crowd, bystanders barreling out of the way of the large animal.
Ayin stared at the girl who had looked behind her to see what had become of the canine. 'That isn't Clyde.' he thought. 'But there's almost a....'
His thoughts faltered on the words. 'Family resemblance.'
For the second time in a day, Ayin felt like punching himself. 'How stupid could I be? When I tracked down Clyde to Thamasa, he had family there. He had a DAUGHTER!'
And for the third time, Ayin felt like punching himself for what he was about to do. Looking at his nearby surroundings, he could find only one place to tie Nico's reins to.
One of the poles of the fruit vendor's stand.
Thinking quickly, the bounty hunter caught a glimpse of a scruffy looking boy in tattered clothes walking away from the fruit stand. Something clicked in the man's head and Ayin turned toward the vendor. "Hey buddy." he said to the vendor, getting the man's attention. "I hate to tell you this, but that kid." He pointed toward the teenager that was walking away. "Stole some of the fruit."
"What!?" the man turned red and barreled out from behind stand, heading toward
the boy. The boy, suddenly realizing he was being followed, turned to see
the vendor heading toward him. The teenager's eyes got as big around as dinner
plates before the boy whirled around and bolted down a nearby alley.
Much to Dragonhead's amusement, several pieces of fruit fell out of the folds in the boy's clothing. With that out of the way, the bounty hunter quickly tied Nico's reins to the pole.
The animal blinked for a moment as he watched his master walk into the crowd before turning his attention to the large yellow fruits.
Common sense tried to shove him back into the recesses of the crowd. Caution tried to restrain him and freeze his muscles. 'Those are Camelot's soldiers! Have you got a death wish?' they asked. 'Yes.' he answered adamantly before grabbing common sense and caution and throwing them both to the wind.
Ayin moved through the crowd, having no qualms about the rude manor in which he moved some of the people out of his way. He walked parallel with the procession of soldiers keeping a wall of people between them as he assessed the situation. There were five guards in total, two flanking the girl, two behind them and one standing out front occasionally ordering the crowd to move aside. They were armed with Halberds, though Ayin took note that the leader of the soldiers had an autocrossbow hanging across his back from a shoulder strap.
"Just one with an autocrossbow, I can handle that." Then again, Ayin was certain that if all of the soldiers had autocrossbows, he could still handle this. He wasn't an egotist, but he knew the skills he possessed and was confident of them. He scanned the area around him, taking the crowd into account. The minute the fight began, they would scatter in all directions out of confusion, making things more difficult for him. He would have to keep on alert the whole time, or this would all go to hell pretty quickly.
With that thought on his mind, Ayin shouldered his way through the crowd and stepped in front of the lead soldier.
A look of shock fell across the soldiers face as the human wall stepped in front of the procession. The soldier's shot up his hand and shouted "Halt!" bringing the rest of the soldiers to a stop. Silence fell across the market as tension placed its stranglehold over all sound. Not a whisper was heard as Ayin and the soldiers faced off.
The lead soldier stood and locked gazes with Ayin. "Can I help you sir?" he said, his voice wringing wet with annoyance.
"Yeah." Ayin drawled. "I'm curious. Just what is that girl being arrested for." he said nodding toward the girl. A look of confusion had covered her features. 'Not surprising, considering a man she's never met before suddenly decides to come to her aid.'
"That's Imperial business, sir," the soldier said to him.
"Ah, come on. You can tell me, I know how to keep a secret." Ayin said to him jokingly. "What do you say?"
"I say that if you don't let us pass, I'll have you placed under arrest." the soldier said to him.
"Now come on, I mean, I think the people here have a right to know why your takin' some cute little girl to prison." Ayin cast a glance at the crowd which lined the market street. "What do you folks say?" The only answer that he received were a few people averting their eyes.
"Sargent's Brinks, Kates place this man under arrest." The leader of the soldiers finally said, tired of Ayin's interference. With those words said, the two soldiers at the back broke off from the procession and stepped toward Ayin.
At this site, Ayin took a step back and feigned sudden fear. "H...hey man! You don't have to...Hey...I'll just get out of your way . No trouble." he stammered. Ayin then cast a look over the lead soldier's shoulder before saying. "Just..just let me call my Chocobo over and I'll be on my way."
The lead soldier considered these words a moment while his Brinks and Kates stood ready at his side. A few eternity long seconds passed before he ordered. "Stand down." He said before turning toward Ayin. "Now , do like you said and leave. And if I ever see you again," the soldier motioned toward the autocrossbow at his back, "I will deal with you in whatever means that I deem necessary."
"All right." Ayin said, looking fearful at the autocrossbow. "There'll be no need for that. Just let me call Nico over." With that, Ayin stood up and looked in Nico's direction before pursing his lips together and letting out a high pitched whistle.
A loud crash, followed by a chorus of startled cries, caused the soldiers, the girl, and the people in the crowd to turn toward the origin of the sound. A good fifty yards behind them the crowd was diving out of the way as Nico began to charge toward them. The remains of the fruit stand dragged along side him.
'Couldn't have asked for a better distraction.' Ayin thought to himself as he drew back his fist, stepped forward and slammed it into the small of the lead soldier's back. The man gave out a cry and dropped to one knee. He turned his face toward Ayin in shock and anger before Ayin drove his elbow into the man's face. Ayin could feel the bridge of the man's nose give away from the impact.
The other soldiers turned toward Ayin to witness him striking down their commander. Three of them rushed forward, halberd's raised. While the fourth stayed behind, tightly clutching the chains which the young girl and slowly edging himself away from his other soldier's until he could make a break for it. The soldiers shoved the crowd out the way as the towns people ran in whatever direction would take them away from danger. As one man's brought his weapon down to strike, Ayin's hands flew up and caught the weapon just inches from his face. The bounty hunter's leg shot forward in a blur and struck the soldier hard enough in the mid section to tear the weapon out of the soldier's hands and throw him backwards.
Spinning around Ayin brought the halberd around to slap away another soldier's attempt to drive the spear into his side. Another quick movement, and Ayin smashed the shaft of the halberd into the soldier's neck. The bounty hunter than pirouetted around and caught the man's ankle with the axehead of the halberd. A violent tug on the halberd and Ayin was able to throw the soldier on his back, striking the ground with a loud smack that could be heard over the cries of the crowd. That done, Ayin fell backwards onto the soldier, his elbow slamming into the man's sternum.
Before the other soldier could even attack Ayin rolled to a crouch and rammed the blunt end of the halberd shaft into the man's stomach. As the soldier doubled over, Ayin shot up at an angle, ramming his shoulder into the man's upper torso with enough force to lift him into the air and throw him against a market stand covered with jewelry. The table broke in two and caved inward as the soldier landed on it, the rest of the stand fell apart and collapsed in on him.
Ayin looked away for a moment, scanning the panicked crowd for the last soldier and the girl that it wasn't until he caught a glimpse of glinting steel did he realize that the one soldier wasn't down for the count just yet. The bounty hunter stepped back quickly and saw the blade of a rather large dagger part the air just centimeters in front of his face. Ayin swept his leg around and struck the soldier in the ankle. As the soldier stumbled past him, flailing his arms wildly, Ayin brought his other leg around and kicked the man directly in the ass causing the soldier to loose his balance and crash into another stand.
Despite all that had just happened, the fight with the soldiers had taken under minute. Nico came to a halt beside where Ayin stood and let out a loud squawk. A couple of poles and shredded cloth that had once been the fruit stand still hung from the chocobo's reigns. Ayin stepped over and pulled a knife from his equipment pack, which he then used to cut the debris free from the bird's reigns.
The bounty hunter climbed into the saddle of the bird and tugged on the reigns. The two turned down the street and broke into a full run after the final soldier. Ayin had to rely on both his and Nico's quick reflexes in order to dodge the debris and panicked people who seemed hellbent on getting in their way. With only good eye, Ayin scanned the sea of human faces for the last soldier.
"There!" Ayin shouted outloud. The soldier was a close to sixty yards ahead, his fist cocked back and ready to strike the young girl who was clawing at his face. The soldier brought his fist down and struck her in the face, causing her to fall back onto her elbows.
A surge of anger ripped through Ayin's veins as he witnessed this. He never got along with his father well, but his old man did teach him one thing. Only a spineless coward would strike a woman, especially when her ability to fight back was restricted. "HA!" the bounty hunter shouted as he urged Nico to charge forward. The chocobo did so and began to devour the distance between them and the soldier. He could already hear the loud curses that the soldier spat upon the young girl as he raised his fists to strike here again.
"...you little bitch!" was the last thing the soldier was able to say as Nico got close enough for Ayin to leap from his back and slam into the soldier. The soldier cried out in shock and pain as the bounty hunter crashed the two of them into the stone road.
Moving quickly, Ayin rolled away and jumped into a fighting position. The soldier was slow to get up and but when he reached a crouching position, he snatched a dagger from his boot and brought it up in a quick, underhanded slash. The blade bit into Ayin's shoulder, startled somewhat, the bounty hunter jumped back and then ducked as the soldier swung the dagger at his throat. Ayin whipped his leg around and swept the soldier's legs out from under him. As the soldier dropped to the ground a second time, Ayin jumped over and slammed his fist into the soldier's throat.
As the soldier lay their gagging, Ayin reached down and unhooked the key ring from the man's belt. He then turned to the girl, who was still speechless from what she had just seen. The bounty hunter spoke to her calmly as he unlocked her shackles. "I'm a friend. Believe me. I just want to help you." Once her shackles fell to the ground, the bounty hunter then scooped the girl up, placing the girl on the chocobo before he climbed on behind her. She was unhurt, just few scrapes on her arm from when she had fallen. Ayin snatched up what was left of the reins and whipped them with that Nico let out a loud whoop and bolted down the marketplace street. girl held on to both her belongings and the chocobo with all her might. Her heart was hammering in her chest as scenery flew by in a blur.
The leader of the soldiers was able to pull himself from where he lay on the ground and charged after them,unslinging his autocrossbow. When he reached the edge of the market, he threw himself into a firing position, drew a bead on the fleeing pair, and applied pressure to the trigger.
But the soldier never got a shot off.
The man was hit from behind by something heavy and was shoved down onto the ground. His weapon skittered across the ground and out of reach. He could only make out a set out the large fangs out of the corner of his eye and could feel the hot breath against his skin. A cold sweat broke out on the man's entire form when he realized what had hit him. A low growl from deep within the animal's throat confirmed it.
The girl craned her neck to see around Ayin when her ears became filled with the sound of a man screaming bloody murder. In the distance, she could see the fleeting image of a soldier being mauled by a large wolf.
"STOP!" she ordered the large man. Ayin and Nico ground to a halt before they even realized it. They were no longer in the town but in the grassy plains that existed beyond its borders. Before the large man could protest, the girl jumped down from the chocobo, cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted. "Interceptor! Come!"
The dog released the grip his jaws had on the soldier's neck and looked up. The animal barked a reply when he spotted the girl and bolted down the path toward her, leaving his chew toy lying in the street, groaning.
Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic