Appointment With Destiny Chapter 3
"We're going to be together for a long time Aeris," said Sephiroth patiently. "You're going to have to stop running from me sooner or later."
"I don't want to be with you," she said miserably. "I don't want any part of this madness. What I am doing here? I want to go home!"
Sephiroth moved toward her. Aeris backed as close to the barrier as she dared.
"Don't touch me!"
"There's nowhere to go," he said.
The barrier had cleared. There was nothing out there but stars. Aeris looked up at the pale light above them. There was no way to get up there even if it was a way out. She looked down and suddenly remembered there was nothing below them. She ran into Sephiroth's arms, in fright. He put his arms around her.
"Have you changed your mind?" he asked.
"No!" She looked as defiant as ever. "When we get back on solid ground, I still don't want you to touch me!"
"Want me to let go again?" He didn't look as if he meant it this time, but Aeris squeezed him tighter.
"Don't you dare!"
The world around them changed again. They were high above a planet covered with water and land masses here and there. One of the continents was completely covered with ice. Something that looked like a huge crater lay at one end.
"Is that where we're going?" she asked.
"That's where we're going."
They were lower now. Aeris could see scattered towns. One of them looked like a huge round disk with lights and towers.
"Midgar. That's where I live."
"Oh." Aeris heart sank.
"You're not going there yet."
The hope in her voice irritated him.
"You're going to your family to prepare for our wedding," he said.
"I don't have any family here." Aeris looked confused. "All I had was my aunt and uncle back home."
"Your family will explain it to you," he said shortly. "At least THIS time you'll be prepared!"
The barrier grew solid. Aeris couldn't see through it anymore. They dropped suddenly. She cried out in alarm.
"Don't be afraid," said Sephiroth. "We're landing."
The barrier vanished.
Aeris found herself in Sephiroth's arms in front of two groups of people. On one side, there was a group of men sitting on the backs of the largest birds she'd had ever seen. Each bird wore a bridle and each man wore a uniform similar to Sephiroth's. On the other side was a group of people standing in front of what appeared to be a small village. Everyone stared at Aeris with various expressions of surprise.
The staff that appeared to Aeris on earth dropped to the ground in front of them. She wondered vaguely where it had come from. Sephiroth released her and picked up the staff. He turned to face the men on birds. He took Aeris by the left hand and raised it in the air. He held the staff in the other.
"I have fought and won the Cetra bride," he shouted. "Victory is mine!"
The men on birds cheered and waved their weapons in the air.
"Hail the mighty Sephiroth!" they chanted. "Hail Sephiroth! Victory to our leader!"
Sephiroth turned Aeris around to face the townspeople.
"I have earned the right to wed the Cetra bride!" he declared. "She is mine!"
The townspeople raised their hands and cheered loudly.
"The Cetra bride has returned! Hail to the mighty Sephiroth. Hail to the bride!"
"Does anyone care what I think about this?" asked Aeris. "Who are these people?"
A woman stepped forward.
"You have no right to the girl, unless you claim her in front of her family," she said. "Will you do that?"
Sephiroth met the woman's eyes. He held out the staff and she took it from him. "I will."
The woman nodded. "Then behave as a proper suitor, and she is yours."
What were they talking about? Aeris' head was spinning. Claim her? What was Sephiroth going to do?
He turned to her with a glint in his eyes. "With pleasure."
Before Aeris knew what to expect, he pulled her right against his body and covered her mouth with his. She was so flabbergasted, she didn't resist. The men and the townspeople roared louder than before. Just as Aeris was about to push him away, Sephiroth released her. She stood looking at him red with embarrassment. He knew she wanted to slap him, but something in his face warned her not to.
The townspeople bowed their heads as one.
"She is yours," said the woman. She gave the staff to a man standing nearby.
The cheers began anew on both sides.
The woman held out her arms to Aeris in a gesture of welcome. Aeris opened her mouth to object, but she never got the chance. Sephiroth shoved her right into the woman's arms. Aeris turned around to stare at him.
Sephiroth ignored her, speaking to the woman instead. he said brusquely. "Prepare her for our wedding. I'll claim her in thirty days."
The woman bowed her head. "Your wish will be respected sir."
Aeris watched in open mouthed shock as he turned his back on her and walked away. There was a golden bird without a rider among the uniformed men. Sephiroth took the reigns and leaped upon its back with graceful ease.
He looked at the woman. "Thirty days."
"She'll be ready," said the woman bowing her head again. "You have our vow."
Sephiroth tugged at his bird's reins and it wheeled around and galloped away with incredible speed. The other men followed, churning up a huge cloud of dust. They were still cheering and waving their swords.
"Sephiroth has claimed the Cetra bride!" they chanted. "Victory to Sephiroth! Victory to the mighty Sephiroth!"
Aeris wanted to believe this was all a dream, but she knew it wasn't. The woman holding her in her arms was real and so were all these people. What kind of world was this where people rode on birds and a man could claim a wife simply by kidnaping her? The houses she saw reminded her of something out of a fairy tale or old fashioned pictures. The world she had glimpsed from above looked old, modern and futuristic at the same time. Where was she and how had this happened to her? Sephiroth was coming back in thirty days to claim her. How could she be expected to marry a man she hardly knew? Overcome with emotion at last, Aeris fainted.
When she came to she was lying in a large bed in a sunny room. The decor was modest but warm. A woman's touch was definitely in evidence here. Aeris sat up and looked around. The staff was leaning against the wall in a corner. A woman walked into the room. Aeris was startled at first, then recognized her as the woman Sephiroth had given her to.
"Oh!" said the woman. "You're awake!"
Aeris pushed the covers away and slid her feet to the floor.
"Where am I?"
"First let me introduce myself," said the woman. "My name is Elmyra Gainsborough. I'm going to stand in as your mother in this world. And you are . . . ?"
"That's my last name too," said Aeris with wonder in her voice. "I'm Aeris Gainsborough."
"My family adopted the first Cetra bride long ago," said Elmyra. "Since then, we've been prepared to care for the new Cetra bride every generation. Of course there's never been a bride until now. Everyone is so excited. The preparations for your wedding have already begun."
"Everyone's excited but me," said Aeris. "I don't want to get married."
"Now, now," said Elmyra, smiling at her. "You don't have to go on fighting anymore. The battle is over or you wouldn't be here. You're going to make a beautiful bride!"
"I don't want to be a beautiful bride," said Aeris. "I don't want to be a bride at all."
"Really dear," said Elmyra. "I need to measure you for your gown. If you'll just come into my sewing room . . . "
"I DON'T WANT TO BE A BRIDE!" shouted Aeris. "Who are you people and what are you doing to me? All I wanted to do was see the sunrise over the hills and all of a sudden I have to get married. Who is Sephiroth anyway and why has he done this to me?"
Elmyra frowned at her. "What do you mean, who is Sephiroth?"
"He said something about a curse," said Aeris. "I don't know what he's talking about! All I know is he kidnaped me and brought me here."
She broke into tears. Elmyra was shocked.
"I want to go home," sobbed Aeris. "I don't belong here."
"Didn't your mother tell you what would happen if you lost the battle?" asked Elmyra.
"My mother didn't tell me anything," said Aeris. "She died when I was seven years old."
"But didn't you have the chest?" asked Elmyra. "Didn't you ever open it?"
"My aunt sold it after my mother died," wept Aeris. "I never saw it again."
"Oh my goodness!" Elmyra pressed her hands to her face. "You mean, you don't know anything about any of this?"
Aeris shook her head, too miserable to speak.
Elmyra sat on the bed next to her and put her arms around Aeris. Aeris laid her head against Elmyra's shoulder and continued to cry.
"You didn't know how to fight him."
Aeris' voice was barely a whisper. "He said I had to fight him in a battle of spells and I didn't know what to do."
"You poor baby," said Elmyra. "You never had a chance."
"What am I going to do?" asked Aeris.
"You're going to go through with it," said Elmyra. "You don't have a choice, but I'll help you as best I can."
Aeris sat up. "What kind of curse was he talking about?"
Elmyra stood up and took two tissues from a box on the dresser. She gave one to Aeris before she sat down again.
"Listen," she said, dabbing at her eyes, "And I'll tell you the story as it was handed down to me."
* * * * *
"The Cetra lived on this world a long time ago. Some say they were from another planet. They lived along side man helping him learn to survive. Then one day another alien fell from the skies. Her name was Jenova. They said her space ship made the huge crater on the ice glacier. The Cetra took care of her and nursed her back to health. In time, like the Cetra, Jenova learned to work with man."
"In fact, Jenova grew so popular, the Cetra became jealous. They began to undermine her efforts to make man even better than he was. They gave Jenova such a hard time, she moved away from them and went to live in a town with man. She fell in love with a human and they had a child, a boy she named Jerin. That really made the Cetra jealous because they didn't believe in breeding with humans."
"When Jerin was eight years old, Jenova learned the Cetra were planning to kill her. She begged her husband to take their son and run away. He didn't want to leave her at first, but she made him see that if his parents died, Jerin would die too. She wanted to give Jerin a chance to live and her husband was his only hope. Finally convinced she was right, her husband took the boy and fled."
"What no one knew at the time, was that one of the Cetra mothers had the same idea. Worried that her people would be wiped out in the upcoming fight, she secretly took her daughter to her best friend, a human whose child had died at birth. Her friend took the baby girl and left town."
"Jenova went to face the Cetra alone. There was a terrible battle. Both she and the Cetra had amazing powers. The battle raged long and hard. When it was over, the humans found her body on the battle field surrounded by those of her enemies. They buried Jenova and burned the rest."
"Jenova's husband moved out into the wilderness and lived as well as he could with his son. In time, he kidnaped a woman from a village and took her as his wife. Together, they raised three other children. Their father taught them how to be ferocious fighters. They all had to be tough to survive out there."
"Jerin lived with his father on the plains until he was sixteen years old, then he decided he had had enough of living like an outcast. He was a strong willed child. Jenova had taught her husband and son magic. Everyone used it, but Jenova taught them magic no one else knew. As time went on, Jerin's family learned he had more than magic. He had Jenova's powers as well."
"Jerin's natural powers were much stronger than his fathers magic. After a while, his father couldn't control him anymore. Jerin had a very bad temper and was given to fits of anger for any small infraction. It was Jerin who decided his family was going to come out of exile and live in one of the villages. The village Jerin chose just happened to be the town where the Cetra girl was being raised."
"They met on the street one day when she was going to the store for her adopted mother. Of course the girl didn't know she was adopted at the time. She thought she was a regular human being. Her name was Lasinda. Jerin took one look at her and decided he had to have her. She was only nine at the time, so he bided his time, waiting for her to get older."
"When she turned sixteen, Jerin let her know that he was interested. The problem was, Lasinda wasn't interested in him. Tall and handsome he was. All the girls in the village thought Jerin was the prize catch of them all, but Lasinda didn't pay any more attention to him than she would have to a log. It drove him mad. She was a beautiful young girl and she was growing more and more beautiful every day. Jerin pursued her relentlessly but the harder he pushed the more she resisted him. One day his day hormones got the best of him. Jerin cornered her early one morning outside her house when she went out to feed the family chocobo."
"He attacked her in the shed, but in her terror, Lasinda raised her hand used a power she didn't know she had. She knocked him out the door, across the yard into a clump of bushes. Both of them were shocked by what she'd done."
"Angered a bit, he got up and went after her, meaning to make it a whole lot rougher for her, but she raised her hand and sent him flying again. When he stood up that time, he tried to bind her powers, but she knocked him down again. They struggled back and forth using their powers against each other. Jerin finally got past her defenses. He knocked her down and straddled her, intending to get what he came for. Lasinda was screamng at the top of her lungs. The commotion woke her mother. She came to the door, saw what was happening, and screamed. Jerin fled the scene."
"Lasinda was confused and frightened. Her foster mother had no choice but to tell her the truth about her birth. She had to tell it again, when Jerin brought his father and an angry mob, claiming the girl had tried to kill him. When Jerin learned Lasinda was the last of the Cetra, he dropped the charges against her and decided she was more than just a plaything. He wanted to marry her instead. He knew mixing his blood with hers would create the most powerful family on the planet. Jerin proposed to her right there in front of the mob, but Lasinda refused to have him."
"For two years, he chased that poor girl around, never giving her a moments rest. She was forced to defend herself several times when he lost patience and tried to assault her again. He had to settle for a quick touch or a stolen kiss. Finally, one of his sisters advised him to back off and to give her time to come to her senses. Jerin backed off, but to his dismay, Lasinda fell in love with another boy in the village. When they announced their intentions to marry, Jerin was livid. He went to Lasinda's house, demanding that she marry him immediately. While he was trying to break down her door, Lasinda's fiancee, Vlynn arrived and tried to stop him. That was all the excuse Jerin needed to kill him.
"He stood over Vlynn's body and told Lasinda she was going to marry him that very day, whether she wanted to or not. He said no one would stop him from having her and she knew he was right. Everyone knew about Jerin's his temper and his powers. With the exception of Lasinda herself, no one had ever stood in the way of what he wanted and survived.
"Lasinda defied him and knelt next to her dead boyfriend to grieve. Jerin grabbed her by the arm and dragged her all the way to the church. She was screaming and fighting, but no one tried to stop him except her mother. Jerin killed that woman in her tracks with nothing more than an evil look."
"He was dragging Lasinda across the church threshold when she kicked him in the knee. He let go and she kicked him where it hurt. While he was wallowing on the floor in pain, she turned and ran for her life. She knew full well he was going to hurt her for what she'd done."
"Jerin was angry, to be sure, but way she kept fighting back made his blood even hotter for her. He wanted to tame her. He went after her as soon as he was able. With her being an alien and him being half of one, they ran a long way without tiring. We only know the rest of the story as Jerin told it. He closed in, almost catching her, but Lasinda called on the power of the Cetra. A gaping vortex opened, hanging in the air right in front of them. Lasinda reached it first, and jumped through. She shouted out something as she did. Jerin could see her running down a hill on the other side of the vortex. He tried to jump through too, but whatever power she used, it barred him from entering. He slammed into an invisible barrier and ended up on the ground looking after her."
"He screamed, begged and cried, but Lasinda kept on running. Jerin knew he was losing her forever, but he refused to let it go at that. Calling on the power of his mother, whatever powers they were, he uttered words so terrible, they must have been a curse. No one had ever done anything like what he did that day, and no one has done it since."
"By the terms of his spell, all of her descendants would be girls. No matter where she went, in every generation, one of her line would have to come back to the place where she entered her new world at the same time she entered, to face one of his descendants. They were to fight a battle of magic. If the Cetra could defeat three of his descendant's attempts to pull her back into his world, she had to marry him. No ifs or buts about it. If she resisted his attempts and managed to keep just one bond of protection around herself after he cast his third spell, she was free to live her life in her new world."
"But he added a bit more. Each time the Cetra married, her powers would pass from mother to daughter the moment the child was born. No matter if she married into another race, her blood would remain Cetra. With the power passed on, the mother would die as her punishment for being heir to the woman who rejected Jerin. The spell was to run for twenty generations. At the end of that time, the Cetra were free to live as they pleased."
While the curse was in effect, the parents on both sides of each line could only tell their children about the curse on their eighth birthday and present them with a chest. In that chest was a list of spells. In your case it was a list of all the spells used to before to defeat Jerin's line and the spells, his descendant had used to try and break through yours. What you were supposed to do, was study the spells and try to anticipate how what the next descendant would try to defeat you."
"On his side of the portal, Jerin's descendant would be doing the same, only he would anticipate the spells you might use to stop him from taking you captive, and find one that would help him get you instead. And so it has always been," said Elmyra. "You are the last of the Cetra to face the curse."
"And I lost," said Aeris.
"I'm sorry," said Elmyra.
"What happened to Jerin?" asked Aeris.
Elmyra looked away. "No woman was ever good enough for him after Lasinda escaped. He was a very handsome man, so some girls flocked to him, hoping to gain a powerful husband, but Jerin had changed. He became even more abusive and cruel than he was before. No matter how pretty the girl, Jerin ended up beating her. None of them were pretty after he was through with them. Once they were scarred, he had no further use for them. The word spread. In time, women began to avoid him."
"When people heard he was coming to town, they sent their daughters away to safety. That didn't stop Jerin. He arrived at odd hours to catch those who were too slow to get out of his sight. One unlucky girl became pregnant with his child. That was the only time anyone ever saw him smile after Lascinda got away. Jerin took the girl home and kept her prisoner to ensure the birth of his child. Since that time, in every generation, one son is born to each descendant. The powers of the father pass down to the son. The father dies sometime later."
"Wait a minute," said Aeris. "I thought that was only supposed to happen on the Cetra side."
"Maybe he did something wrong," said Elmyra. "The father of Jerin's descendant always dies."
"So if Sephiroth lost me, he would have married someone else, had a child and died?"
Elmyra nodded. "Only in Sephiroth's case, since he was the last of his line in the battle, the spell would have run its course. He'd be free of it, just like you would have been. His father would live.
Aeris absorbed that information in silence.
"At the appointed time, Sephiroth went to the appointed place to claim the Cetra bride. The vortex opened up and allowed him to pass through. Once the battle was over, it would brought him back willing or not. It dropped him off again at the place where you found us waiting. Nineteen generations failed to win the Cetra. No one really expected him to return with you in his arms. It was shocking to say the least."
"You don't know the half of it," said Aeris.
"Under the circumstances, I understand why this seems so unfair to you," said Elmyra. "You didn't know what to expect. But you're not really getting such a bad deal you know."
"How's that?" asked Aeris.
"Sephiroth is a great soldier," said Elmyra. "He's a general. Everyone loves and respects him."
"Except me," said Aeris. Tears welled up in her eyes again. "How can you expect me to marry a man I don't know?"
"Some marriages start with less," replied Elmyra. "You may learn to care for him someday."
"What if I don't?" asked Aeris.
"You have to," said Elmyra. "You don't have a choice, so you might as well make the best of it."
Aeris bent her head to cry again.
Elmyra stroked her head in sympathy.
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