By Zakkeri Zeppereli

I hear the sound of clapping thunder in the distance. It echoes across the sky, like a great drum struck by the hand of Yevon Himself. The clouds hang ominously, obscuring the sunlight, dimming it, warping it until it is nearly invisible. It is a bleak gray fog that hangs over us this day. It is a haze that dampens the heart and darkens the soul.

It is eerily quiet at the hour. And it has been for the entire day. There cannot be another living creature within a hundred miles of here. The shoreline is devoid of all life. It is the same, cold brown rock, everywhere. The soil is dry and barren. Nothing could ever grow here. The living cannot live where there is no life.

A flash of blue lightning illumines the sky, as if in answer to my thoughts.

I am standing on the beach, looking out to the ocean. I see the waves crashing upon the rocks, beating them down mercilessly. Soon the rocks will be not but a shell of what they were. Not even the mightiest of them can withstand the strength of the ocean. Like all life, all things must come to an end.

I can feel the ocean calling to me. It is waiting, with arms outstretched, drawing me to it with its melodic, soothing voice. Yet I know that if I make even one reply, its embrace will destroy me.

It is the madness of one man, the thoughts of a dreamer. Me. They would vanish beneath the waters of the ocean depths, given a chance. There, beneath the crashing waves of Spira, my thoughts would remain. It would be my final resting place.

“Hurry,” a voice suddenly calls out. “They’re waiting for us at the command center.”

It is the sound of a man’s gruff tongue. With the first word, it pulls me from the dream I had been dreaming, back into reality. I follow him up the beach.

Reality. It is all that we have known. We dream to escape it, to think of better days and happier times. But eventually, it draws us back. And then we must confront it.

But reality holds a terror not found in our dreams. Not found in anyone’s dreams.

It is a terror called Sin.

We do not know what it is or where it came from. We know only why it exists. It is our punishment for the crimes of our past. The crimes committed by our ancestors hundreds of years ago. That is what the Teachings tell us.

The Teachings of Yevon have taught us that there is but one way to defeat Sin. A Summoner of the Fayth must embark on a Holy Pilgrimage through Spira, visiting the Temples of the Fayth to obtain powerful weapons they call Aeons. Eventually, all Summoners will travel to Zanarkand, an ancient city in ruins far to the north. There, they obtain their ultimate weapon. They call it the Final Aeon. It is an Aeon powerful enough to defeat Sin. And when Sin is defeated, a peace is spread throughout Spira. The Calm, it has been named. And for ten years, it lasts.

But the price of such a repose is high.

The Summoners must forfeit their lives to call upon the Final Aeon. They must die to defeat Sin.

But their sacrifice is all in Vain. Eventually, Sin returns, and the cycle begins anew.

That will continue no longer. The Crusaders will break this cycle. We will show to all of Spira, to its people, to ourselves, and especially to the Maesters of Yevon, that Sin can be defeated without the Final Aeon.

And we will use the forbidden Machina to prove it.

No longer will Summoners embark on a Pilgrimage of Fayth to defeat Sin. No longer will they sacrifice their lives to bring ten short years of peace. No longer will this creature known as Sin take the lives of the innocent.

The Crusaders will end it. We will end it.

But we fight Sin without the blessing this day, the blessing of Yevon. That is indeed a great tragedy for us. In past days, the Crusaders have always fought Sin with Yevon’s blessing.

Now we fight without it.

The Teachings of Yevon prohibit the use of the forbidden Machina. That is why we fight unblessed. Yevon would not dare support us while we use such weaponry. It is said that the forbidden Machina is partly responsible for Sin’s creation. That is why Yevon has declared our operation barbaric, treacherous, and unholy.

But our intentions are pure. There can be no mistaking that. We, like the Maesters of Yevon, are willing to give up our lives for Spira. It is our duty to protect the innocent from Sin. Though our methods may differ, our design is the same.

The command center draws near. It is so close that I can see the prison from here. The dome shaped, steel cage prison that guards the Sinspawn.

We have worked tirelessly to capture these creatures from all over Spira. They are part of the lure. We know that Sin is drawn to its Spawn. It leaves them, and returns for them. And, like a mother and her babe, Sin cannot resist the calling of its children.

We will draw Sin into a trap.

The cage is being lowered into the water, but will not be opened. The metal bars are charged with an energy that turns lethal in water. And when the ocean devours the cage, the Sinspawn will die. Their shrieks of agony will draw Sin to us, and in doing so, draw it to its death.

I accidentally rub shoulders with an Al Bhed man. He looks up at me, eyes covered by black tinted goggles. I mutter a quick apology and continue on.

The Crusaders were not alone in organizing this operation. The Machina salvagers known as the Al Bhed aided us as well. Personally, I do not enjoy their company. They are too sly and too clever for us. And it is rare sight to an Al Bhed with their eyes uncovered. Why do they hide them? What do they have to hide from us? What do they have to hide from Spira?

Nevertheless, without them, this operation could not have succeeded. It is they who have supplied us with the Machina weapons we will use. And it is they who will deliver the final blow to Sin. It is disappointing, almost. The Crusaders, the protectors of Spira, the warriors of freedom, the enemy of Sin, will be but a distraction, a decoy, for the Al Bhed. We are to give them enough time to power their Machina Energy Cannon to destroy Sin. Whatever that will take.

And whatever the cost will be.

I do not like the Al Bhed, but that does not mean I do not respect them. They, like us, and like all of Spira, despise Sin with all their hearts. I respect their hate, and I understand it well. They too, have lost friends and family to the power of this terrible creature.

We all have.

I was twelve years old when it happened to me. It was the year before High Summoner Braska defeated Sin and brought the Calm to Spira. I lived in a little fishing village in the distant west, far from civilization. I was part of a small family. There were only my parents, my younger sister and I.

They are all dead now.

When Sin attacked, it was without any warning of any sort. Complete surprise. It surfaced from the ocean near our home. Emerging from the water, its scaly gray skin absorbed the sunlight that touched it, befouling the water that surrounded it.

I was with my family on the beach at the time. All that I could do was watch in horror as the creature approached. I was paralyzed with fear. My father kept yelling at us to run, but none of us could move. None of us could escape. All we could do was fear. There was room for nothing else.

I do not remember what happened afterward. Vague images resurface in my memory, but there is nothing clear. I can remember the monstrous tidal wave that crashed down upon us, the feeling of the cold water all around me, and…the pain. There was so much pain.

When I awoke, I was lying on the beach still. The waters had calmed once more, and Sin had vanished. But that was not all that had disappeared.

My village was gone.

There was nothing that remained of it. Debris littered the beach, wood, steel, pots, and pans …some of them whole, and some them broken into uncountable pieces. Nothing had escaped the devastation.

Bodies littered the beach and the surrounding ruin. I do not know how many were dead, or how many were alive. Near me lay the bodies of a man and a woman, holding each other tightly in one final embrace. The body of a girl lay a little ways away, her child-like beauty marred by a sharp wooden timber protruding from her chest. Trying to stand, I found that I could not. My right leg had been badly injured during the attack. I foolishly tried to stand on it, and nearly bit my tongue off from the pain. It took all my will and determination to suffocate a scream.

I had no memory of who I was or where I was, then. With a single gasp of sheer terror, I had inhaled Sin’s poisonous toxin. It clouded my mind in an impenetrable veil of fog. I did not even know that it was the bodies of my parents, together even in death. I did not know that it was the body of my sister, her heart pierced by a wooden timber. Only when my memory returned, much later, did I realize what had happened.

I hate Sin. I hate it with all of my heart. That day on the beach, it took my family away, took away all of the friends and relatives that I had ever cared about. And yet, I had lived. All of them had died, and I had been spared.

For that, I can never forgive Sin.

No crime in our past can be worth the suffering that this creature has brought to Spira.

Sin will never leave us, unless it is defeated. And it is the duty—no, the obligation—of the people of Spira, to destroy it.

That is the purpose of Operation Mi’ihen. We will destroy Sin, and bring back peace and prosperity to our beloved Spira

I follow my companion to a small outcropping hollowed into the rock. There, a group of two dozen Crusaders are waiting. Some of them are sharpening their swords, and others are rolling stones idly between their hands.

They are nervous. I can tell by the way that one man sharpens his sword with trembling hands, the way another man keeps looking out to the ocean, pulling his coat tighter about him and shivering.

I know how they feel. I am as nervous as they are.

Maester Kinoc…I notice him, standing above us, looking out from the edge of the cliff. He looks tired. His face is lined and worn, and dark circles have formed under his eyes. The way he walks and the way he moves is sluggish and lethargic. He no longer acts with the exuberance and vigor of youth that once defined him. He is an old man, now.

Nonetheless, Maester Kinoc is largely responsible in bringing this operation to flight. He is a Maester of Yevon, the leader of the Crusaders, and a great enemy of Sin. He is both intelligent and wise, and without his guidance, the Crusaders would be lost. We would be without direction.

One of the men sitting nearby stands and places a hand on my shoulder. It is the same man who had been nervously sharpening his sword.

“Nervous?” He asks me.

I give a slight nod.

The man grunts and begins to pace, back and forth. He is moving briskly, constantly rubbing his hands together. I cannot blame him for acting so nervous. We all have reason to be. Some of us will die this day.

The sound of distant voices follows a single sound that echoes hauntingly across the shoreline. It is clear, low-pitched tone. It must be Maester Seymour. He must have arrived. Truly I did not believe that he would grace us with his presence. He has always appeared too…cultured…for a battle such as this.

Maester Seymour is half man and half Guado. He is abnormally tall for a human, and his arms are too long for his body. His hair is long and blue, arranged in such a way that no human could ever hope to imitate. And his face…his face is broader and more clearly defined than any other human’s or guado’s.

But his appearance is only a disguise. Under that exterior, Maester Seymour has the heart for leadership. And he is the most intelligent man I have ever known.

Truly he is one of a kind. Perhaps a bit arrogant, but that is because of his upbringing. Maester Seymour experienced an unhappy childhood. And that miserable childhood has transformed him into a dangerous enemy.

I remember what happened in Luca when Sin and its Spawn attacked the stadium. It was during the annual Spira Blitzball Tournament. I was there when Maester Seymour called upon his weapon, his Aeon, to fight.

A great steel anchor dropped from the sky and into the ground. That was when it appeared.

It must have been torn from the bowls of the Underworld itself. A hideous creature with one eye and a body bound completely in chains, its shrieks of agony and torment echoed throughout the stadium. The sight and sound of it chilled me to the very bones of my body. This creature—this Aeon—commanded great power.

Sinspawn died from a glance by the Maester’s Aeon. The fiends could not even hope to withstand the might of such energy, such a weapon. Perhaps, Maester Seymour will call upon his Aeon this day.

To aid us in our victory.

I had been thinking such thoughts when the Chocobo Knight rode past us. A woman with red hair dressed in brightly adorned armor. I think it was the leader of the Chocobo Knights, Captain Lucile herself.

“All Crusaders on the vanguard are to assemble on the beach!” She said.

My companion salutes in her direction and draws his sword. I watch him carefully, for any signs of nervousness.

He shows none.

“C'mon!” He shouts. “Let’s go!”

He begins running down to the beach. The others fall in behind him, myself included.

The preparations are complete. Chocobo Knights and their mounts, Crusaders and their weapons, stand at attention, ready for whatever may come. Whatever Sin may bring. We have trained long hours in preparation for this battle. There can be no hesitation now.

The Chocobo Knights will be the ones to lead the first charge. They will engage the enemy in the water, and then withdraw onto the beach. At that point, the Crusaders will join the battle and finish the Sinspawn.

Hopefully by then, the Al Bhed will have had enough time to ready their Machina Energy Cannon.

I am standing at the very edge of the frontline, near the boundary of the beach, in fact. When the Sinspawn arrive on shore, I will be one of the first to meet them.

Agitation replaces my nervousness. I have a strong desire to fight, and take my revenge. It will be for my parents, my sister, and my village. I will demonstrate to Sin and all of its Spawn all that I have learned. Sin changed my life, and now I intend to do the same to it.

By ending it.

High above, another haunting note pierces the sky. That is the signal. All is ready.

There is silence on the beach.

From the water, I see a black shadow appear. We wait. The shadow grows steadily larger. It must be nearly the size of the bay.

It emerges from the water, bursting from it like a hatchling from the egg. It is a monstrous creature, covered in rough, gray colored scales that resemble the bark off a tree. Its appearance is vaguely animal, with four appendages, a head and a tail, but it is like no animal I have ever known of. The eyes…I do not know how many eyes it has. More eyes than a spider.

It is Sin. Sin has arrived.

And fallen perfectly into our trap.

The sound of Machina cannon fire breaks the silence on the beach. Fiery orange projectiles race towards Sin. They pierce its outer shell. Parts of its scaly coating drop into the water.

They hit the ocean depths with a splash, and disappear from view. But I know where they are. I know where they are heading. They are swimming towards us, towards the shoreline.

I draw my sword. The ring of the steel blade is echoed a thousand fold up and down the beach.

Captain Lucile is at the forefront. She has drawn her sword as well, mounted upon her yellow plumed chocobo. She is struggling with the reins, trying to keep her steed under control.

“Let’s go!” she yells.

But no one moves. It is too soon, yet.

High up above us, the Machina cannons continue to fire. They are preventing Sin from moving any further into the bay. It has turned its body aside, no doubt to protect itself from the cannon shots.

That is when the eerie sphere of violet light appears at the tip of Sin’s mouth. But I have no time to think of it. I can literally see—and hear—the Sinscales racing through the water toward us.

Captain Lucile raises her sword high into the air. By either chance or fate, a tiny sliver of sunlight pierces the clouds and catches the metal of her blade. The reflection is magnificent. Up and down the beach, and high above on the cliff, the cry of a thousand warriors resonates clearly.

“Charge!” screams Captain Lucile.

The Chocobo Knights rush into the water. They do not have far to go before they encounter the Sinscales. They cannot be more than twenty feet away from shore.

A small group of Crusaders attempt to join the battle in the water. It is a most foolish idea. Their reduced movement will make them more vulnerable to the Sinscales’ attacks.

Though I understand how they feel. Our allies are fighting twenty feet from us, and we cannot help them. Not unless we want to die before our time. It is better to wait. The enemy will come to us soon enough.

The battle goes badly. The Sinspawn have managed to pull many of the knights off of their mounts. And once the knights are in the water, they have little chance of survival.

Between sounds of striking steel, and the agonizing cries of the enemy, a few of the Sinscales manage to break through the line of defense. They immediately head towards shore.

Toward us.

My patience is at an end. I want the sands of the beach to be covered in the enemy’s blood. Leaving my companions behind, I break into a run.

The Sinscales are hideous gray abominations of life. They vaguely resemble canine beasts, though with fins and webbed feet to swim in the water. They can also grow wings, making them easily adaptable to land or air. That adaptability to any terrain makes them extremely dangerous.

Two of the Sinscales have surfaced near me. I immediately notice the wings growing quickly out from their bodies. I approach them at a run. I may yet succeed in tricking them. I will make them believe that by charging, I will be leaving myself defenseless. They will think me easy prey.

They are wrong.

At the last possible moment before they can strike me, I change my direction and attack them from an opposing side. Sword still in hand, I leap through the air and swing hard. The blow connects. My sword cuts through the creature’s emerging wing, and right through the base of its skull. The creature’s green blood and brain matter covers my arm.

No time to rest. As soon as my feet touch the ground again, I pivot. Just in time. The second creature lunges at me, claws flailing madly at the air.

My sword cuts swiftly. The creature’s front legs fall to the ground, dismembered claws still flailing, refusing to acknowledge death. I kick the wounded creature forwards as its balance gives way, and as it flies through the air towards the ground, I leap at it, sword blade pointed forwards.

The Sinscale touches the ground, with me supporting it, my sword buried deep into its chest. Hastily I withdraw my blade and survey the shoreline.

More of them are appearing. Out of the corner of my eye, amid the ringing of steel and the screams of the dead and dying, I see several chocobos and their riders returning to the beach. The knights must be attempting a withdrawal, but I see where the problem lies.

A number of Sinscales have managed to penetrate the line of Chocobo Knights. The enemy has succeeded in driving a wedge between us, and our allies, most of who are still in the water.

I regret that we cannot help them. But we will have problems of our own once more of the Sinspawn arrive. Divided as we are, we will eventually be defeated.

Half a dozen Sinscales begin emerging from the water. But they are moving too slowly.

I charge at one, sword above my head. Before it can act, my blade comes down over the top of its skull. Flesh gives way to bone, and bone to brain matter in a shower of green blood.

Pushing the corpse aside, I instinctively sheathe my sword me and tumble backwards. Looking behind me, I see another Sinscale appear where I had been not a moment gone.

I recover my balance and attempt to stand. But I am not quick enough.

Another Sinscale leaps at me, claws digging into the flesh of my shoulders. I let out a cry of pain and drop my sword. The creature’s grip holds me tightly, taking me with it to the ground. I can feel warm blood—my blood—running down my chest. Unless I can remove myself from this creature’s hold, it will kill me. I have only one chance.

I bring my legs back until they are right underneath the creature’s posterior. With all of my strength, I lash out at it with my feet.

Its claws come loose as it flies forwards. I scramble to my feet as quickly as I can and retrieve my fallen blade.

Just as my hand closes over the hilt, something hits me from the side, rolling me over onto the ground again. This time I maintain the grip on my sword.

The same creature that pinned me down before is on top of me again, claws ready to tear a gaping wound in my unprotected neck. Without hesitation, I plunge my blade deep into the creature’s side.

More green blood flows over my arms and chest. When I pull the blade out of the creature’s side, it moves no longer. I quickly push the creature off of me to stand. Looking around, I notice that other Crusaders have joined the battle. The entire beach is alive with combat, Crusaders against Sinspawn.

And yet, we are the ones being routed, not them.

More and more Sinscales are emerging from the water, driving us further up the beach, widening the distance between us and the Chocobo Knights.

And there has been no sign of any Al Bhed activity.

Machina cannon fire has stopped. Sin has turned again. That sphere of violet light that I had seen earlier is still there—only larger now. It takes me a moment to realize the direction the creature is facing.

The Mi’ihen shoreline. It is looking towards the beach.

Near the edge of the bay, I see the Al Bhed’s Machina weapon, their Energy Cannon; transform from a dull metallic gray to an eerie bright blue. They are almost ready then. Good. I am not sure for how much longer we can hold the beach. But soon it will not matter.

Sin has reared up to its full height. More than half of its body is out of the water. And that sphere of violet light has at last disappeared from its mouth.

And it is racing toward us instead.

The sphere of light engulfs us. It blankets us in a blinding haze of white.

Swords, shouts, screams, waves, cannons, and sand. Gone. The world has fallen into darkness.

And there is silence on the beach.

Zakkeri Zeppereli's Fanfiction