Fade To Black Chapter 3

By Xyris

Terra Branford trembled as she lay before the mercy of a slew of hooded worshipers. Atop a sacrificial altar rested her body, naked and being handled at the hands of a dark man. His eyes burning with foreordained lust, her very own father, Maduin, looked on as if everything was for the best.

"Daddy. Don't let him do this. Please. . ." she murmured as the maligned individual climbed over her. Missionary style.

"Rest no longer," he hushed into the ear of the esper girl. "You know you want this. Give the espers a chance. . .to renew themselves."

Her bare chest rose sporadically as the dark man fanned out her emerald green hair from its Gale Hairpin. Only after their eyes met did he plunge into the core of her being. But what she speculated would be heavenly bliss was proven to be sheer agony. She screamed in vain as the demon went on to climax inside of her. Maduin sneered as the worshipers around him began droning evilly.


Waking in a cold sweat, Terra buried her face in her palms and cried. The exact same nightmare played itself over and over in her mind ever since the world slid into ruin half a decade ago. Would it never leave her be?

Bathed in her perspiration, she covered herself with the sheets, aware that her funds were steadily dminishing. There wasn't even enough to afford another day at the Inn of Thamasa. Staring out at a starry night, Terra wondered if Strago and Relm would mind some company for a while. How long she could not yet tell. Probably however long it took to find balm for these nightmares. Such a long time, she thought.

"Locke," she heard herself say, recalling the time which she had been rescued from the Imperial forces back at Narshe. "Is there any promise you can't break?"

Aside from her speculation towards their individual futures, she couldn't help but worry if the lives of her Returner friends were being endangered by threats similar to (or even surpassing) that of Kefka. Whoever this dark man was in her dreams, he couldn't have been a figment of her imagination if he was in her mind so often.

Inadvertently, her ears perked to a sound that no one else in the Inn could have possibly heard. A cry out of pain. Terrible pain.

Was her esper side still present?

"I've got to get out of here," she cursed, throwing her clothes on helter-skelter prior to leaving her room. "These delusions are doing nothing for my rest."


As a harsh thunderstorm ripped across the Thamasian sky, Relm continued to heckle her poor grandfather into staying still beside the window. A depiction of him standing in the presence of crackling lightning was something Strago was sure to appreciate when it was finished.

"Grandpa, stay still," she said in trying to paint him as he stood dignified next to the living room window. "I'm almost done."

"Relm, love, don't you think that you've taken this painting thing a tad far?" he muttered, still doing his best not to move for his granddaughter.

"Well pops, you're the one that's always telling me that if I find the opportunity to improve myself, I should take it. Remember?"

He shook his head, sneering. She knew more than any man, and she was only fifteen years old. The sketching continued until a face appeared from just outside the window. Its soaked and muddied face prompted a scream out of Relm. Strago turned and gasped not out of fear but of happiness.

"Grandpa! What is it?"

"Relm, it's Terra! Quick, get her a blanket!"

As she did what her grandfather asked, Strago ran to the front door. Despite the forlorn condition of her hair and clothing, Terra was welcomed with an affectionate hug.

"My child! Are you okay?" he spoke with a compassionate tone.

"I've had a few problems with getting by. I don't suppose you'd be willing to accept my company for a little while, would you?"

"How could you even ask such a question? Of course you can stay with us! Our home is your home."

"I can't thank you enough, Strago."

"Here you go, Terra," Relm affixed in rushing down the stairs with a blanket in her arms. "Would you like some tea or something?"

Terra was happiest to see Relm of all people.

"My goodness! You're all grown up!" she cried, fondly embracing the teenager.

"It's good to see you again, Terra," she responded, returning her gesture.


Mobliz. Rightfully, it should have been morning here, but something pervaded the light of dawn. An inexplicable power that was reaching out for the foolish souls who dared remain within the confines of this dead town. Its watchdogs barked instinctively for a force the human eye could not see. The wind turned the rain to a drizzle of blood. The early forenoon dew upon the trees darkening until a wall of shadows was all that surrounded the handful of houses. Their inhabitants stretching from their slumber blindly aware of what was in store for them.

"Mommy!" cried one of the young children to the mother figure, Katarin. "Fire! A fire has broke out!"

Katarin sat bolt upright to the flurry of kids running about the basement refuge as if there was no tomorrow(?). Amidst the chaos and confusion, she searched frantically for her husband, Duane. He was found bursting through the doorway, regarding his twice-pregnant wife gravely.

"It's a fire, sweetheart! We have to get out of here right away!"

But flaming debris from overhead blocked off their passage outside. Peering out through the other side was the infernal embodiment of evil itself.


"And you encouraged them," it hounded, mouth curled in a defiant sneer. "You will regret ever having to cross me."

No sooner had he terminated his speech did a wind elemental send Katarin, Duane, and all of the children flying back into their personal underground. The prince of darkness passed through all the burning rubble as though it were air. With his every step, chain links erupted from the rockface and swaddled the hapless family members. He picked up a bucket from the corner of the room and began the despicable act of tossing a flammable solution onto the sobbing mortals, who could only cringe in fear.

The children's cries for their parents went unheeded, for Duane and Katarin's pleas were being muffled through the solid links of iron which filled their mouths. Images of hate and suffering flashed past the eyes of them all. Images that had, at one time, been lived out by them. Images which stayed with them as Rivalin ignited their juxtaposition with an appropriately timed flint tossed over their heads.

Their screams of anguish died as the nefarious night reverted to day, leaving the town a burnt-out pile of flotsam and jetsam.


All of this Terra witnessed through her mind's eye but was powerless to prevent. Her own screaming motivated Strago to come to her side, abhorrent thunderclaps tearing at her nerves.

"He won't go away, Strago," she lamented, sobbing as he held her tightly. "He just won't go away."


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