To Sleep, Perchance to Nightmare
Fear. There are some who have spent their entire lives in its’ icy grip. Others promote it. Still others attempt to subdue it. But in all cases, it is a part of their lives. And noone can escape a touch of it, not in their dreams...
The once beauteous dream city of Coneria now lay a smoking char on the countryside. It was not alone. All throughout the world, towns and villages burned, releasing the stench of flesh into the air. Not that there were many left alive to smell it.
On the outer skirts of the ruined city, a small child wept. She had just been forced to watch her father’s throat being ripped out by a band of feral Imps, and a thin coating of blood still rested on their claws as they advanced on the yelping girl.
“Stop!” came a cry from a figure that stepped out of the burning wreckage. It did nothing to halt the approaching pack, who continued forward menacingly. One of them threw themselves forward at the shrieking girl -
- and was promptly incinerated from a blast of flame that expelled from the man’s hands. The other Imps paused for a moment to assess the situation. It was this hesitation that would cost them their lives. Even before they could feel it, a torrent of lightning crashed down, leaving nothing left but a few wisps of smoke.
“You saved me!” said the girl, before her saviour stepped into the dim light. Her words of thanks caught in her throat.
“Don’t get me wrong. I was just saving you for myself.” said the man, raising his hand to strike as the orb in his pocket remained pitch black.
Idwin turned to the still form of his wife, and managed a weak smile. “Shh... don’t worry. It’s just me.”
“Then why were you screaming? Was it that dream again?” asked Arylon.
Idwin remained silent.
“Come now, you’re not evil. Remember, you helped save the princess from Garland.”
“And was Garland always malevolent? He was corrupted by his power. The same thing could happen to me...”
Arylon sat up. “No, it couldn’t. I knew Garland from the day he joined the King’s Guard. He was a great warrior, but his heart was always consumed in sadness. You’re different.”
Idwin smiled. “ I suppose I am.” he said, getting out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
“It’s been such a long time since I watched the sunrise. Not since my adventuring days.” mused Idwin, as he grabbed his red plumed hat and marched out to begin a new day.
Edward cackled from atop his high throne. “Oh, I do so enjoy this castle. Much nicer than that charred ruin in Damcyan.” It had hardly taken five minutes of inner siege to make the mighty Baron fall, and even now there were some peasants who had no idea the monarchy had changed twice in the past two months. If King Von Muir had his way, it would stay like that.
“Sire, Golbez is here to see you.” announced one of the castle guards.
Edward sighed, and began sharpening his broadsword. “Very well, ‘send him in’.”Acknowledging with a bow, the guard left his liege to his pondering.
In a way, Edward had been disappointed. His spy within Baron had informed that King Odin was silently replaced with Kainazzo, the fiend of Water. Edward came alone, expecting a thrilling, valiant battle. But it was hardly worthy of the name. With one quick stroke, the turtle beast’s head cleanly separated from the rest of his body. The throne was his.
Systematically, Edward began eliminating dissenters in the court. First was Baigan, Captain of the Guard. He accepted his fate stoically, as if wanting to die before he could reveal any secrets he held. The fool didn’t realize that Edward already knew all he needed to.
Next came the engineer, Cid. It was a pity to lose such an outstanding mind, but there was nothing to be done. He had refused Edward’s generous offer of not killing him, and paid the price for it. Fortunately, Cid trained two weak-willed apprentices who were more than willing to work for Edward, so the loss was not as great as it could have been.
“The dreaded Sir Golbez and his lap dog.” sneered the guard who had left, leading in the sorcerer and his Dragon Knight in chains.
“How dare you treat me in such a manner! Were I not bound, I would...”
“There’s no use conjecturing, Golbez. The fact of the matter is that you are bound, and will stay that way for as long as I let you live.
“You brought this upon yourself, you know. Although I knew of your intentions for quite some time, I was fully content to let you do as you pleased to the other nations of the world. After all, they were of no concern to me. Even if you had come to Damcyan, demanding the crystal, I wouldn’t have gone against you.
“But you had to make it personal. You and your men had to kill Anna. When you left my life in ruins, I had little else to live for but one thing - revenge. You made your business my business.
“And so here you are, beaten by a mere prince you left for dead. How does it feel to be lost, abandoned by fate?”
Golbez chuckled. “You have no idea how wrong you are. Even if you strike me down, there will be those to revenge me.”
“Ah, so you don’t think I know about your friends on the base within the tower of Bab-Il.”
Golbez looked up in shock. “But how?”
It was Edward’s turn to chuckle. “You aren’t the only one capable of installing a spy in your adversary’s realm. But I grow tired of this... farewell.” Raising his sword, he brought it down upon the skull of the half-Lunarian, killing him instantly. “And as for you, Kain... I have no further use for you.” Once more, the blade thrust down.
“There’s nothing quite like killing to make you want to sing. But why should I when I have others to do it for me? Send for the royal bard!”
“Coming, sir!” cried a meek voice.
“I suggest you hurry, and make it a nice happy song. I’m in the mood to celebrate.”
Trembling, the bard couldn’t help but obey...
The worst part of it all, Cecil noted, was that if Edward’s upbringing had been just a little different, such events could have come to pass. Only one man stood between that reality and the one he now led.
And in the end, he concluded while rolling over to return to sleep, that was good enough for him.
She must be here! I can sense her presence nearby. So many times I’ve been close, but each one led only to disappointment. This time, I must succeed.
Thirty years... it’s been so long since she last saw me with recognition in her eyes. The last time we met, I was the Prophet, unable to protect her from the nightmares that plucked her from me before.
It will be different this time. It has to be.
Where is she? Why can’t I find her? I get closer, but still I’m being eluded. The shadows enclose around me, as if to halt my progress. But I shall not be balked. I cut through to the light, to my light, to Schala.
Gone. I can’t sense her anymore. Again, she’s somehow been grasped away. I collapse in grief, as my hope subsides. Will I never find her?
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be found.” says a voice behind me. I turn to see...
“Janus. I should have known.”
“I suppose you should have.” he says dryly. “You know that I won’t let you take her. Why can’t you just allow my sister to live in peace?”
“She is my sister as well.”
“Like hell she is! She ceased to be your sister the moment you adopted the name of the Magus. At that point, you were no longer a part of her life, or a part of me.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” I rage. “What purpose does my life hold? I’ve dedicated my entire life the past thirty years to finding her.”
“Just as I’ve spent the past ten helping her avoid you.” he replies.
“And you’ve done a wonderfull job.”
“But things change. There’s a single constant on this planet: nothing lasts forever. You need to find a new purpose with your life, one that doesn’t involve a fanatical search for a sister you no longer have.”
I remain silent.
“I don’t know what you could do, but I know that if you continue what you’re doing now, I will kill you. Don’t think you’re the only one who’s capable of shedding blood on her behalf.”
Janus begins to walk away, leaving me alone to think, alone as I have been for thirty years. A part of me wants to go after him, but what would be the point? This scenario would play out again and again. No, I have to find something else to consume my life, for she is no longer an option.
But I don’t know if I can. And that, even more than the pain in my heart at letting her go, is what I fear.
It’s been said that there’s nothing in the world more pitiable than a forgotten hero. To one day be on the tips of everyone’s tongues and the next relegated only to musty tomes is a long way to fall. Some manage to adjust to their new anonymity. Others aren’t so lucky...
Terra: Yeah, I remember Cloud. He was one of the best there was. Even us oldtimers were impressed. We were sure he’d join us in the annals of history, instead of... wherever he went.
When the smash megahit Final Fantasy 7 came out, the public was introduced for the first time to Cloud Strife. Quickly, he was the talk of the multiverse. With his apathetic attitude and spike haircut, he was the mould that many future heroes would take.
Cloud Strife mania had begun. Appearances in Ehrgeiz and Final Fantasy tactics only served to fan the flames of his popularity. Screaming fans flocked to him.
Tia: I couldn’t help but adore him. I mean, those eyes! That hair! He was just so dreamy *sigh* ...
With his fame came endorsements. Cloud became the poster boy for Nuprin. He had his own clothing line, Climhazard Cloud. For a very brief time, he even had his own children’s show. It seemed that nothing could stop him, until a fateful move.
Squall: Lion Heart!
The court battle was harsh. For the next three years, Cloud tried to get an injunction against Squall, claiming that the SeeD was infringing on his copywrited Omnislash. Cloud’s lawyer costs ran into the millions of gil, leaving him nearly broke. He lost the case, and was on the brink of destruction. That was when a series of tell-all books hit the shelves, including one from his ex-wife.
Desperate for money, Cloud agreed to perform the ultimate humiliation: letting a little boy beat him like a practice dummy.
Sora: I beat Cloud! I’m the man!
After finishing his scenes in Kingdom Hearts, Cloud disappeared. With his debts paid off with all remaining liquid assets, Cloud left nothing but memories to those who knew him.
Zidane: Cloud who?
His career in shambles, his empire fallen, Cloud is doomed to mediocrity. Even now, his whereabouts are unknown. So farewell, Cloud. You shall be remembered, for now.
“Do you want to buy a flower? Only one gil.”
There’s a squeaking. Not a mouse, not an unoiled door. No, it’s something far worse. Natural born hunters that suck the flesh of the living to sate their bloodlust. What they seek more than any other is the flesh of those who hunt them.
A hunter is here. Drawing his sacred blade, he moves forward. The senses are keen and noticing. He knows he’s surrounded, but cares little about it. If they attack, they will die.
The air is tense. Across the plains, a cold wind whips. Not enough to the expose the monsters’ hiding places, though. Neither side wants to more first, but hatred will force one side’s hand.
Suddenly, the assault begins. Teeth try to claw at human skin while the sword cleaves through their helmets.
Blood is spilt. Bodies accumulate.
“Thank goodness they don’t exist.” he mused.
“Thank goodness he doesn’t exist.” he said.