Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > The End of Times

Dark of Night

by DevilishKurumi 0 reviews

It's the end of the world as we know it... [Character Death, Character Mutilation, Character Bad-Stuff-Happens-To. See inside for full warnings.]

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama, Horror - Characters: Adelbert Steiner, Amarant Coral, Beatrix, Blank, Eiko Carol, Freya Crescent, Garnet Til Alexandros, Marcus, Other - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006-04-22 - Updated: 2006-04-22 - 3604 words

Evil Forest has been partly destroyed.
They had gone down to the base of the cliff where Alexandria is situated, and now find themselves at the back of the forest, which is torn up and has bits and pieces from buildings embedded in the ground. Many trees have been uprooted and others are in splinters.
Amarant comments that Bahamut has shitty aim, and Steiner silences him with a look.
They pick their way carefully through the ruined bit of forest, with Beatrix and Steiner guarding Garnet, Lani looking all over to make up for her inability to hear danger, and Amarant lagging behind, taking in the sudden stillness around them. He's only been in Evil Forest once before, and he's never been in a petrified forest. Nothing is alive - or at least, nothing is able to move. He wonders if this is how Lani feels right now - there's absolutely no wind, and no leaves to sway in it if there had been; there are no birds, no animals, no monsters; there's not even running water. And he was sure there had to be some sort of stream or something - the waterfalls fall right down into the forest, after all.
Garnet is asking Steiner quietly if he can see anything familiar, and the knight responds that he can - everything looks exactly as it had when they had crashed here four years ago.
She smiles and looks up blindly at the treetops, and Amarant forces himself to watch for trouble he knows isn't coming.
It goes on like this for a good three hours - they stop to rest a few times but can't find anywhere to get water, and Lani comments, "We're going to die in here just like everyone else - only, instead of insane plants, it'll be from damned dehydration. What a waste." Beatrix says that it was foolish of them to assume that the water wouldn't be petrified.
On their third break, Amarant stands beside the river and wonders if the water really is petrified. A good five or six stomps on the edge shatter the thin rock layer and reveal fresh, running water beneath. This gets him appreciative looks from Beatrix and Steiner, as well as a thank you from Garnet and a nod from Lani.
The sun is starting its descent, and Steiner casts a worried look at the shadows growing around them. "We're going to have to camp out," Amarant drawls casually, earning a nervous glare from the knight. "There's no way we can make it through the entire forest in half a day."
"I agree," Beatrix responds. "We should consider finding a place to rest for the night..."
Lani's stomach rumbles and she sighs. "Are we stopping soon?"
Amarant nods to her and she grins.
About an hour and a half later and the sun is having trouble getting through the petrified branches. It's as good as dark in the forest - really kind of pitch black, almost. There's no way for the sun to filter through the trees, being below the canopies, and the moons haven't quite gotten to a point where they can get through either.
"I have a feeling this is as far as we get tonight," Beatrix sighs, helping Garnet sit down on a rock. It's really not fun to sit on the grass, which is like a bunch of little stone knives sticking you, but they'll have to make do since they've got no tents to spare.
Amarant looks around and then says, "I'll be back in a bit," before wandering off.
Lani wonders why Amarant decided to come. She was certain they had been heading back to Treno... She supposes the queen had a big part to play. Damn it, Red/, she thinks sullenly, /we could have been on our way home by now...
She doesn't really mind not going back to Treno, though. Parts of her want to check and see if anyone worthwhile lived, but the majority of her just wants to stay away and let things rebuild before she goes wandering back in.
She looks up at the tree tops. It's weird - she's never seen petrification from such a close perspective. The leaves have every little crease and vein; the bark has every rut and knothole...
She wonders where the monsters are.
Amarant comes back with his arms full of rocks, which Lani quickly figures to be fruit. He dumps them on the ground in the center of their semi-circle and crosses his arms in that damned self-satisfied way of his.
"Red," Lani sighs, shaking her head, "We're not going to eat rocks."
The bounty hunter looks at her like an idiot, and Lani crosses her arms as he turns back to the other three. He must be saying something strange, because Beatrix and Steiner look at each other in confusion, before helping Garnet up. They help her to the pile of fruit, where she sits on her knees and feels around for a moment. Amarant reaches down and puts her hands over the pile, says something...
There's a soft glow from the queen's hands and suddenly the fruit softens, color appearing and beating away hard rock with soft flesh.
"Red, you're brilliant," Lani breathes, earning a smug look from her companion and an apple tossed her way.
They feast on fruit and water, and Lani's content with that.
For now.
Puck tries very hard not to make any sign of how shocked he is over the state of Lindblum as he and his aggravating entourage work their way through the shopping district.
The fact that the main castle is pretty much nonexistent makes this task incredibly hard.
There aren't a lot of survivors - that he can see for sure, now. Those who are alive are hurt - very badly - and many of the ones who are hurt will probably be permanently crippled. A little girl screams from somewhere inside a broken house, and the young guard looks in the direction of the sound, decimated by the chaos around him.
"I want you all to split up!" Puck finally exclaims, turning and staring down his royal guards. "Rescue those who need help - leave the dead /alone/, we don't have time for them! Do not leave people for dead, however - make sure you are /certain/. Help them onto stable ground, fetch water and food, and keep them /calm/! Do you understand?"
The guards all responds with aching Yes-Your-Majesty's and split up. The youngest guard immediately goes towards the screaming child and Puck turns away, plotting out the fastest course to the castle possible.
An old man told him once that it took a half an hour to walk from the business district to the Grand Castle - it takes Puck an hour and a half to do so. He's pretty sure he saw some part of the old man back there but he's not going to stop to look.
The castle is completely destroyed, and Puck cries out, "Can anybody hear me? Is anybody there?"
A weak cough from his left draws him to a pile of rocks. He swiftly pushes them to the side and digs through as best he can; shedding his royal cloak, his crown - anything that doesn't help him is gone now.
The guard stares up with a blind eye and jaw cracked in half, a patch of his skull visible through bloody flesh and bone.
"...Can you help me up?" he asks softly.
"I would," Puck responds, digging a bit more now and then drawing back, "But... You have nothing to stand on."
The man groans and lays back, silent, head lolling.
Puck checks his pulse and then pulls away, standing and stalking through the ruined hall leading to the inner castle.
"...Eiko!" he shouts, "Eiko, are you okay?!"
He finds the lift, broken and twisted and mangled, and finds Regent Cid beside it, looking very much like the lift itself. He covers his mouth with his paws and looks around in very real terror.
He clambers over mountains, digs through blocked entries, but he just can't /find her/...
"Eiko, you damned brat where /are you/!"
A hand reaches for him under rubble and he forces himself to stop his search, and helps the female airship pilot out of the rubble. She's broken and bent and doesn't have long to live, and she /knows it/. He can see it in her eyes
"...The light," she mutters, "...Lady Eiko, the light was so bright..."
"What about Eiko?" Puck asks, lowering his voice and smoothing it out, unwilling to let her hear him panicked.
"...Her light... It was so warm... I wish she'd bring it back."
He looks around in confusion. "What light? Lady, don't die on me right now! Do you know where Eiko went? Is she alright?"
Her head sags and her eyes roll backwards, and he swears quietly, closing her eyes for her and laying her down in a somewhat comfortable looking position, despite her broken back.
"Eiko," Puck asks the darkening sky, "Where in the hell are you?"
Quale sits over the stove and stirs the roast chocobo soup - it's no good if you leave it lying over open flame without stirring. It needs aggravation. After all, nothing is worth anything if it doesn't involve a little stirring.
He thinks a small bit on the blasts he heard late last night, from the direction of the big castle on the cliff he sees when he steps out onto his porch... And now he thinks on the fact that he no longer sees the castle.
Quale is not sure what happened outside of the marsh but he doesn't particularly care. After all - Quina will let him know whenever Quina gets back.
It's been a long time since he's stayed outside for a night, and he doesn't know what to do with himself right now.
Steiner tries to keep guard but his sword arm throbs dully, invisibly, and he massages the smooth skin - it's almost like a very old scar. There are no monsters in this area - he knows this, he was here when it was petrified - and there's really little point to keeping watch, but he does it anyways.
He fumbles with his sword and draws it out of its sheath. He had placed the sheath on his right side, to denote the fact that he uses his left hand, and wonders if that's proper protocol.
Then again, damn protocol. He doesn't have another arm to hold the sword with, after all.
He does a few training moves that he pulls up from his days as a young guard, fumbles the hilt and nearly drops his sword. He swears under his breath and re-sheathes the blade, looking up at the canopy in idle contemplation.
All that Ramuh said has seemed... truthful, enough. He has heard the story of how Ramuh came to be in his queen's services, and he's fairly sure that they can trust him, but no one should blame him for having reservations over it. He never trusted Bahamut, not after all it had done... how can he easily trust another Eidolon?
He turns and tries to see Alexandria but fails. Instead, his eyes drop down and land on the group surrounding the almost-extinguished fire.
Beatrix is sleeping fairly peacefully with the queen at her side, and he wonders if, when they get to Lindblum, she'll try to cut her hair evenly. He always loved her hair - it's a shame that it had to get sheared off so haphazardly.
He looks to Amarant, who has his arms crossed and chin tilted against his chest, back against a tree, and wonders as to the bounty hunter's motives. He didn't particularly trust the other man when he first met him, but he ended up proving his worth in many ways that Amarant himself probably didn't realize.
But still. A bounty hunter is almost always a bounty hunter, and Amarant never seemed to be the kind to be sympathetic towards anyone else, much less royalty.
...Except, perhaps, Lani.
He isn't sure at all how to gauge Lani. Amarant seemed sure that the only reason she is with them is because she is deaf, but for some reason, Steiner can't quite put all his money on that.
The girl is sleeping next to Amarant, on a smoothed out surface the bounty hunter had created in the pointed grass by dragging his feet in the ground. Something about her just shouts /danger/, or at least a mild warning of it, but...
She mumbles in her sleep and shifts closer to Amarant.
He turns back to the shadows and silently issues a challenge with his left hand placed on the hilt of his sword.
Morning finds Puck and his guards - along with a few more able-bodied Lindblum citizens - scouring the castle and business district for survivors. A few of them have attempted to get to the theatre district, but the entire area is blocked off from fallen townhouses.
Puck wipes at his fur, feeling disgustingly damp and slick, and removes the last bit of royalty, leaving himself in just his traveling slacks and thick riding boots. His guards have long since shed most of their own clothing, and the young king wonders how in the hell these people live under the sun all the time.
People are getting water from wells and though it looks clean, Puck tells them to start fires and boil it for two or three minutes before passing it out to everyone. He doesn't want to take chances - there are dead bodies everywhere and who knows, someone might've fallen into the water.
So fires are set up around the wreckage and pots salvaged from restaurants and homes are filled to the brim with water.
The thing about people that amazes Puck is their ability to cope. While he knows all of these people have suffered serious hardships like this before, they aren't facing it resignedly, or even really moping so much. The ones able to help are helping, smiling and cheering up those around them, and those who can't are either looking for family among the injured, or talking to their neighbors and supporting one another.
He smirks to himself, just a little, and commends the late Regent on all his work. His people are truly a force to be reckoned with.
"Excuse me, your majesty," comes one of his guards from behind, so he turns and crosses his arms.
"What is it?"
"...There are some questions being raised among the citizens," he says, trailing off for a moment and then adding in a quiet voice, "About the Regent."
Puck frowns and turns his back briefly, before realizing how rude that is and facing him again. "...Don't tell them. Not yet - we really can't afford to decrease moral at the moment."
"Yes, sir. There are also questions as to... Alexandria."
Puck frowns, raising an eyebrow carefully. "What of it?"
"Well, your majesty..." The guard looks nervously at his feet - as is proper, because he's about to say something about Burmecia's closest ally that Puck really doesn't want to hear. "...The Eidolon that attacked Lindblum."
"...What about it?"
"Well... It's fairly well known that the Eidolon Odin attacked - and destroyed - Cleyra. And that, at the time, he was under Queen Brahne's power.
"...Queen Brahne is dead."
"Yes, but Odin has long been under Queen Garnet's control."
Puck frowns and looks around solemnly. "They think that Garnet would do this?"
"There are some... suspicions, yes."
Puck rolls his eyes. "For the love of - do you see any Alexandrian airships around here? Does it look like this was an organized attack?"
"Sir - I'm not saying it - I'm simply passing on rumors to you."
The young king frowns and turns away. "Fine. If you hear that rumor come from anyone's mouth, quell it. We can't have mutinous thoughts against Alexandria."
"Sir, I know you and the queen are on very good standing with each other, but the fact is-"
"The fact is, even if this was an attack by Alexandria - which it isn't/, you must be /insane to think that - we're the closest allies to Alexandria. If they think Alexandria's attacking them, do we look very good to them?"
The guard frowns. "I... I see your point, your majesty. I will inform the others." He salutes, and smartly marches off through the rubble.
"They are not used to you making strategic political decisions, little king."
Puck whirls around and is faced with an overgrown wolf, smiling toothily, fur kind of swaying around him in a nonexistent breeze and swirling at the tips into a black vapor.
"What the hell are you?" Puck asks, hiding his nervousness at being accosted by a phantom animal.
"Manners," the wolf scolds, voice deep and echoing. "I am not a /what/." The wolf paces up beside the Burmecian and surveys the business district from their strategic position. "I am Fenrir."
"...Fenrir!" Puck exclaims in confusion, "But - you're supposed to be an Eidolon!"
"That I /am/," the wolf growls, not menacingly, "Did you suppose all Eidolons were humanoid?"
"I didn't know what to - wait..."
The wolf looks at the king and cuts him off. "I am not going to attack anyone. Unlike Odin... I have more important matters to deal with. I came to inform you that... unfortunately, your kingdom is gone."
The words all make sense to the king but he doesn't understand them strung together as they are. "...What?"
"Your kingdom, my young king, is no more." Fenrir casts a dark look to the horizon, "Leviathan saw to that."
Fenrir is surprised at the very quiet voice the king suddenly takes on, and turns to find the boy staring at him in almost incomprehensible fear. He doesn't look like a king - only a little boy who has suddenly found himself homeless and destitute. He realizes that the loss of power and people must be very hard for mortals - he just has never seen /why/...
"...Are there any survivors?!" the boy asks frantically, "Is anyone still there? Is... Is Freya alright?! You have to tell me!"
Confused, the Eidolon turns his head to the people of Lindblum again. "Why do you care so much over the people? You are homeless and poor. People worry far more over that than the loss of life."
"You- you stupid filthy /dog/!"
"Watch your mouth, /child/," Fenrir snaps.
"I don't care if I'm poor! I don't care about having a home! Are the Burmecians alright? Are there any survivors? Was this during a festival - I know I missed one - because if not there might've not been everyone at home-"
"...Your people were not all in Burmecia at the time of the attack, this is true. Those who were face dire consequences."
"Is Freya alive?"
The wolf turns past the boy, pacing down the slope a small distance. "There are few survivors. I have no real connection to your land, so I cannot give you definite numbers, and I cannot give you names." He sighs at the boy's expression. "Do not worry too much over the lives lost. They will be recycled - they will continue on-"
"Don't you /get it/? I don't buy into that bullshit!"
Puck turns to the guards, who are working on the castle below him, and shouts, "/Attention/!"
They stop their work slowly and put rocks to the side with infinite care before standing and arranging themselves into rows. Their eyes are focused on their king, who realizes they very well probably can't see the Eidolon at his side.
"I have just now been informed that Burmecia is in a similar state to Lindblum - /don't panic/, you fools!" he shouts when the pack starts fretting, "We will leave here tonight to make our way back home."
"Why not /now/?" one guard asks, "Our home is far more-"
"If you value your tongue, you won't finish that statement," Puck growls. "We will be moving out /tonight/, but not a moment before night. So continue your work with that knowledge. Do you understand?"
"Yes, your majesty," they chorus, and Puck turns back to find the wolf sitting on his haunches, watching the king with interest.
"What are you staring at?"
"...My master told me many things about you, little king," the wolf responds, "But she failed to mention that you are rather unlike any other human I have met."
"That's 'cos I'm not a /human/. I'm Burmecian. And who's your master?"
Fenrir smiles toothily again and Puck realizes that the wolf is fading out on him. "Little king, I will keep in touch with you. You have proven yourself... interesting." He stands and paces forward, towards Puck, who realizes that the Eidolon really is a big wolf. His shoulders come up to Puck's, which puts the king's face on level with the wolf's jaws.
The Burmecian forces back a shudder when the wolf puts his warm head against his shoulder. "Do not be so fearful of things. You should be more concerned over your monetary issues than your people. One thing I have learned of Burmecians is that they last for a very long time." The wolf steps away and starts towards the ridge of the hill, fur seeming to evaporate as he says, "Much like cockroaches, I would think."
"Gee, /thanks/," Puck grumbles as the wolf paces off the ridge and into the air, fur fading and body vaporizing into black mist that dissipates into the sky.
He realizes he didn't find out who the wolf was considering his master, and this annoys the crap out of him.
Now, more than ever, he needs to find Eiko.

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