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

Creepy Crawly

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: 2006-04-23 - 3247 words

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Evil Forest is again silent, with only the faintest lingering smells of cooking flesh and fire trailing after their group. Lani has the meat with her, sliced into strips and wrapped in leather stolen from the theatre. She's even more cautious now that she has fresh food with her, and Beatrix acknowledges her wariness with a motion to her sword and what she hopes is a reassuring smile. The bounty huntress nods to her and forces herself to relax a little.
As general of Alexandria's army, Beatrix would like to say she's been everywhere inside the kingdom. However, she's never been in Evil Forest - she had always felt, in a way, better than it. Besides, people rarely ever travel through this area; they generally use airships to get to and from Alexandria. Those who went through the forest almost never got out alive, and those who did were probably the type who you wouldn't want in your kingdom, anyways.
But now? Now, she's no better than the monsters in the forest. She's not the arrogant fool she once was... A lot has changed.
She looks over at Steiner and Garnet and wonders if either of them realize the seriousness of their situation. Both her husband and the queen are easily shell-shocked by such serious events and she knows that once they reach Lindblum and have a moment to properly reflect...
Something moves just beyond the trees.
"Wait," Beatrix snaps in a low tone, holding her hand up. "Something's there."
"The whole place is petrified," Amarant drawls, while Lani looks at her in confusion before setting her eyes in the direction the general is looking. "There's nothing out there that isn't."
"Beatrix?" Garnet asks, "What is it?"
Stone-grass crunches under something just beyond the trees, which begin to creak ominously.
"Shit," Amarant growls, falling back into a fighting position, bare fists clenched.
A long, thick shadow covers the path behind them and Beatrix looks up to see a giant, squirming red and black mass hover over them, underbelly rimmed by hundreds of writhing appendages.
Branches crack and the body slams to the ground, effectively cutting off their path.
"What was that?" Garnet asks, eyes widening and hand instinctively grabbing Beatrix's.
"Steiner," the general mutters, "Take the queen and head towards the exit. /Quickly/. She'll need to clear the way for us."
"Steiner, /go/!" she hisses.
He nods but before he can lead the queen away, Amarant turns his head to him and says, "Give me your sword."
"I need a weapon," he snarls, watching the writhing body slide across the ground, "And you can't use it right now, anyways."
"Steiner," Garnet pleads, "I don't want anyone else to get hurt."
The knight looks to the queen, eyes softening and mouth working itself into a deep frown - Beatrix realizes he's seeing the severity of their situation. She feels slightly ill over this revelation, but nods when he looks to her for a decision, reminding her silently that, when it comes down to it, she's the one more suited for this than he is.
He pulls his sword out of the sheath and awkwardly hands it to Beatrix, who stalks forward and places the hilt against Amarant's hand. The sword is dwarfed slightly by the man's size and looks less like a broadsword and more like a large dagger. She forgets what they're called, as she's never fought with one - Zidane would know.
She hears more grass crunching and knows that Garnet and Steiner are fleeing.
She hopes they can follow.
A clicking noise starts up behind them and though Lani doesn't immediately turn, Amarant puts a hand on her shoulder and directs her eyes towards the giant insect head, with clacking pincers and two groups of beadlike eyes bunched together on either side of its head.
"Oh, /shit/," Lani whispers.
Long antennae feel around in the air for them and Beatrix realizes the monster can taste them with those long, feathery appendages. The meat must have drawn the thing to them.
With a loud screeching noise, the monster lunges. Beatrix draws her sword and sidesteps the head, dodging the long, razor-sharp forelegs. Amarant swears loudly and the thing shrieks, raising up on its legs and swaying side to side in the air, one antenna waving around frantically. Beatrix looks to Amarant and sees him grinning fiercely, one antenna lying under his feet, sword and clothes splattered with a thick, quickly-congealing fluid. He swings the sword hard and the pus snakes off the tip and covers the ground.
The monster falls towards the earth, directing itself towards Lani, who rolls out of the way only to get caught under one of the thick legs, pinning her down and earning a sickening crunch when it applies pressure to her shoulder.
Lani shrieks and reaches for the base of the leg, barely grabbing it and bringing it forward enough so that she can roll out of the way. She brings the leg with her and it cracks off of the disgusting exoskeleton, drawing more of the pus and giving her a steady weapon.
Beatrix summons every bit of strength and goes for a headshot, charging forward with her head down and even though she can't feel her hair anymore she still feels like the general of the Alexandrian army, instead of just a stupid-
It turns directly towards her and snaps its jaws violently - she ducks, rolls, jumps, and slams the tip of Save the Queen directly down into the center of its head, earning a snap from the exoskeleton and embeds nearly half the blade into its head.
The monster screams and it starts writhing, tail swinging out of nowhere with long, razor-sharp finlike legs that nearly decapitate Amarant, who sidesteps and grabs two of the back legs with his free hand.
"Stay /still/!" he shouts viciously at the monster, swinging the sword and deftly severing the legs from the body, grabbing two more just as quickly, and continuing even as the body shudders and it's head tosses backwards, knocking Beatrix and Save the Queen off.
It swerves back and forth and Beatrix suddenly realizes that the trees around them are cracking violently.
"Get her and get out of here!" she shouts at Amarant, "It's going to coil up!"
Amarant nods quickly and lunges for Lani, helping her up and looking for a moment at her shoulder, before pointing towards the opening between the monster's tail and tree. She nods and takes off running.
"What are you /doing/?!" Amarant shouts to Beatrix, "Let's get the hell out of here!"
"It will follow us if we don't kill it now," she responds, standing from her kneeling position and holding Save the Queen in front of her with both hands, eye narrowed.
"Yeah, who /cares/? The plain's big-"
The monster shrieks and suddenly the trees all around them snap, and Beatrix watches the red and black mass come rolling towards her -
"Do you think the queen wants you to /die/, you idiot?!" the bounty hunter exclaims, grabbing her shoulder, "We don't have time for this!"
The tail swings in from behind them and knocks them onto the stone-grass, which punctures Beatrix's arm and draws several little points of blood. Save the Queen flies to the ground some distance away, landing with a dull clang.
Amarant grabs her arm and pulls her down as she tries to stand, eye shutting tightly. He raises Steiner's sword up above them and growls out a word that she can hardly hear, much less understand - a sudden burst of light comes from the tip of the sword and Beatrix is forced to shut her eyes against the brightness of it.
When she opens them, she realizes that the entire insect has wrapped itself around a column of rock, squirming against it and making its last, desperate attempts to move from the indent it's suddenly found itself in.
It heaves its body but can't escape and, after a few moments, it's obvious the thing is dead.
She looks to Amarant to ask what he did and finds him with his head tilted forward, breath coming in short gasps and eye half-lidded and dull.
"Shit," he rasps weakly, "...Didn't think that would be so hard."
"What did you do?" she asks, confused.
"...Gravity," he sighs, falling backwards with his arms stretched out and breathing deep. "If you know the password, you can ask it to do nearly anything."
"You... manipulated /gravity/?"
He nods shortly and then, to Beatrix's surprise, grins lazily at the now-visible sky.
"I feel weightless," he mumbles.
"We need to get out of here," she responds uneasily, looking around. "Can you move?"
"I can float," he responds uselessly, looking kind of drugged, adding, "Your sword is under the first coil, to your left. Might want that."
She nods and picks up Steiner's sword. "You rest while I... figure out how to get to it."
He rolls his head to the side to face her and offers in the most helpful voice, "I could make him float."
"I think you should limit your physics-defying stunts to once in a long while," she responds in mild amusement.
When she reaches the last bit of stone and steps onto the coil, she sighs and looks around.
"...This... This is going to take a while."
By the time Beatrix and Amarant rejoin the group, Garnet has enriched the vines sealing the entrance and is currently sitting by a tree, hands in her lap and eyes closed - she looks like she's resting and Steiner thinks that she might have overdone herself on that last spell.
Beatrix is limping slightly and Amarant is trailing after her with a dazed look on his face, but when Lani asks him if he's alright, he waves a hand and then points to her shoulder.
"I forgot," she says, and Amarant rolls his eyes in disbelief.
"What happened?" Steiner asks Beatrix, who has come up to him in this brief moment between the hunters.
"Nothing," she responds. "We killed it." She tilts her head forward and rests her forehead on his shoulder. "How do we move the vines?"
Garnet is asking Lani to come over and Amarant's helping her to the queen, who holds out her hands and lets the bounty hunter guide her to Lani's injured shoulder.
"We're not sure," Steiner responds quietly, putting his hand on Beatrix's back. "Are you alright?"
"I am not the one we should worry about," she mumbles, her eye betraying her apprehension as she lifts her head and looks in the direction of their queen and the two bounty hunters.
"I was hoping we could find some way to move the vines," Garnet says suddenly, and the four with sight all look towards the entrance.
"What I'm wondering is how that thing got in here," Lani responds, wincing, "I hate bugs."
Amarant shakes his head and points towards the sky. "It might've fallen from there," he offers.
"Amarant," Steiner begins, but trails off when his wife gives him a warning glance. He instead asks, "Why are you carrying legs from that monster?"
"I don't have a weapon, so I'm going to make one." He looks around, "I have a dagger... but those are useless to me now. Oh... yeah." He puts the three legs onto the ground and withdraws Steiner's sword from under them, tossing it lazily. It lands a foot and a half to the side, and the bounty hunter frowns.
"That's not bad," Lani offers, "I'm surprised you can aim so well, with your eye being..."
He sighs and points to Steiner, and then points to his own head. "I was aiming for here," he grumbles.
"...Oh," Lani mutters.
"/Either way/. Steiner, you and I should try sawing our way through," Beatrix decides.
Steiner nods and picks up his sword carefully, trying desperately to get used to holding it in his left hand, rather than his right.
He wonders what happened with the monster. His wife looks worn out - unusual for her, as she can go days without sleep if need be - and Amarant seems...
He decides it really makes no difference, anyways, since they're all alive. When he had seen that writhing body in the trees...
Beatrix begins severing the tendons of the thick vines and Steiner awkwardly follows, determined to learn his left hand.
It took them almost all night to uncover the dead. It took them all morning to wrap them in ripped blankets and flags from the tops of the buildings.
Blank can't breathe very much now, and it worries Marcus. His younger brother is sitting against a broken brick wall, chest heaving and eyes closed - trying to sleep but unable to. Marcus doesn't know what's wrong with the redhead and that worries him - scares him. He wants to know why Blank is so suddenly incapacitated, but there's too much debris in the way and he can't get through to the business district... if it's even there anymore.
He looks at the four wrapped bodies lined up in the shade of a mostly-destroyed house and wonders if they will ever find the musicians. He doesn't want to look anymore.
Benero had run nearly immediately after finding Zenero and though Marcus doesn't blame him, it left him and Blank to do the hardest work in their life. Blank had held up long enough to uncover Cinna and Genero but by the time that happened the younger Tantalus member was dizzy and had almost collapsed.
Marcus found Baku by himself and thinks that, in some morbid way, that's kind of fitting. The new boss finding the old.
He wants to go after Benero but he's too worried about Blank to do much of anything, other than sit on the hill and look at the ruined castle. He sees a faint, wispy cloud of black float from the rubble and wonders if there's a fire, as well...
"Marcus," Blank rasps, "This sucks."
"I know," the boss sighs, standing up and making his way down the rubble hill and sitting heavily beside the redhead.
"If I die," Blank asks, "What happens with you?"
"You're not going to die," Marcus responds fiercely.
"...I don't know what would happen, bro." The boss mumbles, putting his arm over the other's shoulder. "Just don't die, okay? I don't want to have to go through this alone."
Blank rasps in response, "I hope Zidane's alright."
Marcus frowns thoughtfully.
"...I'm sure he is, bro."
The plains aren't nearly as ravaged as Steiner had thought they were going to be. Actually, other than some deep gashes near the entrance of Evil Forest and a few half-craters from Bahamut's stray attacks, they're the same as they were four years ago.
He relays this information to his Queen, on Beatrix's arm, and she smiles and nods, looking around as if recognizing landmarks.
He prays Ramuh wasn't lying. He doesn't want Garnet to stay like this.
He kind of prays that his arm wasn't gone but that's more like a daydream than anything. He prays that Amarant isn't as dazed as he looks, walking with his head down and path weaving slightly back and forth. He also prays that Lani can regain her hearing - if only so that she can leave them sooner.
Something about Lani just doesn't sit right with the knight. He thinks it over and decides that he's probably just letting what the thief in Alexandria said get to him. He trusts Amarant's judgment, to some extent, and if he thinks Lani's trustworthy, then Steiner will make an effort to think the same.
The sun is getting near midday and Steiner decides that their previous plans will have to be extended. They can get through the caves rather quickly - the monsters should be hibernating, and it's not a very long journey to begin with - but getting to South Gate, much less through it, will take at least another day. Maybe two.
Steiner lowers his eyes from the mountains and halts his steps, turning to respond to Lani's sudden statement.
Amarant's standing stock still, eye wide and dilated. Lani paces towards him, asking again, "Red?" But suddenly he shudders, and lets out a gasp, dropping to his knees and curling in tightly around his stomach, hunched over so that his face is in the long grass.
Steiner looks to Beatrix, who steps forward and puts the Queen's hand in his, before jogging over to the bounty hunter and reaching to put a hand on him.
"/Don't/!" he snarls, raising his head slowly and showing a bloody mouth and nose, "Don't /touch me/!"
Beatrix draws back, eye narrowing at the other.
"Red!" Lani exclaims, "What the hell did you do?"
Amarant shakes his head at the general and Steiner frowns - what did he do? And why is it that only his wife seems to know?
He groans again and then forces himself onto his knees, chest heaving and hand coming up to wipe off the blood from his face. He staggers to his feet shakes his head.
"...Guess... guess the poison from that thing... got to me or something," he mumbles.
"...Are you alright, Amarant?" the Queen asks, and Steiner looks between them. "If you'd like, I could..."
"You should save your energy," the bounty hunter says uneasily. "I recover quick."
Lani looks to the Queen and then catches Steiner's eyes - neither of them believe that story for a second.
The bounty huntress lets it go, and so Steiner does the same. The caves are only a mile away, now... They'll be able to ask questions once they reach Lindblum.
It's a lot colder than Lani expected it to be. She had always thought that the name "Ice Cavern" was more symbolic than literal - but hell, she isn't prepared for near-freezing temperatures!
Amarant is pacing behind her with his arms crossed and head tilted down - he still has some dried blood on his face but she doesn't want to talk to him.
She rubs her hands over her arms, following Steiner and Beatrix, who seem to know where the hell they are. She's sure that Garnet knows, too, and probably Amarant, but...
Well, they're a little less trustworthy right now.
Beatrix keeps her hand on Garnet as she moves forward to detect thin ice beneath thick snow and wonders where in the world all of this came from in the first place. Really, Alexandria is rather warm and this place just seems out of the ordinary compared to the mild temperatures that the kingdom suffers through. True, areas closer to Lindblum get some snow, but...
Garnet is talking to herself and to Steiner about their first journey through the cave and how it was so beautiful and Steiner responds that it still is.
Beatrix hopes everything works out for her Queen - but she doesn't hold any particular hope on the matter. It's best not to hope, sometimes.
The ice and snow are only home to a few weak-minded monsters, and so when she sees one creeping along the walls, aiming to come closer, she glares and puts her hand on her sword. Aggressive movements usually provoke monsters, but once they see her at the ready and realize that Amarant is carrying legs from a stronger monster, they quickly skitter off.
Beatrix wants very badly to question Amarant on what had happened in the fields, but knows that some things should be discussed in private. She can wait until the opportune moment.

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