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

Comfort Foods

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: 2006-04-26 - Updated: 2006-04-27 - 3752 words

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They eat leftover stew for breakfast and keep themselves warm with the half-dead fire. It's unusually cold - even for the upper mountains. Steiner sits with his sword across his lap, studying it for damage and hoping that Lindblum will be alright.
Amarant is fitting the three legs from the monster onto one of the leather work gloves he had stolen from a dead trolley attendant. He had kept the legs in the fire most of the night, and had, earlier, bent them into a razor sharp curve. Steiner doesn't understand how he did it but there's a rock with deep black marks on it, and his hands look stiff and sore.
Lani is trying to figure a way to carry the leftover stew but Steiner knows that there's no way to do it. Their best bet is to pour out the broth and wrap the meat separately...
She does just this and he shakes his head.
Beatrix is doing her morning stretches; every day since Steiner's known the woman, she's always done them. He understands her need to be ready for anything - but then again, he doesn't usually need to be. Sword fighting is a bit different from what Beatrix does on a regular basis.
Garnet is staring at the dying fire, sitting next to Amarant and holding something Steiner can't quite see in his lap. He worries about his Queen... She is trying to be strong and he's not quite sure how she's going about it... is staying close to Amarant part of that process? He knows Amarant is strong - stronger than most of them, excluding Beatrix - but he seems so strange right now and is mumbling lowly to himself. Maybe Garnet thinks that she can absorb some of his strength for herself.
"We should start heading out," the bounty hunter finally says, raising his glove up to examine it. He clenches his fist and the legs, which had been hanging between his knuckles, snap up into razor sharp points. He smirks and loosens his fist.
"Handy around the camp, aren't you Red?" Lani drawls; he grins at her.
"If we move at a fairly good pace," Beatrix determines, looking over the ruins of South Gate, "We could very well reach Lindblum by nightfall."
"If not, we'll get damned close," Amarant agrees. "Shouldn't be too hard... Lindblum's a chocobo's paradise. We might be able to round up a few."
Steiner stands and sheathes his sword - he feels more confident with it than before, but he knows that if they were to need his sword... he might not be able to help.
Lani has picked up another burlap sack full of potions, elixirs, antidotes - anything that she and Amarant could salvage from the items shop was packed away, along with half a dozen near-ripe carrots, a bundle of potatoes, and several scraps of clothing. She lifts up a thick piece of lumber - no doubt part of a support beam for some building or other - and takes a swipe at the air.
"...Should find some metal for a blade. You think you could fashion one for me, Red?"
Amarant shrugs and waves a hand, nodding once in acceptance.
Lani grins and says, "Give me ten minutes and I'll be ready to go," before heading off towards the trolleys. Steiner follows her with his eyes and then turns to Amarant.
"What happened to her axe?"
"She left it in Treno, before we went drinking," he responds dully, clenching and unclenching his fist and testing the strength of the bands. "She'll find it when we go back."
The idea of when hasn't really crossed Steiner's mind lately. He's been rather caught up with /if/.
Alleyway Jack leans against a ruined building, looking around Treno in annoyance. He had assumed that only Alexandria Castle was the recipient of divine justice... and he had immediately left to get out of the way of those strong, sturdy people. He didn't want to hinder their work. He even took a few gil from some houses - to help with the cleanup.
But Treno has been utterly decimated, and the few healers had barely been able to satisfy the wounded. Thieves are running rampant and the bounty hunters are making sport of it - Jack winces when he hears someone shriek and a thud of a body.
The townhouses are deserted in upper ring, so he heads that way and makes quick work of a few Fangs who had come into the city to eat the dead. He hates monsters, but he hates dead people more.
The ring is rank with the smell of these poor people and he decides to lighten their post-mortal load by relieving them of some of their worldly possessions.
Among his scouring, he finds the deep pit that was once the Treno Inn. Here he stops, and puts a hand to his heart in reverence - he had liked the innkeeper, who had let him stay for free a few times. It was a shame that people like that lived in Treno... they always got the short end of the stick.
With a shrug he turns to continue and finds something glinting in the morning sun.
"What's this?" he wonders aloud, snaking around heavy chunks of rock and bodies. He realizes, suddenly, that he's looking on an axe much larger than any he's seen before, and thinks on it for a moment. The blade looks sharp and has a few jewels embedded into it, along with a shard of crystal at the end of the handle.
He grins; if anyone had been around, they might've been reminded of a rat. "Well, that's interesting."
He pries the axe out of the ground and heaves it up. It's heavy but at the same time it feels... light. As if it was supporting itself.
He smiles and appraises the metal of the blade and the sturdy wood of the handle. "Well. Who's to say that the dead don't leave anything behind?"
With his mind set on Daguerreo, a place he knows will give him an excellent price on this fine weapon, Alleyway Jack saunters off, carrying the axe he had owned it for years.
Amarant doesn't say anything but he once walked South Gate, when the trolleys were still down from the absence of Mist. It had taken him a full day, without stopping.
It had only taken them four hours, with two short breaks for water and rest. They stop, once they reach what used to be the main Lindblum entrance to South Gate, and stare at the region ahead of them.
Ahead, he can hear Garnet ask Steiner, "Can you see Lindblum Castle?"
The knight looks in desolate wonder at the ruined fields across the river and gulps a little, looking to the rest of their group for advice.
"...Your majesty," Beatrix mumbles, and that's all the Queen needs to hear. Her face goes carefully blank and she looks in the direction of Burmecia, eyes dry and mouth moving a little in a silent... what, eulogy? Amarant's not sure. Maybe a prayer. Maybe self-condemnation.
Amarant never liked Lindblum. It was big, and noisy, and it reeked of oil and gysahl pickles. People were obnoxious there, and tended to stare at him more than other places. They always had their heads in the clouds, which seemed to be located in their asses half the time.
But the fact that he can't see the goddamned castle unnerves him and he finally realizes that there might not be any when/. This could very well turn out to be an /if situation.
Lani stands with her arms crossed and eyes set grimly ahead, mouth perfectly straight and body language shouting "I am going to die."
He goes to her and puts a hand on her shoulder - she glares for a moment longer at the nonexistent castle before turning to him.
"We better get moving," she tells him, with her eyes reading more than just "I'm going to die" - more of a, "We're all going to die, Red, why did you let me come with you if you knew that?"
He wants to tell her he didn't know, and hell, he wouldn't have come either if he had, but she's already turning away. Besides, she wouldn't hear him anyways.
Lani's the first one to start across the ragged fields, towards the thick forests in the distance. Beatrix follows after her, leaving Steiner, Amarant, and Garnet alone.
"Your Majesty..." Steiner begins, but she quietly cuts him off.
"I can catch up. Give me a moment, please."
He frowns and looks up at the nonexistent castle and Amarant nods to him, signaling that he can stay and wait for her if he'd rather keep up with his wife.
He thanks the other male silently and heads across the field himself.
"The castle is completely gone, isn't it?" she asks.
"...I don't want to lie to you."
She sighs quietly and holds her hand out towards him; he takes it for a second and then says, "We need to keep moving."
She nods, and responds, "We'll figure everything out when we talk to Eiko."
Lani forces her eyes away from the empty mountain ridge and finds them landing on Beatrix, who has taken up the lead of their little band.
She kind of likes the other woman. She's a tough bitch, that's for sure - Lani doesn't know if she'd be able to handle all that's happened to everyone seemingly close to the General, if it were her suffering. After all, Beatrix's good sir knight got his arm whacked off, and her queen is using Amarant as a seeing eye dog; not to mention the fact that she's going to get scarred up and just overall unhappy in the next few days, weeks, or months.
Her hand instinctively goes to her nose and feels the bump there; she mentally curses Amarant for saving her from that fall. He broke her goddamned nose! She can feel it off center and knows she must look like /shit/.
One of the few things Lani cares about more than jewels and a good time is her appearance. After all, what's the use of jewels if you don't look good enough to sport them? And no one wants to have fun with an ugly /hag/...
It's really not so bad, she supposes - at least she's not like Amarant. He's busted up pretty badly - she hadn't wanted to tell him but that stupid idiot healer had done him in. Not that it matters to him - she knows exactly how his mind works and his own appearance isn't usually a factor.
She smirks. He could probably still get a few attractive wenches, what with this end-of-the-world situation.
Her stomach twists slightly at this idea and she frowns. End-of-the-world.
She hadn't thought she'd be alive to see it.
She feels someone almost trying to sneak up on her, so she turns her head to see good sir knight kind of skulking behind her but not really. She frowns; something about that guy just doesn't... sit right with her.
Might be because he's missing an arm, but she's not going to place judgment on him.
"You can skulk around but I can still feel you," she drawls casually, and he looks at her in surprise, before shaking his head and starting on some apology or rebuttal. She taps her ear and says, "I'm still deaf as a post."
He flushes in embarrassment and mumbles an apology - she's getting used to how mouths move when talking, and can kind of pick up words... or at least parts of them.
"Keep up with your lady, knight. She might need protection. Quit sneaking about."
She's surprised at the look on his face when she mentions his wife - a kind of sad, half ruined expression that signals that she's hit a chink in good sir knight's armor. She keeps her eyes on the ground in front and decides not to talk anymore.
It's like all the animals are gone. Lani's never seen the plains so absolutely deserted, and she wonders where they could have possibly run off to... She used to see chocobos around this area all the time...
The river is clouded with dirt and plants, but they stop for a drink nonetheless. Lani reaches down and cups some water in her hands, eyeing it critically before glancing upstream.
"...Hold on," she growls, dropping the water back into the stream, "We can't drink this."
Amarant gives her a confused look so she points upstream; a half-submerged chocobo with a broken, mangled neck and rotting head is trapped in the vines.
Amarant waves them off of the river and must be telling them that they should just keep moving, because Steiner is standing and Beatrix is leading Garnet towards the bridge. The bounty hunter brushes past Steiner, who looks briefly at Lani and then holds out a hand, nodding to one of the two sacks she's carrying.
Lani casts a doubtful eye on him but hands over the heavier of the two. Together, with Steiner only slightly behind Lani, they follow the other three down and across the bridge.
If they hadn't been in Lindblum territory before, they sure as hell were now. The grass is softer - the bits that haven't been torn from the ground - and the swamp is visible in the distance.
The only thing that's unusual and unnerving is that Lani can't feel the slight vibrations that airships cause as they fly around - but then again, who's around to fly them?
A shadow passes over them briefly and she sighs. The last thing they need is rain.
A deep roar penetrates her broken ears and she stops dead in her tracks.
Steiner is at her side now, with his sword in hand - not that it'll do a damned bit of good.
She's seen dragons before. Hell, she's seen a lot of things that could be construed as dragons. She realizes numbly that she's seen it all, now with the King of Dragons landing about thirty yards away.
Beatrix pulls Garnet backwards and Amarant is shouting at the Queen, who looks so scared and confused and /hurt/.
Bahamut hits the ground with a thud, sending heavy vibrations through the torn and loose dirt. She almost swears that He's smirking at them. A cat who found the mice.
He lets out a deep growl that pierces the air around them and she wonders if he can talk - if he can be reasoned with just like any other...
Dragons don't like reasoning.
Garnet is crying out words that probably are meant to change Bahamut's feelings but his mouth is full of fire and he doesn't look to be in a reasonable mood.
She draws back and covers her head with her arms when He breathes out rivers of fire onto them, and feels her arms burning viciously and feels the ground shaking with every thudding step of the King, and all the while that goddamned old man's voice keeps coming back to her, telling her to Keep This In Mind.
She feels her shouting reverberate in her throat and pushes away from long talons grabbing her by the waist and hoisting her up, falling backwards against the cool, damp dirt.
It's not until she opens her eyes again and sees Amarant staring down at her in a confused, worried panic that she realizes she's hallucinating.
He mouths something frantically that she can't understand and she pulls her arm out of his tight grip, looking around in shock. Steiner and Beatrix are kneeling on either side of her, while Garnet is staring in their direction without knowing exactly what she's seeing.
Amarant mouths something again and then Beatrix says something, along the lines of "What happened." She's talking slower so her lips are easier to read and Lani's really grateful for that but she doesn't want to talk about it.
"Nothing - I'm just... thirsty. I need to lie down." She puts forth excuses and they nod to each other, agreeing silently above her that that's all she needs.
Amarant helps her up and holds her arm for a moment longer than necessary, pointing to the swamp in the distance and looking at her questioningly.
She nods and mumbles, "That's fine."
They pick up their pace once again, and Lani can't get Bahamut off her mind.
The swamp is the Qu tribe's home, and Quale makes an effort to make sure people know this when they enter. He only knows some Alexandrian and can't write it at all, so his one sign before the Long Grass is in the Qu language.
When he hears rustling grass he realizes that unfortunately, humans don't read Qu and therefore don't know he had asked all people not of the Qu to kindly remove themselves from the territory if they expected anything more than a lesson in the culinary arts.
Still thinking over this annoying new development, Quale descends the steps from his home and finds himself faced with the most bizarre group of humans ever. They are dirty, ragged... "Battered and fried" as his Master used to say.
One, missing an arm, sees Quale and asks in confusion, "Quina?"
"How you know Quina?" the Qu responds, eyes narrowing at the name of his student.
Now the nicest looking one speaks up, "...Quina was one of our friends."
That sentence doesn't sit right with Quale, but he can't figure out why. "Quina say monkey-tailed boy help it make many friends. If you friends of Quina, you welcome here." He looks them all over now, and frowns. "You look like bad boiled potatoes. All mush, no substance. Inside," he turns, "I make food."
He hears one of them sigh in relief and nods to himself - they do know Quina.
When this new group of people enters, Quale settles them all down around his table and says, "You know Quina, so you know Qu custom. I cook, you clean."
The pretty one who had mentioned Quina first responds with a smile. "Of course."
He nods in confirmation and then goes to his stove. "You very lucky - I still have extra of chocobo. Spices, those harder to come by..."
"Do you know what happened to Lindblum?" says the heavily mashed red haired creature.
"The castle? No. I expect Quina will say when Quina come."
There's a silence and then the pretty one speaks up again. "There... Alexandria was heavily damaged a few nights ago. The castle... was destroyed."
"So? Your kingdom not my problem."
Now the other female, with short and ugly hair, informs him in a steady and apathetic voice, "Quina was in the castle at the time of the attack."
Quale shrugs. "So? Quina come out of big tree after it blow up - it tell me that miracle." He feels the heavy air and adds, "Even if Quina no escape, Quina live on for long time in imagination. Quina a good, smart Qu. If it no escape, then it not meant to escape." He chuckles, "All luck run out some time."
"You don't care?" the one-armed human asks, masking anger in confusion.
Quale shakes his head. "No. I care very much, but we Qu understand many things about world. Now, I make food."
He sets to dicing and chopping and boiling, and pays no attention to the quiet mutterings of his group of visitors.
Garnet has trouble eating with utensils, but luckily Quale doesn't mind if she simply uses her hands or drinks the rice and chocobo soup right out of the bowl. He tells her sympathetically that as long as she can eat, she'll be fine.
Something about the Qu's simple philosophies keeps her from thinking too long on unhappy matters. She ignores the majority of her that is screaming and focuses on the part that is just content to eat a good meal and listen to Quale tell them about Quina.
Quina, apparently, is one of the few Qu who hasn't yet decided on a gender. Quale tells them that most Qu can "choose," he supposes, what they're going to be by about age twelve.
Apparently, Quina was about twenty one.
She finds all of this interesting and can tell that the other's are clinging to the simple dialect of Quale's broken Alexandrian to keep their minds off other things... like Amarant's sudden mumbles about worlds and gravitational pull and the moon, and Lani's earlier outburst that had sent them here in the first place.
There's a sudden bang and something crashes against the ground. Amarant rasps, "Sorry," in a low and unconvincing voice.
"That alright," Quale replies with good humor, "I not cleaning, after all. I have plenty of dishes; all Qu are prepared." He laughs, "Some of us clumsy like new cook forever."
Garnet finds herself smiling and shakes her head, guiding roast chocobo to her mouth and complimenting Quale on his cooking. He's better than Quina.
"Of course," he responds, "I Quina's master. It hard for new cook to overcome master chef."
By the time they're finished, however, even Quale has picked up on their negativity and, as Steiner, Beatrix, and Amarant collect plates and start to clean up, Garnet feels him come over and take a seat beside her.
"What you so worried over? You all look battered but /you/," he puts a hand on her shoulder, "You have no look at all."
"...I'm blind," she rasps, and hears the group slow their movements to listen in.
"I not mean that. Blind still has sight, but it /inside/. You not looking inside to see." He sounds vaguely upset when he says, "You only blind physically, but you look blind completely."
She looks away from the direction of his voice and when he speaks again, it's muffled. She hears the question in his tone and sighs.
"I'm worried for Lindblum," she tells him, looking back in the direction of his voice.
"You worried for many things that you shouldn't. Castle still /there/, just much smaller than before. People still there, just much /smaller/. If you so worried, you should go there."
"We were on our way," Steiner's voice cuts in, "When..."
"Once you done with dishes," Quale says suddenly, "You move on to castle. I wait here - if castle need help from the Qu, I help." He addresses Garnet solely when he says, "But no worries now. See inside first, and you see outside next."
"Awfully philosophical for a bumpkin," Amarant grumbles lowly.
"I not one rambling about moons," the Qu responds.
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