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


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: 2006-05-01 - Updated: 2006-05-02 - 3463 words

Steiner remembers the first time he had ever come to Lindblum, and compares that image with the city as it is now. He isn't happy with the results.
Getting up through Dragon's Gate had been extremely difficult but they had managed it, and now they're faced by demolished buildings and streets lined with the dead, dying, and injured. Alexandria had been one thing; he hadn't had time to go over the chaos and now he realizes he's going to have more time with Lindblum than his home.
The people, at first, are talking to one another, passing around water, and don't notice this new group of people.
Then, one of the more capable men looks up from talking to a small girl and sees them. His eyes widen and he goes over them each in surprise, nearly smiling in relief because help's finally arrived, before recognizing the Queen and frowning in confusion.
"What are..." His eyes narrow and he stands to his full height - which isn't very threatening at all - and exclaims, "What are you doing here?"
Steiner frowns but restrains himself from reprimanding the young man as an even younger looking girl comes towards them, frowning worriedly.
"What is it?" she asks the man, not taking her eyes off of their group for even a second. "What's the matter?"
"This is the Queen of Alexandria!" he exclaims, face growing red and eyes narrowing in anger, "I told you all!" He points at Garnet, who can't see and therefore doesn't bat an eye, "What, are you here to seize our city, now that you've demolished it?"
The Queen draws back against Steiner and asks in a weak, upset voice, "What?"
The boy feels empowered and so he stalks forward, "You called Odin onto us! We know that He's your power. You called Him down and destroyed our city so that we'd be too incapacitated to fight back when you came to-"
Barely a second between the words and suddenly Amarant has the boy by the collar, driving him harshly into the wall and earning a strangled shriek.
"How dare you-"
"Amarant!" Lani calls
"-assume that she would do /anything like that/, you filthy-"
"/Help/!" the boy screams, "They're going to kill me!"
"/Shut up/!" Amarant snarls, knocking the boy against the wall. There's a sickening crack and the boy cries out.
The bounty hunter suddenly draws back and drops the boy to the ground, turning half-way to face Garnet, who is staring ahead but speaking to him, eyes narrowed.
"That is /enough/."
The girl almost goes to the boy but then she thinks twice about it and instead takes a few steps forward, towards Garnet.
"...Miss... Your majesty?"
"I'm sorry," the queen rasps weakly, "I can't see. Alexandria was attacked as well, and I was blinded in the blast."
The boy shudders and Amarant kicks him once, before stepping back and returning to the queen's side.
Steiner looks to the hunter and finds him seething, with his eye socket slightly visible through a slit in his eyelids. The knight winces and looks away.
"I'm sorry," the girl continues, "We... We're just very confused right now. The Burmecian King was here, earlier, but he left last night... and we don't know where the Regent is. Please..." She steps forward cautiously, "Can you help us?"
Garnet closes her eyes and nods her head once, slowly. "We came to find the Regent's daughter. Has she been found?"
The girl shakes her head and then, remembering what the queen had said, responds, "No... She hasn't been found yet."
An old woman of about fifty rounds a newly formed corner and comes up beside the girl, who turns in confusion and then blushes.
"/Miss/," the old woman says sternly, "What are you doing? There are many people who still haven't had water today..."
She sees their group and gasps in surprise.
"Who are you?"
"This is the Queen of Alexandria, ma'am," the girl mumbles sheepishly, "She came to help us find the Regent's daughter."
"My /god/, what a sorry lot," the woman finally states, crossing her arms in a decidedly self-righteous pose. "Not much of an entourage, your majesty."
Amarant growls lowly and Steiner is reminded of a beast.
"We didn't come here to be insulted," the bounty hunter snaps.
She turns a watchful eye onto him and then sighs, dropping the stuffy demeanor.
"We'll need to stitch that shut," she tells the hunter in a sympathetic voice, "To prevent infection. The healer who helped you - what condition was she in?"
"A dead one," he snarls.
The woman nods and then looks their group over again, before turning to the girl. "Take them to the hospital... See that someone takes care of his eye, and that they all get water."
"...Yes, ma'am."
The woman turns back and says, "Your majesty, forgive me for putting you with everyone else at the moment, but right now, royalty doesn't hold much sway over us. We have no choice but to treat you as everyone else... surely, you understand?"
The queen smiles weakly and nods. "I wouldn't accept anything different," she tells the woman, who seems pleased by that response.
When the old maid is gone, the girl gives them a half-curtsy and says, "If you'll follow me... we set up a temporary hospital for those who needed to get out of the sun right away. It's... not a very pleasant sight, I'm afraid."
"You expect any of this to be pleasant?" Amarant grumbles.
The girl smiles and shakes her head. "I don't expect anything. Follow me, please."
She leads them through the broken streets and Steiner feels nauseous.
By the time night falls, there are scattered bonfires and people all over the business district. Once the sun sets, the heat dissipates and the people can finally come out and not suffer from heat strokes and dehydration - each and every bonfire, some reaching as high as six feet, have huge makeshift boilers in them to decontaminate the water. There was a rumor, earlier, that someone had found a stockpile of tea, and that had been rather... exciting for the people. Steiner thinks that's kind of depressing.
The barely upright building that is serving as a hospital has three stories - the third of which is nearly completely demolished. The second floor has the most rooms, and as such, the group has been spread out among them, sharing with other people who talk and laugh and are just so nice to them... Steiner can't figure it out. Their homes are destroyed, and their lives are ruined, but other than that one boy... everyone seems content with the way things are going.
He mentions this to Beatrix, who shrugs and says that it's natural. "They're lucky to be alive - surely they see that."
She then leaves with Amarant and Garnet, to take a look at the castle and try to help anyone who might need it.
Steiner sits on the bed that he and Beatrix have been given and looks across the room at the window - this room is so small that the one bed takes up nearly half the space, and there's no room for much else.
He doesn't know why he's staying inside, instead of going with his wife, but... He feels the ghost sensation of his arm for a split moment and shakes his head.
What good could he possibly do?
Soft tapping against the broken window reminds him that it's been raining on and off since twilight - the clouds have moved from Burmecia and are now making a valiant effort to drown out the bonfires keeping survivors warm and happy.
The girl had earlier mentioned that the Burmecians had been here - he had known that they were supposed to be having their bi-annual conference with Lindblum over the protection of their borders. Why had they stayed?
He wonders where Eiko could possibly be.
Lani's voice echoes through the broken door and Steiner staggers to it, feeling suddenly tired and depressed. Rain does that to him.
He opens the door and finds the bounty hunter looking down the stairwell to the lower level of the hospital, and so he reaches out and grabs her shoulder.
She spins and nearly dislocates his wrist, before realizing that it's just /Steiner/. He can't do any harm.
"Where's Amarant at?" she asks.
Steiner makes a vague motion with his hand and points down the stairs.
"He went out, huh? Figures, he wouldn't wait for me. Your lady wonder and queen gone, too?"
He nods.
She chuckles. "Of course, leave the invalids to waste away. I'm getting some sleep, then, if that's the case. Unless this place starts burning down, don't make any efforts to save me, okay?"
He frowns in confusion and asks, "Why would I try to save you?" But she already has her back turned and she's deaf, so the question is left to flounder and then die.
With a short look inside the room, Steiner shuts the door on its one hinge and goes downstairs.
The truly injured and incapacitated are lying on makeshift beds and cots - some of these are beds with a missing leg or board, propped up by bricks; others are not much more than a stack of hay and a tattered blanket. The rooms upstairs have similar situations, though the beds are generally better off.
There are people missing arms, like himself; some are missing legs, fingers, eyes, ears, noses - some are heavily bandaged and some aren't. He moves through the heavily packed rows of people and reaches the open wall of the building, looking up to admire the handwork above. Instead of open sky, he's faced with a mismatched and holey blanket that stretches from the floor of the third story all the way to the building across the street, creating a kind of open air market of dead bodies and dying people.
He feels increasingly morbid and quickly makes his way out.
One of the invalids - an old man with his left side of his face heavily bandaged and his arm in a complicated sling - is staring at him so he forces himself to stop by.
"Yer one of those guys from Alexandria, aren't you?"
The knight winces a little because he doesn't want another incident like the one when they arrived. He nods, all the same.
The old man sighs. "The name's Locke."
The knight almost gives the old man his title, rank, and full name, but what good would that do anyone? "Steiner."
The man grins and is missing half of his teeth, some from old age but most knocked out, leaving bloody gums. "You all here to help?"
"We're going to try," he responds weakly.
"First Burmecia, now Alexandria." The man chuckles, "What about our kingdom? When do we get to help?" He groans slightly and says, "No matter. I'm content to sleep in for the first time in years... Go on, kid," he drawls, "Help out some of us Lindblum folk at the fires. See you."
Steiner nods his goodbye and continues out of the hospital.
The closest bonfire is surrounded by healers, who are talking in low, quiet voices about the patients under their care and are making predictions on who might live. It's morbid talk and Steiner passes them by easily enough.
The rain starts up again, and though it's light, he's not used to feeling it and it kind of makes him cold. He's always worn armor out on the streets, so rain never penetrated... but now, wearing clothing from a play - not meant for real work, but still useful enough - he feels each drop and it annoys him.
He realizes he just passed by another fire and is nearing a third - the one closest to the theatre district. The group here is mixed; some of them are injured people not in the hospital, others are girls who don't have anywhere to go, and still others are old men and women who are in the same situation as the girls.
He listens to them talking for a long time. They talk about the weather, about the water, about their family and friends who have died; they talk about the destruction and the fires and the theatre district.
It's then that Steiner remembers Zidane had friends in the theatre district. He wonders if they're alright, and thinks about trying to get over there sometime in the next few days.
First, however... they have to find Eiko.
He eventually wanders back to the hospital and checks on Locke briefly - the old man is asleep. At least, Steiner hopes it's just sleep, but he can't be sure. He could be dead, for all he knows.
The stairs creak under him and he leans against the wall outside the room he and Beatrix have, staring up at the dented and broken ceiling. This whole building is amazing, he realizes, because while even the people are falling down around it, it can support them all.
A strangled shriek pierces the air and so, as duty dictates, Steiner tries to pinpoint where it came from. It was definitely upstairs...
He thinks for a moment and then, against his better judgment, he starts down the narrow and unsteady hallway towards Lani's room. Something about her earlier attack sits wrong with the knight and her insistence that he not save her doesn't make it any easier to push her away.
He pushes the door open and finds Lani tossing and turning in the rickety old bed, in danger of falling off, with her neighbor sleeping soundly in the bed next to her. He goes to her side and grabs her shoulder, shaking her and refraining from talking since she wouldn't be able to hear anyways.
She jerks sharply and he pulls back just in time to avoid a well-thrown punch. When she realizes she's hit air, she pushes herself up into a sitting position and glares sleepily around until she sees Steiner. The knight has already turned his head away, having realized quickly that the bounty huntress was sleeping in the nude.
"What the hell?" she growls, and when he turns back, she's pulled the ratty blanket up around her chest. "I thought I told you: no heroics."
He stares at her for a minute, debating on whether or not he should say anything. He finally mouths out, "What happened?"
She sighs and shifts. "Why would you care?"
He wants to tell her that they're comrades - no matter how unlikely the whole situation is - and that if there's a problem with one of them, there will be a problem with everyone later. He can't explain this to her, however, without her being able to hear, so he just shrugs and gives her a look that he hopes conveys everything properly.
It must, because she says now, "Don't go telling your missus or anyone, alright?"
He doesn't like keeping things from Beatrix, but... She and Amarant have a secret. It'd be almost poetic to have the same with Amarant's companion... so he nods in agreement.
"Back on the fields, I..." She glances to the neighbor, then sighs and says, "I saw Bahamut." At Steiner's alarmed expression, she adds, "Only, it wasn't real. I was just... hallucinating it all, I guess. Who knows? You get crazy when you're at the end of the world. But, it felt real." She looks to her arms, folded across her chest to hold the blanket in place, "I was on fire, and He tried to lift me up. And in the back of my head, I kept hearing that old man talking. He kept saying 'keep this in mind,' only what the hell am I supposed to keep in mind?"
She sighs and shakes her head, looking back to Steiner in annoyance. "So I figured I could sleep on it. Maybe get some answers from my brain, or something."
She doesn't continue so he prompts with, "Did you?"
She only gets the general idea of what he said and shrugs. "Maybe."
He waves a hand, prompting her to continue, so she shakes her head. "I had... a dream, I guess. Everything was black, but... there was something /there/. Like the dark was /alive/, is the only way I can explain it. And then I realized that all around me, there were these huge, glossy black feathers... Something about it unnerved me." She looks away. "It wasn't good, whatever it was."
Steiner is stuck in that difficult place that women often put him in - the one where he could either comfort them in some way, or just nod and go about his business. He doesn't know which way to act around a lot of women, but Lani is a lot like Beatrix. So he simply nods and offers her a quick hand on the shoulder, which earns him in return a smirk.
"No heroics. I'm trying to sleep, sir knight." She lies back down and pulls the blanket over her head, revealing her feet and lower legs. "Oh, and don't worry about waking up the woman there - she's been dead for the last hour or so."
He winces suddenly and looks to the neighboring bed.
"I just wonder if the father knew."
He gets up and leaves quickly, closing the door firmly behind him and heading downstairs to inform someone of this development. When he catches sight of one of the healers and tells them that the woman has died, she sighs and shakes her head.
"She was expecting, too," she says quietly and goes off to arrange for the body to be removed.
Amarant doesn't like staring into fires very much. It tends to draw him in and makes him think about things that he would rather not think about at all.
But there's not much else to do right now, with Beatrix still scouring the castle for remains of royalty and Garnet sitting beside him with her eyes half closed and joining him in thinking of things they both don't want to. She doesn't need a fire to do that.
"Past your bedtime, princess," he finally drawls, trying to pull himself out of the bonfire that has this group of survivors entranced.
She squeezes her eyes shut briefly and then opens them again - a force of habit, he assumes, more than necessity - and shaking her head.
"Why do you keep calling me a princess?" she asks.
"Because everyone else calls you a queen."
She doesn't respond and he sighs, leaning back and looking at the clouds above. "Looks like Burmecia's adding insult to injury."
"Is it going to rain again?"
He wonders if idle banter is really worth it right now. Hell, he doesn't even know how to do idle banter.
"It might." He looks to her and since she can't see, she won't notice if he actually studies her this time. No one else is around - no one that would care, at least. "...You look tired."
"I'm perfectly fine."
"I didn't say you weren't." He thinks about it for a minute and then shakes his head. "You're not fine, either way, but I'm not asking questions."
"I... I beg your /pardon/?"
He smirks. "You look so royal when you get fussy."
Her face kind of softens and she looks in some random direction away from Amarant's voice, and he looks into the fire again. Ever since dinner, his head's been running calculations like a goddamned mathematician in Daguerreo, but he can't quite figure out when he's going to have another... whatever the hell it is. He doesn't know how many more he's going to have, because he wasn't even thinking when he had used that spell. It had been a kind of fight-or-flight reaction, and now he wishes he had at least tried to think of how much gravity that worm needed to be smacked around with... other than /a whole lot/.
A whole lot is probably the rest of his life.
There's a light pressure against his shoulder and he looks down to find Garnet leaning against him, eyes closed. He frowns and looks away.
He's screaming inside because of her, but he isn't about to say anything. He hopes Lani wasn't angry that he had left her alone - then he immediately wonders why he cares. Lani isn't really important to him; not in the grand scheme of things. She's important, yeah, but he could name a few people who were higher on his list of priorities at the moment.
Garnet, for example.
It starts to rain again and Amarant puts his arm over Garnet's shoulders, trying a little to keep her from getting soaked, and turns his eye back to the fire.
Some things he doesn't want to think about are better than thinking about this.

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