Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 8


by LunaManar 1 review

After the events of Deling City, Squall wakes to discover his nightmare is far from over. In-game plothole fill.

Category: Final Fantasy 8 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: Edea,Squall,Ultimecia - Warnings: [!] [V] - Published: 2014-08-24 - Updated: 2014-08-30 - 4302 words - Complete

Luna Manar

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

I can't sleep. Someone shut off that clock.

The seconds dragged on, tap after deafening tap keeping inexorable time, and he could not sleep, he could not think. He could barely breathe.

The air was so cold. this what death feels like? No, if I'm feeling anything...

His pulse was rising, his nerves thawing. The prickling return of sensation warned of impending agony. It was everywhere.

...I have to be alive.

His eyes cracked. For a while, he comprehended nothing except for a frigid blue glow, but as his brain laboriously processed the sight, his vision focused. He saw the light reflected off the edge of a metal table. He was lying on that table; a slow drip of blood fell over the side, tapping incessantly on the paneled floor below. Spidery valances drifted in the air. They caught and danced in the eerie glow.

He blinked through an intensifying sense of distress, reaching for insight that beckoned cruelly from the vestiges of his memory. As the veil of unconsciousness finally melted away, he moved his head feebly, staring at the light and trying desperately to grasp the meaning of what he saw.

Squall remembered. A reflexive gasp froze in his throat. He heaved, but couldn't cough; the attempt sent fire shooting through his body. A choked gag came out instead. Darkness closed around the edges of his sight, promising the relief of blackout and denying it seconds later. His arms responded automatically, trembling hands closing around the jagged spear of ice protruding from his chest.

Not dead...not a dream? His eyes darted to the red rivulet creeping away from him and off the table. How much? How long? Can't get my breath. That lung...probably collapsed. A spike of pain seized him, branching through his body. His suddenly numb hands lost their grip on the shard and his arms curled against the shock. Eyes slit and teeth bared, he fought the urge to fold up. Didn't know anything could be this cold.

“Cursed child.”

The voice was startling, unmistakable, and its sudden intrusion injected Squall's private suffering with mortal dread. The malevolent tone of the sorceress was also haunting; fragments of it seemed familiar, and the insidiousness of that familiarity crawled down his stiffened spine. He wondered how long she'd been standing at the foot of the table, if she'd been enjoying the spectacle. If she’s here, that means…

The mission had failed. Of course it had.

What happened to the others? Irvine? ...Rinoa? She was a member of a resistance faction. They must have...

The soft chime of his captor’s jewelry interrupted his bleak speculation. Sorceress Edea glided forward, fluid and predatory; she let one hand drift along him as she walked around the table, not quite touching him, as if taking stock of her acquisition. As she stood over him, he did his best to make eye-contact with her, any small act of aggression that might give her pause. She seemed unmoved, certain of his incapacity.

He did not hide a disgusted sneer when one deadly talon traced his shoulder and dipped along his collar, teasing the curve of his throat. The sharp tip of her finger forced him to lift his head.

It had the intended effect: holding the denigrating position fueled the shaking, crystalline pain spreading through his body in slow, fractal spirals. He scowled narrowly at her, breath dragging through his teeth.

The woman regarded him almost vacantly, letting the seconds creep through his bones. When she spoke again, her disdain was as thick as he'd ever heard it, but her affect did not change. “From this, you rise? This slip of a boy?” She dragged her claw away, cutting a thin red line along his chin. His head dropped against the table with a harsh thump. Uncaring, the sorceress drew vexed patterns in the air at the edge of his blurring sight. “History makes for such despicable comedy.”

Squall didn’t know what she meant, or if the words were addressed to him, and he didn't care. He was just trying to breathe evenly enough to steady his pounding heart. He hoped that if she meant to kill him, she would not do so by pacing and ranting until he either suffocated or bled to death.

He was disappointed.

“Why?” lamented the sorceress, turning her back on her unresponsive prisoner and beseeching the far wall instead. “Do you still not comprehend your error?”

Holding fast to his mettle, Squall sought respite in responsibility, calling to mind every sliver of relevant training he could remember while the sorceress continued her nonsensical dirge. You’re a prisoner, he told himself, if only to force his mind to acknowledge the reality of his situation and frame his practical options. Unless you can procure information by doing so, don’t say anything. Pay attention to everything. The questions you’re asked can be important.

“...Why must you continue this unfounded persecution?”

What...? As he came out of his reverie, his mind latched onto that word: Persecution? It was oddly intriguing, given how inapplicable it seemed to a sorceress who commanded the hearts and minds of an entire capital, perhaps an entire country.

He forgot himself for a moment, and let slip a quiet scoff.

The sorceress’s droning ceased. Her hands drifted down to her sides and she turned slowly to face her captive.

Big mistake, Squall lectured himself. She might’ve said anything. Now she knows you’re listening. The self-critique effectively veiled his deepening fear as Sorceress Edea again strode alongside him.

“The young soldier has a voice,” she quipped. Her tone had changed, from a deep and melodic lilting to a disingenuous coo. “Oh,” she tsked, “what a shame. It’s so much weaker than I remember.”

Squall scowled past his sweat-dampened hair. He said nothing.

With a delicateness that seemed almost tender, Edea moved the obscuring lock aside with two of her claws, letting them trail down the side of his neck. She bent to whisper to her prisoner even as he did his best to look away from her. “Speak to me in that powerful voice of yours, again.” Her words dripped.

Squall closed his eyes tightly and again refused to speak.

As fluidly as they’d caressed him, those claws dragged along the frozen shard, sending little vibrations through whatever magical lattice was keeping it from melting.

Squall’s muscles seized again. He choked and gasped. A bit of blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. He felt ready to lose his stomach, but that must have already happened; there was nothing for him to reject.

“Are you in pain?” asked the sorceress while her captive convulsed. “I can help you. I can heal you.” The heaving spell subsided while she watched and waited, holding the promise of relief and healing suspended in her continued silence. When the air was no longer torn by the sounds of her prisoner’s suffering, she concluded her offer with polished diction. “It is nothing for me.”

Minutes later, Squall spoke his first words to her between shallow, carefully mastered breaths. “, do it.”

The temerity of his answer left an ugly crest on Edea’s smooth features, though her mild tone did not waver. “You think you deserve comfort? You think it will find you?” She lifted a hand to the ceiling, casting upward as if beseeching the stars. “Children soon learn that no good is handed down without remittance. What are you willing to give up for your comfort, I wonder?”

While she talked, Squall struggled to concentrate. Just need a think. “...What do you want?”

Her outstretched hand fell to rest lightly on his shoulder, pointed tips curling around the leather of his jacket as she leaned over him again. For an instant, her indifference burned away, rapacious excitement fueling a single word: “...You.”

Squall did not understand the answer, which seemed to imply something more than his simple presence. He did not care to know the details. “Sorry.” Not gonna happen.

“Hypocrisy!” spat Edea, standing straight and furious. Her fingers bit into his shoulder. “SeeD infests history at the drop of a coin, and you tell me your soul has no price?”

Oh, man. She's crazy. “Can't sell you...something, I don't have.”

The pendulum swung back from anger to amusement, once more infusing the sorceress’s words with saccharine venom. “How can you know?” Her grip loosened; she turned up a speculative palm. “You do not even understand what you are for. Even your name speaks to it. Where did you procure such a majestic title?”

Almost...keep her talking. “...I came with it.”

“Wouldn’t you care to live up to it? Why lay prone and defeated? Such a state is unbecoming. It belies the very purpose of your thus far petty, wretched life.”

“What…” He measured each constricted breath in syllables. “...are you talking, about?” His head tilted ever so slightly to pull her into view, trying to make sense of her vague platitudes. “What purpose?” Then again, he supposed, soon it wouldn’t matter, anyway. Steady...

Slowly, seeming pleased that she’d finally piqued his interest, Edea slid away and turned, pacing thoughtfully.

Squall did not give her the chance to take a third step. He’d let her carry on for long enough to bring to mind a Guardian; perhaps it wouldn’t kill her, or save him, but she was a fool if she thought even a prone, dying SeeD was a defeated one. He still had a mission to complete.

Perhaps sensing the sudden dryness in the air or the telltale vibration in the metal floor, Edea twisted about just as the great thunderbird spread vibrant wings over its charge. Though normally given to announcing its arrival with violence and light, even Quetzalcoatl had a sense for subtlety when there was a need. Discovered, it left behind such pretenses. With a flicker and an angry screech, it lashed at the sorceress with several blue tails of magical electricity.

Edea had been keen enough to draw up a barrier before the vicious attack began, but the strike momentarily blinded her. When she opened her eyes, the Guardian Force was no longer visible, but the trembling in the air had not yet ceased. She swiveled and blanched as a translucent rush of power darted and phased through the walls and floor, forcing her to guess where the creature would fully solidify next while claws of lightning snapped at her limbs and scorched the valances.

Her confusion was momentary. Even as the net of magical lightning wound around her, singeing her feathered mantle, she pulled her arms to cross at her chest, bowing her head in concentration.

The net closed in over her, forming a transparent dome. The thunderbird coalesced in the middle of a killing dive, electric talons reaching for its target. The building energy of the dome fell upon her with an explosive roar.

Edea’s arms snapped straight to form a perfect right angle, her palms facing the oncoming raptor and the blast of energy bearing down on her.

The Guardian Force and its destructive energy froze in place as if, for it and it alone, all time had stopped. The thunder and howl were silenced. The sorceress let her arms fall, and with deliberate weight in her practiced steps, moved unflinchingly through the very energy that had threatened to consume her.

She stopped feet from the giant, stooping bird. She stared at it for a moment, as if contemplating what to do with it. Then she pointed at its chest, one finger grazing its body. The thunderbird blew apart into thousands of sputtering stars.

The percussive shattering rattled Squall’s mind. He felt Quetzal fold up inside his head, all its power exhausted by one crushing touch. His face twisted and his eyes slammed shut against the terrible headache that followed, heart pounding in his throat as he fought to keep from sucking in air. When he opened his eyes again, the sorceress was looming over him with murder in her eyes.

“You plague and deceive me,” she spat. “Vile SeeD! Assassin!”

Still nursing the raw throbbing inside his skull, Squall countered her accusations with a scowl of contempt. “Did you forget?”

The woman sneered at the caustic snipe. “If I could satisfy my desire to wreak vengeance upon your loathsome destiny...” She stopped herself.

My...destiny? Squall’s eyes narrowed. She keeps talking about my purpose, my destiny, like she already knows the future. What does she think I’m supposed to do? And if she doesn’t want it to happen...why doesn’t she just kill me?

Seeing the question in his eyes, Edea dismissed the consequence of her slip with a sweep of her arm. “...I would,” she concluded. She carried on mirthfully, “I’d rend you muscle from bone and flesh from nerve until you promised me your soul to end the suffering. I would take that, too, then deny you the relief!” She closed her eyes for a moment. Her tone calmed, sweetened. “That is not to be.” Slowly, she began pacing the table again, forcing him to twist painfully to keep her in view or lose sight of her entirely. “You are fortunate,” she told him. “If you knew about yourself what I know about you, this exchange would not be necessary. You'd give everything to me. You'd realize your place is at my side.”

Squall closed his eyes and let his ears follow her. He kept her talking. “By...your side?”

“I see what desires your sleeping heart dreams of. You want to be strong? You want something absolute? You may have that. I can bring about that potential.” He again felt her thin hand on his shoulder. “After all, there is only one thing a boy like you is meant for, and are perfect for it. Don't you want to be perfect?”

Strength? That’s not… He found, oddly, that he was unable to complete the silent denial. Preferring the shock of pain it sent through his body, he shrugged off the sorceress’s touch, glancing again at the lengthening red line that traced the table’s edge. “Is that offered Seifer?” He swallowed bile to get the words out.

“That boy,” Edea scoffed. “So easy to please. So much less than perfect. You could succeed him,” she proposed.

Squall said nothing, though his eyes flicked as he tried to comprehend what it was this woman--clearly insane, and powerful enough to discharge a Guardian Force in an instant--wanted with him. Succeed Seifer? His face twisted in a sneer. He wasn’t sure what he found more ridiculous: that he had any ambitions about supplanting Seifer, or that standing side-by-side with a mad sorceress was his idea of achieving them.

“Do you find something entertaining?” asked Edea, all too pleasantly.

“...You.” Bad idea. She’ll kill you any second. They were token objections. Maybe it was the exhaustion clouding his judgment, the blood loss, or the paralyzing chill that had finally rendered his extremities numb, but continuing to forestall an execution that seemed all but inevitable was beginning to feel less than imperative. At least by provoking her, he might learn what he was dying for… “If you think, I envy’re stupid, as you are crazy.”

Edea came to stand once more within Squall’s sight. Her eyes were tepid with contained rage, but she did not respond to the insults, instead directing her contempt at the subject of their conversation. “I require competence above the loyalty of a slavering animal.” She flicked her wrist, turned her head as if the image she herself had conjured was too disgusting to contemplate. “You appreciate subtleties. The reality that good and evil are not the constants they seem.” She shook her head in what appeared to be genuine anguish. “I had such high expectations of that boy, but he deceived me. Beneath that grand façade lies a simpleton. Isn’t it sad? He could have lived his romantic dream. Alas, he was not worthy. Such a disappointment.”

What do you know about disappointment? A burning sensation, like a shot of adrenaline, rose in Squall’s chest. He rode the painkilling anger for the few moments it allowed him to breathe without choking. “If you weren't messing with his head,” he snarled, “Seifer wouldn't be doing any of this. He's more than this…” As the defensive rush eased off, he threw one last piece of spite Edea’s way. “You're the one who's not worthy.”

Another veil of dangerous calm came over the sorceress. Squall braced himself for some act of retaliation, punishment or a tasteless tease, but none came. She simply stared at him, silent, and while there was hatred behind her strange pupils, she seemed to have lost her will to answer. She held his gaze, and that was all.

What the hell… Squall had only begun to imagine that sorcery might be her aim when he began to feel strange. An acidic sensation climbed the back of his neck until it seemed to fill his ears.

He lost his focus on the world, attention turning inward, trying to understand what was happening to him through the pain in his head and chest and the cold that was still gaining steady ground on his nerves. Something was prying at his mind, a feeling not unlike that of a Guardian Force attempting to junction, but the intent was far more intrusive.

He felt panic unlike any he could recall in recent memory, some instinct warning him that whatever he was feeling sought to reach something that went deeper than nerves. In spite of himself, he started to recoil, only to find he was held in place, every limb refusing his command. A putrid violet clouded the edges of his mind.

A strained noise escaped him and his eyes closed tightly. He fought the intrusion, twisted his energies to try and shake her loose, closing every avenue she attempted to use to get a grip on him. He had never imagined having to resist a junction, after so many years and effort spent learning to achieve and manipulate one. Now he lay trembling, struggling to keep this sorceress out, to breathe with a spear in his chest, to keep his wits through the lightheadedness and the hollow pain of a cowed Guardian Force. The frustrated heat of Edea’s power crawled and clawed at him, trying to find purchase anywhere it could.

He felt a trail of sparks down his spine. Get out, he raged. He opened his eyes, scowling balefully at nothing he could see. Get off of me!

He’d never before tried to perform a break without moving. Without any action to direct the attack or weapon to focus the power, the energy released in a rough, haphazard jolt, as if he’d grabbed a live wire. But it did its job: the sorceress released him with a startled yelp.

The haze cleared from Squall’s vision, quickly enough for him to see Edea fall back a step and press her palm to her temple as if it pained her. Trembling as much from anger as exertion, he held his breath steady and rallied his energy in case she made another attempt. He tried not to think just how dry his fortitude was running.

A tense silence followed. The prisoner’s life ticked away against the floor panels, and the sorceress was no closer to her objective. So they each stared hatefully, having wasted the other’s time.

Edea’s demeanor slowly drained of all emotion, breathing so quietly she seemed at last to have simply stopped. But her body moved with the subtle rapidity of a minute hand; once noticed, it seemed sudden, as if there had been no transition between her last position and the one she now held. She leaned slightly over her prisoner, head tilted to better meet his startled gaze, and lifted the edge of his shirt to press her palm to his stomach. She passed through skin and muscle, sinking deep into his gut as if his flesh had all the consistency of jelly.

Squall’s stoicism crumbled. A truncated cry tore from his throat.

The sorceress sneered at him as if he was an ugly insect pinned to the table by her hand while his muscles spasmed around it. “Such petulance,” she remarked casually.

When exhaustion forced his reflexive twisting to subside, Edea slowly removed her hand from Squall’s guts, leaving him miraculously intact and conscious. Her hand red with his blood, she held it up to the pale light of the room, a smile cutting her thin lips.

Shallow breath rasping in his chest, Squall registered her expression through a tortured haze, somehow more shocked by what he saw than the action that had preceded it. If he had to put a name to her emotion, he thought with a weak shudder, it would have been ecstasy.

She leaned over him again, and this time her face was so close he could see, in fact, he had not been mistaken: her pupils were contracted into the shape of spades. As if to quiet his agonized noises, she touched her finger to his lips, smearing them with his blood. “Very well,” she purred. “We shall test your theory. I will deny the ‘Knight’ his precious dreams. I will leave him to his own devices, and you may witness for yourself, how well he lives up to your noble expectations. As for you...”

Squall stared blankly at her, only distantly aware of her words. Darkness teased the edges of his vision, and he longed to succumb to it, but he fought for consciousness, grasping at a thought, a memory that was calling to him from those eyes, that face...

“Sleep well...Squall.”

For a narrowed instant, he saw a face, heard a voice he recognized. “Mat-tr-!”

The snake-eyed sorceress grabbed the spear of ice, twisted, and at her whispered word it shattered with Squall’s memories into hundreds of tiny pieces. It left behind a gaping hole, his expression just as hollow as his head fell back against the table. He never felt it hit.

The sorceress stood over Squall’s body, calculating how many seconds it would take him to die and waiting until they had nearly elapsed. With a disgusted, dismissive wave to start, she conducted her commandeered body to lay bloodied hands on him again, the intrusive touch conjuring a sterile, white magic that pulled him back together, closing his wound and even the leather and threading of his clothes. The magic left him untouched, unstained, and breathing softly in his sleep.

Done with this distasteful task, she turned and walked slowly for the exit beyond the valances, the edges of her long dress painting dark red streaks over bare footprints. She paused in front of the door; a strange thing had caught her eye.

On a shelf beside the door, curiously out-of-place in this unpleasantly drab enclosure, was an ornate, black lamp of vintage design. Had it been there?

She let her hand hover near it. There was a magic force about it. Her brow furrowed as she recalled where she had seen it before. She caressed it lightly along a curve; the lamp flared to life, a sickly, violet flame gleaming off the polished metal.

She stared into the fire and snarled. “Entertain yourself.”

With a sharp twist of her hand, the sorceress flung the lamp across the room. It clattered to the floor at the foot of Squall’s cold metal bed. The flame persisted for several seconds, then sputtered and went out.

Content that her difficult prisoner would find no peace in slumber, she bowed her pawn’s head and, with a grand, sweeping motion, pressed her palms together and drew them down. A red band of magic grew from the spiral sides of her headdress to shade her eyes, shaping itself into a tapered visor that resembled nothing so much as the hooked bill of a predatory bird. Long, black hair cascaded down her back. She straightened, breathing deep and letting her arms fall by her sides.

Her ritual complete, she opened the heavy door with a touch and stepped back into the world of countless unworthies and their mindless concerns. Two startled Galbadian soldiers snapped to attention as she strode into the narrow hallway. They were both doing a poor job of hiding their discomfort, shaken no doubt by the noises they had heard coming from the chamber they had been guarding.

Sniffing at their lack of constitution, the sorceress turned her head slightly towards each, giving neither the honor of looking upon even her obscured face. “Take him to a cell,” she instructed. “I will return for him later.” She dismissed them with a flick of her hand, and they were all too happy to comply.

Tired from so much puppetry, she transported herself away, into the veiled throne room of the Garden that was her castle in this time. She reclined in her bed of curtains, closing the eyes of her marionette and willing her into stasis. As she drifted into a rejuvenating trance, she reached out to the loyal mind of her so-called Knight, teasing him with the an impossible task, telling him it was the only way he could be redeemed of his failure.

“...Let the ‘hound’ gnaw on him for now.”

This done, the sorceress drifted to sleep, hours passing for her as minutes did for the world.
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