Kefka's Legacy

Mama’s Orphans

The sky parted before Terra. She shot upward, her wispy tendrils, at once like both hair and flame, snapping in the wind. She burst into the clouds and emerged on the other side to hold the head of Goddess aloft to the stars. They shone brightly, serene and permanent.

Has it only been two years since I last flew as an Esper, she asked?

Two years ago Terra had used the last of her fading powers to guide her friends safely from Kefka’s collapsing tower. Unbound as magic vanished, the tower had crumbled as if all its mortar had turned to water.

All the mortar except that directly beneath our feet, Terra realized, thinking back. She ran her thumb over Goddess’s cheek, now rough and pocked from weather, then corrected herself, all the mortar except that beneath Relm’s feet.

How stupid of me not to realize she had stolen a fragment of magic.

Terra herself had fallen from the sky, descending gradually over Mobliz, though she fought with every ounce of will to remain aloft. The pink fire had faded from her skin, and her claws and fangs had retracted. On her hands and knees in Mobliz’s mud, the last of her power left her. Magic had gone with the deep aching pain of a fresh bruise, but all throughout her body, penetrating deep into her heart, stomach, loins. The ache had battered her skull and throbbed inside her teeth, her eyes, her tongue.

Then it evaporated.

The pain had left her with an emptiness penetrating deeper than hunger, fatigue, or the most hopeless isolation.

And to think, if I’d only stayed closer to the airship, closer to Relm, my powers would’ve remained.

Her lips curled back from her fangs and she let out a cat-like growl of anger.

Revenge! Screamed a voice that was not her own. You can kill her. Nothing can stop you now! Kill, kill, kill… The madman cackled.

Terra thrashed in the cold thin air, but the nihilistic voice in her head only laughed harder.

Without Relm and her preservation of the statue, I’d have died as surely as any warrior cut in two on the battlefield, Terra told herself, and the others would have died in the collapsing tower. She saved our lives.

The words did nothing to diminish her anger or shut out Kefka’s voice. She snarled at herself, Better that we’d all died!

She tucked Goddess under her arm, ashamed of even the stone’s gaze. Above the clouds the stars looked more permanent than stone. They remembered a time long past when Espers and humans lived side by side in peace, but the humans had been envious of the Espers’ powers. Now there was just one Esper in all the world.

Not even one. A half, Terra thought bitterly. Two years was a long time to live as a half, but her two halves were finally whole.

More than whole, really. Don’t forget to count me, Kefka teased.

Terra screamed, then dashed across the cloud tops, attempting to leave her past behind.

She flew for days, chasing the sun to the horizon and back again. The Goddess sustained her. She imagined the wind scattering before her out of fear, but it was only her imagination, for the Zephyrs had dissolved years ago. The air was empty of magic.

A profound loneliness crept up on her, a loneliness made worse by Kefka’s niggling laughter always at the edge of her senses. She had a vision of herself as a diver in the ocean’s depths, alive only by the integrity of a bubble of air, but her bubble was made of magic. She pushed the vision of loneliness away. It was only a lingering human frailty. She rejected the confused little girl she had once been, a girl who had feared herself incapable of human emotion. That girl had been naïve and lacking self confidence. She had confused the attention of men like Locke and Edgar with love, but it had only been infatuation, or less, mere curiosity.

Now she knew better. She was above transient human emotions, even real love. Especially love. She had loved the orphans of Mobliz and they had loved her in return, until they stopped, a sudden change easy as changing clothes.

Terra was master of her own destiny now, master of all destinies.

And yet her flight took her to the one place where she might be accepted: Mobliz. Hope, for such a flimsy thing, moved her with uncanny strength. A cackling voice in her head told her that when she departed Mobliz, the town would be a graveyard and she would finally see clearly, perfectly dis-illusioned.

The last Esper on Earth ignored the voice and flew onward, flaming plumage snapping in the wind.

The peninsula to which Mobliz clung grew as Terra descended through thin clouds. The town seemed so fragile, a mote of dust perched on the head of a needle. It was night, but a full moon shown overhead, its reflection glistening in the murky water that filled the ruts left by Kefka’s Light of Judgment. From above, the method of his madness became clear. He had cut long, sweeping, artistic arcs with his beam, but in certain places the curving patterns terminated abruptly in dense clusters of frantic scratching that had utterly obliterated everything beneath them. Either something at the epicenter of these scratch marks had offended him or, more likely, Kefka’s erratic nature had spontaneously rejected the congruence that came before as wretched.

You know me so well, pet.

Terra angrily pushed the madman out of her mind and arrested her descent well above the tallest remaining buildings in Mobliz.

“Children!” Her Esper vocal cords squealed the word across the ruined town.

A form rose up from amidst the rubble. It had white horns and a black bandana wrapped around its head where its eyes ought to have been. A single eye peered out as it opened the hole where its mouth should have been.

The monster Sabin had spoken of; the one that fought him and drove him out of Mobliz. How could the fickle children reject me and love this abomination?

Terra called out once more. The monster slid quietly over the ground. It moved beneath her and looked up. It was almost tall enough to reach her with its claws.

Children’s voices murmured from one of the dilapidated structures. Terra, with her magically heightened senses, made out their words: “Look. Look up in the sky.”

The monster turned to the children. A deep voice rumbled from under its bandana, “Stay back.”

Terra landed swiftly next to the monster, easily within its reach. Let it strike, she thought. Let it reveal its cruelty.

Terra spoke to them, “Children, come out. Don’t you recognize me?” Her voice screeched with otherworldly intonations. She cursed it. Her sister form had once horrified her, filled her with self-loathing. Now she embraced it, but what would the children think? She was tempted to take human form. The temptation was swept away by a flood of anger at the thought. I will let no one have power over me.

Kefka’s voice was silent, but she pictured him stifling a laugh with both hands over his mouth.

Children’s faces appeared in broken windows. They looked out with surprise, hope, and confusion mixed on their faces.

“It’s Mama!”

Terra smiled and knew everything would be alright.

The monster took advantage of her distraction. It swung a clawed hand at her. Terra’s first instinct was to shield the statue with her body. Claws raked her ribs. Her shriek of pain scared rats into the shadows throughout the ruined town, but the Goddess was safe. Terra leapt into the sky, out of reach. Droplets of glowing blood falling to the ground like sparks from a fire.

“Now you see!” she yelled, “Look at how your guardian attacks Mama!” Terra began to cast a spell.

A little girl ran out into the open. She shouted, “Stop, stop, no more fighting,” but Terra had already conjured molten rock from the air. The liquid fire splashed on the skin of the monster and splattered to the ground around it. The cry of the little girl was lost beneath the monster’s roar, but Terra saw her flailing futilely to get away from the fire that blackened her skin. Terra uttered another spell as fast as she could.

Duane ran out to the little girl with a cloak to smother the flames, but the monster was stumbling back and forth, beating its own flesh. In its madness it lashed out and mindlessly struck Duane. He stumbled into the mud and was motionless.

Finally Terra’s spell manifested rain in a thick drenching downpour, but by then two bodies lay still. The monster was alive. Its breath rasped and its skin steamed, but it recovered its senses. It reached out to pick up the little girl. Its bandana had disintegrated. Black tears formed in the corners of the empty sockets where eyes ought to have been. The monster possessed the will of its creator. Relm wanted to protect the children in Mobliz.

From a nearby building Katarin ran out and flung herself over Duane’s body. The children looked on dumbfounded from behind the broken walls of the nearby buildings.

Terra surveyed the scene with mounting panic. The manic voice in her head cheered for fire. No, she thought, I can undo this.

“Look at what this clumsy beast has done.” Terra shouted. “Call it off. I can revive them both with my magic.”

“Do it and be gone,” Katarin hissed.

Anger swelled in Terra. No one spoke to her like this. The madman’s voice whispered, kill her.

“Wouldn’t you rather I stayed?” Terra snarled. “Mama has her old powers again. Isn’t that enough for the children to love me?”

The children were speechless, but Katarin, her eyes on Duane’s mud-splattered face, spoke for them. “They loved a caring woman once who they called Mama. She couldn’t protect them from Phunbaba, but they still loved her. You’re not Mama. She’s dead to us.”

Pain stabbed through Terra’s body. She had thought herself immune to words empty of magic, especially the words of these capricious people. Rebuttals rose in her throat like bile. You drove me from Mobliz. You ostracized me when my magic failed. But she would not protest and plead with these insects. She was an Esper, the last Esper, a noble race that humans nearly annihilated in their greed. Terra’s mother had used her last breath to beg Emperor Gestahl to protect her daughter and he’d ripped Terra from her arms, smothered her mother to death, then trained Terra for war. Now the humans would all reap what they had sown.

Kefka’s voice squealed with excitement in her head.

Terra said, “Grovel before the master of this world or I’ll let your lover die.”

Katarin looked up at her. Terra saw herself reflected in Katarin’s eyes; a burning pink star floating low above the Earth, still dripping glowing embers of blood from her wounds. Katarin’s face twisted and her head moved jerkily as if about to break from her neck.

“I hope you rot with Kefka for eternity, bitch.”

Kill her, suggested Kefka’s voice. It was too much.

Terra lifted Goddess aloft in preparation. What did Mobliz deserve? Poison? Break? Doom? Quake? Flare? Ultima?

Fire, Fire, Fire! Screamed the voice in her head.

Terra opened her mouth to cast the spells.

You will have peace from me after they are all dead, Kefka promised.

Katarin closed her eyes and lowered her head to Duane.

Did she not love him, Terra wondered? Would she not do anything for him? Did she not care about the children?

The children stared up at Mama with misery in their eyes. Kefka’s voice in her head chanted: kill, kill, kill.

This wasn’t what she’d sought in Mobliz. If they had welcomed her back she would’ve fallen to her knees and embraced them though this would’ve justified her cynicism that their love was fickle and opportunistic.

She’d thought herself omnipotent with her magic returned. That had been Kefka’s mistake. Aagh, why can’t I get his voice out of my head?

Terra had been the critical pawn for so long, manipulated by guilt and coercion, but no longer. She was master of her own destiny now, master even of Kefka though his words echoed in her skull.

Terra chose her spells carefully, chose them for herself, not for Katarin or Kefka or anyone else. Magic flowed through her from the Goddess. The spells sprang from her lips one after the other. Mobliz was silent as a grave when she flew away into the sky.

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