Kefka's Legacy

In Defense of Art

The mercenary fleet laid anchor off the north coast of the Magic Isle. The warriors donned their weapons and armor, and lowered rowboats into the water. In the early morning, beneath an endlessly gray sky, the boats eased towards the shore. Green palms leaned out over the beach and a lush, jungle-covered mountain rose up in the distance. The Magic Isle appeared the same as it had for centuries, untouched by Kefka’s cataclysm. How fortunate for it, Sabin thought jealously as he was rowed ashore.

The first boats lurched against the sand. Archers nocked their arrows while other soldiers drew machetes. Scouts rushed up the beach and into the shadows of trees as sailors pulled the boats out of the surf.

Cyan, Terra, and Sabin hopped into the water and waded onto the beach. A fresh-faced archer approached and spoke to Cyan: “Sir, we’ve begun to scout inland. So far no sign of monsters.”

“Very good. Conceal thine men and set up patrols.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cyan turned to a dangerous-looking pair of men. These two had raptor eyes and hands that constantly drifted like divining rods over the gruesome array of throwing knives and short swords strapped about their persons.

He addressed them. “Contact the survivors. Instruct them to prepare to depart.”

“Aye, sir,” they replied before disappearing into the trees.

“Last we heard, the survivors of Thamasa had taken to hiding in the caves. With luck, they will still be there,” Cyan explained.

Terra nodded absently, her eyes raking the landscape as if a sign of magic might appear at any moment.

Sabin said nothing, his thoughts with Figaro. The impending invasion of his homeland felt far more real than monster stories, the possibility of magic, or even the sand beneath his feet.

The day passed uneventfully. Cyan’s men busily unloaded supplies and set up tents. Terra paced and badgered Cyan urging him to let her take troops and explore. Sabin sat apart from them, drawing aimlessly in the sand and considering how unlike the sand of Figaro desert this sand was.

The sun swam lazily across the sky, breaking the cloud cover and bathing the land in heat. The men with the raptor eyes should have returned by noon. As the shadows lengthened Cyan organized his men to set out for the mountain caves where the survivors hopefully waited. Cyan left behind a skeleton crew for the ships and a small force to protect the beachhead. The main force of forty swordsmen, with sixteen scouts forming a perimeter around them, plunged into the jungle. The air was dark and steamy. The troop walked to the rhythmic sound of machetes chopping vegetation.

Sabin walked along with disinterest, his thoughts and concerns far away. Terra practically hovered with eagerness. She cared not for mercenaries or terrified villagers. This was the Magic Isle and it held the last hope that she would find the mystical force again in this world. Sabin foresaw disappointment for her, the alternative was inconceivable. She placed all her hope in the renewal of magic. What would become of her when that hope was crushed?

Cyan came up beside Sabin. “This wood… ‘tis too quiet, Sir Sabin. Eyes of creatures most foul observe us.”

“Hmm. When do you think the trap will be sprung?”

“Nearer to the mountain, when there is high ground to be had. Or, mayhaps the attackers will postpone the ambush until the villagers emerge into the open.”

“You grant these monsters a great deal of strategic thought. Why should they be anything but ancient beings angry at a world in which they no longer belong?” Sabin asked.

“Terra informs me that they possess a magical essence. We have no concept of that which stalks us. Best to prepare for the worst.”

“Terra wants to believe… Look out!”

A projectile thicker than Sabin’s arm flew through the space Cyan had only just occupied. It struck another warrior in the face garbling his cry of surprise with tooth-breaking punctuation. Then, much to Sabin’s amazement, the bolt drew back to seek another target. The implement was no mere ammunition, but the arm of some kind of tree beast.

The monstrosity was covered in bark and topped with branches and leaves. Its roots writhed and probed like a colony of snakes. Its trunk had a face; a furrowed brow of bark, wrinkled sockets for eyes, a slight protuberance of a nose, and a mouth like the nook of a woodpecker. On either side of the face swung branches terminating in clusters of finger-length thorns. The tree beast was not alone.

Shouts rose up from all around, along with the searing cry of swords scraping scabbards. The copse and the ambush they had walked into were one and the same.

Sabin’s troubles fled his mind. With anticipatory glee for the fight ahead he dodged a swing from the tree beast’s branches and leapt up into it. He clambered up the trunk snapping branches as he went. The tree wavered beneath him and groaned as if in a strong wind. Sabin hoped it was expressing pain.

Having penetrated the ring of scouts, the trees thrashed the surprised swordsmen who were vulnerable in their light armor. Sabin spied Six-limbed, double-headed lizards driving the outer ring of scouts inward towards the melee and the gravity of the situation struck him. If anything, Cyan had underestimated the strategic capabilities of these fiends.

Terra, at least, held her own. She wielded Ragnarok two-handed and struck a tree limb with all her strength. A shower of splinters flew up. The limb broke and bent, sinewy wood barely holding the remains in place.

Cyan rallied some mercenaries and stood at the edge of their circle, winning a duel with the grasping roots of another tree. Fleshy, tubular wood-tentacles spun wildly in the air as his sword sang.

Sabin crouched against a thick branch and aimed his body like an arrow at another tree beast, intending to raze it with his Fire Dance blitz technique. Before he could begin, the snapping of branches alerted him to a projectile closing fast on his backside. Instinctively he flung himself sideways. A bird with a long sharp beak flew past.

Sabin scrambled for purchase, filling his hands with useless bark and twigs. He rolled as he hit the ground and was about to leap up and rejoin battle, but his legs stuck firmly. He had but a moment to glance down before the root tentacles snaked around his neck, arms, and torso, completely ensnaring him.

A tentacle swam around his forehead like a bandana. It torqued his neck so that the face of the tree could inspect him. The bark furrowed in a frown. The world was suddenly muffled as root tentacles probed into Sabin’s ears. He clamped his teeth shut lest the tentacles slithering along his cheeks try to probe his mouth too. He heard a muted scream that was surely Terra.

The tentacles turned him to face her. Another tree had encircled her waist with its roots and wrenched Ragnarok from her grasp. She squirmed and grasped for the sword, but the tentacles quickly passed it out of reach. Tentacles slithered around her wrists, but before they could take hold she made magical gestures. Her lips formed magic words. She began to glow like an ember.

Sabin prayed that his eyes deceived him. He forgot his predicament. After all that he had endured he did not truly believe that any mere monster would be the end of him, but if magic had returned to the world then all his friends’ sacrifices had been undone. After the War of the Magi, magic had vanished for a thousand years. Sabin and his friends had risked their lives and banished the dreaded force for barely two.

Terra glowed brighter. The tree quivered with fear. It tried to hold her away from its trunk. Terra’s hair grew long and white. Her eyes elongated. She glanced at Sabin, manic excitement in her transforming face, then the tree holding her burst into flames with a flash of light.

Sabin blinked against the glare. Terra was gone. The tree beast fled, its bark blackened, its leaves and roots shriveled in upon themselves and flickering with rose-colored flames. Its brother held tight to Sabin. It hardly mattered. With magic revived, everything had changed.

Sabin was lifted by his captor. He did not resist. The tree turned him around to face Cyan. The reptiles had surrounded Cyan’s ring of survivors who held them off with swords and spears. Then the root around Sabin’s neck squeezed, choking him. Sabin’s eyes bulged and his skin quivered.

Terra! Help me, he thought. But she did not come.

Cyan understood the threat well enough.

“Stop!” He yelled, dropping his sword to the ground.

The grip around Sabin’s neck did not loosen. Colorful spots appeared before his eyes.

“Drop thine weapons,” Cyan ordered his men.

His men, being mercenaries, not loyal knights or soldiers trained to serve a commander, kept their guard up.

Sabin remained preternaturally calm in light of recent events. He relaxed in an attempt to open his throat, but the roots took up the slack. He focused inward, trying to slow his heart beat, preserve the remaining oxygen.

Cyan strode out of his protective ring of men. He walked around them, addressing each man. “I beg thou, surrender! We cannot win this fight.”

A tree shot forward with surprising speed and bound Cyan in its grasp, pulling him back away from the mercenaries. With that, Sabin’s tree relaxed. He gasped, his sight returning in time to see the last remaining mercenaries fallen upon, quite literally, by a tree, and the rest skewered and ripped apart by the lizards.

A desperate longing for home came over Sabin. Surely in Figaro’s libraries he could find an explanation for the return of magic, and if he could not, then he would search the ancient vault between Kohlingen and Figaro desert for some ancient talisman to bind what once more was unfettered. If all else failed, he would fight side by side with his brother to protect their kingdom. Protect it against what, he wondered? Against Terra?

The tree held Sabin firmly, keeping a root over his mouth to keep him from speaking. It carried him smoothly over the forest floor easily snapping vines and shrubs that cluttered its path. Based on the shadows, Sabin discerned that they were being taken south. He was unsurprised when the tree changed course to head east and then north. They were going to Thamasa, and, he hoped, to an explanation.

A four-winged bird, brightly colored and reminiscent of a butterfly, leaned out from one of the branches of Sabin’s captor in order to inspect him. The bird found its balance and tucked its wings fan-like. It had a long sharp beak, like a spear. He noted vaguely that this beast, or another like it, had been the thing that had driven him from his perch during the battle.

The pair of tree beasts emerged into a clearing at the edge of Thamasa. The town sported no outer wall and the buildings were as quaint as ever, but their pastel colors had dulled and vines crisscrossed their sides. The tree beasts proceeded into town. They approached a gathering of creatures in the village square. Sabin’s mind struggled to take in the myriad oddities.

One creature, consisting primarily of a man-length tube, snuffled in the dirt with its trunk while its two large, clawed limbs tucked in at its side and its tail twitched lazily. An eight legged creature with muscular, bluish-purple legs terminating in wheels rather than feet, looked up at Sabin with a tilt of its wide flat head, on each side of which perched a short tube and wet black eye. Other monsters small and large littered the tan dirt and scattered grass that covered the village square. Tall birds with translucent feathers, and asymmetric furred critters stood, perched, and reclined amidst hovering balloon monsters and lean, jet-black predators.

In the middle of the lounging monsters stood an easel with canvas. Behind the easel Sabin saw the legs of a girl, her arm clutching a palette splattered with paint. Relm poked her head out from behind the easel. She wore a new beret filled to bursting with red-blonde curls, a strand of which had sneaked loose and twirled down her forehead.

She smiled and Sabin immediately perceived the stubborn girl, overly pleased with herself, who he had known. Her face had lost the baby fat of just a few years before. Her brown eyes remained childishly large.

Relm set down her palette on the slightly concave head of one of her creatures. It took her brush in its pincers. One of the semi-translucent birds bent down to pluck off her paint-spattered apron with its beak. Underneath, she wore a green tunic woven with ribbons of ocean blue. It was tight and low cut to show off what puberty had recently given her.

Without a word, the beast with eight wheeled feet lifted up and undulated towards her. She slid onto its back, which curved to form a reclining chair. She closed her eyes and took an exaggerated yawn before making a shushing noise like wind across leaves. This signaled the tree beasts to release the prisoners. Sabin flopped to the ground on all fours. Cyan was similarly deposited.

Relm finally deigned to acknowledge their presence. “How do you like my menagerie?”

“How is this possible?” Sabin breathed.

“Magic!” Relm replied with a delighted grin.

Cyan spoke as if to a lost child who had anchored itself to his leg, “Where is thine guardian?”

Relm sat up sharply, scowling. Her recliner monster adjusted into an upright position. “Gramps is dead. I assume he’s the one you meant. The answer is the same if you meant Interceptor. Shadow’s dead too for all I care, but I didn’t kill any of them if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

“I’m sorry.”


“I’m sorry,” Cyan repeated.

“Don’t be. I’ve got my art.” Relm stated with a practiced air that made the words all the less convincing.

In a flash of insight Sabin understood what had been familiar about the monster in Mobliz. It was Relm’s creation and she had given it elements of all her ‘guardians’. Its horns resembled Strago’s wild hair. Its bandana resembled Shadow’s mask. All of these things had been twisted into grotesqueries, but she had portrayed Interceptor’s loyalty purely. The dog had never failed her.

Sabin stood slowly. The tree beast tensed. Its roots drew closer lest Sabin make a sudden move. “Your art travels far and wide,” he said cautiously, realizing that Relm might not yet know that Terra had traveled with them.

Relm smiled.

“Ah! You’ve been to Mobliz. Isn’t my creation amazing! The children there love him so.” Relm sat up, suddenly filled with energy. She slid forward over the flat head of the recliner monster, onto the ground. “Mobliz is just the beginning, a model for all the towns of the world. Soon children will rule everywhere. We will have no adults to steal our future and fill us with stodgy old ideas, just children, pure and innocent, protected by my art.”

“When the children grow into adults, like thou, what then?” Cyan asked.

“I’m no a-dult,” Relm insisted with a fluttering laugh.

“Oh no,” Sabin muttered sarcastically, “you’re as pure and innocent as the day you snuck off against your grandfather’s wishes to join our war.”

Cyan, in a much more sympathetic tone, entreated Relm, “Child, thou art wiser than most, but with no memory of the past, other children will be naught but orphans doomed to duplicate the failures of their parents.”

Relm cocked her head condescendingly at the knight. “Just what an old person would say. We will not repeat the failures of our parents. That’s just the point. We are starting fresh. The adult world has brought us only pain. We did not deserve to be born into a ruined world. You adults are the immature ones, taking our future from us and leaving nothing behind. I tire of this argument. My art beckons.” She scooped up her palette, nipped her brush from the up raised head of her obeisant monster. She began to attack her canvas with vigor. In moments she chimed, “finished” and an iron cage filigreed with grasping, clawed hands materialized around Sabin and Cyan.

Relm ordered her easel monster to turn around. It waddled into a new position on its three legs, revealing a still life of an iron cage with two occupants. Relm set down her implements and approached the cage.

“I’ll tell you how this is possible,” she said softly. “I kept a piece of the statues. Did you think I would follow orders blindly while we stripped magic from the world? Did you honestly think I would allow you adults to steal my gift forever?” She shook her head and Sabin found himself unconsciously aping the motion, trying to deny her words.

“No,” he said. “That’s impossible. We destroyed them all: Doom, Poltergeist, and Goddess.”

Relm smiled a proud, awful smile. “Think back to the battle with Goddess.”

The scene came readily to mind. Sabin’s nostrils had burned with the noxious ozone filling the air as spells discharged all around. Though Goddess had already been weakened by Kefka, she yet retained a vital magical essence, and defended herself with all her ability. Sabin had looked on the statue and seen as much menace in the stone image of the woman standing atop a horned beast, her modesty barely protected by a fluttering cloth, as he had seen in Doom’s asymmetric eyes, limbs, and bony protrusions, or poltergeist’s stacked heads and sets of arms clutching a war axe adorned with deformed wailing skulls. Now as Sabin thought back, he imagined how she had looked through Relm’s eyes: beautiful, a work of art. Perhaps she had even seen a nurturing face, the image of a mother she had never known.

Sabin and his friends, Relm included, had battered the statue with magic and weathered its counterattacks until cracks crawled through the stone. Finally, the head upon which the stone woman stood had crumbled like so much stale bread. The statue had toppled to the floor and split apart. Taking no chances Sabin and the others had spread out to collect every remaining bit and reduce them all to dust. Relm had run off into a dark corner and returned with the bust in hand. She had flung it to the floor sending tiny pieces skittering off in every direction like cockroaches fleeing light.

“That wasn’t the real head that you destroyed,” Sabin said with a sudden realization.

Relm beamed. “No, it wasn’t. It was a replica I painted and manifested after hiding the original. Not even Locke suspected my theft.”

Cyan hadn’t moved from where the tree beast had dumped him. He looked at Relm through the cage with sympathy in his eyes. He asked, “I do not understand. Why did our magic not continue to flourish?”

“Goddess is weak, obviously,” Relm explained as if to a particularly thick child, “She can’t sustain even the simplest spells, but my art is different. It serves as a physical anchor through which the magic can flow into existence, and my monsters, well… once manifested they take on a life of their own.”

“And you let them prey on the innocent folk of Thamasa, your so-called friends and neighbors,” Sabin accused.

Relm glared at him. “My monsters do not kill innocents. The people of Thamasa did not accept me when my magic alone flourished. They attacked my creatures and suffered the consequences. No more shall die so long as they stay cloistered in their hidey hole in the mountains. The violent soldiers that came with you were a different matter of course.”

Cyan spoke, “Relm, we art friends. Thine cages and monsters change that not at all.”

“Don’t play me,” Relm spat, “I’m not a child that can be bought with hugs and dandelions.” She turned and stalked away.

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