Story: Final Fantasy VI: What The Heart Remembers (chapter 1)

Authors: YuriFanGirl

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Chapter 1

Title: Chapter 1: Before The Fantasy

[Author's notes:

A story fifteen years in the making...

FF6 - 1


What The Heart Remembers

Chapter One


A product of genetic engineering and Magitek Infusion, a battle hardened warrior with a soul as pure as snow.  None have ever known the woman beneath the icy mask she wears...

Celes Chère



Before the fantasy...


    "What the hell do you mean, 'take care of her', I'm a general for god's sake!  Find a scullery maid to watch her if she can't care for herself!" I shouted at the man I respected less than any other and my predecessor in the Magitek Infusion process.  Kefka Palazzo simply threw his head back and laughed, a high pitched cackle that sent chills down my spine.  The Infusion process had been incomplete when it was tested on him, shattering his sanity and twisting him into the insane freak he was today – or so the stories said.  I, for one, was certain the man was rotten to the core from birth.

    “How sweet, you speak as though you actually have a say in the matter,” he said, stepping so close that I could smell his rotten breath.  “This is an order from the Emperor himself, witch!  You'll either obey or find yourself at the mercy of my more... invasive experiments...” he murmured, licking his lips and grinning.

    My stomach turned at both his words and the sight of bits and pieces of bloody meat in his teeth, remnants of whatever poor creature he'd devoured during his last meal.  One hand went to my sword, the other clenched around the icy sphere of a forming -Blizzard- spell.  The man clucked his tongue and shook his head, but nevertheless took a few steps back and snapped his fingers.  The room was suddenly filled with the sounds of clanking metal as two heavily armed guards entered, dragging between them a limp and bloodied form which they all but hurled onto the floor.

    “Why me?” I asked, averting my eyes from the crumpled form in order to keep my anger at bay.  I was certainly no friend to the heartless puppet, but I could not bear the sight of a brutalized woman and I couldn't risk losing control and attacking Kefka... no matter how warranted the idea was.

    “Why do you think, witch?  There's no better place for a freak of magic then next to someone whose body laps up energy like a behemoth near a blood pool.”  I gritted my teeth and willed the icy power to fade.  They had placed her in my custody several times before, mostly for one or two days at a time.  Nothing had ever come of those visits, she merely sat there with that blank, expressionless face of hers, moving only to use the bathroom before returning to her seat.  It was... unnerving to say the least.

    “For how long?”  I asked, simply wanting the man out of my presence as quickly as possible.  Kefka sneered.

    “Until you're needed elsewhere... and with myself heading up the new special project and 'golden boy' Leo leading the army I just don't see the Emperor needing you any time soon.  Consider it a leave of duty if you wish, I find you much more fitting in the role of nursemaid anyhow,” he said, throwing his head back for another cackle.  I bristled at the insult, barely holding onto my restraint.

    “Get out,” I breathed, the barely audible words holding enough weight to give even the madman pause.  His twisted mirth faded into a glare as he snapped his fingers once more, causing a third soldier to enter the room carrying a small pillow with a circlet resting on top of it.  I recognized it immediately for it normally sat mere inches above the empty eyes of the girl that lay bleeding on my floor.  I flicked my eyes to the girl's battered face to see that it was indeed the circlet she normally wore resting on the pillow.

    “If she happens to prove too much for you simply fit her with this Slave Crown to force her obedience.”

    “Slave Crown?”  The man grinned and licked his tongue across his teeth.

    “You didn't know?  Well, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised... it isn't necessary to keep the peons informed.”  I cast him an icy glare that only caused his grin to grow even wider, making his face appear stretched and even more horrifying than usual.  “Oh very well, since you may need to use it I may as well tell you.  The Slave Crown is a device I ingeniously created that allows me to control the will and desire of the wearer.  With normal human trash it would merely grant me a mindless slave but I have plenty enough of those!” he said, gesturing at the soldiers behind him.  All three of the men shifted uneasily where they stood.  “No, it's true usefulness lies in the freak of nature that lies at my feet!  Limitless magical power at my beck and call!  It's positively glorious!” he shouted, throwing his head back for another trademark cackle.

    “You mean it was... everything she's done has been your doing?  You've been controlling her...”  I was too stunned at the moment for even my anger to register properly.  The mere idea of being forced to act against your will, to do the bidding of some demented madman while you beat your fists against the wall of your own mind was too horrifying to imagine.

    “Yes, and I'd permanently affix it to her skull if the Emperor didn't fear it causing irreparable damage,” the man growled, glaring down at the quivering girl.  “The little freak started showing some... adverse side effects, even temporarily slipped from my control.  That's why she had to be punished,” he whispered, a deep seeded rage burning behind his eyes.  I would not wish the horrors he likely inflicted on her for disobeying his wishes on anyone in the world... save for Kefka himself.  “That's also why she's being left to you so that we need not worry about her burning Vector to the ground while her mind recovers.”  The man turned away with a flamboyant sweep of his cape.  “I'll return when I have need of her, make sure that she's in suitable condition when I do,” he called out over his shoulder.  I could feel my body tense as the aura of icy wind surrounded me, begging to be released onto the twisted clown freak and his cohorts.

    “Kefka...” I murmured at the departing figure.  He paused, but did not turn to face me.  “If you ever set foot in my quarters again, I will kill you,” I said with chilling malice in my quiet voice.  The soldiers at his side trembled of both cold and fear, but Kefka merely waved a hand in dismissal as he strode from the room.  The guards all too eagerly followed him out and closed the door behind them, leaving me alone with my new charge and many... many unanswered questions...

    'How dare that bastard strip someone of their own will?!  Unforgivable!' I raged within my mind.  'How can the Emperor allow such a man so much freedom... surely he must have known what Kefka was doing... no!  I can't believe that he would allow such horrors to be committed.  I'll simply have to inform him of Kefka's actions once he returns, surely such a betrayal will warrant an execution and the world will be rid of that monster once and for all!'  With plans for dealing with Kefka firmly in mind I was left to ponder the other part of this situation.  'What am I supposed to do with her?  Am I supposed to mentor her? Befriend her?  Take her shopping for pretty new dresses and spoil her rotten?'  The darker part of my mind suspected I was to continue the train of abuse but I shook the thoughts away before my mind settled on another possibility.  'Or... am I simply a battery to absorb her rampant power as Kefka said...'

    I allowed the depressing thoughts to drift away and reached out to test the bathwater I'd drawn and found it suitable.  With a heavy sigh I returned to the entranceway where she still lay in the place she had been thrown, now curled into a little ball.

    “I've drawn you a bath.  If you're to be staying with me you'll need to clean yourself up.”  Other than a mild shiver the girl gave no response.  I crouched down and nudged her shoulder, causing her to flinch and pull away the instant my fingertips brushed her skin.  Even at that brief contact my Runic powers were alight with the overflow of power that radiated from the woman.  The reaction from the first contact with another's magical energies was always heightened but I had never in my life felt anything like this.  My knees buckled as every nerve in my body ran rampant with the sudden influx of power, tightening and loosening in a mad dance of spasms that sent white hot rivulets of both pain and pleasure through the very core of my being.  My vision began to narrow, dimming as the overwhelming sensations ravaged my body and in that moment I feared I would not survive the absorption.  I don't know how long it continued but eventually the magical energy ran its course and allowed me to collapse to the floor in a heap.

    I found myself gazing into a pair of luminous green eyes, rimmed with tears and trembling with fear and remorse so deep that it pained my heart to witness it.  These weren't the same eyes I had seen on the hardened Magitek witch that had brutally slaughtered fifty men in a fiery torrent.  Those eyes had been a lie, a mask forced on her by the twisted desires of madman.  These weren't even the eyes of a soldier of any kind... but rather those of a frightened young girl that was a slave to powers she didn't fully understand.  They were the same eyes as my own when nobody was around to see them...

    “...fifty of the Empire's finest in an instant!  Oh you should have been there to hear the screams!”

    “Many of my troops were in that regiment!  Who authorized this pointless slaughter?!”

    “Pointless?  Silly girl, the Emperor asked me to test her abilities and so I did.  They should be proud to have died doing the Empire so great a service, isn't that how 'honor bound' twits like you and Leo justify the death you cause?”

    “You're twisted, Kefka!  You and your little freak puppet!”

    I awoke with a start, memories of the clown's maniacal grin still haunting the back of my mind.  I found myself in the same position I had fallen in, staring across a short distance into the girl's sad green eyes.  I had been horrified by the expressionless girl at Kefka's side as he boasted about what she had done... horrified and furious as many of the soldiers she had slaughtered were men I had fought side by side with and respected greatly.  A burning pool of anger settled in my stomach as I realized Kefka was entirely to blame for this girl's sins and the deaths of my comrades.  I hadn't thought it possible but I managed to despise the man even more than I already did.  I would make him pay for what he'd done if it was the last thing I ever did...

    “Are you okay?” I asked, finding my throat tingly in the aftermath of my Runic overload.  The girl winced and shut her eyes tight.  I sighed as I pushed myself up into a kneeling position and scooted closer to the frightened girl.  “I'm... sorry if I frightened you,” I said awkwardly.

    Growing up in male dominated Vector and working my way through the ranks of the military had hardened me in many ways.  I really didn't have much experience dealing with women outside of a few sparse conversations with maids and waitresses.  In truth I found other women to be remarkably intriguing due to my limited contact with them, an experience I likened to stepping out of an armory and into meadow.  For a moment my mind wandered to Cid's greenhouse where I would tend the roses, a reminder of my own heavily masked femininity, but I chased the thoughts away.  I had more important matters to concern myself with, the first of which was getting her cleaned up and treating her wounds.

    “I don't know if you remember me but my name is Celes Chère, I'm a General for the Empire.”  At the mention of my rank she shrank inwardly so I quickly corrected.  “But don't worry, I'm nothing like that bastard, Kefka!  I'll make him pay for mistreating you someday...” I murmured, realizing how hollow my words probably sounded to her.  Fortunately they seemed to reassure her somewhat as a little of the tension drained from her body and her eyes fluttered open to regard me curiously.  “I swear to you now, on my honor and my life, that I will never mistreat you...”  I paused.  In a rare moment of absent mindedness I realized I couldn't quite recall the girl's name.  She was so often referred to as 'witch', 'freak', or some other nickname that I'd only actually ever heard her real name once and that had been over a year ago.  All I could remember was that it started with a T so I took a wild guess.  “...Tina.”  Confusion filled her eyes at first but eventually they softened and her cracked and swollen lips parted to utter a single word...

 A mysterious young woman, born with the gift of magic, and enslaved by the Gestahlian Empire...

    “Terra,” she whispered.  My cheeks filled with color at my mistake.

    “Sorry...” I murmured sheepishly.  “Terra...”  The name had such an exotic ring to it that I found myself repeating it over and over in my head.  “As I promised, Terra, you're safe with me.”  I took a moment to give her injuries a closer look and while most of the damage was superficial some of the deeper cuts could become serious if not treated quickly.  “I'd like to clean and treat your wounds if you'll allow me?” I asked, offering my hand to her.  She regarded the hand nervously for a long moment before tentatively reaching out her own, only to pause just before placing it in mine and snatch it back to her chest.  “It's okay, I'm not going to...”  She shook her head.

    “Hurt you...” she whispered.  My eyes widened in surprise, she was actually worried about hurting me.  By all rights this girl should despise the Empire and everyone in it after how she'd been treated... but even in her current state she was concerned for my safety.  My resolve to care for her strengthened ten fold and I offered her a small smile.

     “I guess I should explain that,” I said, rubbing at the back of my neck awkwardly as I tried to put the words together.  “I have an ability called Runic that allows me to absorb  a person’s magical energy.  The first time I come into contact with someone's power it can be a little... difficult to manage.  You don't have to worry about it happening again,” I said, offering her the hand once more.  Tentatively, she reached out and placed her hand in mine.  It felt as though a torch had been lit inside the pit of my stomach the moment we touched.  Terra's power must be truly incredible for sustained contact to elicit such a response from my body.  “See?” I said with a little smile as I stood and pulled her as gently as possible to her feet.  The moment I let go of her hand she started to collapse forcing me to quickly catch her about the waist.  “Can you not stand?”  She lowered her eyes and shook her head.  “It's okay,” I said, sweeping my other arm behind her legs and lifting her easily.  She let out a pained whimper at the sudden action but thankfully didn't try to resist.

     'She's so light... she can't be more than eighty pounds...' I thought, a pain settling in my chest at the poor girl's suffering.

    “Like snow...” I heard her whisper.  I looked down to see her resting her cheek against the hair that had fallen over my shoulder.  I cradled her gently to me as I made my way to the bath, my desire to protect her building ever more with every passing moment...

    I'd had to bite my tongue to spare her my outrage as I helped her to remove her clothing... never in my life had I seen someone so battered.  She was emaciated to the extent that I was certain she hadn't eaten a proper meal in weeks and other than the slash wounds, some of which were quite deep and likely to become infected if left alone, nearly every part of her body was heavily bruised and I was certain at least three of her ribs were broken.  The only relief to be found was that her breasts and womanhood seemed to have been spared the torment the rest of her body had suffered... I was truly grateful the Emperor's order that she wasn't to be 'touched' had at least extended that far.  The cruelty I saw before me ignited the ember of hatred in my belly into a blazing inferno.  The next time I saw Kefka's twisted face I would put my sword through it without hesitation.

    “Ngh!” she whimpered, shaking me from my murderous thoughts to realize that in my anger I had pressed down too firmly with the washcloth.

     “Sorry!” I winced, pulling away the cloth to dab it with more cleansing oil.  “I wish there was an easier way to do this but I have to clean out the cuts before I  heal them.”  She gritted her teeth and nodded, sending teardrops rolling down her cheeks.  “Just a few more...” I said in hopes of comforting her as I lowered her leg back into the water and shifted around the tub so I was behind her.  “Lean forward please...” I murmured uneasily, knowing that the worst was yet to come for the poor girl.  I'd seen enough lash marks to know she had been laid into with a barbed whip, leaving the flesh of her back lined and dotted with gaping wounds.  Realizing how badly the oil would burn I retrieved a clean cloth and folded it over a few times and held it in front of her.  “This is going to hurt... you should bite down on this,” I whispered, not trusting my voice to carry the strength it would need to reassure her.

    She did as she was told and sank her teeth into it, her eyes fearful as they looked up into mine.  I bit my lip and offered her my free hand which she took in both of hers.  Not wanting to extend the pain any more than I had to I placed the cloth flat on her back and swiped it across all the wounds with two deft strokes.  Her reaction was immediate and heartbreaking.  Eyes wide, she screamed into the cloth like death itself was upon her and crushed my hand in a vice grip as her whole body spasmed with shock and pain.  Fearing that she would agitate the wounds I pressed my cheek against her neck and brought the hand she held up to her shoulder in a makeshift embrace.  The oil sizzled within the infected wounds, slowly purging it from her body in the form of a filmy white discharge.  I held her tightly as she screamed and screamed until all her breath was gone and she was left trembling in my arms.  With a nearby pitcher I gathered clean water and rinsed the tortured flesh before applying the cloth again, this time in a gentle massage to ease the pain.  Eventually the sobbing girl released her grip on my hands and allowed the cloth to fall from her mouth to take in a few ragged gasps of air.

    “No more...” she whimpered, burying her face in her hands.

    “It's almost over, I promise,” I said, barely managing to choke out the words as I finished cleaning and rinsing the last of her wounds.  I drained the water from the bathtub and gently eased her down onto her back.  “This might feel a little strange at first...”  I tried to smile down at her as I placed my hand flat on her belly, feeling the static tingle of her energies against my palm.  I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths to focus on the spell I needed, which took some time as I usually favored ice magic over all else.  After a minute or so of searching, the warm glow appeared in the pit of my stomach and began it's journey up into my arm and down into my hand.

    “-Cure-...” I whispered, sending the gathered magic  flowing into her body.  She jerked against my hand reflexively at the sudden surge of warmth but settled once the healing energies started to work on her injuries.  I opened my eyes to see the bruised and torn flesh on her abdomen slowly knit together and recover, leaving only a few slightly off color patches on Terra's pale skin that would likely fade in a few days.  The magic would do little to prevent her soreness and wouldn't have done anything at all against the infection, but it would mend the broken bones and the worst of her injuries and allow her to recover the rest of the way on her own.  It took three full minutes for the spell to run it's course, several times longer than any I'd ever cast before, and completely drained me of my magical reserves.

     'I would do it again a thousand times over,' I reasoned with myself as I looked over Terra's body.  What had once been a nightmare was now only an upsetting dream with the worst of the injuries healed.  She was still much too thin and would likely feel stiff and uncomfortable for a while but those things would be taken care of with time.  I may have been exhausted and emotionally rattled more than I could ever recall being... but I had never felt more content with myself as I did then.

    “Thank... you...” she murmured, eyelids slowly drooping closed as she drifted off to sleep.  I smiled down at her and reached out to brush a few strands of wet hair from her face, only to pause at the unfamiliar action.

     'Is this what a normal woman would do?'  I held the hand in front of my face to look at it curiously for a moment before returning my gaze to the slumbering girl.  'I wonder if you're the same as me?  Always wondering just how different you really are...'  I allowed the familiar thoughts and worries to run their course as I dried off the sleeping girl and wearily carried her to my bedroom to dress her in one of my nightgowns.  It was an embarrassing process and I reminded myself of the need to apologize for invading her privacy by touching her so.  When I was assured that she was as comfortable as I could make her I collapsed gratefully into my chair for some much needed rest.  Unfortunately not ten seconds had passed before there was an urgent knock on my door.  I looked at the clock to note the late hour and groaned as I rose to my feet, cautiously looking over the slumbering Terra before shuffling out of the room.  I vowed icy vengeance on the person if they were here on some fools errand.  Thankfully it had been several months since a soldier hopeful to worm his way into my bed had come calling; no other had tried after the last one was sent off with a frozen hand and a promise that his genitals would be next.

    “What the hell do you...”  My voice trailed off as I found nobody on the receiving end of the death glare I was casting.  Confused, I stepped out into the hall to look down the corridors, catching sight of a blurred figure making it's way around the corridor.  I could have sworn I had seen dark skin and a blond mohawk but discarded the idea as a trick of my tired mind.  Only one man I'd ever seen fit that description and he was the last person in the world that would be so rude as to flee after knocking on someone's door at this hour.  As I was about to return to my chambers I felt my foot brush against something on the floor and looked down to find myself staring at the last thing I had ever expected to find sitting in the palace hallways.  Staring up at me with beady black eyes was a squat little moogle plushie.  “What the...”


To be continued...

[End notes:

You have no idea how wonderful it feels to finally put out a piece of this story.  It's grown and changed and expanded so many times over in my mind over the last fifteen years and I truly believe this represents the perfect culmination of those ideas.

For the fans of the game I hope you can appreciate the methods I use to incorporate my  ideas into the storyline.  I'll be taking advantage of pretty much every gap of time or information that the game provides and only subtly altering a few details, mostly in that of downplaying Locke by making Celes and Terra more aware of the reason he says the things he does.  Also, bonus points for anybody that recognizes why I used the name Tina when Celes was confused ^_^

For those of you who have never experienced the masterpiece that this game represents I truly hope my story inspires you to do so.  It truly is one of the greatest stories ever told.

Thank you so much for reading, I can't wait to hear what you think!


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