"He chose poorly."
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The taste of blood and plant soil filled Zidane's mouth. He lifted his face from the murky forest floor hoping the rest of the party was faring better than him. He was crushed to see Blank, Vivi, and Steiner had all collapsed on the ground like him. The Plant Brain was too powerful for any of them.
His grief faded when he felt a warm slender palm brushing his cheek. He looked up and saw Garnet kneeling over him with her arm outstretched and a welcoming smile on her face.
Zidane's spirits were raised the moment he saw her. Rescuing her from certain doom was the only reason the team had journeyed this far into the inhospitable Evil Forest. Even with his dazed and blurry vision, there was no mistaking it. Here she was right in front of him, completely peaceful and unharmed.
Only she was a little more naked than how he remembered the last time he saw her. Weeds wrapped around the contours of her bare legs in thriving rune-like patterns. Dark red flower petals tightly clung to her torso in what roughly passed as an all-organic leotard. The foliage draped loosely at her arms and dipped into a generous neckline that started all the way down at the bottom of her sternum. Her bare skin had the complexion of moist pale emerald plant flesh. Her hair was the same deep red hue as the flower petals closely conforming to her body. Her eyes were cheerful yellow starbursts shaped like chrysanthemums. She giggled innocently as she smiled down on Zidane, but there was something unsettling and devilish hidden in her voice.
Seated on the forest floor behind her was a massive tulip bulb with its petals fully open. Similar flowers were slowly descending from the trees surrounding the Plant Brain. As each one stretched downward on its stem and landed on the ground, it opened its petals and another one of the green Garnets waltzed out from its filaments. They were like giant magic carriages delivering their princesses to a haunted arboretum.
Struggling to focus his weakened vision, Zidane first saw one Garnet looming over him with the fuzzy implication of a second Garnet floating directly beside her. But as his vision became clearer, the number of Garnets only continued to multiply. First there were unmistakably two Garnets. Then there were four. Then there were eight. His sense of relief melted away and descended into sheer horror.
Zidane traced the stem of one of the tulips with his eyes and followed it upward. His worst fears were confirmed when he saw the real Garnet was still dangling twenty feet off the ground in the Plant Brain's trees. She was in a deep sleep with blankets of winding vines keeping her bound to the forest.
Thorns poked through every corner of her overalls like living syringes. The winding network of vines tangling around her were planting their seeds through her veins, joining her bloodstream directly to the Plant Brain's. Flower stems sprouted out of her once the seeds were infused with her life force and quickly grew into the giant blossoms reaching the forest floor. Every passing second, more and more twins of Garnet of were emerging from their flowers and shaking out their hair drenched in chlorophyll.
Each time another one of the monster Garnets spawned, they robbed the original human Garnet a fraction of her vitality. Their growth drained her body's nutrients like parasites, slowly turning her into that beef jerky Blank was talking about. Her skin dried and darkened. Her body grew gaunt to the point of starvation. The Plant Brain's seeds were gradually killing her by turning her vitality into their own.
Steiner was too enamored by one of the Garnet impersonators standing in front of him to notice the real one still trapped in the trees. While Zidane had managed to see through the monsters' seduction, the captain of the royal guard was falling for it wholeheartedly.
"Princess, I'm so happy you're safe! Your color seems a little off, but I'm sure the handmaidens will attend to that!" Steiner exclaimed with zeal. The doppelganger was brushing her leafy palm over his helmet as she giggled playfully.
"I knew you'd come for me, my brave knight," the botanical substitute for the real Garnet replied. Her gentle voice rolled like morning dew dripping off of rose petals. "I'll make it so you can always stay with me as your reward."
Steiner leaned closer on his knees like he was begging Garnet to kiss him. The Garnet creature's hand began to glow with bright sacred light as she silently conjured a spell. Steiner gladly closed his eyes as he let the princess's healing magicks surround him and take away all of his aches from battle.
Then, at the moment all of his life energy was in her gasp, she yanked it straight out of him. The Garnet creature's serene face became twisted and cruel as she curled her fingers. All of Steiner's health came swirling out of him in streams of red energy and were absorbed into Garnet's arm through a magic capillary effect. Steiner gasped for air and turned into a withered old man in the blink of an eye. Then the old man instantly decomposed into an ancient corpse, and the corpse decomposed into nothingness. His armor clattered to the ground in a heap of hollow metal filled with dust.
Vivi and Blank were surrounded by the lively giggling monsters with no strength length to defend themselves. Zidane's party was outnumbered 40-Garents-to-1 with no room to escape.
As the army of plant creatures only continued to multiply, the human Garnet trapped in the trees was practically reduced to a husk. The Plant Brain completely shrouded her in its leaves when she was no longer viable as a food source and all that remained of her was dead skin stretched over dry bones dressed in shredded orange overalls. The rate that the giant flowers blossomed drastically decreased as they exhausted the last of their furtive human soil, then ceased growing entirely.
The princess met a sad and rather grisly end in the Evil Forest, but the hundreds of beautiful identical flower daughters born from her meant there would never have to be succession crisis.
Zidane and the others dropped their heads in failure as they were surrounded by an encroaching sea of green and red. The meek band of mercenaries was the only thing containing the monsters in the forest. Once they were gone, Garnet's monstrous progeny would be free to spread their roots across the kingdom and claim the entire planet as their garden.
Author's note: Flower Garnet's appearance is meant to be a corrupted mockery of the real Garnet's Trance form. Garnet never got a chance to use it in this AU, but the spirit of her design will live on through her weird little monster clones.
Author's other note: This story also works as Getting Crazy with the Daisy Part 2