by Regann

She had once ruled over the most powerful country in the world and had made every living soul within its boundaries cower before her, strangled by fear at her mention. Yet, three months after she had commanded missiles to destroy her own Gardens, Sorceress Edea Kramer stood on a widow's walk which circled the old, dysfunctional lighthouse which stood near her time-ravaged orphanage, thinking. Her soul was wandering through events, one after another in no particular pattern, through the past and future.

She was no longer a powerful sorceress filled with the ancient powers of the Great Hyne; they had been passed onto that poor young woman, Rinoa, who would now have to bear the burden of power. Edea had cursed the power her entire life, citing it as the cause of all her misfortunes. And maybe they had. Still, as she stood there in the darkness of twilight, icy winds whipping madly at her long thick hair which was almost the same rich color as her purple-black dress, Edea ached from the loss, missing the light and clarity it brought to her mind.

Closing her dark eyes to erase the sight of the storm-tossed seas, she tried to harness the glimmer of the power which remained, needing to understand the ambiguous terror which seized her. The wind howled and the rain screamed down to the earth and she remained there on the cliff. Soul-flying, she'd once called it. Giving her mind free reign to do as it needed to understand, almost prayer and yet not quite meditation.

"Edea?" At the soft question, she spun around, her hair a wet and tangled curtain around her. There stood her quiet husband whose kind eyes were worried behind the lens of his glasses.

"Edea," Cid Kramer, former Headmaster of Balamb Garden, said more gently, with less fear in his shaky voice. "I was worried when you didn't come home. There's a storm coming. Please, come down from here."

"I can't," she whispered, barely audible. "I have to understand, to protect them. I can't allow her hurt my children again." Her white hands were clenched together and she wrung them unconsciously, her mind still wandering. "Things are clearer here. My children need me -- they must be protected."

"Protected from what?" Cid was accustomed to these states, having been married to a sorceress for more than a decade. He took her arm, not forcefully, waiting for her to return completely to him. The storm raged on, the squall from the sea moving inland to soak the brown earth of Centra.

Edea's eyes tried to see the Truth. "From her!" she answered in quiet desperation. "Her! She made me hurt them before, all of them. And Seifer…" Cid heard the tears in her voice and was no longer certain that the water stained face was due only to the rain. He brushed back a wet tendril, still trying to reach out to her. "He was just a little boy. And she made killed it, his soul."

"Do you mean Ultimecia?"

The former sorceress nodded tersely, her eyes glittering in the failing light. "Ultimecia," she whispered. "I have to stop her." In desperation, she tried to move closer into the storm, precariously close to the edge of the narrow walkway.

Cid held her tightly, no sounds except the storm which was winding down all around them. Slowly, as the wind stilled and the rain stopped, Edea returned to herself, once again the composed Matron. She glanced up at the clearing sky. "It seems to be over now," she commented, her voice no longer frantic, but calm as she eased away from him.

Cid nodded. "Yes, it is." His words had a double meaning. "Edea, they defeated Ultimecia. It is finished, and our children were victorious. She is gone."

Edea nodded. "I know," she sighed. "Which is what confuses me. She is gone. But why do I still sense her? Feel threatened by her?"

Her husband wasn't sure of what to say. He took her hand and led down the winding stairs, toward the broken house. "It's just a memory, Edea. Just like the storm. It was here and it wrecked havoc, but now it is gone. Just as she is."

The sorceress nodded, using her free hand to wipe away a stubborn rain drop which clung to the fair skin. She tried to silence the whispers of doubt, the whispers of worry which plagued her waking dreams and filmy visions. So lost was she in her thoughts that it took Edea a moment to recognize the faint rumbling sound which teased her ears from a distance. She looked at the gray-green sea, its waves still crashing in revolt from the storm, and there she noticed that the horizon was not studded with early stars as the rest of the night sky was. It was silvery with clouds, bright with lightning and loud with thunder. The storm was not over, she realized with sudden clarity. The peaceful night was to be disrupted again, the violent storm still to come.

Ultimecia was both past and future, she remembered. And not even the present felt safe anymore. And, the once-sorceress wondered if her children would ever be free of their fate, just as she wondered if she would ever be free from the fragments of memories -- hers, Ultimecia's, more ancient sorceresses -- which haunted her.

Or, like her children, was she doomed to suffer from those bonds, blindly guided by the unseen force of destiny?

Edea Kramer had been both successor and predecessor in the bizarre events which had led to Ultimecia's rise and downfall, accepting and releasing the mysterious powers of the Sorceress, bequeathing the darkness of the magical strength to another even as they had come to her.

Was she truly free from that darkness or was it like a poison that seeped so deeply into her being that she would never be clean of it?

"Edea? Come out of this foul weather," Cid insisted, his voice still gentle and soft when she paused on the stretch of band between the lighthouse and the old orphanage.

She nodded mutely, allowing herself to be led down the stony path to the orphanage, but the questions still nagged at her mind:

Was there enough rain to ever wash away the sins of the past or the future?

Somehow, Edea doubted so. The past was unchangeable and each word, glance and action left an undeniable mark on its creator, every stain, each wrong decision, any transgression.

The succession had meant nothing for Edea also doubted that she'd live, much less die, in peace ever again.



Author's Notes: I had this weird epiphany the other day in which I assigned the eight elements from FFVIII to each of main characters and it turned out that Edea ended up as poison. I really like this little vignette; I have very tentative plans to write a few others. Anyway, I hoped y'all liked it and I hoped y'all liked it enough to review. Pretty please?