Standard Issue Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII is the property of Squaresoft. All characters, locations, and concepts except for original creations belong to them.

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The Gunblade Saga: An In-depth novelization of Final Fantasy VIII

Book One: The Children of Fate

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Prologue: Branding

"I'll be here . . ."

"Why?"

"I'll be 'waiting' here."

"For what?"

"I'll be waiting . . . for you . . . so . . . if you come here . . . you'll find me.

"I promise."

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She was alone. He wasn't there, in the field, where they would meet. And somehow, she knew, deep in her heart, he wasn't coming.

They promised. They'd be there, together, but he wasn't.

Why?

Had he failed? Or had something happened to him? She didn't know, and the lack of knowledge tore her, left her weak with wondering.

She looked across the field, lost and alone. A cold, silent wind whipped across the meadow, tossing up flower petals. One floated in front of her, and she absently closed her hand over it.

No, he would never come. He couldn't, somehow . . . .

She released the petal, and her mouth opened in wonder, for it had changed, to a white feather, which the wind caught and blew into the sky. Her eyes followed it, her head turning, a hand coming up to brush her black hair out of her eyes so she could follow its movements into the darkening clouds . . . .

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Sparks flew as the two blades intersected, the slender, black-bladed Hyperion being turned aside by the parry of the heavier, silver blade of the Revolver. Their wielders backed off slightly, eyeing each other with deadly intensity.

A warm spring breeze weaved its way among the two combatants, ruffling one's long coat, and the other's long hair. They stood atop a hill, surrounded by gray rocks. In the east, the sun would be rising as it always did in the morning, but dark clouds and high mountains to the east blocked the bringer of day from shedding any more light than that of a bit of silver on the horizon. Overhead, these dark clouds occasionally boomed with thunder, punctuated by flashes of lightning. Periodic bursts of rain had occurred, although no precipitation had yet fallen during the duel. Down below, all around the site of the battle, thick forests marked with morning mists provided a backdrop for the duel. The two combatants were alone up here, in the early morning hours.

"Not bad," said Hyperion's wielder with a smirk. He was tall, over six feet, with short, slicked-back blonde hair, except for a small lock that hung stylishly down over his face. He possessed a regal bearing, like some ancient knight from ages hence, that belied his eighteen years. He was clad in a long white trenchcoat, immaculate and spotless, emblazoned with blood-red sword-crosses on the sleeves. Underneath his white coat he wore a sleeveless blue vest, also featuring a cross, this one sliver. His black pants matched his boots and gloves, and around his throat hung a silver necklace. The blonde warrior arced his head back slightly, his blue eyes regarding his foe with a combination of respect and determination. He raised his blade up again, pointing it at his foe and putting his right foot forward, his free left hand held out to the side, a modified fencing pose.

His foe stood ten feet away, and also regarded the blonde man with the same determined, respectful blue-eyed look. He was much shorter, a couple of inches above five and a half feet tall, with long, messy brown hair, hanging down around his face, a few strands in his eyes. He was only a year behind his opponent in age. He wore a short black leather jacket with thick, soft white fur around the collar, underneath which there was a plain white muscle shirt. He wore a trio of belts, one around his waist, the other two lower down, crossing diagonally over his groin. One held several small pouches, for items and equipment. The other seemed to be like a combination of a swordbelt and gunbelt, featuring a hybrid of a holster and a scabbard. The hybrid weapon holder was angled forward, as if its weapon was to be drawn like a sword, yet was shaped like a gun's holster, except it was longer, like a sword's sheath. Around the man's right leg was a trio of small bandoleers, each containing many small cylinders, like ammunition for a revolver. Like his foe, this man had black pants, these made out of leather like his jacket, and also, like his foe, his boots and gloves matched his pants. Around his neck was a chain, leading down to a crafted lion's head at the end.

The two opponents stood still for a few seconds, each watching the other, waiting for their foe to make the first move.

They broke as one, both advancing, blades clashing with the solid ring of metal on metal. Hyperion's wielder came across in a slash, to which the Revolver rose to block. Hyperion deftly rose over the blocking blade and knocked it down. Even as the Revolver's wielder began to bring his weapon back up, Hyperion weaved underneath the blade and slammed up. The Revolver, already with the momentum of rising up, went flying high out of its wielder's hands at the strike. The weapon spiraled up into the air, turning end over end. Its wielder quickly leaped back out of the blonde man's range, but his foe didn't advance. He simply stood there, Hyperion at his side, as he waited for the Revolver to drop back down.

"You need to learn to tighten your grip," he remarked to his foe with a superior smirk.

The brown-haired man took a step to the side, observing the Revolver and where it would land. The weapon reached the apex of its flight and came down, end over end. It drove down into the ground, standing straight, handle up. The chain on the end clinked slightly as it waved back and forth. A rumbling blast of thunder emerged from the clouds above as lightning flashed, illuminating the battlefield for an instant. Then, rain began falling upon the two warriors and their battleground.

The brown haired man glanced back up at his foe and then reached down for his weapon. His hands closed around the custom-made grip, and he pulled the unique hybrid weapon out of the ground.

The Revolver was a gunblade, a strange and exotic hybrid of gun and sword. The Revolver, as its name would suggest, had the handle of a six- shooter magnum. Where the barrel would be on a magnum, however, there was instead a long, broad blade, marked with an engraving of a crouching lion, with powerful wings sprouting from its back. The blade tapered until the last few inches, where the tip was shaped like the end of a scimitar, the curved edge excellent for slicing, yet straight enough for a powerful thrust. On the end of the handle of the Revolver was a short chain, at the end of which was a small sliver lion's head.

Drawing the Revolver and feeling the solid weight of the gunblade in his hands, its wielder turned to his foe. Hyperion still waited by his side, the smirk still on his face as he waited for the duel to resume. Hyperion, like the Revolver, was a gunblade, although this weapon had the handle of handgun as opposed to a magnum revolver. Hyperion was long and slender, like a fencing blade or saber, and was straight, with a shining, silver edge.

"Come on, let's get this over with," the blonde man said. The brown- haired man nodded, then raised the Revolver and charged. The blonde warrior grinned and his own weapon rose to point at his foe.

The two dueled ferociously, blades clanging and scraping in the spring air. Hyperion and Revolver met repeatedly, sparks rising and falling at each intersection. Hyperion's wielder backed away quickly, and came back in, pulling a dazzlingly fast spin. Hyperion came around fast and hard, aided by the momentum of the spin, but was met by the Revolver. The Revolver came in behind the slash, striking at Hyperion's blonde wielder, but the man spun around and back, away from the slash. Hyperion came out of the spin striking down on the Revolver, knocking it down and away. The Revolver's wielder came back in, his gunblade slicing down at the blonde man, who stepped forward and unexpectedly ducked under the blow, ending up behind the Revolver's brown-haired wielder. The brown-haired man spun around quickly to face his opponent, who stood calmly. He held Hyperion straight up at shoulder level, smirked again, and then raised his left hand, beckoning with his fingers.

Revolver's wielder accepted the offer to come on. He charged, only to see Hyperion come down from its perch by the blonde man's shoulder and thrust out. The brown-haired warrior ducked aside from the first thrust and sent the Revolver across to prevent a slash down into his skull, then blocked a follow-up thrust, and then a third thrust. The Revolver came overhead in a cleaving stroke, only to be met by Hyperion. The blonde warrior bent his knees slightly at the blow, absorbing the power behind that strike, but didn't fall. He smiled as he pushed up and forward, forcing his brown-haired opponent off.

"Good," the blonde warrior said. "This is fun." The smirk on his face and a dangerous glint in his eyes told the brown-haired warrior that despite the "fun" his foe was having, he did not at all consider it to be a game.

"Well, are you just going to stand there!" Hyperion's wielder shouted. "Come on!"

Revolver responded to the challenge with an overhead cleave, to which Hyperion blocked. The blonde-haired warrior disengaged his blade from the Revolver, then smacked the weapon across into the Revolver, forcing the other gunblade aside. The brown-haired warrior backed away as Hyperion came up in a rising slash, and then another rising strike, both aimed for his head.

The brown-haired warrior came right back in after dodging the slashes, his gunblade swinging in rapid succession. The first swing missed as the blonde fighter backed away, but the following slice didn't. Hyperion swung up vertically to block the slice, its wielder putting his free hand across the gunblade's flat side to help absorb the shock of the hit, and the subsequent trio of strikes that shuddered his weapon. A sixth slash came in, but he parried it aside, and followed up the parry with a slash that forced his foe back.

"Enough of this bullshit!" Hyperion's wielder hissed as his enemy backed away. "Time to end this."

Revolver's wielder came back in again, gunblade behind him and ready for another powerful slash.

"Dodge this!" Hyperion's wielder shouted as his hand shot forward, a ball of fire forming in his open palm. The brown-haired warrior barely had any time to respond before the magic spell went off, the incasdescent ball of flame erupting from his foe's hand. He brought the Revolver up in time to absorb the brunt of the magic attack, but was hurled back onto his rear by the shock of the blast.

Shit, Revolver's wielder thought. He had magic! He should have seen that coming . . . Even as this thought went through his mind, training kicked in, telling him to get up and on his feet before his opponent took advantage of the moment of weakness. The brown-haired warrior began to rise, only to see his foe towering above him, Hyperion raised high.

A curse sounded in his mind as he saw the look of insane glee in his foe's eyes.

Then, Hyperion slashed down across the warrior's face. Pain erupted along a line running from his forehead down to the left side of his nose. Blood streamed out of the wound and stained the ground. Droplets of the red liquid flowed into his left eye, blinding him there.

The warrior turned his attention back up to his blonde enemy, who stood still, smiling. Rage twisted its way onto the brown-haired warrior's features, and he rose suddenly. His fingers tightened around the gunblade's handle, and then he stood straight. The blade of his weapon dragged along the ground, kicking up sparks and shards of stone, and then the weapon rose up into his opponent's surprised and satisfyingly shocked face, slicing the man from the right side of his nose all the way up to the left side of his forehead. Blood spurted forth, and the brown-haired warrior stumbled back, looking at his stunned, bloodied opponent.

Then, his world began to go hazy, and darkness engulfed the Revolver's wielder as he fell back to the ground. His gunblade clattered down beside him, the reverberation of metal on stone being the last sound he heard before he blacked out.

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Well, what do you think? Not bad, huh? Took me a while, as I had to make sure I got EVERY slice and thrust from the intro cutscene in. Since I've only got the PC edition, and the PC the game is installed on is the same one I'm writing the story on, it took a while, as I had to watch the intro, type in the moves. Watch the intro, type in moves. Watch the intro . . .

You may notice a few slices and thrusts aren't actually in the intro, as well as some of the character's lines. I wanted to connect the different sequences in the battle, since at several points the video cuts to Rinoa and Edea, and then back to the battle at a different point.

If you're wondering why I didn't use any names, I wanted to recapture the feel of watching the cutscene for the very first time. Where you didn't know they were training, or anything about Garden, or even their names. You just knew two men were fighting, and it seemed to the death. That was the feeling I wanted to empart, just like the guys did at Squaresoft.

By the way, anyone catch the Matrix reference? I'm a HUGE Matrix fan, after all!