A Final Fantasy IX Fanfic
Disclaimer: FFIX and its characters, places, belong to Squaresoft/Square Enix.
Summary: A second attempt on originality and interaction between story and gameplay. Rewritten because I thought it still had potential. Reposted for a fresh start. Please bear with the author.
Stone after stone it withered before him, under the dull and rusty chisel reinforced by his unrelenting hand. Strike-gouge-pull. Then repeat. Never mind the weight on his back, nor the strain on his arm. It was a never-ending cycle, with fallible results. By now he was used to the sun on his back, and the dust on his face.
How long had it been since he arrived on the tiny, uninhabited island, carrying only his knowledge and a few tools to aid his quest, such as the chisel he was gripping. His arm worked like a machine, never faltering, while he searched for the answer. Finding it too strenuous to calculate days, months, and years, he pushed his pragmatic mind back into the deepest depths of his awareness and let brawn continue. More rocks piled around his feet. The work was not only strenuous, but also monotonous. Yet he survived. He had his teachers to thank for it. To him the work was similar to the hours, even days, of meditation in the temple chambers; the only difference was his body did something else, while his mind was free and undisturbed.
What was he hoping to gain? Nothing, as of now. It would all be clear after the task was finished. And what was this self-imposed task? To get rid of the wall.
The wall that separated him from his dream.
Suddenly, his whole body was ablaze. The desire to fulfill this dream almost drove him mad. It was a miracle that the chisel did not break under the pressure of it. Blindly he struck the surface of the rock, his arm a blur. He was deaf to his own gasps, groans, and cries.
He saw the light at once. A small crack, and the light that seeped out almost rendered him sightless. He fainted on the spot, on the dusty earth.
So it did exist. Yet the legends weren't all that true. He had come this far with only a humble tool, his knowledge, and his determination.
One thing was sure, however. He had found Paradise.
When little Terra came into the world, the people immediately agreed that the baby girl was one of the luckiest children in the lands of Gaia. For little Terra was born a princess, and not just an ordinary princess, but the heir to the Alexandrian throne.
The first time her parents looked at her, they vowed to be the foundation of a well-bred girl, one raised to be a ruler and yet aware of life outside the castle.
A huge celebration marked the Princess Terra's birth. Everyone in Alexandria was invited by the young king and queen, from the nobles to the "rooftop dwellers". There were also people from outside the kingdom who came, friends that the king and queen made during their younger years.
Dame Marjorie silently watched as Queen Garnet the XVII carried her firstborn tenderly, while a number of rich matrons, most hailing from Treno, crowded around the new mother and child. With her fair skin, ebony hair, and cerulean eyes, Terra was an absolute darling.
"My, my, my, would you look at the little one! Marjorie, tell me. Where have you seen a baby as beautiful as her?" one of them cooed.
The elderly dame nodded. "Garnet. She looks like you."
The queen gave her a little smile, before lovingly gazing at the babe in her arms. "Thank you. Everyone says that, although I know it isn't true. Look, she has Zidane's eyes."
"Ah, is that so? But I can feel she is destined for great things, like her mother." Marjorie replied gently.
Most people would have been shocked to hear of the queen's participation in stopping the Assimilation Project five years ago. Dame Marjorie, however, was proud to have been one of the few people who knew the truth.
King Zidane stood near his wife, entertaining the people who approached to congratulate the couple. He paused in his thanksgiving and turned to the dame. "That's not fair. Do you know how hard it is to make a baby, and I only got the eyes?"
"Zidane!" Garnet's voice was scandalized.
He laughed, blue eyes shining, and wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders. "Don't worry, Dagger. We're in this together. Haven't we always been?"
Dame Marjorie studied the couple, and the corners of her mouth turned up.
Although many of the townspeople loved him, there was always the gossip that King Zidane "poisoned the queen's mind". Being from the streets, his position was only grudgingly accepted by the more conservative nobles. The scene he was setting in the party quite proved the rumor.
"May I start the celebration with an announcement," Zidane, looking regal in a blue silk doublet and cape, his blonde hair smoothed and brushed away from his jovial face. He stood in front of the nobles preparing for the feast, and waited for the usual chatter to dissipate.
"The heir to Alexandria will be known as Terra Alexandros Tribal."
Gasps rippled throughout the crowd. Zidane kept calm, the look on his face challenging, as if he was waiting for someone to question his declaration.
An old man, clad in a startling snowy white robe, stood up in anger, his chair clattering to the floor. Heads turned to him.
"Don't be a fool! If you name her that, she will never ascend the throne!" he protested.
More gasps. The young king met the old man's eyes. "And why would a name matter so much to the throne, Mister-"
"She must be named Garnet Til Alexandros the XVIII!" The old man cried, interrupting him. "Or my name isn't Celron the-"
Zidane crossed his arms. "As I really don't understand what's the fuss about the name, I'm certainly not interested in yours, Mister." The chuckles that emerged from the audience were enough to turn the soothsayer's face purple. Satisfied with the reaction, Zidane continued. "Are you saying that my daughter's inheritance depends on it?" He motioned to the crowd. "Then maybe everyone who wants their daughter to be heir should name her Garnet."
"How dare you challenge the Fates!" Celron screeched. "I am a seer of Gaza! I was given with the power at the Temple at Mt. Gulug!"
"Besides, it would be hard for things at home if two of us had the same name," Zidane casually remarked, reiterating the merry reaction.
"You!" Celron started again, but a firm hand clasped his shoulder. He turned to meet the stern gaze of Captain Adelbert Steiner.
Steiner glared at him. "By the power that Alexandria has bestowed upon me, I demand that respect be given to the king and queen…" He moved closer and the Celron visibly shook, "…and punishment be granted to those who refuse to offer it." He gestured to the two Pluto Knights beside him. "Throw him out."
When the clamor finally died down, Garnet stood up from her seat.
"She will be named Terra." The queen declared with a final note to it. The nobles, sensing it, returned to their feasting, quietly accepting it.
And the people shrugged. "But why Terra?"
The Alexandrian throne room was a splendid room, with red carpeting and a chandelier of gold and diamond lighting the place. Here, time was given to a few special people to enjoy the company of the royal family. Regent Cid Fabool and Lady Hilda of Lindblum were accompanied by a twelve-year-old Eiko Carol, who dashed across several feet of carpet to greet her friends.
"Zidane! Dagger!" Eiko yelled. Her cream lace frock got in her way, however, making the young girl stumble.
Zidane's smile was genuine as he caught her. "Eiko!" He put her back on her feet, ignoring the pink glow on her face. "Cid! Lady Hilda!"
"I would appreciate it, Your Majesty, if a little regard to my name was given?" The regent sighed, knowing that he would never get it from Zidane.
"You're too hard on me," Zidane teased. "How about this? I call you Regent, and you just call me Zidane."
"It's good," Cid agreed, a twinkle in his gray eyes.
Lady Hilda was admiring Garnet and Terra. "You named her after Zidane's planet, didn't you?"
The young king's appearance became serious. "It's always been a part of me, even after all these years. But I didn't force it. Dagger agreed with me."
Lady Hilda nodded, understanding him completely.
"She's so small…" Eiko commented as she peered at the sleeping girl.
Garnet rocked the baby back and forth. "Open your eyes, Terra." She looked at Eiko, then smiled. "Have a look at your Aunt Eiko."
"Aunt Eiko?" The summoner repeated, her eyes widening. Then they turned thoughtful. "Aunt Eiko. I like that."
Terra's parents kept their vow to raise a child who knew of the world. For her first birthday, and more birthdays after that, Zidane and Garnet took her to different parts of Gaia, determined not to let her be the canary her mother had fought to subdue, and succeeded to become free.
Freya Crescent was a dragon knight, but her feminine side revealed itself when she gazed at the Alexandrian princess. The Alexandrian royal family visited Burmecia for the princess's first birthday. "She's grown bigger, I can see that," Her tone was mild, but her eyes betrayed her, and Garnet pointed it out.
Sighing, Freya opened up to her. "I envy you, your Majesty."
"Freya, it's Dagger." Garnet reassured her friend. She frowned in thought. "About Fratley. Is there something…?"
A slight smile appeared on the female knight's face at the mention of her lover. "We have decided to finish our affairs before quietly settling down." She looked away. "Dragon knights have important duties in the Burmecian kingdom."
The royal castle of Burmecia was rebuilt in all its glory, and maybe even surpassing its former construction. Murals of the rat people's legends covered the ten-foot-high walls of the corridors. Sensing the slight pain at Freya's words, Garnet was apprehensive about the whole place. It didn't seem right that she always put duty first.
"I hope you don't mind then, Freya," Garnet said in a soft voice, "I made you one of Terra's godmothers."
"Really now," Freya pushed the hood back to look at the queen. "That wasn't necessary."
But she had a smile on her face.
"You can't be serious."
A distinguished-looking gentleman stared incredulously, after hearing the king's reason for refusing his offer. "I know my wife. She will make a very good nurse for the princess."
Zidane was sitting comfortably at his throne, a bit too comfortably for the average king. He was not staring at the window out of disrespect for the man, but because he was thinking. His tail swished, unintentionally distracting his companion.
"I've never been known as serious, Gemini. But I know Lady Rosette, and I have no qualms about her abilities to raise my daughter." Zidane cleared his throat. "You know, if the General didn't have too many of her so-called duties to Alexandria, she would be my first choice. But since Beatrix's not available, and I've told you already, Dagger and I have chosen the next-best nurse." He sighed in exasperation.
"Not…that." Lord Gemini shuddered, then quickly straightened himself to Zidane's raised eyebrow. "I mean…I thought you were raising a princess."
"An well-rounded princess, remember that." Zidane corrected stiffly.
"Fine, fine, your Majesty." The noble shrugged. "At least Quina Quen should be able to make a gourmet cook out of your daughter."
No other child in Gaia was as fascinated with chocobos as the Princess Terra of Alexandria. She instantly fell in love with the large yellow birds with beaks upon first sighting them, when she was of five years already and her beloved mother and father took her to a far-off place on her birthday.
There, she had to meet relatives first. Aunt Mikoto was there to greet them, giving her a warm hug and a quiet "Happy Birthday". Terra thought that Aunt Mikoto looked a lot like her father, except that she had green eyes. They even had the same furry tail, that Terra knew was off-limits to play with.
"I didn't know - you didn't say you were coming." Mikoto was saying to Zidane, her father. Her face was placid, yet her eyes shone with unspoken happiness.
"It was a surprise," he replied. "I've been planning to go to Magdalene Village as soon as Terra could take intercontinental trips. So far, we've been to Burmecia, Lindblum, Dali, and Treno."
Garnet, her mother, kept such a strong grasp on Terra's arm, to keep her from running away. Terra fidgeted, trying to wriggle out of it. There were so many things for her to see, so many things for her to touch!
One of those pointy-hats she had been seeing since she arrived ruffled her hair. She squirmed, but didn't stop pulling on her mother's arm.
"Here you go, your Highness." He handed her a lollipop.
"Thank you, Mister!" She replied. The man's eyes glowed. The pointy-hats were funny creatures. She couldn't see their faces, only their eyes.
They started walking down the path, her parents and Aunt Mikoto still talking. She began to lick the lollipop, wondering when would she be allowed to play.
And then, she saw it.
A group of children, a mixture of tawny-haired and pointy-hats, were laughing as they rode on the yellow thing. It bobbed its head, happy to have someone playing with it. The beak was a bit frightening, but Terra couldn't help feeling somehow drawn to it.
The thing opened its beak and squawked, "Kweh!"
She found herself out of her mother's grasp and running towards it.
"Terra, come back here!" Her mother called out. But she couldn't stop. A fence was there to block her way, though.
Grasping the edge, she tried to pull herself up.
"Your daughter seems determined to defy you," Mikoto quipped.
"Terra, no!" Garnet cried and tried to run after her daughter, but Zidane grabbed her arm.
"It's just Bobby Corwen, Dagger." He looked towards the field where Terra was now playing with the other children and the chocobo. "Besides, she needs other people to play with."
Garnet sighed. "I worry too much, don't I?"
Zidane laughed and held his wife close. "Well, that's what I love about you." He received a punch for his affections. "Ow."
Since that fateful day, Terra was to be known as a chocobo-phile, if there was such a word.
"I'm sorry dear, but we can't take Bobby Corwen with us. He belongs to them." Zidane explained carefully inside the royal airship.
"Then could you buy me one? Please please please, father?" She pleaded, leaning on the arm of her seat, almost reaching his lap.
"I'd buy you one, yes…"
Her eyes brightened, then the light flickered out when he finished, "…if only I knew where to look. Chocobos are really rare."
Terra flopped back at her seat. Garnet patted her head. "If ever Bobby Corwen gets a mate, we'll ask for a chocobo egg," she reassured her.
It was late at night by the time they arrived back at Alexandria Castle. Terra jumped off, but the cold air blasted in her face, making her shiver. She fought the cold and turned to her mother. "I'm going to see Doctor Tot, okay?"
"No, Terra." Garnet had a disapproving tone. "Let the doctor sleep now."
"But I want to ask him about chocobos!" She protested. Life was so unfair.
"Tomorrow, perhaps." Garnet faced back to the porters, telling them where to drop off their luggage. Terra wanted to sulk, but knew her mother didn't like that. She looked up to see a clear night sky and a full moon sympathizing with her.
"Have you ever cooked a chocobo?" Legs dangling, Terra sat on the edge of a kitchen counter immediately after breakfast.
Quina shook her head. "Have not done that. Wash the dishes, please." As head cook, she could order any one of the assistant cooks. The one she pointed to immediately dusted his hands on his apron and followed.
The Qu couldn't be described as normal, but to Terra, she was a rock in her life. The princess had known Quina since she was three years old. When she wasn't with her tutor Doctor Tot, she could be found spending time in the kitchen. Quina did not allow her, though, to ask food when it was not the time for meals.
"How do you make it taste so good, Quina?" she had asked her nurse one time. The Qu waggled her tongue before answering, which Terra found very amusing.
She would never forget the response, though: "Good food comes from the heart."
Terra watched the people in the kitchen hurry to do Quina's bidding. Her dark hair was cropped close to her chin. When it wasn't combed properly, it covered her blue, almond-shaped eyes. Quina told her once that her eyes made her look like a cat. It was funny, she added. Her father also looked like a cat.
"But how come my father has a tail?" She asked then.
Quina shrugged. "Zidane have cat-shaped eyes. Maybe part of it."
Of course, a girl couldn't have her life revolve around birds or the kitchen. The Alexandrian princess also enjoyed other things. In spring, she waited for the flowers to bloom at Brahne's Garden. Accompanied by Quina, she could roam around the Alexandrian town at her will and watch plays in the minitheatre. In summer, the lake was her favorite place to swim in. It was also a nice place to skate in winter. Best of all things was her father and mother spending time with her in these activities.
Unlike her mother though, one of Terra's passions was reading. Doctor Tot was absolutely grateful for this, for it made his teachings a lot easier. As expected, Terra's favorite book was an encyclopedia volume about chocobos. She had practically worn the book out, reading every leaf about a hundred times. Her mother allowed for the book to be taken out of the library and into Terra's bedroom.
"There are many kinds of chocobos, each with its own ability and color," the book stated. Pictures of each kind of chocobo known - yellow, aqua, red, blue, and the radiant gold - encompassed its pages.
"The yellow chocobo is the most abundant kind of chocobo there is. Even if a different kind of chocobo lays eggs, its offspring will always be a yellow chocobo. This chocobo, when trained, can run great distances over fields and plains."
"Bobby Corwen is yellow," she thought. "They haven't been training him!"
"Chocobos that can travel over shallow water are aqua in color. They can cross rivers and can proceed farther from beaches into reefs. Much patience is required to train a yellow chocobo to aqua, because chocobos are afraid of deep water."
"Red chocobos are a hardy kind, since these chocobos can journey over mountains. Their claws grip rocks and dig deep into soil, making it easy for them to climb obstacles. Chocobos that are trained for the mountains usually develop the red color because of the exposure to sunlight."
"The swimming chocobo is of a deep blue shade. They can travel over deep water, and when trained properly, great leagues. If you have trained a blue chocobo, consider yourself a patient person."
Terra turned to the next page, and her breath caught suddenly. On the double-spread, a picture of a flying gold chocobo greeted her. The brilliance of its feathers was utterly stunning.
"The rarest kind there is, the gold chocobo brings the ability to fly to its owner. The feathers of this bird have genuine gold sheen. Although slower than modern airships, riding gold chocobos does not bring any harm to the atmosphere. This chocobo can only take off and land in a forest."
She sighed aloud. "I wish I had a gold chocobo," She looked down at the page again. "Or even just any chocobo!"
Terra would only be getting her wish after a few years.
"Long ago, numerous chocobos could be found everywhere. Today, the gradual extinction of chocobos remains a mystery. The remaining ones stayed in three different places across Gaia: Chocobo's Forest, Chocobo's Lagoon, and Chocobo's Air Garden."
"Chocobo's Forest was the first to be discovered, overflowing with yellow chocobos. It can be found in King Ed Plains, between Lindblum and Qu's Marsh."
"Chocobo's Lagoon could only be reached then by those who had trained their chocobos. It is a small cove on one of the islands near Daguerreo, the library capital of Gaia. Today modern airships can reach the island that contains it, but only at the expense of the number of chocobos."
"Chocobo's Air Garden traverses the skies of Gaia. The two floating islands cast a great shadow in any of five places. Only an enthusiastic gold chocobo can get to it, or one who is fed Dead Pepper, a rare and believed to be extinct spice."
Quina had told Terra once that she went on adventures with her parents when they were young. The world was in peril and the eight of them saved it. Terra had heard that story millions of times before, when her father tucked her to bed, and she didn't believe it one bit. How could her (she had to admit) skinny father save the world?
What she didn't know was that her father had trained a chocobo.
"It went into different colors too," the head cook remarked.
Zidane was in the study, looking over some papers when Terra entered it quietly. She remembered to knock, but he didn't reply so she went straight in.
"Father? You were once an adventurer, weren't you?" She questioned him timidly.
He raised his eyebrows to answer her, but was still staring at the papers.
"Well," she went around the desk and stopped beside him, "have you ever been to a place called Chocobo's Forest?" she pressed on.
Zidane nodded absent-mindedly. "Yes, I went there once…"
His daughter suddenly made a cry of disbelief which made him jump. She pointed an accusing finger at him. "So you lied! You lied to me! You do know where to find a chocobo!"
"What? A chocobo?" He blinked, not aware of the situation.
"Quina told me! She said you trained a chocobo once! And it says in my book, there are only three places where chocobos live now! So you know-"
"You're wrong," The king shuffled the papers, only to pore over them again. "There's four."
Terra's mouth dropped open at this knowledge. "What? FATHER!" she screeched.
Zidane passed a hand over his face.
To be continued
I guess I surprised even myself by rewriting this piece. I actually liked my original characters, and I suddenly wanted to let them tell their story. So here it is. Freshly rewritten, with better grammar (haha, I could not believe some of those errors), and a better plot/storyline, I hope.