Disclaimer: Ido not own a single bit of Final Fantasy VII or X. If I did I'd be bragging about it instead.
"Long ago, in the age of Mako and Machina, a great evil swept across the planet. A man of immense, evil power, The One-Winged Angel, brought forth death and destruction upon the peoples of the world. His tools, monstrous creatures created by the planet long before man known as WEAPONS, wrecked havoc and killed countless thousands. The life of the planet itself was threatened by the summoning of METEOR. The One-Winged Angel nearly succeeded in his global genocide, but was stopped at the last minute by a small group of Chosen Warriors, the first soldiers of Yevon. This group of special warriors all journeyed into the very core of the planet and fought the One-Winged Angel. In the end, one of their own gave her life to summon the Light of Yevon to destroy METEOR and they slew the evil One-Winged Angel.
The Sands of Time past and the first Chosen Warriors of Yevon slowly past into death and legend. All but one, who slept through time with only his nightmares for companions…"
The Book of Yevon: "The First Chosen Warriors"
He always dreams when he sleeps, always has nightmares. Sleep is never a peaceful, resting activity for him. It is atonement. Atonement for his sins.
He hears himself scream with rage, with pain, giving himself completely to the darkness in his soul.
He's fighting fighting fighting, against what he never knows. People? Things? Demons? Monsters? Fiends? Fate itself? All of that? None?
In his dream, he has no clothes, the better to see the marks drawn on skin that's been stripped of hair, the better to see the livid scars that follow the marks as he's opened from crown to crotch, shoulders to fingertips, hips to toes.
He sees himself in the reflector overhead, lying on a examination table, dissected like a frog, skin peeled back, organs laid bare, watching his heart beat, his lungs pulse. He hears voices, dissecting him as clinically as the scalpels, hears a voice, his voice, asking over and over what was happening, why are they doing this? Hears laughter, they aren't interested, they don't care, they think its funny. Hears threats of bloody vengeance give way, impossibly; to words he never imagined saying, begging, pleading for mercy.
He can't wake up. He has to watch. To atone.
He was conscious through whatever was being done to him. They don't use anesthetic, they want him to know, to experience every bloody moment.
They take lots of notes.
Someone holds up a mechanical arm, golden with evil looking claws for fingers. She slashes the claws into the wall, making an indelible mark on the armored plating too thick for him to cut all the way through.
He's in a tank, lights flashing red and green, the lights resolving into what's supposed to be a pair of eyes in a face too horrible to be remembered except as repeating images of pain and horror. The tank fills with liquid, covering him, drowning him, turning bright yellow as the face spits venom at him like a cobra, burning him inside and out.
Pinpoints of ink dot his body, targets for the series of 4 large, stainless steel needles that hang ominously overhead. Doctors in biohazard suits hover over him, aligning the needles for injection. One walks towards the table carrying a tray of 4 glowing samples: a small glowing purple, a twitching yellow, a green one filled with a disgusting ooze, and a very large black one. They load the samples into the needles, one sample each. He watches as the needles slowly lower down until their tips graze his skin.
The needles pierce his skin and drive into his bones and tissue. Liquid fire spreads through his veins. Searing, blinding pain blossoms with each breath, each heartbeat.
Rage now, beyond comprehension, beyond control.
He's fighting fighting fighting…
No more yellow anymore, but lots of red and black.
Not alone…someone, something else in his head.
No more floors beneath his feet, only earth, then rock, then nothing but air as he tumbles from a precipice…
Tumbling down into the abyss…
He wakes up amidst the ruins of yet another coffin. Reflexively, he raises his hands to rub his face and smooth his hair and crimson bandana. He pauses in mid-gesture and opens his eyes, then lowers his clawed hand. There's no fun to accidentally slice open your own face and scalp, even if the wounds heal in next to no time.
He looked around the dark tomb and hears distant thunder. He sits up, rising out of his coffin. The sides are basically splinters, the lining and padding shredded. He shifts his weight and sees the heavy coffin lid lying on the far side of the tomb, blasted away by his invisible powers.
He steps out of the coffin, cracking the kinks out of his neck. Another roll of thunder passes overhead and men's voices follow. His red eye's, the same color as the tattered, swirling cloak around his shoulders, narrow and he slips into the shadows, following the voices.
Deep inside the tomb, three men wander down the narrow corridors of the ancient tomb, a pair of torches lighting the way. Leading the group is a man with wild brown hair, bare-chested with a "J" shaped scar on his tanned chest. Trailing is a young man in dark red robes, a massive sword strapped to his back. Between them, the two Guardians, was the Summoner, dressed in long, flowing robes with sleeves that end well beyond his hands.
"This place gives me the creeps," muttered Jecht. The man from Zanarkand eye's roam over the various hieroglyphics etched into the walls. Images of monsters and dragons and men with wings and a massive rock falling from the sky stare back at him. The giant rock images scared Jecht the most. A voice in the back of his head told him these pictures weren't just telling a story…
"These tombs are ancient," said Braska. "They were the ancient burial grounds for the holy warriors of and Maesters of Yevon." The Summoner lifts his hand and passes it over the hieroglyphics. "They tell the story of the Calamity from the Skies."
"Calamity? You mean Sin?"
"No, these were written long before Sin," explained Braska. "These tombs used to be massive pyramids reaching hundreds of feet into the air. The outside was made of stone, while the underground burial chambers were garnished with riches and the deceased's possessions. Then Sin destroyed them all, leaving only the wretched landscape of Thunder Plains in its wake."
"What, you mean those plains outside weren't always like that?"
"No," a deep voice called from behind as Auron approaches his companions. "Long ago, the plains above us were called the Corel Mountains. The tombs were built using the stone from the mountains; the most important and richest were actually built into their own mountain." The warrior monk walked past the hieroglyphics and stares into the darkness of the passageway. "Then Sin leveled the entire mountain range overnight. Killed thousands of people at a resort called the Gold Saucer. The storms started soon after that, reducing what was left to dust."
"Damn," muttered Jecht. "So what happened to all the riches and worldly possessions that's supposed to stashed around here?"
"These tombs were picked clean by Al Bhed heathens ages ago," growled Auron.
"Auron, what did I tell you about badmouthing the Al Bhed," scowled Braska.
"Forgive me, Lord Braska. I was only answering another of the other-worlder's never-ending questions."
"Well excuse me for not having a clue as to what the hell's happened in the last thousand years!" yelled Jecht sarcastically at Auron. This was an old argument, one that Braska grew increasingly tired of.
"Blasphemer!" Auron shouted back.
"Enough," commanded Braska, his calm voice immediately obeyed by the two Guardians. "Be quiet. You may wake them."
"Wake who?" questioned Jecht. "We're in a tomb, Braska. Everyone's dead."
"This place was built before knowledge of the Farplane. The souls buried within these walls were not sent by a summoner," explained Braska. "Many, if not all, could have risen as fiends or as Unsent."
"To be Unsent is a fate worse than death," whispered Auron. His hand drifts unconsciously towards his sword. "They are neither live nor dead. They remember everything from their life, but never die. They roam the world, existing forever. It is the most horrible fate I know of."
"You have no idea."
A chilly, demonic voice cut through the air, sending shivers up the men's spines. In an instant, all three men drew their weapons. Auron took off his massive katana and held it across his shoulders, his dark eyes searching for the source of the voice. Jecht unsheathes a smaller sword: red with a large barb at the tip, almost like a fishhook. He dropped to a semi-crouch, ready to spring at whatever may approach. A large, fan-like wand appeared in Braska's hand. He maneuvered in-between his two guardians, ready to cast his supportive magic.
"Who are you? Why have you disturbed this place?"
"We come in peace, departed one," Braska called out into the darkness. "I am the Summoner Braska, on my pilgrimage for the Final Aeon."
"There are no such Aeons here. Leave at once."
"How dare you order Lord Braska around!" shouted Auron. "Come out, fiend, and I shall end your suffering!"
"Angels and demons have tried, boy," said the voice as a man stepped out of the shadows. The Summoner and Guardians each took a wary step back. The man was dressed in a black bodysuit with a red cloak over it. A matching headband was wrapped around wild black hair. He had a frightening metal claw for a left hand and arm. He raised his good hand and swept back his crimson cloak, reveling the massive pistol strapped to his side. "Leave."
Auron and Jecht leapt in front of Braska at the sight of the gun and attacked. The more seasoned warrior, Auron reached man in red first. His massive sword flashed in a fluid arc of steel towards the man in red's head. But the man in red was too fast. His golden claw batted the blade away, its razor sharp fingers leaving jagged grooves along the sword's edge. Before Auron can recover and attack again, the man in red was upon him. A vicious chop to the neck dropped the warrior-monk.
Jecht leapt at the man in red from behind. He swung his sword at the swirling cloak. The cloak itself seemed to spring to life as the man in red spun out of the way. The sword passed harmlessly away from the man in red and Jecht lost his balance and stumbled past. Catching himself before he fell, Jecht renewed his charge at the man in red.
There was a sudden roar and Jecht's sword shattered like glass. Jecht stopped dead his tracks, a three-barreled pistol trained on his forehead. Jecht lowered his broken sword handle and stared dumbly at the gun. It was huge, much larger than any handgun he had ever seen, even in his Zanarkand. The three barrels were still smoking when the man in red popped the chambers and ejected the empty cartridges. His clawed hand reloaded the gun in a blur of speed, faster than Jecht could believe.
'He's impossibly fast…' Jecht thought. 'I never even saw him draw!'
The man in red aimed his gun at Braska and uttered his final warning. "Get out."
Braska had never seen such force; he stared astonished at the man in red's combat prowess. Both his guardians were exceptional warriors. Auron had been the top of his class in hand-to-hand combat and Braska had seen him slay dozens of fiends with little trouble. Jecht, while lacking the training and discipline Auron had, proved to be a fast learner and a natural at wielding a sword. He had proven himself time and time again in their journey. And yet this stranger had knocked out and disarmed them both in mere seconds.
Braska stared at the man in red, taking in his vaguely familiar features. Something about this stranger echoed in his mind, something he had read back in Bevelle during his Summoner training.
"Red eyes, red cloak, claw, 3 barreled machina gun…" he muttered as he stared at the man in red. "Who are you?" he asked.
The man in red didn't waver at all; the large gun remained leveled at the space in-between Braska's eyes. His red eyes shifted back and forth, noting Auron staggering to his knee and Jecht, still holding his broken sword handle, glaring daggers at the man in red.
"My name Vincent Valentine."
A loud clang echoed through the corridors as Auron dropped his sword in shock. Likewise, Braska's jaw dropped in disbelief. Neither spoke or even breathed.
Jecht had no idea what was happening. "What? Guy's special or something cuz he's named after some sissy holiday?"
"Shut up you idiot!" yelled Auron. "Stay out of matters you have no knowledge of!"
"Hey, don't give me that other-worlder bullshit again!" shouted Jecht. "Somebody just tell me what the hell is going on!"
"Vincent Valentine was one of the first chosen warriors of Yevon," explained Braska. "He and several others, each with unique talents and traits, saved the planet from the Great Calamity in the Sky. It was written that this was one of their tombs."
Jecht didn't understand. "You mean that stuff written back on the walls?" he asked, pointing to the hieroglyphics. Braska nodded. "Well, when did all that happen?"
"1000 years before the birth of Sin."
"Whoa, whoa. You're telling me this guy is like 2000 years old?"
"In the Book of Yevon, it was written that one of the chosen warriors that stopped the Calamity in the Sky was taken and changed against his will. He was made immortal by 4 demons, cursed to sleep through time." Braska focuses his attention back on Vincent. The man in red slowly lowered his gun and stepped away from the Summoner.
"Am I correct?" asked Braska.
Vincent nodded. "Except for that Yevon stuff."
"How long have you slept, Vincent?"
"Not long enough," Vincent replied as he holstered his gun. He turned to walk away, back into the darkness, back to his nightmares, when Braska called out to him.
"Wait! I have a request of you. Join me on my pilgrimage, become a Guardian."
Vincent stopped to consider. "What is this pilgrimage for?"
"I am traveling across Spira, gathering the strength of Aeons until I am strong enough to reach Zanarkand and obtain the Final Aeon. With its strength I will defeat Sin and bring about the next Calm," said Braska proudly.
"What is an Aeon? What is Spira and Zanarkand?" asked the confused Vincent.
"The world has changed while you slept. Come with us and see the new world. New evils threaten the planet and your help would be greatly appreciated," offered Braska.
"The evils and great foes I fought in my last journey are long dead, along with my companions," Vincent shook his head. "I wish for neither again." He turned and headed back for the shadows.
"Sin is the foe of all!" shouted Auron at Vincent's back. "It kills indiscriminately, lays waste to all of Spira! It brings nothing but destruction and despair to our people!"
"Then let the people of this time deal with it as the mine dealt with our own," Vincent says coldly as he retreats into the familiar darkness.
"What will you do now?" asks Braska. Go back to sleep and your endless nightmares of past sins?"
Vincent stops. "How do you know of this?"
"You and your companions are legendary. Your tales are written in the Book of Yevon. They have been our bedtime stories for hundreds of years. Your nightmares are known to all."
"The nightmares, which so causally speak of, are my punishment for sins I have committed. And in hearing your tale, I have added yet another sin to repent for," Vincent said sadly and vanished into the darkness.
"Well if you will not be my guardian, perhaps there is another task you could perform for me. A payment, so to speak," called Braska into the darkness.
"Payment for what?" answered the darkness.
"For keeping your tomb secret and not telling the world that one of their heroes of legend and fairy tales sleeps beneath the Thunder Plains," said Braska confidently.
The cocking of a large gun echoes through the narrow corridor and a crimson blur whirls out of the darkness, flying at Braska. In the blink of an eye, Vincent was back in front of Braska, the barrels of his gun inches away from the Summoner's forehead.
"Such an act would be your last on earth." Vincent's red eyes burned and his voice grew hard, demonic.
Braska never blinked an eye, didn't shed a single bead of sweat. He looked at the Gunslinger of old without fear.
"I am not much longer of this world," he said, "your threats mean nothing to me. And killing me will achieve nothing other than adding another sin for you to suffer."
Vincent's eyes calmed and the demon left his voice. He lowered his gun and stepped back. "What would you have me do?"
"I have a daughter in Bevelle. Her name is Yuna. She is still quite young and will need someone to look after her after I am gone."
"I deal in lead, not babysitting," replied Vincent. "Her mother?"
"Dead," answered Braska without emotion.
"Why have you left your daughter alone? Do you not care for her?"
"No, I love her very much," said Braska, the emotion returning to his voice in a flood of worry and sadness. "That is why I am on this pilgrimage. So I can defeat Sin. So my daughter and her daughters can live in a world without such evil."
"Perhaps she would prefer a world with her father instead." Vincent's words cut Braska to the bone.
"Perhaps," he agreed, his voice full of sadness and heartbreak. This had been an issue he had wrestled with for some time before departing. Shoving the pain away, Braska stepped up to Vincent and looked the gunslinger in the eye.
"Will you look after her when I am gone?"
Vincent didn't speak; he just stared into Braska's eyes with his dreadful red eyes before turning and walking back towards the shadows of the tomb.
"Hey! Come back here!" shouted Jecht.
"You will answer Lord Braska!" demanded Auron. Vincent did not acknowledge the Guardians; he continued to walk into the shadows until he vanished.
Auron moved to follow and drag Vincent, hero of legend or not, back by his pointy toed boots back when Braska's strong hand clasped his shoulder, holing him back.
"Let him go, Auron," he said. "He is no longer our concern."
Braska, Auron, and Jecht quickly left the tomb and returned to the Thunder Plains. They traveled away, towards Lake Macalania.
Crouched atop a decimated lightning tower, Vincent watched the Summoner and his Guardians leave the Thunder Plains. Bolts of lightning crashed all around him, but Vincent didn't make any move to leave. He just watched Braska lead Auron and Jecht out of the Thunder Plains.
Vincent stared out over the plains, not recognizing any of the landscape. All the once familiar landmarks were gone, replaced by lightning scored rock and barren desert.
"Much has changed while I slept," the gunslinger said to himself. "Perhaps it is time I returned to the world of men."
Vincent stood and his cloak waved in the wind. A flash of lightning struck the tower and flooded the sky with bright light.
And when the light faded, Vincent was gone.
So begins my telling of Final Fantasy X, with some major differences to come. What will Vincent discover as he journey's throughout Spira? And will he honor Braska's request? More to come. Read and Review!
Next Chapter: "A Brave New World"