Author's Note: In a way, this is a songfic. The song was originally an old folk story poem that Loreena McKennitt eventually transformed into one of the most beautiful songs I've heard. I do not know the poem's author at the moment, but when I remember/find out, I will be sure to credit. And one last thing, the story doesn't follow the poem exactly, but I worked it out the best I could with what I had. (and of course, I don't own any of these characters. They are copyrighted by Squre-whatever they are now, as much as I hate to admit. But we all knew that, right?)
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding
The highwayman came riding up to the old inn door
Silence ensnared the usually busy streets of lower Midgar just as the clock rang midnight. A gust of summer wind blew through the streets, jostling loose garbage along the way. Seventh Heaven lay just as dark as the night, lit up by the few rays of moonlight that struck upon the streets. For once in the bustling streets of Midgar, all was quiet and peaceful.
The cold, midnight silence was shattered in an instant as a dull roar echoed through the streets. The dank, black streets were flooded with a break of distant golden light. A motorcycle, one that belonged to one Cloud Strife, the soon to be hero of the crumbling society that resided within Midgar's walls. It pulled next to the curb beside Seventh Heaven, and then the lights and sounds cut, leaving the Sector 7 slums in darkness once more.
Inside, a single light winked on in an upper window.
He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin
A coat of claret velvet and breeches of brown doe-skin
They fitted with never a wrinkle, his boots were up to the thigh
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle, his pistol butts a-twinkle
His rapier hilt a-twinkle under the jeweled sky
The faded beam of light illuminated Cloud, a shadowy figure that stood leaning against his bike. His usually glowing blue eyes seemed worn out in the faint light as they lowered to gaze at the wet sidewalk in front of the bar's door. His golden hair wavered slightly in the passing breeze as he stepped forward onto the cement sidewalk. Heavy combat boots thumped against the stone, and with a quick swish, he stopped. Blue eyes watched the window, and he knew exactly who was up to greet him.
He took a hesitant glance back towards his bike, the moonlight glinting off the sword he carried sheathed on his back, wondering if it was wise to pull her into such a mess...
And over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn yard
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred
He whistled a tune to the window and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord's daughter
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair
He approached the door, knocking raptly upon it as he had no key to enter. A few moments he waited, but he received no answer. He took a few steps back and whistled a soft but vibrant tune. A few more moments he waited, but this time his call was answered. The window opened, and a dark haired maiden peered from above, her hair in a tight braid as it hung over her shoulder. She cracked into a sweet smile as her own brown eyes locked with his two. A red ribbon was twirled through the braided locks of brown hair, as though to symbolize the one thing they shared. Their love.
Tifa, the bar's owner, smiled upon her midnight guest...eyes alight with hope.
"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light
Yet if they press me sharply and harry me through the day
Then look for me by the moonlight, watch for me by the moonlight
I'll come to thee by the moonlight though hell should bar the way"
She had left the window as quickly as she had come to it, and she ran down the stairs to open the front door. She held back nothing, and leapt into his arms the moment she had swung the metal entrance open.
"Cloud..." She mumbled into his chest, her arms wrapped safely around the taller man. He shushed her, his peaceful expression suddenly distorting into a look of anger...and worry.
"I have to go somewhere tonight. I just wanted to bid you goodbye...before I went out." He explained in a whisper, Tifa's eyes glinting in slight pain as he spoke..
He rose upright in the stirrups, he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair in the casement, his face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, oh, sweet waves in the moonlight
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight and galloped away to the west
"No you don't. You can stay here, and you don't have to do a damn thing. What about our promise! Cloud, you promised me!" He glanced down the road, trying to hide his hurt expression. She understood...she had to understand. She leaned up, placing a quick but passionate kiss on his lips.
"For...for good luck." She muttered, releasing him and taking a step back. A sad smile tugged at his lips as he returned to his bike, "I'll be back for you. No matter the cost, I will be back for you."
And he left her with a few last words, "Watch for me...by the moonlight."
He did not come at the dawning, he did not come at noon
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor
A redcoat troop came marching, marching, marching
King George's men came marching up to the old inn door
But he did not come when the sun rose at dawn, nor at noon as the sun burned down upon the city in a blistering heat. She waited behind the counter, watching and hoping for the next person to walk past the threshold of Seventh Heaven to be Cloud. She hoped that he would not break his promise, and that he would return to her.
Upon the rise of the moon, just as she placed her hand upon the knob of the door did someone knock. Her heart jumped, and she threw open the door expecting the beaming face of her hero...but none such person waited for her upon the other side. In the shadowed night, Tifa was able to distinguish the five figures standing in front of her...
The Turks of Shin-Ra, and their boss...President Rufus.
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed
Two of them knelt at the casement with muskets at their side
There was death at every window, hell at one dark window
For Bess could see through the casement the road that he would ride
They pushed past her without a word, one after the other, and they took seats at the bar. Reno waved a hand, and Tifa obliged his signal by serving them their drinks. A few silent minutes later, they were done, and they had another request...but it was one that Tifa did not wish to carry out. But she did anyways, without any choice upon her part.
They led her up the stairs and into a bedroom whose dusty window faced the roads in which Cloud would come. They had her stand straight, at attention like the Soldier's they trained at their Company, and tied her hands upon the musket bound to her side, its barrel beneath her breast.
And she waited within the milky moonlight for her love to return to the trouble she had lured him into.
They had tied her up to attention with many a sniggering jest
They had bound a musket beside her with the barrel beneath her breast
"Now keep good watch," and they kissed her, she heard the dead man say
"Look for me by the moonlight, watch for me by the moonlight
I'll come to thee by the moonlight though hell should bar the way"
"I'm sorry to have to do this...I was really hoping it wouldn't have to come to this." The blonde president explained with a hint of sadness in his voice. Tifa sneered, not believing a word she said. She hissed as Tseng pulled the rope tighter around her, almost as if warning her to not piss off the boss. Elena sat on the bed beside her, the only one whom seemingly seemed genuinely miserable over the situation.
"Oh, it won't be too bad, yo. Once we get Cloud...you will be free." Reno commented idly from next to her.
"So keep a good watch out for us..." He continued, placing a quick kiss on her cheek.
...within her mind resounded his voice, "Watch for me...by the moonlight."
She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good
She writhed her hands 'til her fingers were wet with sweat or blood
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
'Til now on the stroke of midnight, cold on the stroke of midnight
The tip of one finger touched it, the trigger at least was hers
She twisted her hands, her fingers clawing at the rope that kept her in place, trying to free herself so she could at least warn him before he came. She didn't care about herself...she just wanted to save him. That was all she wanted.
She pulled herself from her dark thoughts as she felt the quick brush of cold steel that was the trigger on the weapon. A morbid smile spread across her pale features as her finger slid into position, as she at least had the trigger as the clock rung midnight.
Tlot-tlot, had they heard it? The horse-hoofs rang clear
Tlot-tlot, in the distance, were they deaf they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill
The highwayman came riding, riding, riding
The red-coats looked to their priming, she stood up straight and still
Tifa perked up when she heard the far off sound, and her dulled brown eyes scanned the room to see if the others had heard the same. No one moved an inch, not even as the roar slowly became louder. She scanned them once more, a single thought crossing her mind, 'Do they not hear...?'
Unfortunatly they had, as loud noises pierced the night air. The five of them dared a glance at their bait, her head held high and her posture straight and tall. She showed no emotion, but instead...a look of pride and bravery...
She did as she was told, to watch for him by the moonlight...and now it was his turn to follow her warning...
Tlot, in the frosty silence, tlot, in the echoing night
Nearer he came and nearer, her face was like a light
Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath
Then her finger moved in the moonlight, her musket shattered the moonlight
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death
She waited till a deathly silence fell over the streets once more before she made her final move. She drew in a claming breath, fear flashing in her eyes for only a brief second...and then a shot broke the serene midnight.
The Turks flew to her side as the shot tore through her, leaving her blood to drip to the floor like a rainfall for the dead. A roar once again filled the quiet air, and they knew what she had chosen to do.
She had chosen to warn him...with her death.
He turned, he spurred to the west, he did not know she stood
Bowed with her head o'er the musket drenched with her own red blood
Not 'til the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter, the landlord's black-eyed daughter
Had watched for her love in the moonlight and died in the darkness there
The sun rose over Midgar once more, the dawning of a new day. Whispers filled the crowds, and they spread like fire across the city. Cloud leaned against the wooden doors of the Church he visited often...Aeris' church. His mind reeled over the happenings of the night before, the single shot that made him flee.
"Did you hear...? Yeah, Tifa. She died last night...she waited for the return of her love, and then killed herself to warn him not to come."
The quiet talking of the townspeople reached Cloud's ears, and in an instant...he was gone.
And back he spurred like a madman shrieking a curse to the sky
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon, wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down on the highway, down like a dog on the highway
And he lay in his blood on the highway with a bunch of lace at his throat
Cloud raced back to Seventh Heaven, praying and hoping that what he heard was not true, and that Tifa was alive and well. He hoped that what had happened to Aeris did not happen to the only one he loved.
But upon arrival at the bar did all the rumors ring true...as the Turks stood waiting at the door with weapons in hand. With a blinded rage did he attack them; sword wielded in front of him...but before he could reach his destination did another shot crack through the morning air.
The clouds above split with a thunderous howl, crystal rain falling onto the planet below, and lying in his own red blood upon the cement walkway was Cloud, killed by the same weapon that had murdered his own love...
Still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
A highwayman comes riding, riding, riding
A highwayman comes riding up to the old inn door
During the moonlit nights that followed after the fatal days, as the wind whipped through the deserted streets of Midgar and the moon shined brightly above...a shadowed figure rides up to the abandoned building once known as Seventh Heaven, and a tune is whistled to a single faded light in the upper window. Within the silvery moonlight do the phantom lovers dance, finally bound by nothing...and free to love without the risks of the lives they used to carry...