Final Fantasy VI: Children of the Magi
An In-Depth Novelization of Final Fantasy VI
By Kei

Book One: Orbis Pondera

Girl of Fire

Lieutenant Cyne Sutherstrom walked forward ever so hesitantly into the pool of blood.

Already, alarms were being set off throughout the Imperial Palace in Vector, a mindless, rattling racket sounding throughout the world, but, as far as the eighteen-year-old Cyne was concerned, that was a very, very far off sound, one that hardly occupied his attention as he merely acknowledged its presence in the very back of his mind.

Medics were probably being rushed from everywhere around the palace, soldiers as well, to contain the situation. Already, he could hear footsteps in the distance, as well as orders being hollered for various men to be assembled. In the metallic pyramid of the Imperial Palace, a pyramid which stretched for the skies in full industrial splendor, everything was to be performed at peak proficiency, perhaps as Vector's testament to high technology. The soldiers knew where they were to report to in emergencies such as this, and the response team would be here quickly, especially those who would conduct the relief efforts.

Cyne wasn't certain that the medics needed to come, though. The scorched, if not still-burning, bodies lying across the crimson pool seemed to have all life extinguished from them.

It was sunset at Vector, as the skies cast a fiery orange glow throughout the sky, not quite unlike the color of the flames dancing at the perimeter of the Imperial Palace, right outside the bleak, metallic, gray-and-brown palace walls. On the other side was the city of Vector itself, buildings built out of wood and stone, not impressive at all compared to the metallic splendor that was built before it. The buildings themselves reached heights of two stories, perhaps even three, but they were still dwarfed by the palace itself. Sharp angles of the factories within the Imperial Palace jutted into the sky, casting harsh shadows through the cityscape, painting a morbid picture of the largest capital of the world. Fires flickered, danced through the air, but Cyne slowly navigated through fire and blood, his boots silently moving across cobblestone on the street filled with at least a dozen bodies. He recognized some of the bodies, two Imperial soldiers here, a child there, some passer-by to the right, and yet another two children in front now...

All scorched. All burning. All dead.

Cautiously, as Cyne's long white hair danced with the flames, he continued forward into the center of the circle of bodies and fire. He knew that there was someone now, a soldier, who was situated directly next to them on top of the twenty-foot-high castle walls, watching this, coordinating the relief effort, shouting orders that Cyne wasn't paying attention to. Cyne didn't care; he didn't report under their command. Instead, he continued walking, walking into the center of this massacre. Because, before him, there sat a small, lithe figure in the center of the circle of fires, and, unlike the others, she wasn't scorched, burning, or dead.

Cyne quickly suppressed a sigh, which would've been inappropriate for the situation, and the spirits of the dead around him would not appreciate such a gesture of frustration. But it was the third time in four years.

His boots clicking quietly against the cobblestone ground, Cyne finally made his way next to this small figure, this small child who sat in the center of dead bodies and burning fires. With a great amount of courage mixed with fear, Cyne knelt down next to her. It was an understatement to say that Cyne was scared; truth to be told, Cyne was terrified. He could already envision his charred, black corpse, burning a bright orange along with every other body here.

But, somehow, he had a gut feeling that it wasn't going to happen to him. And Cyne's gut feelings had a habit of being usually right.

He could hear quiet sobs now, short, wet, gasps of breath from the figure who sat there, hunched together like a little ball, crying, exerting her sorrows through its common exhibition, tears. There she sat, barely four feet tall, dressed in white robes stained red with the blood that had flowed through the cracks of cobblestone and under her like thousands of little rivers and creeks, staining that white into a dark crimson. Her dirty blond hair, almost a pale green, flowed from her head, touching the ground, and its appearance, with the blood matted onto them, seemed a lot more ghastly than the bodies around it.

Cyne knelt there for a moment, allowing the crying girl to sense his presence, to let her know that he was there, before whispering ever so softly and gently into her ear.

"Terra," came out of Cyne's lips, "Terra Branford."

The girl's sobbing came to a decrescendo as it decreased in volume, her sobs becoming less frequent, before the six-year-old girl turned her head slowly to the right, and cast her wet, green eyes onto Cyne's own. She sniffed once, but, as far as Cyne was concerned, the danger was now defused.

"What happened?" Cyne asked kindly, almost as though he was asking a question about what cookies Terra liked best, "Terra? Answer me. What happened here?" He knew that he had to take this carefully, slowly. This is a young, six-year-old girl, Cyne reminded himself, a sensitive little girl who will light you ablaze if you make her cry.

Terra sniffed once. "They were bullying me," Terra whispered, her voice cracking at the edges and sounding ever so innocent, "They were making fun of me and throwing rocks at me..."

Cyne nodded in understanding, suppressing the second sigh that became stuck in his throat in the last one minute. Imperial edicts go out for a reason, Cyne thought to himself bitterly.

"Well," Cyne asked, "Are you alright?"

Terra seemed to mull that question over for a moment, uncertain as to how to answer. Finally, she looked herself over, looking at a body covered with blood that was not hers. Either she could tell whether the pool of blood had some of her own in it or not, or she didn't really have a clue. Regardless, she nodded.

Cyne smiled as the medics finally appeared from behind the walls of the Imperial Palace, closing down on them. Other relief workers hauled buckets of water, beginning to put out the flames. A sergeant was barking orders as he came down upon them. Gently, ever so gently, he placed his arms around Terra, one across her back, the other across her legs, and lifted her up gently, not minding the blood that had gotten onto his clean black uniform, or, at least, pretending not to mind. With Terra in his arms, Cyne walked slowly back towards the Imperial Palace, steering himself clear of the corpses on the ground, ignoring the salute that the sergeant in command gave him as he passed. He only needed to bring Terra back to the Palace.

"Terra," Cyne whispered with a frown and looked down when he sensed that Terra's breathing had eased, and she was calmer now, "You'll have to learn..." Cyne paused in mid-sentence, and a sigh finally come out from his mouth this time, but it was accompanied with a small, soft smile.

Terra was asleep.

Downing his mug of ale, Cyne silently put down the glass container as soon as he had finished the last remaining drops of his drink. One mug of ale was not nearly enough for the alcohol to go for his head, but Cyne still felt tired, nonetheless. As he sat at a table for two at the local bar, the Green Dragon, his tired eyes looked around the building; other figures were also seated on wooden chairs in front of wooden tables all around, their faces barely visible with the dim lighting in the room. There was a slight commotion from another side of the room; that would be some Imperial soldiers, obviously getting drunk and having a small party of their own.

Cyne didn't mind. It was none of his business.

Overhead fans spun and spun, almost providing a hypnotizing effect for Cyne as the cool air brushed through his long white hair, which reached for his waists and also covered a bit of his clear blue eyes, which, by now, were tired. He looked over across the bar; the bartender had disappeared somewhere, and now, only four other tables were occupied, three of them by civilians, one by that group of partying Imperial soldiers. Cyne knew better than to cause a ruckus at such an hour and had half a mind to walk over there to reprimand them.

This is not one of those nights, Cyne thought.

The paperwork and questioning that had caught up with him last night and this afternoon was not something he had been looking forward to when Terra decided to set a dozen of the city's population on fire. Naturally, the higher echelons wanted to know why the situation was out of control, and, when talking about the half-human, half-Esper girl, Cyne's superiors refused to cover for him. Of course, Cyne knew that he would not be prosecuted or face any charges if he handled it correctly; he had the Emperor to thank for that. But it was still a very tiring process that he never wanted to undergo again.

"Colonel Vickers never approved of your transfer to Military Intelligence," a voice said in a matter-of-fact voice as someone sat himself down into the seat opposite Cyne's. Cyne turned slowly and glanced over the familiar man who was now drinking his own mug of ale, smiled.

"And I'm sure the colonel approved of your promotion to squad leader in the Imperial Air Force," Cyne gave a tired grin. The newcomer smile lightly, bobbed his head just a bit in agreement. He put down his mug, rubbed his short blond hair for a moment, then proceeded to loosen the green uniform of his, indicating that he was an officer of the IAF. The young man, unlike Cyne, had a gruff, business-like look to him, although Cyne knew that it only went skin-deep; when off-duty, Wolfang Swift was rather relaxed and friendly, and had a cynical sense of humor that was sometimes a pleasure to listen to. Like Cyne, he was yet another young man who volunteered for the corps in order to fight for his Empire; like Cyne, Wolfang had not even reached his twenties yet.

"You'd be surprised," Wolfang replied with a grin, "At least Colonel Vickers doesn't see me doing a pen-pushing job behind a desk."

Cyne laughed, leaned back against his chair as it made a groan as Cyne settled his lean body against it. He placed his hands behind his head, relaxing. "Yes," Cyne grinned sarcastically, "You are now pushing buttons, seated behind the controls of a sky armor. Big difference."

Wolfang laughed at that, and took another drink of his ale. Cyne allowed him to drink, bringing an interval to what would've been a very long period of banter. Laughter exploded from the other side of the room again; the Imperial soldiers at the table were obviously getting rather drunk.

"What has it been, Wolfang?" Cyne asked, his eyebrows raised, "Two months, three? I can hardly keep track of the goddamned time anymore."

"Three," Wolfang nodded, placing his mug down, "Yeah, three sounds right. With you here in Vector and myself in the campaign in Chiron."

Cyne slowly nodded, noting that they had just stepped onto uncomfortable ground. "Chiron..." he whispered.

"We were lucky we had MagiTek," Wolfang said as he turned to the left slightly, his eyes distant as if exploring hallways of his memories that he did not necessarily want to revisit, "They had a lot coming, came with everything at us. In the end, we had no choice, just..." he formed his hand into the shape of a gun, "...bang, razed the city to the ground. You won't be finding Chiron on the world map anymore."

"No," Cyne agreed quietly, pressing his hands together and looking away as well, "We won't."

Wolfang nodded for a moment, quiet, allowing himsel