King of Hearts, Prince of Spades
shadum shadum shadum
The only sound to ring out that night was the slow, calculating footsteps against the church path, drawing closer and closer to the hall
Shadum Shadum Shadum
Under the blackest of skies, littered with apprehensive eyes so far away, even the wind was silent. The air was calm, empty of tension, without suspense. Only a collected, clearheaded melancholy softly blanketed the early hours, a melancholy that already knew the outcome destiny had chosen.
Shadum ShaDUM SHADUM
The footsteps crossed into the church and halted by the doorway on the cold, cracked flagstone floor. The cold, harsh light of the stars streamed softly through the doorway, outlining the walker, who was dressed in black. Male and young, the person was almost invisible in the decrepit blackness within, but clear was the outline of the large cumbersome blade upon his back. With the light flowing around him, the blonde figure appeared as some angel of vengeance.
SHADUM SHADUM SHADUM SHADUM
The regimental pews either side lay undisturbed, seemingly for centuries, as the figure's heavy steps passed them by, leaving a mere rippling of dust in his wake. The walls of the church still stood, but a gaping hole in a far up corner revealed the stars to the walker, and between the rafter and shadowed in the pool of light, a dark shape passed over this opening and disappeared into the abyss above. The man's gloved hand clenched and eyes behind reflective glasses squinted as his whole body braced.
Each hesitant step taken with care seemed to scream out into the dark air, echoing their intruding sound up into the wooden beams far above.
The figure reached the altar, and stood before it bathing in the cold light that fell from the hole above his head. The walls of the sacred building were uninterrupted by design-the church was bare. Even the ancient scenes immortalised in stained glass had long since been all but broken out by the ages and thieves. The church was empty save the pews and this, the altar. Up the steps, it stood, foreboding and authorative. The man fell to his knees before it and bowed his head in prayer.
"That is meaningless here." That voice. It was as dead as the dilapidated church hall, an echo of that man who had once been, the human who had once sounded so anguished, now sounded so empty. No!
"Its been too long Cloud, I'd hoped we could have met again at Edge. I guess you just didn't return in time" He wasn't the same man.
always seemed to be there just in time, almost every time, but when
they really need it, you seem to fail the ones you truly love.
"Why?" Cloud's voice came from his mouth as barely a whisper, and yet devoid of meaning and feeling. He sounded deader than the voice from the darkness itself.
"Why them? Why us? You bastard, you could have had anyone, you could have ended your pathetic existence but instead you decided to end ours? Your friends?" It all came out in a monotone. That was all Cloud could now manage.
"No. I have no friends. How could I have friends, are you out of your mind? I'm a monster, that's why you're here, to finish my evil plan, isn't it?"
"I can't let you go on now" the reply finally rang long and loud with empathy, with meaning, but only with regret. A lifetime of regret etched into seven words.
"You Cloud, you are a killer. That's all you know, all you'll ever know. You'll kill all your life without fail because that's the sum of your existence. Me, when I'm done, when I've taken my last drink and when the sun rises this morning, and both of us are dead, well I'll never kill again. Don't you see? You're the monster."
Cloud's brow was furrowed tightly, his teeth clenched and his hands dug into themselves. Vincent was taunting him. He'd had enough.
"You bastard" He came alive "You pathetic bastard! You killed them! You killed them all and for what? What good did their blood do you, to continue your immortality? What good is that when you're a demon!?"
"I need you because you're the strongest! All of you, you have the most power of anyone in this world, and I need that power Cloud! I thought you'd understand, I thought YOU of anyone would understand how desperate I am, and when I have you, when I have your life force I'll be strong enough, strong enough to sire another, a kindred soul."
"What are you talking about you sick fuck?" No reply came from above, and his question hung in the air around Cloud, thick and angry. What way could he possibly understand a creature of evil such as Vincent has become?
The rafters above creaked, and broken from his momentary trance Cloud leapt up and spun, his hand immediately grasping at the hilt of his heavy cleaving blade. Another creak, further away, and another. What was he doing up there?
Then he leapt, and a streak of red fell through the darkness.
Standing some distance away, between the pews, was a man once known as Vincent. A man Cloud once called friend and ally. And now, immortal and inhuman blood running through his veins, there was nothing to show he had truly changed. His skin was as white as ever, his hair falling contrast against his face, still black as an abyss. His clothes were further tattered, barely rags now, and there were scratches, cuts and would across his body. Yet still he looked the same Vincent. Something, however, something indefinable told a different story, told of a demon infested shell, empty of feeling, empty of remorse, carrying on with only desire, desire to feed and desire to be strong-as is the way of the beast inside him. Vincent surely should have been resistant to the poison, the demon Chaos that already sheltered in his soul. But the two, the two had merged, that vamparic curse and the strange beast and before Cloud stood the remnants or the fusion, the demon that had survived after the initial rampage and war. The demon that had betrayed them all, the demon who had destroyed Cloud's world.
Vincent -or the vampire in control of him- stood strait, head bent, eyes shadowed away from Cloud and staring at the bundle wrapped in cloth in his arms. The package was long, and strangely shaped.
Clack Clack Clack
Vincent began his slow progress towards the alter, holding his bundle close to his cold unbeating chest.
Clack Clack Clack Clack
With every step Vincent took Cloud felt himself transfixed in place. How he had once loved the man and now hated the monster seemed not to matter. All he knew was an awe inspired by him.
Vincent reached the altar and passed by cloud, up the steps and lay his bundle down.
"She must-she must return to me" Vincent's voice actually cracked, cracked with an unearthly sorrow. "That's why I accepted this power when it was given to me. That's why I need your life force, and the life force of the others."
"Lucrecia" the cloth slipped from the face of the corpse on the floor, and revealed what had once been a beautiful woman but was now a half eaten cadaver. Skin tight around dead bone and her eyes empty, she was barely more than a skeleton!
"Tifa. Barret. Cid. Yuffie. Reeve. Reno. Rude. Rufus. Even the body of Aeris, all of them live on. Live on in me and they shall live on in Lucrecia when she is reborn, when my love is returned to me. As will you Cloud."
Vincent turned back to Cloud, but this time metal glinted in his hands and he raised his weapon, the gun Cerberus up to Cloud, and squeezed the trigger. A cascade of bullets exploded forth in a thunderous crack and smoke blasted behind, the shot leaving the church air heavy and ringing with the sound of death. Cloud spun, just in time, out of reach, and at the same time flipped his blade from his back and strait to where Vincent's head had been only to have it crash through empty air and into the stone alter. The pain shuddered through his sword and up his arm to his should. He left the tip of his steel fall to the ground and turned in all directions, with the church a blur in his eyes but with no flash of a crimson cape.
Heavenwards there was a quiet swish contrasted by a second blast of shotgun fire, which missed Cloud owing to his sharp movements, but blew into the alter, obliterating it completely. A third shot and Cloud had faded into the shadows. Vincent, dropping to the floor again, traced the walls for any mark of the swordsman.
Cloud was behind him, he barely had time to leap into a summersault backwards before the sword swept forward at him again. In mid air, he led forth more shotgun fire in an unexpected burst. Cloud sidestepped in time to save himself but betrayed by his own mortal speed, felt a deep metal biting into his right arm. Stumbling from the shock he tripped over the uneven stone surface and collapsed against the rotting pews which crumbled beneath his weight. He rolled, over and under another pew in time for his skull to skip contact with more shotgun hail. As he rolled over his ride side he let out a cry and looked down at his disabled limb, filled with metal pellets and streaming blood from its mangled surface. However, pulling himself together with expert ease he pushed up from his lying position and turned to face Vincent.
The pain was exploding in shocks sharply across his whole body, his arm forcing itself to his thoughts and screaming at him. But there was nothing he could do but allow his blood to pour from him in sickening quantities. Another blast, Vincent was in complete control, and Clouds warrior spin out of the firing line left a stone angel exposed, the moss that had curled up across her face was blown away, as was her torso and head, leaving a gaping shattering hole in the wall, through which more light streamed onto Vincent's cold dead face. It was then, in the light of the universe, that Cloud truly saw Vincent. A shadow of who he was almost seemed to hover in his eyes, but was locked deep behind a benevolent expression of single-minded evil. His teeth showed, and extended canines were coated in dried black flakes. Disgusted, Cloud swung his sword with his left hand into the creature's faces and across its eyes. Letting out a scream, and one hand leaping to its face, it swung its weapon again in clouds direction. Cloud, this time trapped between pews and unable to move back, was left exposed as the fire burst from the gun and hammered towards him. He brought his sword up in a final defence and was blown backwards, unharmed by the force of the contact, his shattered swords spinning down the isle in the darkness.
The white, deathly elongated hand fell from his eyes and as his lifeless blood stiff flowed onto the floor his face began to heal itself. Cloud watched as his muscles sowed themselves back together and his skin stitched itself together again, his eyes folding over the blood and were complete again. Cerberus was then again, one last time, pointed at Cloud, and as he stared down the gun barrel, he felt his leg come free of the rubble of the pews.
Those cold dark eyes harboured no sympathy for Cloud; the monster merely aimed the gun and pulled the trigger. Cloud's leg kicked up and knocked the shot gun spinning round at that moment. The blast tore through his chest and through him backward, through the isles that exploded beneath him before he came to a stop, covered in stone dust, and lying in what had been his chest.
Blood, cold as sweat trickled down Cloud's face, and he smeared it away as he pulled himself to his feet and walked over to Vincent, collecting Cerberus from the end of the isle as he did.
BLAM! He fired a hail of shots into Vincent
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The pile infront of Cloud was no longer recognisable as a human, nor anything that Vincent had been. It was destroyed. Cloud turned away.
SHADUM SHADUM SHADUM
He'd never come back to this place.
SHADUM SHAdum Shadum
He might not even go on, what was the point of it all now?
Shadum shadum shadum
The cold night air bit into his body deeply and cut down to his bone, but by now he was far too numb to notice anything, by now the world was dead to him. The stars watched, sadly and knowingly, as Cloud's form moved off through the night, passed gravestones and through the trodden path, between the high grass and down to where the haunting trail met the road and turned south to Gongona. He could feel his blood trickling away, he knew if he didn't fix it soon he would die, would be done for.
His feet knocked off a gravestone that then burst into shattered stone shards next to him. He walked on; the world was dead to him now.
The few stone ahead of him took a beating from the flail of metal pellets that just grazed Cloud's already mangled arm. Pain burst in on him anew but still he walked, Vincent was destroyed, nothing else mattered.
Then the world fell to black around him, he fell to his knees and was alone with his mind, churning all his loss and pain together until individual events remained indistinguishable from each other, All that was was Cloud and the dead, nothing more and nothing else mattered. And then there was nothing at all but a falling, falling beyond space and time, falling beyond matter and mind, falling beyond loss and love, falling beyond reality and lies.
Vincent stood over the quiet, comatose body and one last time point the gun. One last time, with one last shot, to end Cloud's suffering, and to take the blood that was rightfully his. Then his love, then his Lucrecia would be his forever. No one could take that away, they would be immortal together. He fired his final shot, right into the skull and blew away the mind so filled with suffering.
A figure woke, as the sun slide its way between his eyelids and welcomed him to the sight of day. His head was agony and his arm screamed to him. But he was alive, and he was well, as was the world. Sitting up, Cloud observed his surroundings. The tomb stones on either side of his had been obliterated, turned to powder, and someone had hit him across the head. His arm was wrapped in a bandage, and the blood stained out across the virgin white violently, and had seeped up to his shoulder. Someone had fired at him, someone wh-
Where was Vincent?
Shadum Shadum Shadum
The footsteps Cloud made where quiet against the grass surrounded flagstones in the light of morning, with the wind calming the scene, and bringing with it a quiet acceptance of sad fates.
Shadum Shadum Shadum
The moss was less prevalent in the sunlight, and the decay was more like a maturity. This place seemed sacred again. The Church of Forgotten Saints as it was had new meanings, and new power. The windows, half filled with stain glass as was now obvious, glowed with spiritual meaning, and the wind danced lightly in through the openings.
Shadum Shadum Shadum
The previous night had brought rain which Cloud could still feel in his clothes, his hair and in his skin. It also showed in the sodden pews, where rock dust and blood had been washed away. Grass had begun to claim even here, creeping in and around the seats.
Shadum Shadum Shadum
Warm morning light intruded its way onto the scene played out beneath the gaping whole, at the base of the altar. Shotgun Cerberus lay abandoned and empty near the foot of the steps and above lay two bodies. One was the body of Lucrecia, no more alive than the previous night. The other was what Cloud could only believe was Vincent, although the ravages of sunlight had stripped most of the flesh from his undead bones and had left him unanimated, never to move again, and at peace. At peace with the world, with his love, finally without torment. Flowers had grown up between the two deceased lovers, and had begun to cocoon the two together.
A voice whispered over the wind
Cloud I love you
Cloud, I love you, come back to me
Cloud was slipping away again, slipping into the eternity, slipping into forever, but he was no longer alone. Now there was another, a young woman with him. As he felt the life stream of all things surround him, the life-force of Aeris took his hand, and took him away, into eternity beyond loss.