Author's Note: Hello all, and welcome to "Among the Ashes". This is my first FFIX fic, but not my first fic in general. It is also merely the prologue to a much longer work . . . one that is as of yet unfinished and coming along far too slowly to expect rapid updates. College tends to get in the way of hobbies, I'm afraid - at least when you're trying to maintain as close to a 4.0 as possible. Nevertheless, this will be updated eventually, as this story has been growing in my brain for nearly a year, now. Updates will occur, but likely, as with my other fics, sporadically, at best. Please keep that in mind when reading.

Okay, now that the unpleasantness is out of the way, a little technical information about this story. This Prologue takes place a few months before Zidane's return, and as much as I loved Vivi's children at the end of the game, they don't exist here. It just doesn't work with the plot, which I had started to come up with before completely finishing the game. Also, the majority of the story takes place in this alternate future where the children were not created, and goes into a few details that are somewha alternate in nature, but not in any way taking away from the actual game plot. So, semi-AU but not complete. Got it? Okay, next note - the actual storyline takes place somewhere around nine to ten years after the game, depending on how long you interpret the length of the game storyline. So, Eiko will be sixteen in the first chapter, rather than the child she is presented as here. Also, forgive the varying degrees of OOC-ness that might occur in later chapters (hopefully not here), as what does show up should be explainable as the changes time causes, rather than any extreme deviation from the core character. Do note, however, that certain events in the lives of some characters could have a greater impact on their personalities than others.

Blah blah, blah, right? Sorry for boring you, and if you don't like this story. . . .oh well. I'm going to keep writing it because I personally like writing it. As long as I can write it, I'm happy.

Disclaimer: I own . . . my laptop, which this was typed on, the notebook it was written in, and the pen that wrote it. This does not, mean, however, that I own the characters. Square Enix does. Isn't that sad? Yes it is, because if the fans owned it, there'd be many sequels to the game out. On second thought. . . maybe it's better off in their hands. I'm just borrowing, people.

And now, what you've been waiting for. . . .


-It Starts-

The great city of Alexandria was in mourning. A visitor would find an unusually subdued and saddened atmosphere in the usually bright and cheery locale. Nearly every building had something black adorning it, be it a wreath, a streamer, or a pennant. The citizenry, too, were uniformly dressed in black, in recognition of the recent loss. Even the Alexandrian soldiers wore the black sash worn strictly to honor fallen military heroes. This was not an official state of mourning; the entire city truly felt the loss of this one small life. Everyone here had known him to some extent, and all felt his loss keenly.

A citywide funeral had been held earlier that same day, and while attendance was not forced, it was clear that the entirety of Alexandria's citizens, as well as close friends of the deceased, had been present. During the funeral, Queen Garnet Til Alexandros XVII, the much-adored ruler of the great city, announced that a statue would be erected to memorialize the deceased. Despite the young Queen's obvious grief at the loss of one of her dearest friends, she had delivered her speech clearly and in a voice loud enough that all in attendance could hear it. Indeed, if one only listened to her voice, the listener would have thought the queen not to have much attachment to the deceased at all. However, the tears coursing down her cheeks provided all evidence one needed to know that the ruler was grieving along with her city.

The news of the commissioned statue was met with much approval from the citizenry; it was to be placed near the rebuilt city gates, so that all who entered would see and remember the deceased; one who had, at a strikingly young age, aided in saving all of Gaia. All of Alexandria's citizens, and all others who had known the deceased felt that fate was a cruel mistress to have deprived one so very worthy of the right to a long life.

"Why?" The cry was a choked out sob, barely loud enough to be heard outside of the room it was spoken in, despite being a rather small room within the Royal Chambers of Lindblum Grand Castle. Seven-year-old Eiko Carol, as yet unofficially adopted daughter of Regent Cid Fabool and his wife, Lady Hilda Fabool, hiccupped as she fought a futile battle against her desire to weep for her departed friend. She sniffed loudly and blew her nose into her sleeve, forgetting completely about the handkerchief she had been provided for that purpose. "It's not fair! It's not!" Tears escaped her bright green eyes despite her best attempts at holding them, and she scowled in frustration. "First Grandpa, then Mog, then Zidane . . . and now Vivi too? It's just not fair!" The little summoner moaned and hiccupped again as the battle for control was lost and she dissolved into an uncontrollable fit of sobbing.

Watching from just outside the door, Regent Cid waited patiently for the little girl to cry herself out. The child had a notoriously large independent streak, and she would not appreciate any attempts at comforting her, especially when she wasn't quite settled into the castle yet, anyway. Knowing the child's temperament, if she realized that her crying had not gone unnoticed she would get angry . . . and considering that the child, while rapidly becoming attached to himself and his wife, was still a little untrusting, Cid didn't want to pressure her until she was ready.

Finally, after Eiko's sobs had tapered off, Cid entered the room. Walking over to where she was sitting on the floor, staring at the pattern on the intricately woven rug beneath her, he knelt down and put a hand on her shoulder. She sniffed and looked up at him, a rather disgruntled scowl on her face, which combined with her puffy, reddened eyes and dripping nose to form a picture of a very distraught little girl. The Regent was not entirely certain that he should tell her what he knew, as it might give her false hope; there was really no proof to support his suspicions, after all, and he hated the thought of seeing her hopes crushed if his belief proved to be incorrect.

Still, he had to try.

"Eiko, there is something that you need to know . . . about what happened to Vivi . . ."

"No-one is coming for you. No-one is ever going to come for you."

The voice of his tormentor echoed endlessly through his mind, the words as harsh and cold as they were when they had first been said. He had been in too much pain at the time to deny them, to tell the man who tortured him that he was wrong, that his friends would come, he was certain of it, and now those words refused to leave him alone, haunting his every waking thought and taunting him, daring him to prove them wrong. The boy trembled fiercely, partly from fear, partly from cold. It was chilly down here, so far underground; and it was even colder without his clothes, which had been taken from him the night he was kidnapped.

The cell was small, and there was nothing in it to warm him, not even a ragged blanket. He would have cast a Fire spell to try and warm himself, but there was some sort of barrier that prevented him from casting; it was almost like a silence spell had been ingrained into the very rock and metal that surrounded him. He hoped his friends would come for him soon; he hurt a great deal and was very frightened. He did not know why he had been taken, but knew that nothing good would happen to him while he was trapped here. Even if his friends didn't recognize him – and he was sure they wouldn't, not the way that he looked now – they would still come, and they would still rescue him. There was no way that they would leave him here to suffer . . . right?

"No-one will come for you."

Exhausted, cold, hurt and frightened, the boy was unable to shake the voice that told him his deepest fear. Incapable of doing anything else, Vivi Orunitia curled up as tightly as his wounded body could handle and cried.

-End Prologue-