Story is rated "K+" for minor coarse language, frequent violence with some blood, and minor romantic themes. The story *is* CloudxTerra centric, but the romance is often light and subtle. If you're expecting lovey-dovey scenes where they spend their time kissing and flirting, you're in the wrong place. The relationship will progress slowly and IMO realistically, but it *will* occur.

Also, feel free to please contribute to this fic's TV Tropes page, search "Shards of Memory" to find it.

Shards of Memory

Chapter 1

Living in a Dreamworld

"A man's real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor." – Alexander Smith

Cloud kept his head ducked inside the small, slightly cramped gondola car. He couldn't believe he had been talked into this. But he was on the car now, not much to do for it. He listened to the car creak as his companion turned to look out the window.

"Oh, Cloud! Look!"

Cloud turned his head to watch the Chocobos run by on the track a few feet away, fireworks launching into the air as they crossed the finish line.

"Teioh won again," his companion mused. Cloud turned to face the opposite side of the gondola car.

The seat was empty.

Cloud's eyes went wide as the voice of the young woman, so familiar and yet so foreign, kept speaking.

"You know, when we first me, I think I saw him in you," the voice said. Cloud shook slightly as he edged as far away from the source of the voice as he could. "Cloud, you okay?" the voice asked. Cloud stared at the nothingness of the seat as the voice kept speaking. "Cloud?" it asked, coming closer. Cloud shifted off the seat, and fell against the side of the gondola as the source of the voice settled above him.

"Cloud, what's wrong?"


Cloud's eyes popped open, and he sat up with a gasp. He lifted a hand to his forehead, and brought it back covered in cold sweat.

"Another one of those dreams, hm?"

Cloud looked up at Firion standing against a wall not far away, eyes watching him, arms crossed. Beside him in the halls of the ancient castle they had been searching that day, Tidus and Cecil slept sitting up against the wall, undisturbed by Cloud's nightmare. They had hoped one of the Warriors of Chaos had been hiding here, or one of the Crystals been hidden here in their place. They had been wrong.

"Yes," Cloud nodded, blinking and turning his head away. The same type of dream, speech that he sensed he knew but couldn't remember, and an invisible speaker who wouldn't reveal themselves. More discomforting than the dreams of someone he couldn't see, was the idea that somehow, Cloud knew someone should be there. More than that, he knew who that person was. But as he tried to grasp at the idea of who that could be, who they were or what they looked like, the fragments evaded his hand and refused to answer him.

"And you still cannot remember her?" Firion asked, crouching down beside him. Cloud shook his head. It wasn't the first time this had happened, different scenes had played in his head ever since Cosmos had summoned him and the other nine warriors to save the Crystals and restore order. At first he had brushed them off as nightmares caused by the stress and revelation of the event, but it had been some time now and the nightmares had not ceased. It was a small comfort they only happened two or three times a week, if they were to escalate to every day Cloud was sure he would lose his mind to insomnia.

"No, all I know is that it's a woman's voice, and…she's a friend…I think," Cloud said. His memories of whom and what he should know were getting harder to recall. Cloud couldn't understand it, but one by one his memories were slipping away. He had spoken with Cosmos on the matter. The goddess of harmony did not know the cause, but she felt certain that whatever spell was tormenting the soldier's memories, the power of the Crystals could undo it. Cloud hoped so. He had said, and she had agreed, that this amnesia was not natural, that his memory loss was being forced upon him. He didn't have any idea as to who or what could be behind it though.

"Is there anything at all you can remember about her?" Firion asked. Cloud strained to voice what little he could.

"She…was important to me, and…pretty, and nice," he said slowly. "Something…something happened…she went away…dammit, why can't I remember!" Cloud clutched his hand to his face and let out a small growl of frustration. Firion cast a gaze up at Cecil and Tidus. Tidus was a surprisingly sound sleeper, considering his energy when awake. Cecil was somewhat more responsive, but fortunately, Cloud's outburst hadn't awoken either of them. Firion was awake to keep watch over his sleeping comrades, but he was a light sleeper anyway. As he had told Cloud, he was used to functioning with little sleep.

"I don't know," Firion replied. "But for you to have so many nightmares like this, and you to still know her, you must have many memories of her."

"But that's just it!" Cloud said. "I used to have so many, I know I did. So why are they slipping away? I can't remember her face, who she was to me, how I knew her…I mean, Tifa, Barret, Cid, I remember them. So why can't I remember who she is?"

"Her name? You can't even recall that?" Firion asked. Cloud closed his eyes and thought hard for a moment.

"Something…something beginning with an 'A'," he finally said. "I don't know." Firion sighed and stood up.

"What was happening in this dream, anyway?"

"It…there were fireworks, and Chocobos…and…and…"

"And, what?" Firion prompted. Cloud strained himself, and his shoulders slumped.

"And…nothing. That's all I can remember."

Miles and miles away, a pair of slim, slightly luminous green eyes cracked open. With a satisfied grunt, Sephiroth rose from his cross-legged position and let out a breath, stretching slightly.

"I trust your foray was successful," Golbez said, standing some distance away.

"Yes," Sephiroth replied, brushing off his coat from the time on the ground in the rear halls of the Chaos Shrine. "Another night, another memory sliced as cleanly as a blossom. Not that he'll miss it, in a few hours he'll barely know it was ever there."

"I have to say, though I am willing to assist you as you meddle in the boy's memories, I don't fully understand your reasons for doing so," Golbez muttered, crossing his arms. "If you can seize control of him, why not do so now?"

"Surely you're no stranger to the difficulties of mind manipulation, Golbez," Sephiroth said lowly, casting the armored mage a glance. Sephiroth had heard all about Golbez's time on his world, manipulating and being manipulated. In that, Golbez was one of the few Warriors of Chaos who could appreciate his efforts with Cloud. "I could take control of him, yes, but unfortunately his mental defenses are too strong. By shattering his memories of the Ancient, I can make him much more malleable. In time, he will be mine to control, but not yet." Sephiroth smiled slightly. He had made Cloud his puppet once before. To do so again would be a satisfying taste of nostalgia.

"I see," Golbez nodded. "This I understand. What is it about that girl that makes destroying her memories so particular to you?" Sephiroth closed his eyes as his small smile faded.

"The Ancient has caused me just as much trouble as Cloud Strife ever did, if not more," he growled, clenching his fist. "To use his memories of her to destroy him is an appropriate method for them both. A pity he won't realize the poetic irony of his demise."

"Hmph. Just so long as you remember our agreement," Golbez warned, stepping closer. "When you take control of him, Cecil is to remain unharmed."

"Of course," Sephiroth agreed, opening his eyes. Entering Cloud's mind in his sleep and removing his memories was a careful, challenging process, he could do it easily enough under ideal circumstances. The problem was that such circumstances included, among other things, complete and total concentration. Were he to be careless or distracted, he could snap the wrong thought at the wrong time and shatter Cloud's mind into chaos. And he would eventually, but for the time being he needed Cloud's mind intact, and to ensure it stayed that way he needed to not be disturbed while he was working.

Among the other Warriors of Chaos, Golbez was one of the few competent ones not wrapped up in his own self-absorbed schemes and desires, at least as far as Sephiroth was concerned. The warlock had his own agenda of course, as as the SOLDIER had his, but neither was so focused as to not look to others. When Golbez had heard of Sephiroth's plan to seize control of Cloud and the difficulties he was encountering with disturbances from their allies, he had offered a deal to Sephiroth. If he agreed to leave Cecil alone when the time came, Golbez would watch over Sephiroth during his time in Cloud's mind and ensure the others did not disturb his concentration.

Sephiroth held no interest in Cecil. He was a competent warrior, and if need be he could enjoy sparring with him and testing his power. But in the grander scheme he was simply an object of vague interest, nothing more. And so Sephiroth had agreed with Golbez's terms. Firion and Tidus, neither of them cared for the other two. Mateus wanted Firion for himself, but if Sephiroth had Cloud kill the man then the emperor would just have to deal with it. As for Tidus it was much the same matter, though with the additional complication that Jecht's loyalties were uncertain. Killing Tidus would intensify those complications, so that would have to be handled delicately. But Sephiroth's manipulations were taking time, and if he were lucky then Jecht himself would be gone by the time he was ready and the situation would have resolved itself.

"So, how much longer will it take?" Golbez asked, drawing Sephiroth from his thoughts.

"Not long at all. It will be several more days, likely a week or two. Once I've finished cleaning up what few fragmented memories of the Ancient that are left, overlaying the gaps in his mind with more 'suitable' memories will be simple. Cloud will bend to my will as easily as grass in a harsh breeze," he said.

"You're beginning to sound like Kuja," Golbez snorted.

"Oh, is he now?"

Golbez and Sephiroth turned to the end of the hall as Kuja himself floated from the darkness, flicking a few strands of lavender hair from his eyes as he stopped a few feet from the two and set down to the cold tile ground.

"Speak of the devil," Sephiroth muttered.

"You flatter me," Kuja said drolly, making a show of bowing. Sephiroth grunted. Kuja was intelligent and powerful, enough so Sephiroth could consider him a possible confidant along with Golbez, but his playful and often downright bizarre behavior made it difficult to speak to him. For the time being though Kuja was useful and loyal, two qualities that in Sephiroth's opinion did not often coincide with the same person. So for the time being Sephiroth tolerated him, he had no reason to quarrel with Kuja, and his eccentricities not withstanding the genome seemingly had no desire to give him one.

"What do you want, Kuja?" Golbez asked. Kuja turned his attention to him and smiled.

"So harsh, Golbez, and what for?" he said. "Are we not all allies in this grand play that Chaos has so graciously written for us?"

"Just answer the question," Golbez ordered. Kuja's smile vanished as he crossed his arms. Sephiroth watched with mild amusement. Kuja disliked when he overly-poetic speech was so firmly rejected, and Golbez knew it. He wasn't sure why Golbez didn't like Kuja, but he didn't care enough to find out.

"It's time for a dress rehearsal; Mateus has called a gathering," Kuja answered, turning and tossing his hair. "We're all to attend. Come along, now." Kuja rose back up into the air and glided away down the hall, inches above the floor. Golbez slowly walked after him to the main hall, and after a moment Sephiroth followed.

Emperor Mateus turned and nodded slightly as Kuja emerged from the pillars lining the sides of the Chaos Shrine, Golbez and Sephiroth stepping out behind him. Kuja floated down to sit on the edge of the ledge, while Golbez took up a relaxed posture leaning on a pillar. From his vantage point, Sephiroth looked over the shrine and surveyed what he had, with some reluctance, begun to think of as his 'allies'.

Mateus was a powerful, intelligent man, but his pride would prove his downfall. Sephiroth had heard from Golbez whispers of a plan the emperor was making, plotting to seize power and challenge Chaos. Through his emissary Garland, Chaos made it clear he knew of Mateus' plans and didn't care, Mateus was no threat to his power and whatever schemes he was hatching could be thwarted. Sephiroth was intrigued by Mateus' far-reaching desires and how he planned to achieve them, but he hadn't given them much thought, the only people who would have details would be loathe to share them.

Beside Mateus, the top platform of the shrine stood empty. Ultimecia had been the first of their number to fall, dispatched by the boy she had worked so hard to deceive and manipulative, Squall Leonhart. When she was alive, Sephiroth hadn't spoken to her much, but from their few conversations had decided he didn't care for her. The sorceress was as arrogant as Mateus and as vain as Kuja, and she flaunted her looks and power needlessly. It was of course a detriment to their group that she had perished, but Sephiroth did not miss her.

Below the ledge where Sephiroth stood, the Cloud of Darkness hovered. Sephiroth had spoken with her briefly. She took on the form of a beautiful and shapely woman, but the aura of power was far greater than any mortal could measure up to. The entity had expressed an interest in Sephiroth turning Cloud against his allies, and whispered she 'looked forward' to his results. Sephiroth had decided she was a possible ally if he needed one, like Golbez she was powerful and tolerable. But the cloud was often away from the shrine, overseeing matters elsewhere, and with Golbez at his side for now Sephiroth hadn't approached her.

At the bottom of the shrine walkway, on the opposite side where he now stood, Jecht was leaning his arm on his sword and kept his head low. Sephiroth had asked Golbez about Jecht, the man being apparently reluctant to fight for Chaos. As Golbez has cryptically muttered, Jecht had been coerced into serving Chaos through some thread of fate of his world. Sephiroth hadn't understood but Golbez didn't elaborate further. Sephiroth considered Jecht a liability, his qustionable relationship with Tidus on the Warriors of Cosmos was an unknown factor that could adversely affect Jecht's actions, as well as the complication it added to Sephiroth's plan. But aside from Tidus Jecht was quiet and hadnt caused trouble yet, so Sephiroth just kept a watch out of the corner of his eye and left it at that. Above Jecht, reclining on the wall picking at his ear, was another Warrior of Chaos Sephiroth was not fond of, this one least of all among them.

Kefka Palazzo.

The flamboyant and wisecracking mage was perhaps one of the most devoted members to Chaos' cause. The prospect of destruction and disorder had made his eyes bulge when they were first called. They had spoken only once, when Sephiroth had been speaking to Golbez about his plans for Cloud and Kefka had overheard. Kefka invited himself into the conversation and listened intently with a wide grin, at the end bursting out laughing and walking down the hall mumbling under his breath. Once Sephiroth had reached out his powers to try and get a better understanding of the working's of Kefka's mind, but the mage's thoughts were just as crazed and disorganized as he would have expected. Kefka had briefly fought with Zidane to distract him while they separated him from Bartz. Sephiroth had watched the battle through one of the scrying stones Chaos had provided, and had to grudgingly give his respect. Kefka may have been annoying with a love for bad jokes, but he was powerful when the fight was at hand. Overall though, Kefka was too unpredictable and insane to make a reliable ally, and Sephiroth had kept his distance after that one conversation. The less involvement Kefka had with his plans, even if it was just idle commentary, the better.

Noticing an uneasy silence in the chamber, Sephiroth wondered why Mateus hadn't spoke. He suspected why when he took another look around the room and realized someone was missing.

"Where is Exdeath?" Golbez asked, turning towards Mateus. Mateus drummed his fingers on the handle of his staff and murmured, his eyes dark.

"Gone, swallowed back into the Void he so claimed to have harnessed," Mateus announced. "Bartz has destroyed him."

"Bah, told ya we should have killed the kid when we had the chance!" Kefka snapped, sitting up from his place. "Oh well big loss, one less clunky suit of armor to keep me up at night."

"This is now the second of our number to fall," Mateus continued, ignoring Kefka as he giggled. "This is a loss we cannot allow to go unpunished. Two of our number fall and the Warriors of Cosmos stand as ten!"

"We can afford the loss of arrogant and weak peons. We may lack numbers, but we have other advantages," the Cloud of Darkness whispered, the fanged tentacles at her sides coming forward to look up at their mistress. "They are scattered, disoriented and lost. We are united, focused and prepared. Why not strike out now, and make use of these advantages?"

"Easier said than done, my dear," Kuja lectured, tossing her a small glare. "Those wretched little cretins house strength that we have underestimated greatly in the past. Or, is that not why we are all here?" Kuja looked around the Chaos Shrine. The genome had spoken the truth, Chaos had given them a chance to reclaim their glory and power after squandering it. It was a second chance they all needed. The god of discord would not be pleased if they failed.

"We must take action, formulate a plan lest our numbers continue to shrink," Mateus said, drawing attention back to him. "Anyone care to step forward with information? Who among the Warriors of Cosmos is their weakest?"

"The little boy is still weak and childish," the Cloud of Darkness said, resting her hands on the tips of her tentacles. "We can defeat him easily if we separate him from that girl he pretends to protect, Terra."

"Hey, forget about her, she's mine!" Kefka yelled, jumping to his feet. "I got her covered."

"What are you scheming, Kefka?" Golbez called from across the hall. "What is it about Terra that you've 'got covered'?"

"That mind of hers is all outta whack," Kefka laughed, waving a hand in the air and making a face. "I've been feeding her lies and promises and screwing with her powers. She doesn't have full control over him without Daddy to help her. At this rate she won't know her hand from a rock, much less be any threat to us! She can barely cast a Fire spell without losing control!" As Kefka spoke, Sephiroth focused his gaze on him. Something in the mage's words rung as eerily familiar. Had Kefka been toying with Terra's mind as he had been toying with Cloud's? The possibility struck a chord, and Sephiroth tucked Kefka's claim in the back of his mind to ponder later before stepping forward.

"I've made similar progress with Cloud," Sephiroth announced. "His memory is full of holes now, and soon he will be mine to control. At that time, his allies shall die easily."

"Excellent," Mateus nodded. "Chaos will be pleased to hear this fortuitous news."

"What makes you think he already doesn't know, Mateus?"

The emperor fell silent as the doors of the Chaos Shrine creaked open, revealing a swirling black portal at the entrance. Mateus paled slightly at the silhouette of horns and a cloak, but quickly regained his composure and scowled.

"What are you doing here?" he snapped, crossing his arms, "I told you I would be overseeing this gathering." Ignoring the question, Garland stepped out of the portal and began walking up the ramp to the head of the shrine, the portal to Chaos' realm closing behind him. The others were silent as he stopped at the top, and then spun around swiftly, swinging his sword with him. Mateus's eyes widened and he leapt back as the gigantic weapon sliced the air, narrowly missing him. Garland watched as Mateus jumped and shouldered his sword.

"Apologies. I didn't see you there," Garland boomed. Mateus sneered and stood up to his full height, crossing his arms. Sephiroth watched, suspecting Garland was smiling under his helmet. He enjoyed seeing Mateus put in his place.

Garland was, along with Golbez and the Cloud of Darkness, someone that Sephiroth had decided was worthy of his attention. The armored swordsman was a powerful foe in battle, and wielded his massive sword as easily as Sephiroth wielded his own. But more importantly, Garland was the mouth through which the Warriors of Chaos heard the words of Chaos himself. As the emissary to Chaos' realm, the Edge of Madness, Garland conveyed his orders to the rest of them, and in such was the only one among them to whom Chaos spoke directly. The latter fact was something Mateus had made known he did not approve of.

"Chaos is not pleased with the demise of Exdeath," Garland announced, looking over the room. "Nor am I. And while we are on the topic of what does not please me, your haughty commands are something else to that effect, Mateus," Garland didn't look at the monarch this time. Chaos had decreed that Garland was their leader, but Mateus hadn't taken kindly to that and tried to order about the other Warriors of Chaos in his absences. It didn't work well, not when only half of them listened in the first place.

"However, your plan intrigues him, Sephiroth," Garland turned to face him, and Sephiroth smiled. He'd not met Chaos in person, but the god had seen fit to give him a chance for vengeance on Cloud, and to claim his place as ruler of his world. For that Chaos had earned his loyalty, for the time being at least. Sephiroth knew better than to cross a god, and to hear he had perhaps earned Chaos's favor was pleasing.

"Does it, now?" Sephiroth asked.

"Indeed. Effective and nefarious. You are hereby given free reign to continue your manipulations and take control of Cloud as soon as possible. Once done, you are to use him to dispatch Firion, Tidus and Cecil."

"Cecil?" Golbez asked, stepping forward. Sephiroth looked down as Jecht lifted his head to give Garland a blank stare.

"If either of you wish to engage your relatives, then Chaos gives you permission But should Cloud get to them first, you may consider your chances lost. Chaos waits for the desires of no man," Garland said. Jecht snorted.

"Meh, big loss. It's not like the crybaby could take me anyway," he mumbled, looking away. Golbez stepped back, not pleased but willing to obey.

"And you, Kefka," Garland continued. Kefka grinned and looked up at him, leaning his chin on his hand. "The girl Terra is not to be taken lightly. Chaos will be especially pleased if you can sway her to our cause, but if not, you'd best be careful."

"Don't insult me, I ain't worried!" Kefka snarled, rolling his eyes. "I've taken her on before, how hard could it be to take her again?"

"Her power is great, and with her lack of control unstable and wild. You already risk much pressing her control to its limits. If you were to perish and she reclaim her Crystal to focus her powers, you know how much stronger she could become," Mateus said, stepping closer to Garland.

"Yeah yeah, I told ya, I got it covered!" Kefka laughed. "That little wildcat inside her is easy enough to handle, so long as you keep her burned out. I sent a bunch of Crystelles after her now, they'll keep her busy!"

"Kefka, this is the second time you've done such, did we not explain to you? Our supply of Crystelle is not infinite, it takes work to manifest them!" Mateus lectured.

"Yeah, but we have a lot more Crystelle than Cosmos has warriors!" Kefka reminded.

Onion Knight snored loudly and turned over, mumbling. Sitting across from him, legs drawn up to her chest with her hands on her knees, Terra smiled and looked up at the sky. On the horizon in the distance, ribbons of light weaved in and out of the clouds, signaling dawn's coming. Terra climbed to her feet and looked out over the forest below them. The two of them had decided to use the mountain as their resting spot for that night, the idea being they would spot any attacking Crystelle before they arrived. Onion Knight had offered to take the first watch, but Terra knew better and waited, feigning sleep until he nodded off.

The two of them had found each other quite by chance, when Onion Knight was searching for his world's Crystal in an abandoned castle Terra knew as Doma. Surprised to find another warrior, Terra had suggested they travel together for safety. She had quickly come to cherish his company. Onion Knight was a spirited and trustworthy ally, and Terra was happy to have someone like him with her. He reminded her of home, of her children in Mobliz. He was much older of course, and obviously a warrior, but he was still so childish sometimes. It was endearing, to her at least. Not for the first time Terra was saddened at the thought of her lost extended family.

"I've lost so much," Terra thought, closing her eyes. "Remember…you're here to reclaim the Crystal and restore your world. Locke, Celes, Edgar, Sabin, everyone…they're counting on me to find the Crystal and put things right again. I can't let them down!"

A sound broke Terra out of her thoughts, and she opened her eyes. She knelt down and looked at a few broken shards of rock littering the ground. They were shaking. The young woman rose and turned to the bridge and the cave leading deeper into the mountain. The rope bridge lead to a small cavern lit by a hold of ceiling that allowed the morning light in. Terra looked out the other exist from the cavern, and gasped.

The path spiraled down to another cave, and along the path downwards, were Crystelle. There had to be two dozen, or more, marching in perfect unison. Terra stepped back, and tried to hide within the cavern doorway. One of the Crystelles looked up, and roared, pointing its sword at her. The others spotted her, and their synchronization was broken as they began charging up the mountain path. Terra looked back over the bridge and sprinted across it, looking over her shoulder as the Crystelles emerged through the cavern. Terra stopped on the other side and turned, holding out her hand. A single Crystelle began to cross the bridge as Terra flung out a large fireball. The wood and rope exploded and fell into the gorge below, the Crystelle shattering on the rocks in a shower of light red crystal. The remaining Crystelles roared angrily on the other side of the gorge. Terra watched them, panting slightly. Behind her, Onion Knight slowly opened his eyes and yawned.

"I miss something?" he asked sleepily, looking up at Terra.

"Crystelles," Terra informed. Onion Knight cried out and jumped to his feet, drawing his sword. "It's okay, they're trapped," Terra said, nodding across to the army opposite them. "But I think we're going to have to turn back now," she turned back to Onion Knight and forced a smile.

"What's that one doing?" Onion Knight asked, pointing. Terra turned as one of the Crystelles on the edge of the gorge kneeled down and lowered its head. As the two watched, a second Crystelle charged forward, ran up the first's back and leapt up.

"Run!" Terra screamed, spinning around. Onion Knight cried out and ducked as the Crystelle lifted a massive sword over its head. Terra cried and grabbed Onion Knight, pulling him out of the way as the sword slammed into the dirt. On the other side of the mountain, the other Crystelles roared their triumph as more began to follow the example set by the first.

"Go, get out of here!" Terra ordered, standing up.

"No way, there's way too many for you to beat alone!" Onion Knight protested.

"I said go!" Terra cried, pushing him backwards into another cavern. Onion Knight stumbled back, and Terra pressed a hand onto the rock.

"No, Terra!" Onion Knight climbed to his feet as a sheet of ice formed over the cavern entrance. Terra looked back as the first Crystelle heaved its sword up, and a second and third landed behind it from their jumps.

"I can't focus on protecting you," she muttered, drawing her sword. She had to concentrate on the fight now. There was a tingle of energy in her free hand, and Terra looked down at it to see a red aura over her lower arm. She tamped down her rising powers and turned back to the enemies.

A Crystelle ran at her, and Terra dodged its clumsly jab, bringing her sword on its head in a two-handed slash. It collapsed to the ground, and Terra sent a fireball into its chest to blow it off the mountain. With a cr, it fell down into the valley below, hitting the rock bellos and smashing apart. Back above, Terra jumped to avoid another Crystelle charging at her, and landed on a small ledge. She jumped again as the Crystelle slammed a fist into the ledge, the rock exploding. Terra flung out her hand and sent a barrage of glowing white orbs at the construct. It took the Holy attack with a grunt and fell back to the ground with a groan. Terra landed and cried out as a Crystelle slammed into her from behind, her sword falling from her grasp to clang on the ground. She rolled to her feet and lifted her hands, firing a blast of ice. The Crystelle froze solid, then shattered into more crystal shards.

Terra ran and grabbed her sword, turning to parry an attack and firing another Blizzard attack at the swordsman. As the Crystelle stumbled back, Terra looked down at her hand and gasped as the red aura returned, pink electricity crackling along her fingers.

"No, not now!" she hissed in horror. She turned her attention back to the fight as two Crystelles leapt towards her. Terra drew her hand back as the wind rushed over her skin. With a cry, a whirlwind spun up from the ground, flinging the two Crystelles off the mountain. Terra jumped forward and flung a fireball at two more Crystelle. As she cast the two spells the red aura intensified, her other arm lighting up in the same glow.

"I can't keep this up," she thought, her heart pounding in her chest. She landed and lifted her hands to conjure a large fireball. With a cry, she let loose her focus and launched it. As she did so, a few feet away a Crystelle raised its sword and swung at the fireball.

The projectile exploded, and Terra screamed, the force flinging her backwards. She reached out and grabbed at a tree protruding from the mountain, crying out as the bark stung her hands. Beside her, more Crystelles fell to the rocks below. One by one they shattered as they hit the mountainside. Terra looked up to see more of the glittering constructs staring down at her. One of them lifted a hand and fired some sort of energy blast. It slammed into Terra, and she lost her grip. The wind rushed past Terra's ears as she plummeted downwards, looking up. As she fell, she lifted a hand to look at the aura. With an anguished grunt she closed her eyes.

"Well…doesn't matter now," she thought sadly. "You can come out." With the mental reminder the ground was rushing towards her, Terra reached deep, deep inside her and found the small bundle of energy she tried so hard to keep contained…

And relinquished her control of it.

With an animalistic screech Terra's head snapped back, her eyes glowing red. The aura flared up and consumed her. Fur exploded from her skin and clothing, and her nails grew longer and pointed. The red glow on her eyes subsided, and Terra calmly pulled herself into a standing position in the air, slowing her decent. With a snarl, she looked up flung her hands to her sides, flying back up the mountain. The Crystelles stepped back as Terra rushed up the mountainside, her body surrounded by an aura of pure, magical power. Her hair, lengthened and turned purple-pink by the transformation, streamed down her back and to her legs as she flew. Finally, she flew over the Crystelles and whipped a hand back. Terra snarled and flung her arm forward, a wave of white energy slicing through the air from her claws. The Crystelles were cleaved in two, and the surviving ones turned and fled.

Terra landed with a growl, and dashed after them. She leapt on the back of the first Crystelle, digging her claws into its head and flipping forward to throw it over the mountainside. The other Crystelles stopped as they reached the edge of the mountain, the bridge Terra had burned earlier fluttering its planks on the cliff face below. Terra drew her arms over her chest and flung out her arms again. A barrage of crescent-shaped energy waves tore the last few Crystelle apart and sent them hurtling over the mountain. Terra reared back her head and shrieked as she realized no more Crystelles were left standing. A noise caught her attention, and Terra turned her head at the cavern entrance covered in ice. With a snort, she lifted her hand and fired a blast of flame. The ice melted instantly, and Onion Knight climbed out.

"Terra, you!" he stopped as he saw Terra floating over him, her blue eyes glowing. "You…transformed again," Onion Knight whispered, falling to his knees. Terra tossed her head back and let out a snarl, and closed her eyes. Onion Knight shielded his eyes at the flash of light that emanated from Terra. When it faded, he lowered his hand to see Terra descend to the ground. "Terra!" Terra swooned forward, and Onion Knight caught her.

"I'm sorry…" Terra whispered weakly, her eyes drifting shut. "The…only way…"

"It's okay Terra, it's over. You beat them," Onion Knight coaxed. Terra let out a breath and went limp, and Onion Knight knelt to set her unconscious form on the ground. A glare of light shone in the corner of his eyes, and he squinted as he looked up into the morning sunrise.

"Well, this is a great way to start the morning," he grumbled, sitting down beside Terra.

Crystelles are my term for the generic enemies fought in Dissidia, its the term I pinned on them prior to the English release dubbing them "Manikins" and I've chosen to stick with it.

Mateus is the first name of the Emperor in the Japanese novelization of Final Fantasy II, and I decided to use it instead of just referring to him by his title.