Rating: T (violence, character death, language)
Spoiler Warning: Contains spoilers for Dissida, and spoilers for Final Fantasies IX, X (+ X-2), XI, Unlimited, XII and XIII.
Warnings: As said above, major character death, blood, violence. Tends to be more meta!Dissidia.
Notes: Obviously, many of these things have been Jossed by what we know of Duodecim. Most notably this is Gilgamesh. Portrayed below, Jecht was turned Chaos much earlier than the twelfth war, and Tidus showed up before the events of Duodecim too. Chaos!Tidus was something that I thought of before it was true of Duodecim (but c'mon DLC Shuyin!alt, don't let me down SE). Additionally, we have FFXIIRW/TA2 Vaan, and FFX-2 Yuna.
Fabula Nova Crystallis
The endless space around him was both pitch blackness and eternal whiteness, the extremes seeming to co-exist on the edge of his mind as he trudged across the vast nothingness on the edge of everything.
Gilgamesh wasn't exactly sure what the whole deal between Cosmos, Chaos, Cid and Shinryuu was, but it was astounding that it even corrupted the area between time and space – the Interdimensional Rift. Around these parts, so close to the centre of the conflict, the Rift always seems like some idiot kid had dropped it and tried to pathetically randomly glue together the pieces.
Sorta like how the fragments lands were glued together by Shinryu after each war. But who knew what surviving scum was caught between the fragments, waiting for an escape in the worlds beyond?
Was hardly a matter for the greatest warrior in all the dimensions to worry about, though! With the mighty blade Excalibur (and the much less mighty blade Excalipur, but he wasn't ever going to admit that aloud) Gilgamesh could handle any foe the Rift threw at him. He didn't spend all those years collecting the damn blades for their aesthetic and awesome beauty. He chuckled. Exdeath wouldn't know what hit him, the next time the mighty hero and the evil warlock met on the battlefield!
Gilgamesh smirked as one of his hands found its way to the hilt of Excalibur, the leather of his gloves creaking as he tightened his grip. He had an entire lifetime of pain to pay that bastard tree back with. He'd get his chance. Cosmos had promised him that much.
Blue light flashed. What the hell was that thing? His eyes narrowed. It was flying at an unbelievable speed – Gilgamesh swore and jerked a hand up. He let out a contemptuous laugh as he caught the tiny ice-shard but a fingerspan from his left eye, letting a sneer play across his face as he tossed the shard between the palms of his many hands. Were he a lesser being, Gilgamesh thought, he might have missed it entirely and ended up with it lodged in his face.
The smirk faded as he glanced back down to the sliver of ice. It was no larger than a splinter, but cold enough that he felt his skin begin to num, even through the leather barrier of his gloves. Such coldness and finesse of magic could really only mean one thing.
He glanced surreptitiously around the Rift, the world still shifting and contorting from Shinryuu's influence. Was it just his imagination, or had things felt more twisted all of a sudden? No sign of Shiva, though. His eyes flickered down to the ice shard in the palm of his hand. A message then. A message from Shiva, who had been dispatched to watch the tear in space and time that Shinryuu had made his home.
Only one thing for it. Gilgamesh grunted, closing his hand in a fist around the freezing crystal, feeling the cold spread through his limb. Hoarfrost began to form, dusted over the top of his knuckles. The ice shard shattered under the strength of his grip, releasing the message held within. It floated to the surface of his mind, hazy and warped, but there was no mistaking what it meant.
He swore and opened his hand, letting the remaining dewdrops run down his fingers and fall to the shifting darkness at his feet.
Of course it would be bad news. Shiva was always full of bad news. Couldn't she ever just invite him to a party? But no, it was always "Help us, Gilgamesh", "Go over there, Gilgamesh", "Tell Cosmos this, Gilgamesh". He rolled his eyes.
The beast stirs in the rip beyond time. Be ready.
Gilgamesh shouldered his replica Excalibur. Time for just one more world, if he was quick. Just one more warrior to fetch, before the Fourteenth War began the damned cycle once more. And this guy? He'd be a real doozy, too. Gilgamesh grinned as the Rift opened before him.
Cosmos sighed and moved on from the stone likeness of the Sleeping Lion, and onto the next. This statue was much shorter than the others, clasping a dagger in each and the end of his tail wrapped around an orange crystal.
The Angel of Death was a being of contradictions. The genome was an insufferable flirt, a member of the Tantalus troupe and a thief with a heart of gold. He'd not needed an iron-clad reason to fight for Cosmos in her war – after being reassured that time would not pass for him while he fought, he'd simply told her that he didn't need a reason to help out. Quick to smile and joke around, the Angel of Death was always popular company with the Adventurer, the Fleeting Dream and the Skylord.
Despite this inherent goodness in his soul, like the Godslayer, the Angel of Death had the potential to force the life of an entire planet to wink out, in but a surge of his latent power. As of yet, such power had yet to be demonstrated, though Cosmos remained cautious, her failure to save the Godslayer always fresh in her mind.
The Angel of Death's flirtatious ways and sticky fingers often got him into trouble with the pricklier members of the Cosmos-sworn – or with those warriors that had previously learned to be more wary.
"Drop the wallet, you little creep! Earn your own gil, don't take mine!" the Hero yelped, as he caught the Angel of Death's hand in the middle of covertly picking his pocket. Evidently, the Hero had experience when it came to pickpockets and thieves, Cosmos noted with a small smile.
"Yeah, but that's hardly sporting, right?" the Angel of Death flashed the Hero a grin, jerking his thumb in the Gunslinger's direction. "Tell you what. Tell me the name of the beautiful lady over there, and I'll let you keep your gil this time."
Nearby, Cosmos saw the Gunslinger shake her head wearily, the Sleeping Lion bury his face in his palm, while the Adventurer just rolled his eyes. This obviously wasn't the first time the Angel of Death had tried this trick, then. Perhaps his… efforts at gaining the 'friendship' of the Godslayer, the Gunslinger and the World's Enemy were beginning to wear thin on his comrades.
"Aww, c'mon. Fair trade is a fair trade, no pun intended. I promise I'll be gentle with her-" the Angel of Death broke off with a sudden yelp, grabbing his tail and holding it protectively against his chest. "Hey, watch where you're standing, you big lug! That thing's still attached!"
The Hero was grinning as he looked over to the Adventurer. "Yo, Bartz, try to take better care of your pet monkey next time, or I'm not gonna be so nice. You got that?"
"Who the hell are youcalling a monkey, blockhead?" the Angel of Death growled as he launched himself at the Hero, leap-frogging onto his shoulders and scrubbing his knuckle over the Hero's scalp in a painful-looking noogie. It quickly escalated into a scuffle – Cosmos had stepped in before either resorted to weaponry, but she did make the snap decision to send each party to opposite sides of the land to let them cool off.
That decision no longer seemed so wise when the Gunslinger and the Zodiac Brave dragged themselves into the base camp, covered in dust and ash, and splattered with blood that was not theirs. The Angel of Death was the first on the scene to help them back to the base, nearly carrying the Gunslinger when her energy finally gave out.
The news they had brought had been grim. The Hero had been caught on the cliffs of Midgar in a confrontation with Cloud of Darkness, in an effort to cover the Gunslinger and the Zodiac Brave's retreat. A surprise attack, Cosmos knew. But a deadly attack, nonetheless.
The Angel of Death took the news of the Hero's death harder than Cosmos would have guessed.
The tent was tiny and cramped, and the Angel of Death was stretched out on the thin mattress, his hands linked behind his head. He was staring at the canvass ceiling, not even seeming to blink. She seated herself on the low stool beside his bed. Cosmos let the minutes stretch by – he knew she was there. He just wasn't willing to acknowledge her yet. Finally, the Angel of Death sighed.
"I hate… I hate having a lady see me like this. Can we talk another time, Cosmos?" His voice had a peculiar catch to it. The Angel of Death was hurting. She could not leave one of her warriors in anguish, even if they'd loathe her for it.
"I believed that you did not get along with Zack," she said, choosing her words very carefully. One misstep and she could render another warrior useless in this war. "Was I perhaps wrong, Zidane?"
The Angel of Death closed his eyes for a moment, a sad smile coming to his lips. "We had a little in common, I guess."
There was another long moment of silence, as he tried to gather his thoughts. Cosmos knew better than to rush him. Grief for the fallen was almost like an old friend to her, but it was never any easier to lose them.
"That day… before he left for the cliffs, we talked. Said he had a girl waiting back home, that he promised her that he'd come back. He swore that this time, he'd fulfil his promise and make it, finish the war. Him dying, it makes me think, you know? That, maybe, there isn't an end."
Cosmos was very careful not to let any emotion show on her face. "I see."
"I can't stop thinking about it all. That maybe even if we win, it's never going to be over. Maybe we're stuck here forever, that we're never going to see those we left behind ever again. Will I ever make it back to the promised place? Will I ever see her again, even if we end Chaos?"
Cosmos didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. Instead, she laid a gentle hand on the Angel of Death's shoulder for a moment, before fleeing to the quiet safety of Order's Sanctuary.
As the wars grew in number, her warriors had become frighteningly aware of their situation – enough so that she had been forced to actively repress the more violent and brutal memories as they surfaced. Recollections of the loss of comrades, and memories of one's own death, were hardly good for troop morale. It was a mercy, to be only able to recall the ghost of a memory, a gut feeling. That was what she told herself, to soothe her lingering doubts, anyway.
Cosmos' heart tightened painfully as she moved on. The next statue was naught but charred rubble and twisted metal, the only remains of a corrupted warrior. The destruction wrought by the Godslayer had proven that a warrior of Cosmos could be controlled, if only for the space of a war. Until the Final Aeon's fall, Cosmos had not believed that Chaos could permanently take one of her warriors as his pawn.
The Final Aeon had been a raucous and rough man, lightning-quick to anger and just as fast to laugh again. He was driven to win and his mantra claimed he was the best at what he did. The Final Aeon was man that seemed unaffected by the carnage around him, but yet he was said to have been just a sports hero from an illusory world. Perhaps he just considered it all part of his 'contract', that when the lands reformed and Shinryuu raised her dead again, the great game would begin anew.
Perhaps that had been why he'd remained so stable, then.
In spite of his roughness, the Final Aeon had a gentle side that always stood up and fought for what he considered right. Cosmos closed her eyes, remembering a fateful encounter with Golbez. In hindsight, she believed that it had shaped the Final Aeon's actions in all the wars that followed.
The Final Aeon stood on the edge of the ruined blitzball arena, muscular arms crossed in front of his chest, massive blade thrust into the stone and cement to his right. Straight-backed, arrogant, powerful – he was the best at what he did, and never shied from getting his hands dirty. Fearless. The Final Aeon would have seemed completely calm, had Cosmos not been witness to the riot of rage and indignation battling for supremacy in his mind.
There was a crackle of dark lightning, the smell of ozone and the sound of metal armour clanking together as Golbez flashed into existence beside the Final Aeon. Cosmos saw the Final Aeon's jaw tighten.
"You… requested my presence," Golbez said, without preamble. "Why?"
The Final Aeon sighed, letting his arms fall to his sided as he cracked his neck, and then cracked the knuckles on each of his hands. A dangerous sign.
"See, I know this guy. Says some interesting stuff, too." The Final Aeon grinned savagely at that, rolling his shoulders another couple of times. "Says he's your little brother, if you could believe a big guy like you could be related to a kid like that."
"…your information is correct," Golbez murmured, watching the Final Aeon warily. He'd always been good at quick character studies, and Cosmos did not doubt that he was starting to sense the danger in the air.
"Then there's just onething I wanna know!" The Final Aeon wrenched his blade free of solid stone, levelling the wicked point at Golbez. "Why the hell are you fighting the only family you got left? You really buying into Chaos' game? Do ya really think that guy is going to give you what you want? Chaos is usin' you like a pawn against Cecil!" He spat off to the side. "I'd never let a guy like that use me."
The air seemed to spark around Golbez – the dark warlock was almost burning with fury and raw magic, now.
"I do not expect a crude and drunken brute to understand what I hope to achieve," Golbez growled, seeming to grow another few feet in his anger.
The Final Aeon wasn't cowed – if anything, Golbez's rage drove him onwards. "From where I'm standin', there ain't much to get! He's your goddamn brother!"
"I oppose Cecil because he is my brother. I make him stronger, more able to defeat Chaos with each breath I take as his eternal opponent in this war! Because of my past actions, I can never resist Chaos' call to my soul, but that will never mean that I do not help Cecil in the ways that I can."
The Final Aeon growled under his breath, his frustration mounting. "You Chaos idiots never make any damn sense! Shut the hell up and fight me, 'cause I got a lot of rage I wanna take out on you!"
Perhaps the Final Aeon took more of Golbez's words to heart than he'd realized, because he had taken a very similar stance against his son following his corruption in the Ninth War. In an effort to get the Fleeting Dream to stand up and fight back, the Final Aeon taunted his son to the point of hatred.
The Final Aeon's son was an upbeat and positive youth, and he could be ignorant and obnoxious at the best of times. Cosmos looked up at his stone visage, at the ragged blitz uniform and blue, crystal sword. How she could look this young man in the eyes, after all she'd done to him?
Brought into the cycles as an to answer his father's defection, the Fleeting Dream was one of those young men that Cosmos had used ruthlessly as a form of psychological warfare. If the Final Aeon would turn away from her, and buy into Chaos' promises to remake the worlds as his pawns desired, then Cosmos would use his son – his entire reason for defecting – against him.
Even despite her blatant use of him, the Fleeting Dream had become a valued part of her warriors. He smiled even in the face of despair, and did his best to keep the hopes of his comrades alive, but that burning hatred for his father remained something that troubled her…
The Fleeting Dream slammed the tip of the Brotherhood into the earth, using the sword to lever himself to his feet. To Cosmos, it looked like he'd dislocated a shoulder and cracked a few ribs, but still he forced himself to stand. Blood had trickled down his forehead from a cut in his hairline, but despite his injuries, he was scowling, his lips drawn back in a snarl.
"Don't you…" He gasped as his knee gave out, sending him sprawling in the dust. "Don't you dare run away from me, old man! I'm… I'm not done with you yet!"
The Final Aeon shouldered his huge sword with a grunt, not even looking at his son as he began to walk away. "Not done? You can't even stand! Don't make me come over there an knock you on your ass again, boy."
The casual dismissal seemed to enrage the Fleeting Dream even more as he staggered to his feet. The Brotherhood dragged on the ground behind him as he lurched forwards. "I can still fight you!"
Cosmos saw the Final Aeon smile – it was a smile without malice. Might it even have been a smile that was proud, even just a little? He kept walking, as if unable to hear the stumbles and curses following along behind him.
A few steps later, and the Fleeting Dream's weakening knees tumbled him to the earth. He lay there for a moment, groaning, his chest heaving shallowly for air. Pain had won out over his hated, this time. But one day, perhaps, things would be different. Cosmos could see the silent promise in his eyes. One day, the Fleeting Dream would finish this.
"…I hate you," the Fleeting Dream whispered, blinking furiously as tears – of pain, anger, shame – threatened to fall.
The scarred man turned then, his smirk nothing but a show of arrogance, and looked his son in the eyes. "What was that? You gotta speak louder, kiddo. Like a man."
The Fleeting Dream lowered his eyes, clenching his teeth. He was just a kid in his father's eyes, no matter how he'd grown, how powerful and skilled he'd become. Nothing could change that, and it haunted him every time they crossed paths. The Final Aeon grunted at his silence, gave a lazy shrug, and left the Fleeting Dream sitting in the dust.
The simmering anger and determination in the Fleeting Dream's eyes gave Cosmos pause as she moved to comfort her wounded warrior. She shivered. No, it wasn't the determination to grow stronger and put an end to everything that chilled her so. It was that hint of hidden darkness in his blue eyes that made her wonder. Was it truly right, to let things go on as they were?
Things eventually came to a head, and when they did, Cosmos regretted that she'd not interfered earlier. Even more, she regretted that it was the Gunslinger, somebody who was so dear to the Fleeting Dream and the Final Aeon, that had been forced to pay the toll.
Here, while she was imbued with the powers of instantaneous class-changing and the ability to summon the souls of the dead in battle, she was sealed away as a gunner.
The Gunslinger had convened with dead spirits, summoned monsters and struck down religions. She'd sent Seymour, she'd defeated Sin and in the end, she'd reunited the factions of Spira and turned the rogue spirit Shuyin from the path of destruction – all because it was what she believed was right.
Hope over despair, and redemption over sacrifice. That was what the Gunslinger had always believed in.
So when the darkness in the Fleeting Dream was finally exploited by the Emperor, the Gunslinger had rejected the notion of sacrificing the man she loved.
"Do it!" the Wild Rose Warrior's voice was strained from the effort of holding the corrupted Fleeting Dream back, his arms locked around the other boy's shoulders. It took every ounce of energy the Wild Rose Warrior had to stop the Fleeting Dream – no, he was nothing but a nightmare – from advancing further towards the glowing keyboard that acted as the control panels to Vegnagun. The Lunar Knight lay a few feet away, slowly bleeding out from where the nightmare had run him through with the Brotherhood.
Before them, her guns trained on the nightmare's head, was the Gunslinger.
"Purge this repulsive world…" the nightmare whispered hoarsely, and he levelled his gaze at where Cosmos stood. There was nothing but darkness and despair in those eyes. Cosmos' breath hitched as she remembered. No. This darkness didn't only originate from Emperor Mateus of Palamecia, but was as much a part of the Fleeting Dream as his hate towards his father. Shuyin. How could she have overlooked a link so obvious, so exploitable…?
The Wild Rose Warrior was faltering now, as the nightmare took one inexorable step after another towards the controls of Vegnagun. The Gunslinger raised her Tiny Bee guns again, but her eyes looked around desperately, searching for anything that could help her save him. Cosmos was unable to interfere, and at this late stage of the war, there was nothing to be done for the lost Fleeting Dream.
"Yuna!" the Wild Rose Warrior begged her, his feet sliding across the ground as the nightmare forced himself forwards another step. "You must do this!"
"But I-" The Tiny Bee pistols were trembling slightly, and Cosmos saw the Gunslinger swallow thickly.
The Wild Rose Warrior cursed and tightened his grip on the nightmare. "I will not let the Emperor force another of my brothers into darkness! Not this time!"
"No." The refusal rang out in the silent Farplane Glen. In that instant, Shuyin broke free from the Wild Rose Warrior's hold and turned on them with a feral roar.
While both the Gunslinger and the Wild Rose Warrior had survived their battle with the nightmare, it remained a confrontation that burned in Cosmos' mind. A tragic end to the Tenth War, indeed.
The soul of next man in the procession of the dead, was known to her as the Black Wind. Clad in a long cloak, he was a man that looked to be nothing more than a worldless drifter, his home lost, his entire race wiped out. But this drifter had fought one of Chaos' avatars directly. For Chaos, Cosmos had learned from her Valkyrie, had been responsible for the genocide of the Unlimited species.
While generally silent and solemn, Cosmos had once heard it be said, that the calmest pools ran the deepest. Such was the case with the Black Wind. His hidden, towering rage, over the extinction of his world and his people, was reserved for his battles with Chaos, and any of Chaos' pawns that chose to stand in his way. Gruff, practical, and nigh unapproachable, it was the Black Wind's skills with the golden, mechanical weapon equipped to his arm that made him a force to be reckoned with.
The Black Wind had been injured by Valefor's Energy Beam attack, falling to one knee, his side seared with non-elemental burns. Even so, it had been a steep price for his opponent, and the aeon collapsed to the ground, melting away into nothing but a swarm of pyreflies. While there wasn't a lot a handgun could do against a fiend of Seymour Guado's power, the Black Wind was holding his own. Somehow.
Cosmos looked to the frozen machine attached to the Black Wind's arm, hoping, praying that it would see fit to save its wielder's life one last time.
It seemed to shift.
The Black Wind's eye darted to the machine, and then to where Seymour stood before him. The Black Wind forced himself to his feet, even if his stance was a little unsteady. Seymour chuckled darkly, his rod already moving in the complicated dance of the next summoning ritual.
"Soil is my power! The Magun has thawed!" he told Seymour, in a stronger voice than before. His wounds seemed forgotten as the machine began to move again, parts shifting and sliding to reveal a demon gun with a heart of blackest night at its core.
The Magun, a machine that was powered by Soil, by the souls of those devoured by Chaos. It was a marvellous but tragic machine, and with it the Black Wind could stand as an equal summoner to a maester such as Seymour, would stand against Chaos!
Seymour seemed to frown, but did not pause in his summoning rites.
The Black Wind thrust a finger towards Chaos' summoner, a long-dormant fire seeming to spark into life in that one visible eye of his. Cosmos felt a shiver at the forbidden power surging to life in the golden gun on his arm now. The black heart seemed to beat faster.
"The Soil Charge Triad to use on you has been decided!" the Black Wind announced as the chambers of the Magun opened to accept the Triad. He withdrew a trio of Soil-bullets from his belt. Dull black, a brilliant blue, a gleaming gold. Cosmos stared, and she wondered what game that the Black Wind was playing at. That combination could only lead to… Perhaps the Black Wind knew Seymour better than she had believed.
"That which falls into infinite darkness… Silent Black! One that hates the agony of lament… Pain Blue! And finally… To restrain all things, Chain Gold!"
The skies split apart as Seymour's summoning dragged the aeon Bahamut down from the heavens. There was not much time for the Black Wind to finish his gambit. But if it worked…
The wind began to howl as Bahamut swooped in low. The Black Wind stretched the Magun out with a roar.
"Resonate! I summon thee, ANIMA!"
There was a bang, the sight of three coloured lights condensing – and then the Black Wind's version of Anima screeched and swiped Bahamut off to the side with a gnarled hand. Seymour's face contorted in fury as he realized who the Black Wind had summoned into the fight. Anima, the aeon created by the sacrifice of Seymour's mother. Quite a blow, indeed.
Bahamut readied himself again, with a powerful bellow that seemed to quake the world.
"You would stand against me too, Anima?" Seymour was shaking with his anger. He closed his eyes for a moment. "Then you will die a traitor."
The next statue was the shortest of those Cosmos called her own – and in the presence of warriors such as the Onion Knight and the Angel of Death, this was no small feat. The Witch was a professor that hailed from the Federation of Windhurst, and was an incredibly gifted black mage. For all her strength, in her arrogance the Witch had always skated the fine line between Order and Discord, and Cosmos had to wonder why she'd consented to serving Harmony at all.
Whatever the Valkyrie had said to her, to convince her to join the side of Order, so far it had been enough to have kept the Witch on side.
In spite of her arrogant and questionable ways, it was clear that the Witch had formed valuable bonds with the other Cosmos-sworn. As rocky as their friendship had been, she'd been fondly tolerant of the Skylord.
The floating Sky Fortress Bahamut shook with the force of an explosion. Cosmos watched as the Chaos-damned Vayne looked up in surprise, his eyes troubled as he scanned the screens for damage reports. It had not been long ago that Vayne had fought the Skylord here. In the end, Vayne had prevailed, finishing the Skylord off, and proclaiming him as naught but a rebel that stood in the path of true freedom.
Vayne had expected the fiasco to have ended, following the Skylord's defeat. He'd underestimated one very important factor, however.
"Something has taken out the main engine…" Vayne murmured to himself. The Sky Fortress shuddered again, beginning to tilt at a dangerous angle. "And the thrusters…"
That high above ground, the resulting impact would render the Sky Fortress useless, and would likely kill any on board. Cosmos watched Vayne curse and try to reengage the thrusters, and then begin to make his way towards the escape ship located just outside the command centre. She closed her eyes, and she could feel one of her warriors on board, moving at a fantastic speed from where she knew the Sky Fortress' engine room was…
The Witch shot into view, her speed aided by a carefully controlled whirlwind that propelled her through the fortress' corridors. The magical tornado died down as the Witch allowed herself to drop from its grasp. She looked up, her eyes stony. Cosmos had often wondered what drove the Witch to fight for the side of Order. She had supposed, once, that it was naught but pride and ego that kept the Witch here.
"Shantotto. Then it was you, who has damaged my airship?" Vayne's voice was calm, confident in spite of the fact that his Sky Fortress was crashing down, all thanks to the tarutaru mage before him. The Witch just laughed at the informal way in which he addressed her, a sound that seemed even more chilling than normal.
"I've come to the end of my deliberation – this night shall end with your incineration!"
"You believe that you can best me, witch? The boy stood in the way of an end to all of this! Why do you fight for Cosmos, when we are mere pawns in a game of gods?"
"This time I fight, not just for Cosmos, but what is right. Retribution. Absolution." The Witch suddenly smiled, gesturing to Vayne. A pillar of lightning erupted where Vayne had been standing but a second ago. "Execution."
It was vengeance for the fallen Skylord, though the Witch would never admit to such feelings of camaraderie with the other Cosmos-sworn.
By the end of the furious battle, Shantotto had taken out Vayne, and had survived the explosion as the Sky Fortress had hit the ground. Cosmos smiled slightly. The Witch gone on to defeat the last dregs of Chaos' warriors, before taking on the God of Discord alone. She'd won – a frightening woman, indeed. Since that war, however, Cosmos had been content to let the Witch's soul rest.
The Skylord had started out simply, Cosmos noted as she moved onwards, to where the statue of the skypirate stood. He had been naught but a child living on the streets, unimpressive and without the links to greatness that many of her other warriors possessed. He was no prince, mystical warrior, chosen one, knight or sports star – he was just a youth from the slums.
It was through mere chance that he found himself involved in the battle for Dalmasca, and that first adventure had only spurred him on to greatness. He'd risen from being an angry, powerless civilian to a famous and daring skypirate, and lived the life he had always dreamed of.
But because of that success, he'd been forced into these wars, to fight for his freedom again and again. The Skylord never forgot his roots, however – of fighting against the control of an outside oppressor. Perhaps that had been why he'd been so angered by what Kefka had done to the Godslayer.
The Skylord rolled free from the burning wreckage of his Galbana airship, coughing blood and clutching at his broken ribs. The crash had hurt him badly, and he could no longer stand under his own willpower. Cosmos looked into the sea of fire that surrounded him. Kefka's pawn had been disabled, and thus a great blow had been struck against Chaos, but the danger was far from over.
The Godslayer and the Skylord had been friends before her defection to Chaos this war, and it had been in the name of that bond that he'd infiltrated Kefka's seat of power. The Godslayer had staved off Kefka's influence over her mind for just long enough, giving him just an instant to free her from Kefka's grip. His hands slick with her blood, he'd stayed with her until the end. His heart was heavy, but she was smiling as she died.
Kefka had known of the Godslayer's death in the instant it had occurred, and so the wretched god had found them.
In such close quarters, the Skylord had stood no chance. As the young man crawled away from the wreckage, lightheaded from smoke inhalation and pain, he looked up to see a dark figure walking through the wildfire that raged around him. Cosmos felt the Skylord's sudden spike of fear, as clearly as if it were her own.
"How dare you ruin my game! The girl was mine! All mine!" Kefka roared as he burst from the flames, a blast of magic smashing the Skylord back into the twisted shell of the Galbana. "I will flay you alive for this!"
The Skylord coughed as braced himself against the old airship, blood running down his face from a scalp wound, from between his lips.
"Bring it," the young man spat, his body screaming in agony as he forced himself to sink into a battle stance. One last time, he'd fight for what he believed was right. "I'll kick your bony ass for what you did to Terra!"
The World's Enemy had always been a reluctant warrior. Cosmos knew that she'd not been fond of the idea of serving under another god, of being bound to a futile and brutal existence. By all logic, the World's Enemy should have declined the Valkyrie's bargain, but something in her had relented. Perhaps he'd told her that if she wouldn't fight for Cosmos, there would be another of her group that would.
No matter what the nature of their bargain, the World's Enemy had done her duty, no matter her personal opinion of the Goddess.
Her likeness to the Cloudy Wolf had earned her friends – but it had also earned her enemies. Among those that loathed her, was the deranged swordsman Sephiroth. Angered by her close resemblance to his sworn enemy, the ignorant traitor that he longed to destroy, Sephiroth had attacked her on sight. When it became clear that the Cloudy Wolf and the World's Enemy did not have similar weaknesses of the time, it had only spurred Sephiroth onwards.
He'd set out to break her.
The World's Enemy had been pinned to stone. She'd been run completely through by the Masamune's infinitely sharp blade, pierced through her chest – just shy of the l'Cie brand she'd so despised. Blood bubbled between her lips as she clawed at the blade, coughing the blood up, choking on it. At the far end of the blade, Sephiroth was smiling, barely looking fazed by the intense battle he and the World's Enemy had just shared. Of course, Cosmos realized. All along, Sephiroth had been toying with her.
As if also struck by that same revelation, the World's Enemy spat blood at him.
"Pathetic, is it not?" Sephiroth asked her in a low voice, that cold smile still on his lips as he watched her struggle. "Always dandling on a fal'Cie's whim, forced to fight for the sake of a… Focus, was it not? In the end, you really are no better than Cloud. Just a helpless pawn."
"I fight my Focus," the World's Enemy ground out between her clenched teeth, still choking on her own blood. Cosmos could feel her fading, could see the darkness eating at the edges of her vision.
"And you fail every time." Sephiroth's green eyes were locked onto her face, seeming to be seeking something. "Weakness, helplessness, the inability to do what must be done. Is that who you are? Or is Claire closer to who you are than you ever realized?"
Cosmos felt the World's Enemy shudder at the name, at the twisted truths and the half-lies. Sephiroth had done his homework on the World's Enemy, then.
"You lost your sister, you lost your comrades, you lost your sanity and humanity, and then you lost Cocoon. You fight to save others, but you have not the power to save yourself! Isn't that right, Claire?"
The World's Enemy clenched her fist, slamming it against the concrete slab behind her. She was still refusing to give in, to give Sephiroth the satisfaction of breaking her mind. But the resistance held by just a hair, though. It wavered, so close to breaking.
"Allow me to free you of your… insidious weakness. To carve it from your body." Sephiroth twisted Masamune within the World's Enemy, and she couldn't help but scream.
Death, destruction, weakness and suffering. Memories that would scar and torture for eternity. It was the only outcome of these pointless cycles, and the knowledge of all her warriors had suffered still filled Cosmos with bitterness. There was no end to it in sight, no matter how hard her warriors fought, how she poured herself into finding that eternal rest.
Cosmos had been so certain that her gambit during the Thirteenth War would end it all. In destroying two gods in the once cycle, she'd hoped that somehow, her warriors would find a way to end it. But Shinryuu had paid no heed to her sacrifices, no mind to Chaos' agony and so they continued their endless dance, neither gaining, neither relenting.
Her warriors still lingered in Valhalla, Shinryuu still bound them to the stone, and Cosmos knew that Chaos still waited.
Eternity seemed to stretch before her.
The light of the hall flickered for an instant, the flaming torches lining the room guttering out for a moment as the Rift opened beside her. Cosmos felt the threads of magic stir against her own power, and she looked up in time to see Gilgamesh warp into existence. There was something new, a sword clenched in one of his many hands, and there was a burning excitement radiating from him. Cosmos nodded to herself, closing her eyes.
She already knew what this visit would be about.
Gilgamesh didn't bother with any deference, and instead he told her,
"Got a message from Shiva. Says old dragon-breath is stirring, so get ready." From behind his white face paint, Gilgamesh grinned. The prospect of going into battle always excited him. "Buck up, y'Godliness. You got a war to win!"
She held up a hand to stay him, and she looked down at the row of the dead. Her warriors, her charges, and it was her fault. Another war, and for what? Cid's research? Shinryuu's hunger for infinite death?
"Nothing has changed," Cosmos said, quietly. "What reason is there to believe that this time, they can end it?"
Gilgamesh belted out a roar of laughter, a powerful reaction that always startled her. "You still hung up about that?"
"Hmph. You'll give yourself wrinkles if you keep frowning like that," Gilgamesh grunted, and he walked away from her, his red cloak fluttering behind him, until he reached the empty pedestals following the World's Enemy. He touched the empty nameplate with one of his huge hands, before turning back to Cosmos.
"Besides. You think that these kids –" Gilgamesh gestured to the row of the dead and sealed. "-would turn their back on you, while justice has still gotta be done? I dunno about you, but I don't see a guy like Bartz, Squall or Firion just turning tail and running. That's why they're the chosen, you should know this already!
"Someday, this cycle will break, Shinryuu will stop it with the Frankenstein shit and we'll get to go home. But 'til then, you just gotta do your best by the kids. That's all you can do!" Gilgamesh rubbed the back of his neck with one of his hands, as if distracting himself from embarrassment.
"Gilgamesh." Cosmos smiled, laying a hand against his shoulder as she joined him at the empty pedestal. That was the heart that had reached out for her in the darkness of the Void, that had looked back on his life and wanted to do better.
He truly was a presence that she welcomed, no matter his foolish posturing and bragging.
"Aww, shucks y'Godliness. But before you pick your chosen for this war, I got a new guy for you to try out." Gilgamesh was smirking again, and he twirled that new sword of his about, before offering the hilt to her. It was a large blade, slightly curved, with some manner of machinery attached to it.
Cosmos looked down at it, feeling reluctant to accept it. Another warrior to join the damned. Was that what she desired?
"What is his name?" she asked, unable to help herself. Though she didn't wish to condemn another, the souls of her chosen fascinated her. The strength of their light, their desire to fight for good – but in knowing this new warrior, there would be no turning back.
"You'll find out, Cosmos."
She accepted the blade gravely, and in that moment she knew everything about this new soul. His life, his loves, his friends and his death. His name rang clear in her mind, as if resonating from crystal.
Noctis Lucius Caelum.
The Sleeping Prince.
And that, as they say, is that. Hope everyone enjoyed this nostalgia trip down Final Fantasy lane. ((dusts off hands))
Thanks for those who read this!
The Warrior of Light as himself, Firion as the Wild Rose Warrior, Luneth as the Onion Knight, Cecil Harvey as the Lunar Knight, Ceodore Harvey as the Star Son, Bartz Klauser as the Adventurer, Terra Branford as the Godslayer (shoutout to DoctorBurrito's fic, the Cosmos Report), Benjamin as the False Champion, Verdot as the Turk, Zack Fair as the Hero, Cloud Strife as the Cloudy Wolf (this ended up as the official name of his AC alt), Vincent Valentine as the Chaotic Harbinger, Ramza Beoulve as the Zodiac Brave, Marche Radiuju as the Slayer of Illusion, Luso Clemens as the Traveller, Squall Leonheart as the Sleeping Lion, Zidane Tribal as the Angel of Death, Jecht as the Final Aeon, Tidus as the Fleeting Dream (this ended up as the official name of Tidus' shirtless alt), Yuna as the Gunslinger, Shantotto as the Witch, Vaan as the Skylord, and then Lightning as the World's Enemy.