AN - I suppose you could call this fic 'slightly AU' as it takes place in the same world as Final Fantasy VI, but it won't be following the plot of the original game to the letter. That being said, most of the major events of FFVI will still occur, but some will have different twists to them... or at least that's the plan.
Final Fantasy VI is the property of Square Enix. Also, I'm my own beta, so any mistakes in grammar, punctuation (likely), spelling, and lore are my own.
This chapter is rated T for esper nudity, bad language, and violence against plants. Taken as a whole, 'Celes Ascending' is rated M, but at the moment the content is fairly harmless, unless you have a problem with same-sex relationships, of course. If that's the case, or if you have a problem with the pairing, please don't write to tell me about it, thanks. Anyways, for everyone else... uh... enjoy?*
*No pressure though.
"Celes Ascending" by Imrryr
Chapter 1: "The Flying Esper"
"You are an angel! An angel's love can comfort even lost souls.
O Eternal One, if I may still hope for redemption, let it be through her!"
- The Dutchman, from Wagner's 'Der fliegende Holländer'
"Product of genetic engineering, a battle-hardened Magitek Knight, with a spirit as pure as snow..."
In an unnamed forest, south of Narshe...
"Blast it all, how did you get yourself into this mess?" Celes muttered to herself as she hacked through a seemingly endless maze of vines that stood in her way. Every bone in her body ached; she was sweaty, dirty, and completely miserable. Never in her life had she felt so exhausted, not even on the field of battle.
'And the day isn't even half over', she mentally added.
Despite all her military training, she had long ago given up on attempting even a pretense of stealth as she chopped a path through these woods. She just couldn't bring herself to care about getting caught anymore. But fortunately, that was rather unlikely at the moment. She hadn't seen a single sign of another human being since she had left the cave from South Figaro over a week ago.
Crossing over the desert and then the endless rolling plains on her chocobo, she saw not a campfire, not a footprint, nothing for ten damned days...
It was almost a shame, really, because a small part of her was beginning to hope that the Empire would catch up to her and just put her out of her misery already. With no signs and no people to guide her to Narshe, Celes was getting the feeling that she was going to be out in this forest for the rest of her life.
Coming out here was easily the stupidest decision she had ever made in all her twenty-three years. Although, not following the river she had crossed yesterday and opting instead to give up her chocobo and continue north-west over this vine-infested ridge probably ranked a close second.
What followed was just one heavily forested ridge after another, each one looking suspiciously and frustratingly similar to the last.
And the vines! God did she ever hate them. It wasn't so much that the forest was crawling with the bloody things, or even that they were incredibly thick and grew seemingly everywhere, it was more that the vines native to this place secreted some kind of purplish goo that was not only poisonous, but also incredibly sticky. It made hacking through them an arduous task, even with the long sword she had stolen off one of her captors... Sure, she did have another weapon, one kept sharp by magical means in fact, but no, she would not sully her runic blade just to cut vines, and certainly not these vines. So, her prized sword stayed in its scabbard.
Another shame really, since there were more than a few imperials in South Figaro she would love to stab with it right now.
"It would've made more sense to steal an axe... or a machete," Celes said aloud as she cut her way forward. She found she was developing a disturbing habit of talking to herself, but at the moment she was too tired to care. Her normally sharp mind yearned for a soft bed and several days of uninterrupted sleep.
If only she were a fire mage she could burn the whole sodding forest down, vines and all, she thought. Unfortunately, her ice magic only froze the damn things in place, which was rather counterproductive.
And what was worse, sometimes they turned out to be alive! She had heard that the Figarans called the living vines 'trillium'. Celes herself had been collecting a long list of names she felt described them more accurately, but she doubted she'd want to share that list with Cid, if she ever saw him again, despite his interest in cataloging new species. Only a fellow soldier could appreciate that much profanity. Cid always frowned on such things. He was much too refined.
"Damn this place..." she muttered, sending a rock flying with a kick from her muddy boot as the memories of the closest thing she had to a father passed through her mind. The one constant in her life, the man who had raised her practically as his own daughter, and now she'd never see him again. The memories left her with a sinking feeling in her chest. 'You'll never see Cid again. You'll never see your troops again. Who's left to care for you now, Celes?'
'No!' She thought, willing those voices to silence. She would not give up. She would not allow herself get depressed about this situation she had gotten herself into. Shutting her eyes, the former general did all she could to replace her despair with another, more powerful, emotion: anger. Fortunately, the local flora gave her ample physical targets for her fury, and she took out her frustrations on the nearest vines at hand.
*slash* "I really...
*slash* ...should have just...
*thwack* ...let them put me in that *pant* cell and...
*slash* ...died with some...
*pant* damned *pant* dignity!"
Blind with fury directed more at herself than anything else, she slashed at another stubborn group of vines only to bury her sword deep into the mass of them.
"Oh, for the love of..." What was it with this forest anyway? Now she could fully understand why no one lived within a hundred miles of it.
When this was all over she was going to find the spot furthest away from this forest and retire there. And if that happened to be in the middle of the ocean, well, she'd just have to buy a boat...
Tightly gripping the hilt with both hands, Celes yanked out the sword only to lose her footing on the damp, mossy ground. Pirouetting as she fell, she just barely managed to catch herself with outstretched hands before she would have planted her face in the mud.
"Nice one, Celes," she muttered, noticing with irritation just how dirty her long blond hair was getting as strands of it joined her in the mud. If only her troops could see her now: the general who conquered Maranda and personally killed the master of its armies was now in a duel to the death with the forest, and losing.
Celes chuckled grimly as she pushed herself back on her feet. She really was going to get herself killed at this rate... and she was going to look pretty dreadful while doing it.
With a sigh, she took her fall as a sign from the heavens and decided to take a much needed break. Narshe would probably still be there whenever she finally did turn up. She could spare a few minutes for herself.
Celes took a long drink and used the rest of the water from her canteen to get the mud off her hands before conjuring some ice from thin air to refill it. One of the benefits of being an ice mage: never being without a supply of fresh water. One of the drawbacks: people calling you 'Ice Queen' behind your back.
Finding a large tree to lean against, Celes closed her eyes and tried to calm herself down. Banishing everything else from her mind, she concentrated on the sounds of the forest and was surprised to discover that all her frenzied hacking about with her sword hadn't managed to scare all the birds away.
For a few minutes she listened to their chirping, accompanied by the singing of what she guessed were millions of cicadas.
Despite her recent experiences with them, Celes actually liked forests, well, the normal ones at least. As a young girl, she frequently pestered Cid to take her out into the forests surrounding Vector. Sure there were monsters out there, but for a young knight in training it was fun to go out and kill real monsters instead of hiding from the imaginary ones in your closet. And then, after the training was over, the two of them would sit there in the woods eating lunch and listening to the sounds of nature. It was so unlike the sounds to be heard in Vector. Now she regretted never telling Cid just how much she enjoyed it.
In the distance there was a roll of thunder, remnants of the storm that had hounded her all morning. And looking up, Celes could just barely see sunlight peeking through the canopy now. She could hear the wind rushing through the leaves up there.
That was what Celes wanted to hear: the soothing sounds of wind and thunder.
For as long as she could remember, Celes had been attracted to thunderstorms. While the people of Vector took shelter from the dangerous summer storms, she embraced them. When she still lived with the other Magitek Knights in training, she would step out on to the balcony whenever a thunderstorm rolled in and simply stand there, allowing herself to be thoroughly drenched while she watched and listened to the storm play out. Cid once suggested that her odd behavior might be a side effect of the process that enabled her to use magic. And frequently she wondered if perhaps there was something more to that, but Cid would never speak about that particular subject in any greater detail.
But so it was that Cid taught the young Celes to use her love for storms as a focus to calm herself. He seemed to find it very appropriate, for, even as a child, Celes in an angry mood could give even a seasoned veteran a glare that would quite literally freeze the hairs on the back of his neck and send shivers down his spine.
And well, that wouldn't do at all, what with Gestahl, Kefka, and other high ranking figures in the Empire checking in on her training at regular intervals.
'Yes', she thought dreamily, 'the light tapping sounds of millions of raindrops hitting the roofs of the city, and the fresh smell that rejuvenates the air after the storm has passed...'
"Oww!" Celes slapped her arm. 'Mosquitoes...'
She sighed. This forest she definitely hated. And now she was going to be nibbled to death by insects, or worse, her eyes widening at the memory, those giant hornets she had seen earlier.
She just could see the tombstone the Empire would make for her if her body was ever found:
Here lies Celes Chère, Traitor to the Empire
Magitek Knight, Subduer of Maranda, Hero of the Battle of Anacreon
Born in Vector under the 24th year of the reign of Gestahl, and raised under the aegis of the Emperor Himself
Died face down in the mud in some godforsaken forest with a giant stinger up her bottom.
And she knew it would be no less than what she deserved. History never looked kindly on traitors, even if their betrayal was for a noble reason. Would it even matter if she got to Narshe? The militia was just as likely to execute her as listen to what she had to say. And her soldier's training told her that she would likely need to slice a path through half the city just to get at the mayor and have a chance to knock some sense into him, one way or another.
She could certainly do it. But it was rather counterproductive, considering her aims.
And if she got that far, Celes expected one of two reactions from Narshe's leadership: cowardly appeasement, or unjustified confidence. Neutral states usually either tried to buy the Empire off, which never worked, or they tried to fight, completely ignorant to exactly what they were facing. Narshe would need her help, whether they liked it or not.
She frowned. There was always a chance they would simply offer her to the Empire. But, no, she would die before she allowed that to happen. Besides, she'd still rather meet her death in the hands of the militia of Narshe than be paraded through Vector on the way to the gallows. At least that way Cid wouldn't see her die.
'Just don't let me die here', she thought. Traitor or not, Celes felt she at least deserved better than that. She just hated this forest that much.
The general scratched her arm and sighed. She didn't really feel any better, but this rest break had gone on long enough. Besides, up ahead she could now see light breaking through to the forest floor. Just a little further up this hill and there might be a small clearing beyond all these trees and vines; maybe she could finally get a glimpse of the western horizon.
Somewhere in that direction, beyond the endless ridges and vines, there was a rail line from Figaro Castle to Narshe. Unfortunately, back before her betrayal, Celes had been assigned to lead the assault on the land of Jidoor, not Figaro, so she had only a vague notion about the topography here. But Narshe was famous for its mines, and she knew there must be several railroads running from Narshe south-west to the castle in the desert. She hadn't crossed any tracks yet, so the line had to be around here somewhere. She would find the blasted thing if she had to hike all the way to the North Polar Sea and back again.
Only a few minutes later the remaining vines fell away with a mighty slash and a jubilant Celes darted out into the clearing, happy to be free and happy to finally feel the warmth of the sun on her skin again.
Unfortunately, it was a small clearing; there was no commanding view of the next valley like she had been hoping for. Still, she could at least see the sun and get some idea of where she was heading.
"All right," she said out loud, despite knowing that she was still talking to herself, "which direction is north-west?" She pulled out her pocket watch and then looked up. The noon-day sun was peeking out through the clouds.
"Shit... it's only noon." 'Ok, Celes, you know that at its highest point the sun is always northerly in position.' She looked briefly and saw the sun in the direction she thought was south and her heart sank, 'Wait, have I been walking in completely the wrong direction all day?'
She tried to remember her training on how to navigate by the sun and moon, but that seemed like a lifetime ago.
And then she groaned when the thought finally struck her. 'No, you idiot, this is the Northern hemisphere; the sun is always to the south. You're perfectly fine...'
"I must be more tired than I thought," she mumbled, embarrassed.
She breathed a sigh of relief, and that's when she heard it: a distant scream from above. Her head shot up just in time to catch a glimpse of something pink rocketing across the sky. What in the world was that, she marveled as the thing raced on until the forest canopy obstructed her view. Was it some kind of missile? Had the Empire caught up to her already?
'Would they really use missiles to kill me?' Celes wondered. She supposed she should be honored if that were the case. Missiles were expensive.
And well, if it was a missile, it clearly overshot her by a substantial degree.
As she was contemplating this, she was further surprised when the object came back from the direction it had just disappeared in and began zigzagging across the sky above. She knew of no missile that could maneuver like that, but couldn't think of anything else in the imperial arsenal that moved as swiftly. Her mouth slowly fell open as she watched the object continue to dance around the noonday sun.
Then, to the general's horror, it stopped in mid-air, turned, and descended straight at her.
For a second she was still mesmerized. 'What is that thing? It can't be a missile...'
"Shit!" Celes came to her senses and dove out of the way just as the whatever it was crashed into the ground where she had been standing only a second before.
The shock from the collision hurled her into the undergrowth, and the sounds of cracking branches and raining dirt almost drowned out the hundreds of birds screeching and taking wing in unison.
The forest remained eerily quiet until Celes groaned and coughed into the dusty air. When she opened her eyes she found herself lying flat on her back. Then she heard it again, a scream so loud this time that it nearly deafened her. But something indefinable in that anguished scream made her heart ache. It wasn't a cry of anger; it was a cry of sorrow.
'Not a missile then, but a monster of some kind? Hopefully, it's not a wyvern...'
Finally, her warrior's training kicked in and she jumped to her feet. Something had nearly killed her, but what was it?
Aided by the wind, the dust began to clear as she surveyed the scene. It was impossible to miss the large crater in the dirt where she had been standing just moments before.
Breathing out a sigh of relief that she was still alive, Celes nearly had a heart attack when a oddly pink colored hand with five sharp claws suddenly poked out from behind the rim of the newly formed crater.
A moment later a head cautiously peeked out from behind the crater rim. Celes was surprised to see an impressive mane of pink hair, pink arms with purple fur growing from them, and a beautiful feminine face that she found strangely familiar...
And that was when she and the creature locked eyes with each other.
'Wow...' That was only word that came to her very addled mind.
As it crawled the rest of the way out of the pit, Celes could see that it certainly wasn't just a creature, not some strange magical animal like you could find in almost every corner of the world... This one was female, for starters... 'Yes, definitely female,' she thought, looking lower than was proper, 'a completely naked female creature.'
The former imperial general blushed.
Despite a secret love for roses, Celes had never particularly cared for the color pink before, but now she was faced with overwhelming evidence that pink was the most beautiful color of all. This enchanting woman before her was pink from head to toe. She gulped... 'Yes, pink from naked head to naked toe...'
'But was she human?' The blond wondered. If it wasn't for the claws, and the pink skin and hair, she just might be. But those ears of hers were rather unusual too. The tips of them curved back into points. They were different, but, Celes thought, enormously attractive...
'Attractive? Where did that come from? Now is so not the time for that line of thinking, Celes!'
She was gradually becoming aware of the immensely powerful magic coming off in waves from this creature. The air was charged with it. The way her skin tingled made Celes feel like she was staring directly at a storm god fallen from the sky, and she could feel the abundant magic beginning to cloud her mind.
She blinked. Focus, Celes! Her mind shouted. Finally, and not without protest from every muscle in her body, she obeyed and her right palm began to glow blue.
But when she blinked again the ice spell died in her hand. Now she remembered! Spells wouldn't do here. There was a better way deal with a creature with such enormous magical power. She reached for her runic blade.
Grabbing the hilt as her eyes stayed locked with the creatures', she couldn't bring herself to draw the weapon. This creature, this woman, she was so beautiful. Surely, it would be a horrible offense to kill something like her. Wouldn't it?
Her mind warred with itself. Part of it was screaming that this was some kind of trap. The other part wanted to toss aside her sword, embrace the creature, and never let go. They could fly off together and Celes would do anything it asked of her...
She blinked again. 'That's it!' She knew what this creature was!
Back home on the distant Southern Continent there were all sorts of spirits and demons that could charm a person's mind and turn them on their friends. Even disciplined soldiers weren't immune to such powers. That must be what this pink creature is: a charm demon!
Years ago there had been a major incident in Albrook where an entire division of soldiers were charmed by demons in the night. The next morning half the city was ablaze and the mutinous troops nearly overwhelmed the city garrison. Only the most loyal of soldiers had been able to look those spirits in the eyes and not be turned.
'And you aren't exactly the most loyal of soldiers, are you?'
Celes gritted her teeth. "Stay back!" she cried out, trying to use her most commanding voice. When she wanted to, Celes had the lungs to give out the kind of shout that could be heard over the press of the most chaotic of battles. In fact, sometimes it even terrified her own soldiers.
But this time her shout came out more like a whine, and she cringed when she heard how badly her voice wavered. She'd certainly be embarrassed if any of her soldiers heard that. As for the creature, it only tilted its head at her like a confused dog.
Celes shook her head; the magic in the air was intoxicating. Her heartbeat was pounding in her ears and she could hardly think straight anymore. There was a feeling of desire burning deep within her that she hadn't felt in years.
All charm demons could understand language and speak to some extent, it was necessary when they needed to give orders to their new thralls. Through the haze in her mind, she wondered if this one had understood her at all.
Apparently not, because the pink demon began crawling toward her again.
'Gods...' her mind swam as she watched it continue to get closer and closer. Though it looked almost human, it moved more like a cat. But the real surprising part was the creature's eyes. There was no malice in those brilliant red orbs. Looking into its eyes was completely unlike looking into the eyes of any creature she had ever seen before. This creature stared at Celes as though she were the most fascinating thing in the world, and the general found herself wanting more than anything for that to be true. She wanted to bask in this beautiful creature's attention for the rest of her life.
She also found herself with a nearly uncontrollable urge to run her hands through that thick mane of pink hair. And then... then she wanted to kiss her. Yes, more than anything she wanted to do that...
She gulped. It was unbelievable; Celes had never felt so attracted to anyone before. Had it really been that long, she wondered. Had she gone without companionship for so long that she was now attracted to the first seductive forest nymph she chanced across?
Dimly, she could hear the rational part of her mind screaming at her, 'You're an imperial general, dammit! You're supposed to have more control than this!' The creature must be a powerful charm demon indeed, she thought. There was no other rational explanation for the way it was affecting her.
But as much as she wanted to just let go, Celes Chère would not allow herself to be tempted. She was a general, not some brain dead imperial recruit!
"I said stay back!" Celes cried out, much more effectively this time, as she finally summoned up the will to unsheathe her runic blade. The creature's eyes widened and stopped in its tracks when the general thrust the weapon straight at her. "You'll not have me!" The pink creature scrambled backwards and her bottom fell onto the grassy turf. The point of the general's sword stopped only inches from the confused creature's nose.
'Thank the gods', she thought, happy both that she still had some control over herself, and that the creature had finally ceased moving towards her. Sweat was dripping down her brow as she watched the strange woman like a hawk. It was taking every last ounce of her strength to keep her sword hand from shaking.
The creature's own brow furrowed at the blond woman's strange actions. She sat there for a moment and then, to Celes' very great surprise, leaned forward and actually sniffed the tip of the blade as if it didn't know what it was. In all her years on the battlefield Celes had never seen anything like it: the demon was just looking at the weapon, like a cat might look at a piece of bread. Had Celes not been so on edge, she might have even thought it was cute the way the creature continued to regard the point of her sword with its eyes crossed and a look of confusion on its face.
Then it slowly lifted a clawed hand. Celes gulped and prepared to thrust, should her pink friend foolishly attempt to take the sword from her, but the strange woman only cautiously extended one finger and, after a moment's hesitation, lightly tapped the blade with it.
The instant she did so there was a blinding white flash and a powerful release of energy that knocked them both in opposite directions. With a sickening thump, Celes collided with a tree and blacked out before she even hit the ground.
Next Chapter: Celes regains consciousness! Will that be more exciting than it sounds? God, I hope so.
AN - So, uh, obviously there are already some differences here. Celes appears to have escaped the Empire before they could drag her into that cell in South Figaro. What did she do? Well, you might find out later. I also increased her age a bit as she was only eighteen when the game starts. I wanted Celes to have a few more years of real combat experience, and it's a little hard for me to imagine a teenager as a general. Terra is still eighteen, like in the game.
I should also probably mention that I'm not planning on turning Locke into a rapist, or anything equally ridiculous, in order to force Celes and Terra's romantic relationship. I dislike character bashing, or when people write a canon romantic interest completely out of character in order to justify a different pairing. That's the kind of thing you do when you're twelve, imo. Besides, I like Locke, so I wouldn't do such a thing anyway.
That being said, with its limited amount of dialogue, FF6 provides a lot of leeway in terms of character history, personalities, relationships and so on. Hopefully, my interpretations of the people in this story will all feel like they are in character. My apologies if you feel that is not the case.
PS: If you have any questions, feel free to ask. And crits and reviews are always appreciated :)
Also, I sincerely hope that this ends up being the longest author's note I ever write. -.-