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The Diary of a Man... Long not a Soldier

by Zephir

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23rd of Rai, 1001 P.W.

I'm not sure how to begin, so I guess I'll just start with name and rank: Gunnery Sergeant Lance Marshall of the Imperial Army. My last assignment was to B Squad, Fourth Platoon of Delta Company, assigned to the Hammerbridge Regiment, part of Eighth Battalion, of the Ninth Brigade. What a mouthful. I'm surprised I even remembered it all after all this time.

A lot sure has happened. Where to begin? I guess I shouldn't talk about what happened to the planet; I bet that's common knowledge by now. I'll talk about -- since this diary is going to be the last thing that anyone has to remember me by, I'll talk about me.

27rd of Rai, 1001 P.W.

I had to take a few days to collect my thoughts. That and my food ran out, so I had to get some more.

My birthdate is this month, actually. Tomorrow, the 28th. My family lived in Miranda, to the south part of town. We had the prettiest little garden out front, Mom loved to take care of it. She'd put wildflowers, ferns, roses, essellias...all kinds of things in there. There was a stone walkway that ran down the middle of it, snaking its way from the street to the house. All these little cobblestones and colored rocks lined the edges of it, and there were little torches spaced along it so we could walk around it at night if we wanted to.

I can still smell the flowers and see all the colors. We had this one picnic when I was six -- Mom made all these meats and sandwiches, and Dad picked all the fruits -- I scraped my knee falling out a tree, too. Mom made such a fuss over it. I loved her. I do love her.

28th of Rai, 1001 P.W.

I had to stop after that last one. I teared up too badly. So, where was I? The house...the house was beautiful. Bricks all around outside, flower boxes on the windowsills, a pretty, sloping roof with brown tiling up top. The furniture was nice -- overstuffed chairs and couches, soft beds, pretty soft blue drapes and curtains...we had the best living room in all of Miranda. I promise! I spent so many days of my childhood playing toy soldiers with my brother, or chasing my sister around the house trying to tickle and/or scare her. Those were good times.

Dad worked at a local butcher shop, cutting the meats and stuff. Mom stayed at home, caring for us...or cleaning up after us. Life wasn't very much complicated aside from the usual dramas of everyday life. You know, the odd girlfriend and best friend problems, the occasional fight, an argument, a playground brawl, dealing with bullies at school. We sure had our lot, as most kids do.

Then the Empire came. They laid siege to our city and slaughtered our men and women. They ransacked our valuables and broke our homes, destroyed our streets, and smashed city hall...and in the end, they torched it. They torched our city! I lost lots of friends that month...friends, my girlfriend of two years, my brother, my sister, my dad and mom...my grandma...everything was gone.

You know, I was 21 at the time. I worked under my dad at the butcher shop and helped my Mom with the garden on my free time. Brad worked at the blacksmith's, and Jean was a seamstress. Brad was working on getting his own home, and Jean was engaged to this guy -- John was his name, I think -- their wedding would've been in two months from then. Just two months.

And the Empire stole that all away. I remember getting close enough one night to see the Imperial General that was leading the siege...I studied her face and committed it to memory. All that cold dedication and passion, beneath that pretty face. Nobody that evil deserves to be so beautiful. I hated her...I still hate her. I don't think I can ever forgive her, and the way things're going now, I don't think I ever will.

They enlisted drafted me about a month and a half later. The Empire...ruthless, brutal regime. All they wanted was conquest. Emperor Gestahl always tried to put the best face on things, playing his enemies with a friendly smile and smooth talk. Even I half-believed him for a while -- until he attacked Figaro. Nobody was safe from them, and after all that stuff with the Espers and the Gate...well, we know where trusting the Empire got us.

I'm tired and it's past midnight...I should sleep.

29th of Rai, 1001 P.W.

I forgot all my birthday yesterday...um, happy birthday to me?

Not as if it really matters anymore. Well, after I joined the Empire, I worked my way up the ranks slowly, and was carted around all over the place: to Doma, to Figaro, to various little martial law assignments...just like a loyal little soldier. But I hated it, all of it -- all of the fighting, all of the orders, all of the blind obedience. I wished that I could do something, anything about it, to get back at the Empire. I even thought about joining the Returners, but by the time I'd worked up enough courage, it was too late. The Espers'd come through the Gate and torn everything up, and then it all just kinda spiraled out of control from there.

30th of Rai, 1001 P.W.

I had to stop midway through the last one. So the Espers came and Kefka got their power and then betrayed Gestahl on the Floating Continent. Or so I heard...I just kinda assumed that he'd seized power, because after the Statues thing, Gestahl disappeared and Kefka declared himself some kinda God on Earth. God...he was more like a dictator, flaunting his power, destroying Mobliz and Tzen, Kohlingen...God...yeah, right. If I could meet him face to face, I'd spit in it.

After the end of the world, I wandered around for a while, going from town to town and just trying to stay alive. I ended up somewhere east of Nikeah, living in the forest. It's late...I should turn in.

37th of Rai, 1001 P.W.

It's so lonely here, so bleak. I never really realized it until I'd started writing this -- around here, all the company I get is the odd small furry that scampers by or the non-predatory bird that flies overhead. I miss people, I miss human contact, I miss --

I miss Mom, and Dad, and Brad and Jean, and [unintelligible] shop, and the [unintelligible], and...home...I miss home so much...

I'm crying all [unintelligible] the pages...I need to stop.

2nd of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

I finally met someone today, a hunter from Nikeah. I don't how, but one thing led to another and we got to talking about the Returners and the end of the world, and stuff like that. Then he said something about General Celes, with some musclehead passing through the town lately. I hope she gets what she deserves.

4th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

Tomorrow I'm going to town to buy stuff. I need clothes and arrows.

This diary, if I don't make it back and someone finds it...this is what I leave for people to remember me by. Maybe some day someone will find it and read it, and maybe they'll learn something about me. This -- this is all I have left to show for me and my family. Bless them...and bless you, whomever finds this.

5th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

I went to town today to get some supplies: stuff like tonics and clothes and more arrows for my bow. I wore my old tunic out a long time ago and needed to get it replaced. Looks like all those furs I kept cam were useful after all.

8th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

This is it. It's over. I don't know what it was, but some...thing bit me while hunting today, and now I'm poisoned. I can't find an antidote for it, so I'm doomed. I guess I've got...two, three days if I'm lucky.

9th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

It's getting worse; my head spins all the time now, and my limbs're all weak. I can't...think...straight to write. My fingers're trembling and it's hard to hold this pen. I don't wanna die, but right now...there's nothing I can do.

10th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

I don't know how, but I got to Nikeah today. I brought this with me so I could write in it, if I lived. Nobody could figure out what kinda poison this is, and no antidote worked. I've been thinking, and...praying.

Yeah, I've been praying. Right now, all I can hope is that, in whatever afterlife there is, I find peace. Heaven knows I haven't found it down here.

I'm in the Inn right now. I used what money I had left to buy the room...well, I wanted to, but the owner insisted on letting me stay for free. He read the diary, and I guess decided that I could stay for free. I'm just grateful that I won't die alone. He said he'll pay for the funeral and burial.

~~~~~~

It's been a couple hours since I wrote that there, and the coroner said he'd do the burial services for free. I don't get how th why all these people're being so nice to me.

Well I'm tired, and the room is starting to spin again. I'll try to sleep now.

11th of Fermus, 1001 P.W.

It's only a quarter past midnight, but I'll just call it the 11th anyway. The room's spinning, and my eyes're getting cloudy. I'm writing this blind, on a large piece of paper so I can write big.

This diary...someone please take it, and read it, and keep it on your shelf or something...remember me, please? I hope at least one person will. My family's gone, so they can't do that for me.

***

Joseph pens the last words and files the diary away with the rewritten copy, in his traveling sack. Tomorrow he'll board a freighter bound for South Figaro, and donate the diary to the city's public library. At least these words'll show people that not all of the Empire's soldiers were bad, and that they were all human, too. This man was just another guy, a simple soldier of the Empire...

...No, not a soldier...he hadn't been that in a long time. He was just a man. Perhaps even a good man.

Lance Marshall, long not a soldier...but a man.

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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