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The Roses of Death

by MogMaster


Chapter 11

The pile of debris was scarcely visible anymore against the northern horizon. They were many days from it now, and Siegfried knew the journey was almost over. By the end of the next two or three days he would be home. The thought caused his stomach to revolt, making him feel like the Jerky was too much to handle. It was raining for the first time today. Just a light rain, that was actually quite refreshing to them. Everything felt fresh, clean, and new. It was probably around mid-day when they spotted a small cave appearing out of a small hump in the earth. It had probably been dug by some animal long before. Feeling rather cold and wet they made for the cave. As they neared the entrance, Siegfried stuck his large nose in the cave and began to sniff.

"Smells abandoned," he said monotonously.

Terra nodded approval so in they went.
The cave was itself rather dry, and cool. It went back quite a ways they saw, however Siegfried insisted they stay in the front, since he didn't really feel like running a search through endless caverns. Using some branches they found under a lonely tree, as well as some wood they had brought themselves, soon they had a fire going, and both of them were drying out nicely.

For several hours they silently watched as the flames danced. Siegfried saw two men dueling in the flames, however he wondered what Terra saw, perhaps children at play. It seemed a likely explanation, but Siegfried had never been one to assume anything of people. She spoke then.

"Why does everybody I care for die?"

Taken aback, Siegfried remained silent and intent on his flame fencers.

"They all seem to go away from me. He told me I'd find love one day, but he died. My father died. My mother died. Shadow died. The children all died. Why do the fates delight in turning all my joy to ashes in my mouth?" she delivered the entire speech in a monotonous tone with her chin cradled on her knees, gazing into the flames. As if she did not really care why. It was something she seemed to have accepted.

"I've never cared for another living being. I would not know," Siegfried replied listlessly.

She suddenly gazed up at him, her eyes glistening in the firelight. Siegfried met her gaze and could only think of how vulnerable she looked sitting curled up by the fire, eyes filled with an innocence that by rights should have been stamped out. He would have liked nothing better than to hold her then, but he reminded himself how foolish such notions are.

"Have you forgotten what you are?"

Instead, she replied in a tone scarcely above a whisper, "You can't be serious... surely...somebody... you must have..."

And he thought back to his youth; his father introducing him to his suitors. There had been that doe-eyed brown haired girl, the blonde with no brains and less of a body, the lusty mousey haired girl, as well a whole manner of lack-wit daughters that his fathers lords had tried to sell to him.

Siegfried boomed with laughter.
"Shall I tell you a story then?" he replied almost mockingly, "about a young lad nobly born who abandoned his bride on the day of his wedding for freedom and a sword?" he spat into the crackling fire causing a hissing noise. Terra only watched him intently, as if daring him to continue.

"Yes, oh how his father had been disappointed. Disownment was the word he used, if I recall correctly; disappointment that his son had abandoned him to be his own man."

He lowered his voice and softened his tone then. Why he continued he wouldn't recall later.

"Or maybe you'd like to hear the story of how that boy went off and trained under the greatest swordsman ever to grace the world? Or of how that boy became a professional treasure hunter, and slew hundreds while collecting the greatest prizes the world had to offer. The same boy who abandoned his father. The same boy who resented his family because he had not been the first born by decades even, and was thus seen as unnecessary. This is also the boy who ran from his brother daily, lest he get beaten for no other reason than sadism, because the man in charge was away at the capital."

He looked from the fire to her then, fixing his gaze on her blank eyes.

"The boy who had to harden himself more than stone to make it in life; that became a sword more than a human. The boy who became a man, and killed his father on his deathbed, then worked as hard as he could to avoid being caught by his brother, lest he be made to serve."

As his thoughts poured out unbidden after years of repression and keeping them silent, he felt an empty hole within his being, as if all of his sordid existence had never seemed so wretched until now when he spoke it out loud. He frowned then, and continued.

"The man who became more of a weapon than a human, who killed his emotions in order to forget that he was a sinner. Who could do no more than try to make it through the day suppressing his conscience, then feel the wrath of it at night in his dreams."

Terra remained silent. He just smiled a sad sort of smile at her, that made him look more innocent than he felt, and his tone of voice mellowed out to a sad, regretful sound. He couldn't remember the last time he had smiled a smile like this.

"Two-Thousand one hundred and ten. That's how many men I've killed. Some of them were good, some of them were horrid, and all of them died the same," intently staring at her expressionless face, he continued, "Some were rich and highborn, some were poor scum from the slums of the worst part of Zozo. Some fought like demons, some fought like rabbits, but they all died. In my experience death has been the great equalizer. All men must die, and I've lived my entire life not caring whether or not I die on the morrow, allowing my instincts to preserve my life, but maintaining that death was acceptable for me at anytime. That has been my life, such as it was."

He just continued to gaze at her with his sad yet content expression on his face. For a full minute they must have sat there, the fire spitting and crackling, cutting through the silence between them like a knife. Without knowing why, he suddenly scooted closer to here, while all the while she pensively peered at him. Then he was close enough to smell her, and she him. Then she asked the question he had expected in a puzzled voice, her face now radiating confusion.

"Who are you?"

Still placid, he leaned over and whispered in her ear, expecting to get hit on his way back out. Instead she looked at him awestricken, not knowing what to do, it seemed. So he just grinned, a large grin with teeth as white as the moon.

What happened next surprised him, like nothing ever had. She crawled over to him, all the while her gazed fixed with his, unblinking. Their faces were less than a foot apart now, and she went and did it, she kissed him fully on the mouth, with her arms wrapped around his neck, gently pushing him back to the ground with the weight of her body so she was lying on top of him.

She wouldn't let go, and now Siegfried realized that neither would he. For just that night he forgot his sins.

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2020 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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