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By the Dying Inferno

by Zephir

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The rivalry between the residents of the Gi Tribe and the inhabitants of Cosmo Canyon
was long and well documented. Fierce and stubborn, both sides fought each other towards the
one inescapable conclusion: one of them... must die.


Cosmo Canyon

"Bugenhagen!"

The old man hurried over towards Seto, hovering over the ground as he seemed to always do.
Seto looked back once more and then spun around to face Bugenhagen, locks of hair flying
about as he swirled. "Take Nanaki back to your house! He'll be safe there."

The strange old man pondered for but a moment, and then chuckled in his usual odd way. "Ho
ho hooo, surely, Seto."

Seto nodded at him once, then glanced over to his side. "Tikami! Hurry!"

She bit onto an invader's neck and twisted, snapping it, and then backed away as she let his
corpse fall to the ground with a thud. "They're coming in through the back! The
canyon...!"

"Yes, I can see that," Seto replied. "We must stop them before they breach the walls!"

Bugenhagen drifted over to Nanaki, their child, and scooped him into his arms. He tried to
soothe the frightened young pup, who was alarmed by the many loud noises and the din of
people screaming and running for their lives. "There, there... we'll go where it's safe
now, okay little one? Ho ho hooo..."

The pleasant old man floated up the stairs towards his house and looked back at the door to
see Seto running off into the invaders with Tikami, determined to defend the village at all
costs... even if it meant his life. Sighing, Bugenhagen went up the stairs, but looked down
as Nanaki spoke. "Grandpa, what's happening?"

"We're being attacked, but your mother and father and going to stop them."

"Who's coming, Grandpa?"

"Shhh, don't worry about that now, Nanaki. Everything will be fine, you'll see."

Nanaki hung his head low, looking down at the stairs passing below their feet. "...Will
Mommy and Daddy be all right?"

"..." Bugenhagen only hung his head and tried to change the subject. "Come... I don't
think I've shown you my observatory, have I? Ho ho ho... it's really quite amazing!"

Feeling the form in his arms whimper softly and become limp, Bugenhagen again becomes
silent.

Habran's Cave

A Gi Tribesman hurled his spear at Tikami, but only found a blank wall face as she twisted
her body and avoided it, then hurled a fireball at him that caught him dead in the chest.
He recoiled from the force, singed, and then looked up to see her leaping at him with his
jaw agape. Fearing for his life, he raised his hands and tried to fend her off, but was set
upon and torn by her fangs.

"Tikami!" Seto called.

She looked up at him with blood dripping from her mouth.

"We have to hurry," he began as he ran over. "The main force is coming beyond those
chambers!"

She nodded at him and hurried off after him, turning the bend one step behind him.
Suddenly, they found themselves in front of a squad of Gi soldiers, all hurling axes and
pikes. Seto thought quickly, setting one ablaze and then turning on the one closest to him.
Tikami wasn't far behind, knocking the third one down while then taking the last three with
a strong blast of flame.

"There're too many!" she managed between blows.

Seto narrowly dodged a strike from one of them and then grabbed his throat, and proceeded to
rip it open and spray blood on himself. "Keep fighting!"

She took one down to the ground and mauled him thoroughly, but yelped when one of the
enemies stuck her in the shoulder with his spear. Growling in rage, she hopped back and
pulled the tip free, then let him come at her as she bobbed to the side, then ducked her
head and then threw it back quickly, thrusting the sharp point of her comb into his chest.
Blood sprayed over her face as she drew back, allowing his body to fall.

A glance to her right and she saw another enemy charging at her, axe swinging. She noted
the spear laying next to her feet and scooped it into her mouth, looking up with her eyes to
glance at his expression just before lobbing it through his chest. Shocked and unable to
breath, he stopped and dropped his axe, coughing as he fell to the ground with the spear
impaling him.

She glanced back over again to see that Seto had fried the last three soldiers, and taken on
two more that had come. Occupied with one at the moment, he couldn't see the other one
moving behind him with his axe held high... and that's why she moved in and knocked the axe
away, spun the man around, and slit his throat with her comb. He fell down just as Seto
tore the throat from the other and turned back. "Tikami! Your shoulder!"

"I'll be fine," she said, then dropped down in an attack stance. "Behind you!"

Seto spun in the dirt and faced his attacker, another of the mage-warriors that had been
coming through, giving Tikami the room to leap out and hurl a fireball at him that
incinerated him and his remains. They then rushed beyond into the chamber ahead and found
themselves face-to-face with a sprawling army of Gi soldiers, possibly hundreds. They
paused at the top of the ramp leading down and just stared.

It seemed the vanguard had passed, for below them were more mage-warriors, with attack dogs
and snakes. Apparently, the Gi were putting everything they had into the battle...
literally. They glanced at each other for a moment as the first enemy climbed the ramp
towards them, weapon ready, then looked back and paused before leaping towards him at once.
The soldier didn't stand a chance and was cut down in an instant. More came, however, and
more fell.

Weapons flashed and blood sprayed, most of it the Gi's... but some of it Seto's and
Tikami's, too. Within an hour, the bulk of the army had fallen before Tikami and Seto, who
moved like a blur amongst the Gi. In the sides of his mind, Seto had determined that
despite all their boasting, their whole army appeared to be largely unskilled and
inexperienced... unlike he and Tikami, who had to defend the canyon at least once a month
against Gi attacks and had done so for years. From the looks on their enemies' faces as
they died, too, they seemed to be throwing their own civilians into this... and if
they should slaughter the whole army, it's possible they may destroy the entire tribe with
it.

Things were becoming desperate, however... more and more were coming, and their seemed to be
no end in sight. A hundred Gi lay at their feet, but still more were coming. The
few men who had come to help in their fight had died against the Gi... overwhelmed and out
powered. At the very least, they had managed to keep them from getting past to the canyon,
but there would be no more reinforcements; everyone who could fight had already come.

Seto crouched down and launched a powerful fireball at one of the attack dogs, incinerating
it. Another came from his right and he slashed it with his comb, then took it down and
ripped its neck open as it winced. Tikami was forced back by a soldier by his spear, but
used her paws to twist it to the side and out of his hands, and cast a fireball on him at
point-blank range.

She ignored the consequences of summoning one so close, however, and was burned by the fire,
although she did eliminate her enemy. She fall back into Seto, who held her up
gently as a bubble formed around them, temporary as it might be. "Tikami!"

"I can do this..." she struggled to say.

"We will do this, Tikami," he reassured her.

But as he turned back to look at the armies setting upon them, even he knew they were
doomed. "Seto..." she began. He looked down at as she continued. "There is twice as much
coming. Their commander should be in the back... if we can fell him, the Gi will fall
apart."

He stared into her eyes for a moment, becoming sober as they shared a moment of total
understanding without words. He knew what she was suggesting, and she knew what he was
going to do. He nodded once, and closer the enemies came. "I'll be seeing you."

They rubbed their heads together gently, then jerked up and resumed their attack as the
first of the soldiers charged. Tikami knocked him down with a fireball as Seto jumped on
one behind him. Charging further into the sea before him, he knocked over troop after
troop, cutting a path through the exposed and unorganized flank to his right. Tikami,
meanwhile, attracted attention to herself by casting a powerful quake upon them, opening a
gap in the very center of their forward ranks. The lines fell apart as unit commanders died
and the troops had to reorganize.

Meanwhile, Seto rushed through the lines behind and broke through into the final chamber,
where he met the last of the Gi army, headed at the rear by their commander, the tribe
chief. He hadn't the time to stare, however, as he was immediately set upon by soldiers.
Tikami watched him disappear into the room beyond and then turned her attention back to the
army. Relentlessly they attacked, but perched atop a narrow walkway and more nimble than
her enemies, she had the advantage. Largely un-commanded, they blindly charged into her
assault, and were ripped apart soldier by soldier, or fried three at a time by fire and
lightning.

Some of the soldiers got smart and hurtled their weapons at her, but she saw them coming
from far away and was able to sidestep each. Slowly the ranks thinned until only thirty
remained, and the flow of reinforcements that had squeezed past Seto had finally stopped.
The remaining thirty fought savagely, Tikami soon gaining the advantage despite growing
fatigued and dizzy from blood loss.

A spear then jabbed through her side and she cried out in pain, a blood-curdling wail that
made Seto turn back for a second. His skin grew cold from the scream, but he soon had to
turn back to the fifty before him. Tikami, meanwhile, slit the soldier's throat with her
comb and pulled away from the spear. She winced and stumbled, but an attack guard leapt at
her and grabbed onto her. She rolled with it savagely until she rammed her comb into its
chest, cutting its heart and lungs out.

The last of the soldiers set upon her just as a snake snapped, but she simply let the snake
come and grabbed it by its neck, biting its head completely off. The soldier had more luck
and was able to hit her with a lightning bolt, from which she recoiled. Another howl filled
the caverns, followed by the soldier's cry as his chest opened up. One last troop fired an
arrow through her chest from behind, and she yelped again before spinning back and blasting
him with a fireball, ironically using the last of her magic energy. The soldier fell to his
knees and cringed, but Tikami slashed his throat open before he could fall into the dirt.

She stumbled back a step and reached down with her teeth, snapping the head of the arrow
off. She dropped it to the ground and glanced it over as she felt her head spin.
Poison...

She fell over on her side and saw her vision begin to swirl, looking out over the hundreds
of bodies and the pools blood around her. With her last bit of strength she turned herself
around in the dust and faced the final cave, able to lift only her head, and whispered one
last word before dying. "Seto..."

Habran's Pass

Seto fought hard at the rear entrance, slaying all his enemies in due turn. Slowly the
personal guard of the tribe chief melted away, slaughtered by an enemy driven by hatred and
a need to avenge his wife. The chief himself began to get worried when his men were falling
away, worn down to a slim number of ten men. Lesser soldiers tried to attack, but were
killed even faster than the personal guard, while some of them actually dropped their
weapons and ran. Seto was on a ruthless killing spree, slaughtering soldiers left and right
in a blind rage, a fury so blind he ignored the many wounds and arrows sticking from his
body.

The chief finally had enough and set upon him, a huge man dressed in full ceremonial armor
and garb. Seto dropped one last guard before turning back to face the powerful spell cast
by his foe. It knocked him to the side and sent him rolling into one of the bodies, but he
quickly recovered and leapt out of the way of another fireball, positioning himself to get a
clear shot at him. He ducked down and leapt to take it, but found the chief to be faster as
he drove his staff into his chest.

Seto rolled again to the side, but was prepared and ducked below a tomahawk, then sprung out
at him and hurled a lightning bolt at his enemy that knocked him back. Surprised and
off-guard, the chief left himself open for a counterattack, which Seto took with a follow-up
fireball and a lunge, latching himself onto the chief's head with his jaws.

The chief stumbled and let out a cry, just as more arrows fly through the air and stuck into
Seto's back. Seto again tried to ignore the pain, but it was becoming harder under the
influence of all the poison.

"Shoot him! Shoot him!"

More arrows came, but Seto refused to let go, instead tightening his grip until he heard a
sickening pop and a squishing noise. He clamped down tighter and tasted blood, then let go
and twisted to the side, snapping the chief's neck while spraying blood all over the ground.
Seto took no break and immediately summoned a column of earth under the last of the Gi,
impaling some on pillars of rock.

The final few dropped their weapons and fled, but three let one last arrow fly before taking
to the road. Seto took two of the three, the last one slapping against a wall behind him
harmlessly, but the damage had been done. Bleeding and cut open profusely, he refused to
give up, and climbed the slab of rock before him.

He struggled every step up the ramp, his vision fading into one big teary blur as he fought
for life. Finally he reached the top and gazed out over the pass beyond, the rear entrance
to Cosmo Canyon and the thing he'd fought hardest to protect. Even though his vision was
just a smudge of color and motion, he could still make out the shapes of the last few Gi
retreating, watching their little torches running off into the night. Emotion swells in
him, the knowledge that he and Tikami had fought off the invaders dawning on him. The
village was safe.

For all his friends, for all his family, and for Cosmo Canyon itself, he issues a warning to
all who would threaten them. He throws his head back to the sky and takes a breath, then
unleashes it all in the loudest, most foreboding howl imaginable. The spines of the fleeing
soldiers tingle as they hear it, and the sound echoes across the canyon walls, heard far and
wide for kilometers. He continues to howl even as his body turns to stone, holding the note
until finally his skin and bones are consumed, freezing him in time.

Seconds before death finally takes her, she hears Seto's howl, and takes comfort in knowing
the village is safe. A smile crosses her lips before she, too, is frozen in stone.

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

All fanfiction and fanart (including original artwork in forum avatars) is property of the original authors. Some graphics property of Square Enix.