Shades of Darkness
Note: I have never played the so called "Final Fantasy II", only the translated Final Fantasy IV, and this fanfic reflects that. The only admittance I made to the official "translation" of the game was by spelling Kain's name with a K, and terming him a Dragoon instead of a Dragon Knight, for strictly esthetical reasons in both cases.
Kain removed his Dragoon helmet for a second to wipe some sweat off his forehead. Then he sighed and put it back on. Something didn't feel quite right. It bothered him that a small provincial village like Mist had had a dragon guarding it, and it bothered him even more that the dragon had been talking to them with a human voice. He and Cecil had killed an intelligent being, for reasons they didn't even know. It had been a comparatively weak dragon, and Kain played with the thought that they could have sneaked by it somehow. After all, it couldn't have been there to guard the village from them, could it? They didn't mean any harm to the people of Mist. All they would do was to deliver a golden ring to the village Elder...
"Kain?" Cecil's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, I was just thinking." Kain couldn't see his friend's face under the black helmet, but he could tell by his voice that Cecil was just as concerned about this as he was. But there was nothing to do about it now. The King's orders should be followed -- they both owed him that much, even if they hadn't been Baron soldiers and obliged to obey by duty. "Shall we go on?"
"Yes, let's go," Cecil mumbled. "We'd better get this over with."
They exited the cave together and arrived in the Valley of Mist. Fortunately, it was a clear day, and although there were still fog in the valley, it wasn't enough to make it hard to find their way. The Dragoon and the Dark Knight entered the valley and walked through the scarce vegetation in silence. Both were deep in their own thoughts. Once, Kain noticed how Cecil picked up the little ring from his pack and turned it in his hands. In what way was it important, and why did it have to be delivered immediately to Mist? Kain shook his head and told himself to trust his Majesty. There had to be some intelligent reason behind all this. Something to make it worthwhile. The King had always been a kind and just man, to the point that he took in two orphans and raised them as his own sons. Yes, Kain and Cecil both owed the King a lot. They had to trust him.
It wasn't a long walk to the village of Mist, and soon they could see the houses surrounded by a few trees.
"So, what are we going to do now?" Kain asked as they came closer.
"Well," Cecil replied, "We should find the..." He stopped. The ring was still in his hand, but suddenly both soldiers noticed that it was no longer a simple gold ring. It was glimmering ominously in red and black, and as they watched, it seemed to be growing in size...
"Ouch!" Cecil exclaimed and dropped it to the ground. "It burned me!"
Then the ring seemed to explode. Large shapes flew from it into the village, and from the distance Kain and Cecil could see how each fragment exploded in fire as it touched the ground. Houses went up in flames, villagers screamed in pain and terror and the sky seemed to darken.
"What is this!?" Kain exclaimed in horror. "What have we done?"
Cecil turned to him and almost whispered: "Is this why we were sent here...?"
"To burn the village...!?" Kain couldn't believe it! They had been sent here to kill all these people! Why? Was this village somehow a threat? That dragon in the cave had indeed been defending Mist from them after all.
Cecil suddenly started to run towards the burning village. His black armor contrasted sharply from the bright flames. "Why!?" he cried out. "King Baron...!! Noo!! This can't be!"
Kain most of all wanted to leave this place and try to forget all about it, forget this terrible feeling of guilt that made his hands tremble. But he wouldn't leave his friend there. He walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. Cecil was shaking, on the verge of tears.
"Cecil..." Kain began, but he didn't know what to say. Suddenly Cecil lifted his head as if listening. The next moment Kain could hear it too. It was the sound of a child crying. A survivor?
Kain followed Cecil to the back of one of the burning houses to find the source of the sound. They found a little girl, maybe six or seven years old with emerald green hair, sitting bent over the body of a woman. Tears streamed down her face and she sobbed loudly. The woman had no burns, but she was apparently dead -- as if she died even before the ring struck.
"Who could she be?" Cecil wondered aloud, and the girl must have heard him, as she raised her head and looked at the soldiers. She waited until they had walked up to her, then she mumbled between her sobs: "Mom's dragon died... So mom... did too..."
"Oh my God!" Cecil exclaimed, and Kain gasped.
"You know, I think I've heard of this," Kain realized. "People with the ability to call Phantom Beasts... They are called Summoners. Could it be...?"
"No!" Cecil shook his head. "Are you saying that this girl's mother died because we defeated that dragon!?"
The girl rose to her feet and backed away a few steps. "You guys killed mom's dragon!?"
"We... we didn't know..."
Suddenly Kain realized something else. He pulled Cecil away from the girl a few meters and said quietly: "If the King sent us here to wipe out the Summoners..."
"Oh my God!" Cecil realized the same thing, but Kain still went on.
"...Then our orders dictate that we should kill this girl as well."
"But Kain!" Cecil sounded truly shocked by the suggestion, but Kain still wasn't sure. He knew he couldn't kill a child like that, but he didn't have the courage to stand alone against the King's orders either.
"If we disobey our orders," he told Cecil, "We will be executed for treason."
"But she's just a child! You can't mean it!" Cecil almost screamed, and the girl must have heard him. She didn't move, though.
"Then, are you saying we should defy our orders?"
"If the King expects us to murder like this..." Cecil took a deep breath, "I have no intentions of following him!" Suddenly he drew his sword and held it before him to put more emphasis on his words. "I renounce all loyalty to the King, to the Red Wings, and to Baron!" With the sword in his hand, he took a few steps towards Kain, almost threateningly.
"Hmmm." Kain was actually relieved, because this made his own decisions so much easier. "I thought you'd say that. I won't let you oppose the King alone, of course." He smiled defensively.
"No matter how much I owe the King, I could never perform such a lowly deed as a Dragoon! It would bring shame to my father's spirit."
"Then you didn't really intend to...?" Cecil slowly put his sword back in the sheath.
Kain shook his head and tried not to wonder what he would have done if Cecil had been willing to kill the girl. There would be no point in pondering that. Right now, they were technically traitors, and needed to think ahead. "Baron is the strongest military power in the world", he said. "Just the two of us opposing it would mean nothing against their might. We must let other countries know about Baron's lust for power and enlist their aid." With a slight hesitation, he added: "And we must save Rosa from it!"
Cecil nodded in relief. "Thank you, Kain," he said.
But Kain turned his eyes away from Cecil's. He couldn't bear to meet his friend's gaze. "I'm not doing this particularly for you though, you know," he said. Who was he doing it for? He wasn't sure. Maybe for himself, because it was the right thing to do. He was sure it was the right thing to do, but that was probably not the reason he did it. No, not for Cecil's sake, and not for the sake of justice. To be honest with himself, he thought, he was probably doing it because he couldn't bear to do something else than what Cecil did. It had been this way all his life. Cecil was younger than he was, but had a much stronger will. Actually, the only time Kain could remember when he had opposed both the King and Cecil was in his decision to become a Dragoon like his father instead of a Dark Knight...
"Anyway," he said to keep his mind from straying too far, "It's too dangerous for us to stay here. We've got to get out of the village. What should we do with the girl?"
"There's only one choice." Cecil said. "She goes with us!" He slowly approached the girl, but she backed away. "Come on!" he said softly. "It's dangerous here. Come with us."
"No!" the girl cried and backed away two more steps. But she didn't run.
Kain walked over to Cecil. "Then we have no choice," he told him. "We'll have to force her to come with us! We can't leave her here." He swiftly ran towards the girl, but for some reason he slowed down. Her tear-drowned eyes narrowed dangerously for a seven-year-old.
"Don't dare to come any closer!" she said.
"But you..." Kain tried to tell her, but she didn't look like reasoning with, so he simply grabbed her and started to carry her back to Cecil.
The girl started crying again and beating at Kain's back. He hardly felt it through his armor, but he did feel a little bad. He had done enough of evil today, but this, he told himself, was to save the girl!
"Kain, wait!" Cecil suddenly warned, but it was too late. Somehow the girl managed to snake herself out of Kain's grasp and landed on her feet in front of him.
"I can't stand it!" she declared. "I hate you! I hate you all!" And then the earth started shaking. "I hate you, hate you!" she continued screaming, and all of a sudden an enormous giant appeared with a weird smirk on his face. Kain had a moment to recognize him as Titan, the legendary King of Stone, before the giant punched his enormous fist into the earth. The impact made even the mountains around the valley crumble and created a huge rift. Vaguely, Kain noticed that Cecil was on one side of the rift and he on the other side, but he had not time to react on it before he lost his balance in the earthquake and fell backwards. His helmet fell off, and he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. The world became black.
Kain had no idea how much time had passed when he finally came around again. As he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see a beautiful young woman leaning over him. Her hair was long and blonde and her eyes were as blue as a clear sky. "Are you okay?" she asked with genuine concern.
"...I think so," he mumbled. He tried to look around to see where he was. He was lying on a bed, in a house somewhere, but he could see a hole in the ceiling, and the walls were blackened by fire. Probably one of the burnt out houses in Mist then. He turned back to the woman. "Who are you?"
"My name doesn't matter," she answered. "You're Kain, the Dragoon of Baron, aren't you? I think you are very cute."
"I am Kain, but how did you know?" Kain asked, confused. She was indeed very beautiful, and he was sure he would have noticed if he had met her before. "Are you a survivor from Mist?"
"No, not exactly. The villagers are all dead, you did a great job there, didn't you?" She spoke in a conversational tone, and Kain couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic or if she really thought it was great that that the people of Mist were dead.
"Well, there was at least one survivor," he said, not knowing how to respond to her statement.
"It was? Tell me, who?"
"A little girl, maybe seven years old. She caused the earthquake by summoning something - Titan, I think."
The woman seemed shocked. "Are you saying a Summoner survived!?"
"Yes, but I don't know..."
"I'm sorry," the woman told him and rose, "I'll be right back!" She left his side and exited through the room's only door.
Kain was starting to have a bad feeling about this. The woman was not from Baron, but yet she knew a lot more about the Mist mission that he had done himself, and it almost seemed as if she approved of it! Who was she?
He rose from the bed and noticed a slight headache from where he had hit his head, but it wasn't too bad. He found his armor complete with the helmet on the floor beside the bed, but his spear was nowhere around. Trying to ignore the bad feeling that steadily grew stronger, he started to put on his armor again. He felt naked without it.
When he was done, the woman still hadn't returned. He went over to the door, but found that it was locked.
"Damn it!" he swore to himself. "What have I got involved in?" He had no answers, so he sat down again on the bed. Maybe he could jump out through the hole in the ceiling? It was a small hole, but if he aimed correctly, it should be possible -- as a Dragoon, he could jump much higher if necessary. But before he had the time do anything, he heard voices outside the room. A moment later, a grotesquely ugly little man covered by a red cape entered together with the blonde woman. He stared with dislike at Kain, and then, without further notice, he uttered a "Hold" spell at him. It was a powerful spell, with immediate effect. Kain found himself unable to move.
"So I was right," he said to the woman. "You were keeping a prisoner to yourself! That's not fair! We all want a piece of the cake..." He smiled evilly, and Kain felt a shiver down his spine. He wished he had just jumped out of the house when he had the chance.
"Hey!" the woman replied. "I want to keep him alive! He did give us information! Besides, I think he's handsome!" She caste a glance at Kain. "At least without that dragon uniform-thing. If I'd let you have your way, you'd just kill him in some nasty way. That would be such a waste!"
The ugly man snorted. "You are a bitch and you know it. If you catch a prisoner, you should tell Lord Golbez about it and let him decide what to do!"
"Then I'll do just that!" she retorted. "Come on, we'll go and let him decide!" She turned to Kain with a smile that almost seemed friendly. "Sorry, Kain. I'll try my best to keep my simple-minded brothers from chopping you to pieces."
The two of them left the room, but Kain was still caught in the Hold spell. He fought it for a while, but it was hopeless. The little ugly man must have been a very skilled magician, a lot more skilled even than Rosa. He didn't want to think about Rosa. He wasn't supposed to care so much about her, but he couldn't help himself. He hoped that she was okay at least, and that this madness hadn't yet spread into the town of Baron itself. Not yet -- but it would, for some reason he was sure about that.
To keep himself from despairing, he thought about Cecil. He had been on the other side of the rift, and the girl probably had been too. Assuming that neither of them was badly hurt by the earthquake, Cecil would protect the girl. They might be halfway to Kaipo by now, as it was the nearest town. He wondered what his friend would do after that. He might go to Damcyan to try to convince their King to stand against Baron. Kain wondered briefly if he would ever see him again, or if he would die here, killed by these mad people. No! He mustn't give up!
Finally, the door to the room opened again and this time, five people entered. The first one was tallest, clad in a dark armor and a horned mask. He stepped forward and the other four gathered around him. It was the blonde woman, the ugly little man, a fat man with blue skin and a red caped demon.
"So, you're Kain of Baron?" the man in armor asked. Kain was still unable to move, but the man didn't seem to expect an answer. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Golbez." He bowed mockingly. "These are the four Emperors of the Elements -- Scarmiglione of Earth," he pointed at the ugly man, "Caignozzio of Water," the blue-skinned man, "Rubicante of Fire," the red demon, "and Valvalicia of Wind." The woman of course. As Kain watched her, she blinked at him and smiled. "She can be most convincing," Golbez continued, "And she made me decide to spare your life. She said you have a weak mind in a strong body - and after all, you might be of use working for us. Make sure to thank her." He laughed a little, then he turned to his minions. "Scarmiglione, remove that spell! Rubicante, hold him while I fix him!" The fiends nodded and Kain felt the effect of the Hold spell finally disappear. Instead Rubicante grabbed his arms and held him in a firm grip.
"What are doing to me?" Kain asked, trying in vain not to let his panic show.
"Don't worry," Golbez assured him. "It won't hurt..." He didn't even care to remove Kain's helmet, but simply placed his gloved hands on the sides of it. Suddenly, Kain felt like a great weight was being placed on his mind. His mind slipped gradually out of his own control and into someone else's, although he was conscious all the time. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't pleasant either. Moments later, he could only see what Golbez wanted him to see, do what Golbez wanted him to do, and nothing more.
"...At least, it won't hurt physically." The dark-clad man snickered. "Now, Kain, you are my trusted servant, right?"
"Of course, Lord Golbez," Kain answered. "My only loyalty is to you." But deep inside he was crying. Death would have been a better alternative.