Imperial Witch

Brian Dobreski

A fierce wind erupted inside the tall cavern as the rocks at the entrance noisily tumbled away. Amidst the torrents of air and debris, several soldiers geared in leather armor rushed in, their swords drawn and glinting in the dim cavern light. Behind them, a man draped in an exquisite red and gold cloak walked in, with many more soldiers following behind him. The wind whipped his cape about wildly as he gazed ahead into the dark cave.

Up ahead, the cave dropped off into a deep chasm, crossable only by the thin wooden bridge, which swayed slowly in front of them. One at a time, the first soldiers, then the caped figure, then the rest of the soldiers crossed the rickety wood cautiously. They came to another landing of the cave, a little lower than where they had entered, but still very high above the inky depths of the chasm. At the end of this landing, on the back wall of the cave, stood an intricately carved door, adorned with long forgotten magical symbols.

"A ha! We've finally found it!" exclaimed the cloaked man, almost losing his balance in the ever-increasing wind. A few of the soldiers came over to help steady him. "Those ancient writings told us of this world, and described the awesome magical properties of these beasts!"

Guarded by his entourage of soldiers, the man moved forward, laying his hand on the stone door. He could feel it racing with energy. With magic. He took a deep breath, then swung it open.

"Grab them! Riches to any man who captures an Esper! GO!" he ordered.

"Yes sir, Emperor Gestahl!" shouted a chorus of soldiers. Blades drawn, they rushed forward through the doorway.

* * *


The young Esper man slowly opened the wooden door, stepping into the dim light of his room. On the edge of the bed sat a human woman with long blonde hair. Her emerald green eyes gazed out a nearby window at the unusually windy day outside. She watched the rhythmic swaying of the brilliant green trees. Next to her, cuddled up in the thick quilts of the bed lay a small girl, about two years of age. As the woman's eyes remained locked on the outside, she gently stroked a hand through the young girl's green hair.

"How are you, dear·?" questioned the Esper as he made his way quietly into the room. The young woman was a little startled, but smiled warmly as she turned her gaze upon the visitor.

"Oh, I'm fine, Maduin. Terra's alright, too, though she does seem a little disturbed by something·" at that the woman glanced down at the girl, who rested comfortably in a serene sleep.

Maduin came over, sitting on the edge of the bed, next to the woman. He was powerfully built, but humanoid in appearance. His skin was an orangish shade of tan, his hair a shade of green, like the girl's, only darker. His ears were long and pointed, and his facial features were angular.

"Oh, Madonna· it's hard to believe our daughter is two years old already·" his eyes softening at the peaceful sight of the sleeping girl. Outside, the wind began picking up.

"Do you think it's the wind that's bothering her? It seems almost unnatural at times, just like when I first came here·," Madonna's voice trailed off. They watched the fierce wind for a moment.

"Humans!" shrieked a voice from below them.

"What?" Madonna exclaimed.

"Wait here with Terra!" Maduin spoke as he rushed out of the bedroom and down the stairs. At the entrance to his house he found several Espers, including the elder. The elder took a chair as one of the younger Espers began frantically explaining.

"The nexus between our two worlds has opened again! The wind· so odd· just like two years ago. But everything's different now· Troops have come seeking our magical power," gasped the young Esper, nearly out of breath. Another Esper ran into the house.

"Blast it!" he shouted. "They've made it as far as the elder's house!" All of the Espers were terrified, as was Madonna, who stood on the stairway, listening in.

"The humans will arrive here soon!" the first Esper declared, a note of fear in his voice.

"We've no choice·," the elder spoke softly. The rest of the Espers fell silent. "We must do what we've been avoiding·"

"You mean· the magic barrier?" Maduin asked in disbelief. The elder nodded slowly in affirmation.

"Here's the plan," the elder started, "We'll use our magic to amplify the already strong wind, causing a tempest that'll sweep all the nasty creatures from our realm. Then we'll seal the gate· I am the last of our kind able to cast this magic seal."

"But in your state, you might just·," Maduin began to object.

"Pass away·," the elder interrupted, "but at least we will finally be safe."

"Madonna·" Maduin noticed her presence as she further descended the stairs.

"I, for one, will not miss the other side·" she spoke adamantly.

"Let's do it. We have no other choice·," the elder arose and departed to prepare, and Madonna started back up the stairs.

"This is all because of that human girl!" snarled one of the Espers.

"Nonsense!" stated Maduin.

"No, I'm sure she helped the others find us!" the Esper frantically accused.

"Get a grip on yourself!" Maduin drew closer to the other Esper.

"No, she's one of them! Soon she'll be wearing our hide!" the Esper yelled. Suddenly, Madonna burst from the bedroom, running down the stairs and out of the house, into the fierce wind. Her eyes were watering with tears, and she carried Terra with her, holding her beloved daughter tightly.

"Urgh!" Maduin shouted in frustration. He knocked the other Esper down and hurried out after his wife and child. Outside, the usually peaceful small town was consumed by chaos. The wind blew wildly, and to the north, Maduin could see several human men. The Espers had managed to use their magic to push the soldiers back somewhat, but the soldiers initial surprise attack was devastating. Blood stained the emerald green grass, and many unconscious and severely wounded Espers had already been dragged through the gate, into the human world. The remaining Espers were locked in a vicious battle against the intruders.

As Maduin headed north after Madonna, he stopped to help a wounded Esper whom stood leaning against a tree for support. "Madonna," his voice was barely audible over the harsh wind, "she took Terra to the gate!"

Maduin rushed ahead once more, faster than ever. He could see the gate now, and in front of it, the robed figure of the elder.

"Where are you going?" exclaimed the elder.

"Madonna's getting drawn into the next world·," Maduin explained as he moved past the elder.

"It's too late!" the elder struggled to be heard. "I've begun casting the barrier. There's no turning back!" Maduin ignored the elder's warning, hurrying into the gate.

He stepped through the doorway, into a small dark cave. Shafts of light, entering from holes in the cavern ceiling, quivered in the wind. A rickety wooden bridge up ahead, leading to a higher platform across the chasm, swung wildly. In front of him, before the bridge, knelt Madonna, shielding Terra from the wind. On the bridge, a red cloaked man and a few soldiers struggled to maintain their balance.

"Look what popped out!" shouted a soldier, pointing to Maduin. Suddenly, the wind picked up greatly, augmented by the elder's magic. The wind picked up the soldiers still in town, and carried them into the cavern, and out the other side, back into the realm of humans. The soldiers with the Emperor were also blown out.

"Damn it!" Gestahl shrieked. "Just when we were in reach of a veritable bonanza·," his grip on the bridge loosened, and the wind flung him back out as well.

"Maduin·," Madonna spoke, huddled on the ground. "I'm not their friend·," she used all her strength to protect Terra.

"I understand that!" Maduin called out, carefully moving closer. The wind still rushed by them, stronger than ever.

"Thank you·," Madonna mouthed, her words lost in the wind.

"Can you make it over to me?" Maduin reached a hand out to her, stretching desperately trying to save the two who meant everything to him.

"Sure·," Madonna attempted to move closer. As she got up, she lost a hold of Terra, the small crying girl flying through the gate. "Terra!" Madonna wailed. She became nauseous, and her grip on the cavern floor loosened. She went flying through the gate after her daughter.

"Madonna!" Maduin screamed, flinging himself into the wind. He too was carried off into the human realm. The wind set all of them down in a forest near the entrance to the gate. Madonna, Terra, and Maduin lay unconscious on the forest floor.

Over in the nearby bushes, a stirring arose. The Emperor, his red cloak torn, stood up groggily. His head was ringing. Spotting the three, he slowly staggered over.

"A· human girl?" he couldn't believe his eyes. He knelt down, next to her. "Wh· who is she?" Suddenly, her eyelids fluttered open. She could vaguely make out the shape of a man standing over her.

"Please· take care of my baby·" she whispered. Gestahl's gaze fell upon the little green haired girl lying next to her.

"Your girl?! Eh?! Hmmm·," Gestahl studied the child for a moment. "Then she's half human and half·," his eyes widened. "How absolutely fascinating," he cackled. "She will help us realize our dream faster than we ever imagined!"

Madonna's eyesight came back into focus. "No!" she screamed, now realizing this man was the enemy.

"Quiet, my dear!" He bludgeoned Madonna over the head with his fist. The woman fell silent. "We will own this world!" he laughed in delight, scooping up the baby. Behind him, the gate slammed shut, sealed by the elder's magic.

* * *

Four years later·


Slowly, the young girl sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She yawned and stretched out under the comfort of her warm sheets. She sat there for a moment, running a hand through her long green hair. Finally, she crawled out of bed, treadding across the soft carpet, over to the balcony.

Her room was rather large, with dark metallic walls, and a soft pink throw rug on the floor. Her large, comfortable canopy bed occupied the corner of the room near the door. Closer to the balcony stood a small wooden desk and chair, and a wooden rocking chair. Still in her purple nightgown, the little girl stepped out onto the balcony.

Below her stretched out the vast imperial capital of Vector. The metallic buildings all glinted in the morning sun. Above her, the smoggy sky was a rosy pink, hueing into shades of orange and yellow near the horizon. This unnatural, mechanical had a strange beauty to it. Every morning, the girl would walk out onto the balcony, to see the eerie beauty of Vector.

She put her elbows on the railing and stared out into the sky. She couldn't remember ever being anywhere besides Vector. Still, she had this strange feeling that all of this technological beauty paled in comparison to the beauty of· of some place she couldn't seem to remember. She had seen it in her dreams, though. The emerald grass, and towering oaks swaying in the breeze.

"Terra!" a voice called through the door. Terra turned around to see a tall human woman enter. The woman looked about thirty, wore a long blue dress and a white shawl. Her dark brown hair hung down almost to her waist

"Kit! Good morning, Kit!" Terra called out, a smile spreading across her face. Miss Kitarys had been Terra's nanny for as long as she could remember. She had always called her Kit.

"Good morning to you too, Terra," Kit spoke warmly. Terra hurried over, and Kit scooped up the little girl into her arms. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, Kit. And I had that dream again· the one with the green plants all over the ground," Terra told her, hugging her nanny warmly. Kit set the girl down and moved over to the bed, straightening out the pillows and quilts.

"Kit, you never finished the story last night!" Terra pouted, running up and tugging on Kit's skirt.

"I didn't?" Kit asked. "I'm sure I did. You must have fallen asleep, sleepy head."

"Please?" Terra begged. "Finish the story!"

"Alright," Kit agreed. "But we have a busy day ahead."

"Okay," Terra said. She took Kit by the hand and led her to the rocking chair. Kit sat down, and gently set Terra on her lap. Off the nearby desk, Kit grabbed a small plush unicorn, Terra's favorite toy, and handed it to her. Terra embraced her toy, and prepared for the story.

"Where were we now·?" Kit inquired.

"The prince had just come, and the princess was still asleep," Terra said matter-of-factly.

"Ah, yes·," Kit nodded. "So the prince had finally made it to the room where sleeping beauty was. She lay there, motionless, but at ease, as if in a deep peaceful slumber. The prince watched her for a moment, fearful that there was nothing he could do to break the spell."

"What did he do?" Terra asked, hugging her unicorn tightly. The prince couldn't just let her stay that way, she thought.

"Well, suddenly, it came to him. He leaned over, and kissed her," Kit spoke. "Just then, her eyelids fluttered, and she sat up! 'Oh, my prince,' she said, 'I knew you'd come!' and with that, they left the castle and went off. And they lived happily ever after," Kit finished.

"Hurray!" Terra rejoiced. "I knew he'd do something!"

"Yes, well most handsome princes are quite clever," Kit said. She sat there for a moment, holding Terra in her lap. Terra was the closest thing she had to family, and she knew she was the closest thing Terra had to family.

Kitarys had led a peaceful life, in the nearby town of Maranda. Her father had left the family while she was young, though, leaving her mother to take care of her and her younger brother. Around the time Kitarys had turned sixteen, her mother died of an illness, leaving her and her brother with only each other.

Desperate for food and money, the brother and sister had traveled to Vector. There, her brother became a soldier, and she became a maid at the Imperial Palace. After a few years of harsh training, her brother was promoted, and sent to a far off land. He was killed a few years later.

Utterly alone, Kitarys faithfully continued her work as a maid, focusing all her energy on this, the only thing she had left. Four years ago, her services were rewarded with a special task from the Emperor himself: become a full time nanny to a mysterious little girl. Although hesitant at first, Kitarys instantly fell in love with the baby after laying eyes on her. She had taken care of Terra since then, like she was her own child.

From the start, she had known Terra was not like other children. There was something about the baby that Kitarys just knew was different. Only after accepting the job did she receive the full story.

She still remembered how nervous she was as she first stepped into the Imperial Throne room for her meeting with Emperor Gestahl. He explained to her that the child was from another world, though she was half-human. He wanted Terra to be raised kindly, and loyal to the Empire. They needed her for the furtherance of their experimentation with magic. This included running examinations on her almost every day. Kitarys had been quite concerned for the baby, but was glad that Gestahl had a soft spot somewhere, enough to let the girl be raised as a normal child.

Since then, Kitarys had been Terra's full time guardian. She came to Terra's room every morning, played with her, and cared for her, and tucked her in at bedtime. She escorted her to Cid's lab, where Terra underwent examinations. She took her all over the palace, and all of Vector, though they were never allowed to leave the city.

"Come on, Terra," Kitarys sighed, setting the girl down off of her lap. "I told you we had a busy day, so let's get ready, okay? You don't want to be late for class, do you?" Kitarys stood up and stretched for a moment. She didn't like it, but Terra had to start professional schooling today. Kitarys had taught her reading, writing and mathematics, but there were many things a nanny couldn't teach.

"Why do I have to go?" the little girl sighed. "I want to stay with you!"

"I know, dear." Kitarys hated forcing Terra to do anything she didn't want to. "But we'll be together again after class. Besides, don't you want to help the Empire? They've given you so much," Kitarys spoke, knowing that wasn't true. Literally, the Empire had taken everything from the girl.

"Going to class will help mister Gestahl?" Terra raised an eyebrow quizzically. Kitarys couldn't help but smile whenever she did that.

"Oh yes, the Emperor will be very grateful, and perhaps they will even stop the examinations," Kitarys said, walking over to the dresser. She pulled out a small blue uniform, and small leather boots. "Now, let's get you into your uniform." Terra set her stuffed unicorn back and headed over to Kitarys.

"Are other kids gonna be there?" Terra questioned as Kitarys helped her change.

"Yes, there will be," Kitarys replied, knowing Terra had had little contact with other children. Especially these children. Terra was to be trained along side human children of various ages, who had been augmented with Esper power. Products of the Empire's Magitek experimentations, with Espers retrieved during the same expedition that Terra was. "I'm sure you'll get along. And it's only for a few hours each day·"

After getting Terra dressed, Kitarys took her to one of the palace's dining halls for breakfast. Although not very excited about going to school, Terra remained in a happy mood. That was what Kitarys loved about her. Terra was such a well-mannered child. She was quite intelligent as well. Kitarys knew that these traits would help her in her schooling, and whatever else the Empire gave her.

After breakfast, Kitarys and Terra walked hand in hand through the Imperial Palace. Terra's class would be at the soldiers training ground, given by Commander Rael. As they got closer to the training ground, they passed many soldiers, outfitted in leather armor.

"Am I going to be a soldier?" Terra looked up at Kitarys.

"Perhaps," Kitarys offered, though she herself was unsure of what the Empire wanted to do with her.

"I wanna be a nanny, like you!" Terra declared. Kitarys smiled.

Soon, they had reached the training ground. Through a large, arched doorway, they reached a flat, barren field of dirt. Over to the right stood a group of children.

"Alright, Terra." Kitarys kneeled down, looking her in the eye. "You behave for the Commander, and get along with the other children, alright?" Terra nodded slowly. Tears were welling in both pairs of eyes.

"I'll be good." Terra did her best to be strong.

"Okay," Kitarys hugged her tightly. "I'll be back for you in a few hours. And I'll have a great story for you tonight. I promise." Kitarys knew she shouldn't be getting this emotional, but she couldn't help it. With a final wave, she walked back out of the arched doorway.

Terra wiped a tear from her eye, gave one last sniffle, and resolutely walked forth toward the other children, comforted by the knowledge that she would soon see Kitarys again. As she moved toward the dozen other children, she noticed they ranged in age from about her age, to about sixteen or so, and all donned blue uniforms, identical to hers. In front of them stood a soldier in leather armor, a little older than Kitarys, presumably Commander Rael. He was speaking to the other children already, but looked up when he noticed Terra.

"Well, Miss Branford," he stated, addressing her by the last name Kitarys had given her, "I see you're a little late." With that, all dozen children turned around and looked at her. She was shocked to see that all had the same light blonde hair, and icy blue eyes. Most were boys, but there were a few girls.

"S· sorry," she studdered, slowly approaching the group. She wanted to turn and run.

"Well, children," Rael sighed, "this is our new student, Terra. Terra, today we are working on sword skills," he motioned behind him to a rack of short, wooden swords.

"Alright everyone," he announced, "take a sword, pick a partner of roughly the same size, and practice." All the children took swords and paired off. Reluctantly, Terra took her sword. She held the heavy wood in both hands, feeling very uncomfortable, and scared. Suddenly, a girl of about the same age and height approached.

"Hi, Terra. Welcome to our class," the girl said, smiling. "My name is Celes."

"Um· hi, Celes," Terra greeted.

"Do you want me to show you how·?" Celes offered.

"Okay·," Terra agreed, following Celes to an empty part of the field.

"Hold it like this," Celes showed her. "There you go." Terra swung the sword a few times.

"Do you do this everyday?" Terra frowned.

"Pretty much." Celes nodded. "It's not that bad. I first started this class about a year ago, so I'm still kinda learning, too· Some of the older kids are real good, though," she spoke, motioning to two of the older boys. They attacked and counter attacked each other with expert precision.

"Wow·," Terra exclaimed.

"The one with the shorter hair is Leo," Celes said. "He's nice, but he's not really one of us." Terra wondered what she meant. "The other one is Kefka. He's kinda weird." Celes swung her sword through the air. "Watch this·" Celes twirled her sword about.

"Hee hee," Terra giggled. She hated class, but she was glad this other girl was here. They practiced for a while, sitting down on the barren field afterward to take a break. As Terra looked at the bare dirt, she knew there was something missing. In her dream·

"Isn't there supposed to be green stuff here?" Terra scratched at the ground.

"Huh?" Celes replied. Terra closed her eyes and pressed her palms to the earth. In her dream, the ground was full of life· "What are you doing?"

Suddenly, Celes sensed a surge of strange energy eminate from Terra. Around the green haired girl, brilliant green blades of grass sprouted. Terra opened her eyes and gasped, as did Celes.

"What on earth?!" the Commander exclaimed, rushing over. The entire class stopped practicing and went over to see what the fuss was about.

"What did she do·?" one student asked.

"I dunno," another replied. The boy Celes had identified as Kefka stared intensely at Terra.

"What is the meaning of this?" Rael thundered, not believing his eyes. Terra, momentarily filled with awe, was at once filled with terror. So many chilling blue eyes staring at her· She hadn't done anything wrong, she thought. She began to sob. The Commander grabbed her by the arm and yanked her from the crowd. He began forcing her over to the arch.

"Please," Terra begged. "Stop it! You're hurting me!" The Commander's grip only grew tighter. "Stop it! Let go, let go now!" she shrieked, crying uncontrollably.

Suddenly, the Commander's shoulder grew very warm. With another strange surge of energy from the girl, his arm burst into flames. Screams went up among the students as their commander flailed his arm about, eventually putting out the fire. The little girl ran off, through the arch and down the hall.

* * *


"Where is she?" Kitarys thundered as she burst through the doorway into a small, dimly lit room. She was in the Magitek Lab; she had received an urgent message telling her Terra had come here. In the center of the room stood a large metal table. Seated at it were the Emperor, Cid, the Empire's top scientist, and a man Kitarys recognized as Lecan, one of the Emperor's top generals. Kitarys had an awful feeling something had gone wrong with Terra's first class.

"Resting comfortably," Cid answered. Kitarys moved over and took a chair. "There was a slight· accident, in her class. She's alright, though," he assured her. "She ran off and ended up down here."

"Was she hurt?" Kitarys questioned nervously.

"No," Lecan stated. "On the contrary, she hurt the commander." Kitarys was very confused at this point.

"We believe the girl used magic," Cid declared. Kitarys's eyes widened. "The commander had reprimanded her, and began to escort her to the hall when his shoulder burst into flames."

"She wouldn't do something like that! Even if she could!" Kitarys was shocked.

"Oh no, she can alright. And she did," Lecan hissed. Kitarys frowned at the man. She had very little respect for that general. He was the one pushing Gestahl to experiment with Espers in the first place. "She's just too· undisciplined."

"She's just a child! And besides, that's what the classes are for, to help her control her power!" Kitarys was becoming quite angry.

"Those classes are meant for the Magitek Knights, genetically engineered, perfectly trained soldiers. Not some unruly· witch!" Lecan spat.

"We're afraid that leaving her in these classes would be unwise," Cid spoke, frowning at Lecan. He didn't care too much for that man either. "The other children were terrified. Leaving her in class would be a disturbance to the other students."

"Frankly, I'm beginning to think the way we're going about this is all wrong," Gestahl spoke for the first time, his gray eyes cold and distant. "She's of no use to us like this ·"

"Then let me take her," Kitarys begged. "We'll leave Vector, and never breathe a word of this to anyone, I swear!" In response, Lecan laughed hideously. Kitarys knew the Emperor's change of mind was due to the persuasion of Lecan.

"I'm afraid you don't understand," Lecan said condescendingly. "She's far to valuable to the Empire for us to lose her·"

"The what are you suggesting?" Kitarys questioned furiously. Cid glanced uneasily over toward the Emperor.

"We're going to put her in the tubes," Cid explained, referring to the glass tubes which the scientists used to hold and examine Espers. "She will be in a dreamlike state of unconsciousness. She will continue to mature, both physically and mentally, until such time as she is needed."

"What? Are you serious?!" Kitarys stood, knocking over her chair in the process. "How can you? She's a living, breathing thing! Not some pet!"

"Her entire purpose is to help us understand magic. Her magic will be much more powerful than any of the Magitek Knights'. The data we get from her will be invaluable·," Cid said.

"Is that all she is to you? An experiment? All the other Espers, too! They are living creatures! Maybe no one else has the guts to tell you this, you assholes, but this is wrong!" Kitarys screamed at the top of her lungs.

"Is that how you feel?" Gestahl raised an eyebrow, motioning to two soldiers who had stood off in the shadows. "Boys, see to it that Miss Kitarys is taken care of."

"One day, you'll see," Kitarys vowed as the soldiers roughly grabbed her and began to taker her away. "You can't play with forces like this. One day, this will all come back to you!" The soldiers dragged her from the room. Cid, Lecan and Gestahl remained at the table, silent.

* * *

12 years later·


Leo stood alone in a dark, narrow hallway, in the damp basement of the Magitek Lab. Before him stood a row of large glass tubes, each hooked up to a vast array of machinery. His gaze was locked on the tube right before him. Encased in eerie blue glass was a young woman with green hair. A plate on the tube said, "Subject Name: Terra Branford". Leo sighed.

It had been about twelve years since the half Esper had been tubed, used primarily for research. He remembered the day she had torched the commander. Afterward, the class had been told to completely forget about her, and they did. Only a few years ago did Leo discover her, now a young woman, locked away in the depths of the lab. He hadn't told anyone of it, though he knew that most of the higher up's were well aware of her presence. He came down here to see her every once in a while.

He still remembered when he was first brought to the Empire, at about seven years of age. His town had been destroyed by them. Being an orphan, with no where else to go, they had taken him in. They trained him as a soldier, and he grew intensely loyal to the Empire.

When he was about twelve, he and about a dozen other orphans taken in by the Empire, some still babies, were called upon by the Emperor to be part of an experiment. That was the first time Leo had heard the word Magitek. The Emperor had chosen these children because of their "superior" traits, and offered to endow them with new genes that would make them better. Leo would later discover that those genes belonged to unlucky Espers. All of the children agreed, except for him. Though he knew he was letting the Empire down, he thought it less than noble to gain such an advantage over other soldiers. However, as he was such a talented swordsman, he was trained along side the others as Magitek Knights.

Now all adults, the children held considerable power in the Empire. Kefka, Celes, and he himself had even risen to the rank of General. Celes was a fine warrior, with a pure heart. That he knew. Kefka, on the other hand, was immensely greedy and dishonorable, somewhat like his mentor, General Lecan. However, his skill with Magitek technology was considerable. He had even developed a new kind of armor, a bio-mech suit designed to amplify the powers of Magitek Knights, and normal soldiers as well. Cid's secret experiments with Terra had obviously provided the data needed for such a machine.

His heart sank as his thoughts turned back to Terra. Locked away for so many years· And now, as a reward for his development of Magitek Armor, the Emperor was going to give possession of her to Kefka. Kefka had been overjoyed when he heard the news that the half Esper was still around. Leo couldn't even imagine what that twisted man might do to her. That's why he was down here.

Soon, the half Esper would be brought out of the tube and delivered to Kefka. Leo knew this wasn't right. She was a living creature. Now all she was, was a pawn in the game that the Empire had been playing for years. He wanted to set her free, but he knew this wasn't any of his business. He was still too loyal to the Empire, those who had given him a reason for living.

He stood before her a moment longer, watching her. It looked like she was under a spell, in an enchanted but peaceful sleep. The kiss that would set her free would get both of them killed, though. Besides, he was too faithful to his liege to betray him, just to save one girl. But the thought of this innocent girl being exploited by Kefka made him furious. Frustrated, he quickly walked off, leaving the lab, knowing that sooner or later, the Empire's game would come crashing down on all of them.

* * *


Kefka walked excitedly through the halls of Vector, his long cape trailing behind him. His long blonde hair was tied back, and he carried with him a small, circular mechanical device. Several soldiers he passed gave him odd looks, much to his amusement. Every soldier here was afraid of him. Soon, everyone, everywhere would be under the tight grip of his terror; that was his goal. A lot needed to happen before that, though. He had just come one step closer today.

He was on his way to a small, isolated room, high atop the Imperial Palace of Vector. There, awaiting him, would be Cid, and his new prize, the half Esper woman. Kefka cackled in delight at the thought of what he could do with his new "toy". He had almost scolded Cid for keeping her presence a secret for so many years, but he was too delighted.

After climbing a high rising iron staircase, finally, he reached the room. This remote room had been decided on to house the girl, for obvious reasons. As he entered, he saw Cid nervously pacing about. In the center of the room, seated on an iron chair, sat a young woman of about eighteen years of age. She had long green hair, tied back, and wore a soldier's standard leather armor. It was a little big on her, though, as she was barely over five feet tall. She had a distant look on her face.

"There you are, Kefka," Cid sighed. Kefka ignored him and moved closer to the girl. "She's very disoriented. And she keeps calling for someone named Kit·"

"Thank you for escorting her here, my dear scientist," Kefka spoke. "You may leave now." Cid moved over to the exit.

"Kefka, don't forget· she's a living being. She needs to be taken care of, like every other soldier·" His words were wasted, as Kefka's attention was entirely focused on the girl. He sighed again, and departed.

"Glad he's gone," Kefka exclaimed, pulling forth the metal circlet. "So, you're half Esper, huh?" The girl kept her gaze distant. She barely noticed him.

"Well, you're a little out of it today!" Kefka cackled. "No matter·" He paced about her for a moment. "Ah· my sweet little magic user! With this slave crown, I'll practically own you!" With that, he slipped the circlet on her. Instantly, the girl became even more distant.

The slave crown was a piece of engineering Kefka had been playing with for sometime now. It blocked the wearer from all conscious thought, leaving them highly impressionable to any suggestion. It did have the nasty habit of erasing the wearer's memory, however.

"Alright, my precious little witch· Let's see what you've got!" Kefka stepped back, watching her for a moment. "Arise!" With that, the woman stood up. "Perfect!" Kefka laughed. "Follow me!"

He hurriedly led her down the many passages of Vector, through many halls and stairways. At last, they came through an arch, and into a large barren field. Spaced out over the dirt were about fifty soldiers, all suited up in large mechanical armor. Magitek Armor. The soldiers were hard at work practicing the usage of these suits.

"Excellent," Kefka hissed, leading Terra over to an empty suit. "Get in·," he ordered. She hopped into the bio-mech expertly, as if she had done it a thousand times. "Now, my pretty· I know you have strong magic powers, probably stronger than mine! I want you to use these powers in conjunction with the Magitek Armor." Terra nodded slowly. "I want you· to attack these other soldiers. Burn them up, now!"

Immediately, Terra piloted the armor forward, toward a group of about ten soldiers. The armor began to glow, and a large beam of flames shot out, blasting the soldiers. She fired again. With large explosions, each of the soldiers and their armor were reduced to burning rubble.

"Good! Burn up everything!" Kefka laughed maniacally. He couldn't believe his eyes. This was almost too good to be true. Her power was amazing, even better than the best of the Magitek Knights.

Quickly, Terra moved about the field, attacking each and every soldier. The training ground was ablaze, with towering smoke flowing from it. The soldiers stood no chance against her. In less than three minutes, all fifty soldiers had perished. At Kefka's command, the woman stopped and stood still.

Suddenly, a soldier burst through the arch. He was horrified at the sight, and ran to Kefka.

"What's going on, sir?" he asked frantically.

"Nevermind that·," Kefka smiled. "What did you come here for?"

"Uh, well·.," the soldier tried his best to remain cool. "Ah, yes. Gestahl wishes to see you. It's urgent, something about an Esper discovered intact. He wants you to send a small team of your best men to retrieve it·"

Kefka's eyes lit up. He turned his gaze back to Terra. This day just kept getting better.

* * *


The young green haired woman stood on a high, snowy precipice, which hung over a vast, icy canyon. In front of her were two more soldiers, each suited in mechanical armor identical to the suit she wore. The deep blue morning sky was beginning to cloud over, and a few flakes of snow began drifting gently toward the snow-covered ground.

The men were talking to each other, but the woman barely noticed. Her mind was blank. She stood, devoid of all thoughts, staring blankly off at the snowy horizon.

She had been traveling with these men for a few days now, as they made their way toward the cold mining town of Narshe, and supposedly, an Esper. She had been chosen to go during a large ceremony, in which all of the Generals, and even the Emperor himself, addressed a giant crowd of soldiers.

Emperor Gestahl, and especially Kefka, had grown increasingly excited. In the halls of Vector, soldiers whispered of a total revival of magic. In his excitement, the Emperor had obviously over looked Kefka's little experiment on the training grounds.

Not that the young woman remembered any of that. She thought nothing, spoke nothing· All compliments of Kefka's diabolical slave crown. Her purpose was to follow the orders of these two soldiers, and of the Empire.

"We'll approach from the East. Move out!" ordered one of the soldiers. He and the other soldier began to move back down the precipice. Terra followed soon after.

The three Magitek Armored soldiers trudged slowly through the thick blanket of snow. An icy wind picked up soon, and the air was filled with snowflakes. Up ahead, off in the distance, they could see dim, flickering lights. The lights of Narshe. Soon they would claim the Esper, in the name of the Empire.

September 1998, Brian Dobreski

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