To Invade, and to Reflect
Final Fantasy VI
By Andy Simpson
This is a short FF6 fanfic (well, short by my standards) that centers around the thoughts of Edgar as the Figaro Army is about to attack Vector. It is just something that I thought of fairly quick, and will prime my FF6-fanfic writing skills in preparation for another, quite massive FF6 fic.
It is worth noting that while To Invade, and to Reflect is a stand-alone story, I consider it to be in the same version of the story as my previous FF6 fic, Before the Crown. In reference to Before the Crown, it is worth noting that Terra has not told Edgar about everything that happened in that story, and has kept some of the more private stuff to only the people it concerns.
This fic goes with another fic called In the Dead of Night, written by another author (we have been planning this dual submission for months). Read both!
It's been ten years. Ten years ago, the Empire murdered my father. After that, the Chancellor hastily taught me how to be a ruler. I would not be able to have a teenage life. It's like I became an adult ten years ago. I understand why my brother fled the kingdom, and that is why I had to stay. He found peace secluded with his former master Duncan. I, by contrast, have never found peace. I have known only lies, deceit, treachery, and war.
And war. I watch with expectant eyes as I ride upon my steam-powered battletank toward the city of Vector. It is a purely non-magical vehicle, unlike the Empire's Magitek suits. It is powered by an internal steam engine fired by pine pitch, and rides upon a recycling rail system that lays down tracks in front of it from what it leaves behind it. It's armed with a large gunpowder cannon. It is one of about two hundred such vehicles, constructed in Figaro and paid for with Narshe's help, that are in the main strike force in today's battle.
My chocobo cavalry covers my flanks, and we ride toward the capital of the Empire. There, Emperor Geshtal will be made to pay for his crimes. Crimes against me, against my people, against the entire world. It has been a long time since we have planned this attack, Banon and I. With the financial resources of Narshe, the machinery of Figaro, the intelligence on Imperial army strength and deployment given by Celes, and the populous army of Jidoor, we will surely crush Vector's forces. Of course, until recently, Vector's armies had magic to support them. But now, Celes and Terra have wrested the source of magic from Geshtal's greedy hands. To think that he almost rekindled the War of the Magi...
In a way, he did. As capable physical fighters Terra and Celes are, they are also mages. Terra is the daughter of a magical spirit and an ordinary human; Celes has been infused with the essence of one such spirit. And, of course, Terra is trying to persuade the Espers to join us. Hopefully, with the combined might of the entire world including everything short of the Goddesses themselves on Geshtal's doorstep, he will peacefully step down. If not... well, let's try to end this with as little carnage as possible.
The idea that Celes once willfully fought for Geshtal pesters me still. But so does General Leo of the Empire, and he, I understand, is a man as noble as any. I wonder if Celes actually ordered the massacre in Miranda, or whether her troops took the initiative in doing that. Somehow, I trust her not to betray us. She helped us cause far more damage to the Empire than she would have had she the intent to betray us. She even cast a spell that brought us to safety.
I hope that casting that spell did not cost Celes her life. Well, maybe I hope that she did. The thought that she may have given her life for us pains me. But, if she didn't give her life, and she got caught, who knows what Geshtal or Kefka would do to her. My thoughts drift to what they did to poor Terra when they caught her after her own adventure in the Empire. Will we end up fighting Celes, with her mind wiped away by some device? No, the Empire would not do that, would they? Celes can use magic, sure, but the most important part of her is her ability to think her way through her battles. But then Terra is the same way, possibly even moreso, but then she has a stronger connection with magic than Celes does. Celes can use magic, but the magic that Terra uses is part of her.
I must not think about these things. I must plan for the possibility of fighting Celes, but must not think of the pain that she might have been put through. I look over at my chancellor. He stands on the roof of the tank next to me. Of course, I left somebody back in charge in Figaro, which is buried under the sand in case the Imperial troops come and try to attack it while we are attacking Vector. Who knows what Geshtal will do?
I lift my telescope again, and look towards Vector. There is a fair amount of smoke on the horizon. The Empire must be trying to make weapons and machinery as fast as they can to meet our onslaught. Not that that will do them that much good since all of their mechanized weapons work on magic (which they no longer have), it will not work well against a trained, mechanized army. Of course, I don't have any Magitek either, but my forces are still well-trained and, with the help of half of the nations of the world, more numerous than those in Vector. If they still had magitek, that would be more of a problem, but we removed their source of magic, so they're limited to conventional weapons, too.
I see Setzer's airship, the Blackjack, flying behind me. I send mirror signals back to him, reflecting the sun's light, to ask him what he sees in Vector. He signals back that he cannot see much yet either. It seems to me that Setzer has an unspoken grievance against the Empire, too. He seems only to have gained that conviction since the revival of Terra in her new, Half-Esper state in Zozo. I think more of Terra, and then drift to the realization why she is not here, piloting our only captured suit of Magitek armor.
Terra, Cyan, my brother, and Gau, were in the Cave to the Sealed Gate on the east coast of this continent. There is another continent out there, and there is a bridge between landmasses, at the end of which is the sealed gate. There, Terra was going to talk to her fellow Espers to try to get them to help, and they flew out. It took Setzer's airship from the sky, and although he has repaired it, Terra has gone back to try and talk them into joining us those that she can find, assuming that there are any still in the cave or that came back after their flight.
Poor Terra. Despite the fact that her past has returned to her after her ordeal with the Empire, she is still not at all a normal person. As Setzer might say, she is not playing with the same set of cards as the rest of us. She is probably the most intelligent person that I have ever met, but her emotions and motivations are only partially human. I have learned that the quiet, pensive, patient, and yet fierce side of her personality is, in fact, the Esper side of her. We do not understand her well, and she does not really understand us. It is probably equally difficult for Terra to communicate with a full Esper. However, there is more Esper in her than in any of the rest of us, so she has to be the one to talk to them.
She said that she would join us later today, and help out if we encountered any problems with Vector. To think of it, we may yet find some problems. Though the Empire will not want to risk its valuable, irreplacible magitek, those suits could still cause heavy casualties. They have no more Espersin captivity; except for those that we found, all of the Espers had already been drained and tossed into the garbage dump (those bastards...). I handle my autocrossbow, one of the few weapons that we have that can inflict serious damage to those Magitek brutes. No, I actually have a stronger weapon. I sigh as my hand comes around it: a small crystal hunging around my neck: the remains of the Esper Ramuh. Perhaps this is the rekindled War of the Magi, after all.
"Your Majesty, we are within the intended battle zone. Should the troops prepare to flank?" asks my chancellor. The plan is to have the cavalry spread out on either side of the city, while the main armor column smashes into the defenses. Any attack that tries to encircle the armor will be themselves flanked by the cavalry, which will wrap around the city and surround the internal defenses. Furthermore, the tanks are quite capable of putting up enough flak to keep the Imperial Air Force at bay, and even the cavalry carries enough artillery to put up an adequate air defense. As for their prototype "Guardian," it can't move, so we can just batter down the city walls and circumvent it. It's a brilliant plan, I'll have to admit. It's the best way to attack an entrenched foe that I've ever seen. There is no wonder that Celes was made a general at her young age.
I give the order as the armor column proceeds between two patches of forest, the chocobo riders spread out through the forest as the armor proceeds through it. I lose all sight of the city, save the smoke from the heavy industries overhead. Something's wrong. I would have expected to encounter sentries or police patrols out here by now. At least, these are the very woods where Terra was... caught. The event of being captured' was probably at least as deleterious on her memory and confidence as wearing the slave crown if not more so, come to think of it.
The armor rounds the corner, and comes up a shallow hill. On this bluff, we are going to set up some artillery so that we can have long range support in the coming battle. The tanks in front stop as they reach the top. There is no firing; they just stop. "What's wrong, soldiers?" I call. The other tanks make way for my tank to drive up, so I go up to the top, and look. What I see is surprising, to say the least. I don't know whether I should be glad, angered, or saddened.
My chocobo riders all stopped as they left the woods, too, just as the armor had. Before us lies the city of Vector. Now I understand that all of the smoke was not from factories.
The city of Vector is in ruins. I pick up my telescope and look more closely. The smoke comes from multiple blazes that are destroying house after house. There are only a few firefighters, and what they are doing is useless. Still bodies litter the streets. I cannot tell how they died. What began as a military invasion has become a humanitarian rescue effort.
I order the troops forward, and call the medical regiment to the front. We approach the flaming ruins with caution and bewilderment. Who did this?
Cyan Garamonde's forces get to the city first, and Cyan dismounts his chocobo and goes into the streets to look at the devastation. I drive up to the place where he leapt off, and join him. Cyan's face is grim. "Who did this?" he mutters. "The loss of life is as high as when Kefka poisoned Doma, but would that man unleash such an atrocity on his own people?"
"I would not put it past him," I say, but when I see a Magitek suit of armor in the streets, ripped in half by some incredible force and still burning, I know that it was not just a scorched earth' tactic. "This was not Kefka's doing, or if it was, it was a battle between him and somebody else in the city, like maybe Geshtal."
Cyan nods silently, then says "But... wherefore now?"
We walk down streets riddled with cracks. The destruction seems more utter than that which could have been caused by any army that I have ever seen. The streets are cracked and broken. Corpses of men, women, and children, litter the ground as though they were all clustered out here when they died. These people were caught on the streets, running from their homes. The attack must have been sudden, very sudden. Despite that the city is in flames, not all of the bodies are burned. Some are frozen, and some are burned only partially but intensely where they are cooked, as if by lightning. Lightning... I look down at the crystal hanging around my neck. "Magic..." I say at last.
"Pardon?" asks Cyan.
"These people were all killed using magic, and by something a good deal more powerful than the Imperial magitek cannons," I say. Cyan looks at me. "This destruction was wrought by Espers."
"So the War of the Magi hath begun once again," says Cyan, his face as grave as I have ever seen it.
I look into the distance ahead of me. Banon, who was in the flanking action, comes toward me. "It was like this when we first arrived," he says.
"I know. Banon, witness the destructive powers of magic," I said.
"It be Espers behind this tragedy," Cyan adds grimly.
Banon looks at the ground. "This is Geshtal's reward. I just hope that we can calm the Espers before they destroy all of humanity."
I immediately turn around, and walk to the edge of the breached walls. Once out there, I pick up my mirror and signal City destroyed before we arrive by Espers. All troops spread out in search of survivors. Report all survivors to medical personnel.' I then spin and face Banon. "One atrocity does not justify another," I say.
Hours pass. We find survivors, yes, mostly terrified people huddling in their basements, hoping that their houses won't collapse and bury them alive. We also find more suits of Magitek armor more than I thought they had in reserve. Had we fought them, we still would most likely have won, but it would be a difficult and costly struggle. As I piece together clues, I begin to figure out what must have happened. The attack was in the middle of the night. It wasn't until the attack had already begun that the Empire suspected anything wrong. People, running from burning buildings were straffed by the Espers' spells and breath attacks as they ran. The Imperial Palace appears to have been attacked by Bahamut, whom, it seems, attacked only the soldiers and the rest of the factory complex. Still, half a million people have died that's four times the number that died in Doma, since the rural population of Doma was not touched by the poison. It's not surprising that most of the soldiers lose the contents of their stomachs. I can barely hold onto mine.
Unnerving thoughts begin to cross my mind. This must have happened just the night before we would have attacked. I wonder how Terra fared in going back to the sealed gate. I cannot believe that she wanted this. Did she provoke it anyhow, by going back? Did the Espers... assume she was too human and...
I comb the horizon for her. I hope that she comes back. I almost shout with joy when I finally spot her with my telescope, but she's coming from the west, not from the east where I would expect. Wishing to spare Terra the shock of seeing this horror without first knowing, I ride out to her, Cyan coming with me. She rides at a furious pace towards the city. Terra stops less than a hundred paces from Cyan and I as we ride up to her. I ride up, get off, and then tell her the awful truth.
"Vector has been almost completely destroyed. Over half of the population is dead. The extent and nature of the destruction is such that the only force that I can think of that could have caused it is the Espers," I tell her.
Terra rides up quietly, and answers softly. "I know," she says. "When I reached the gate, I found the interior deserted, but I remember t hat they flew towards Vector when they brought down the airship."
"Dost thou think that they wilt continue their rampage?" asks Cyan.
Terra shakes her head. "I saw them fly overhead back towards the cave a day ago. I was not sure what, but when I saw the expression that Bahamut wore, I could only figure that they had done something awful."
Terra pauses, and then says, "I must see for myself. I must show whatever survivors that just because one can use magic does not mean that that person is evil." We ride back to Vector. I wonder how much longer this carnage is going to escalate before it stops. First Kholingen, then Miranda, then Doma, and now this... will it end here? Or will the world be laid to waste, as it was at the end of the last War of the Magi? Nobody can pretend now that that ancient catastrophe has not been rekindled. I hope that it does not go any further. I hope that it ends here.
I hope that Kefka and Geshtal either perished in this awful raid or have learnt their lessons.