At first there was light, cool and mystifying and peering down at me in thin rivulets pouring through a barred window fixed into a wall. I couldn't reach it, of course; I couldn't even move much back then. We (for there were many more of me all around) were being carried down a tunnel to a large room filled with barrels, so I didn't have much time to dwell on the light. No one did, and it seemed no one really cared. I supposed it didn't matter.
People were setting us into the barrels. I didn't want to go into one of those, one of the reasons being that there were already several of us stuffed inside. No one objected or made move to get out, and I figured I might as well go along. No use stopping it if you're the only one with a problem. They tossed me into the cramped little barrel and I fell on top of two others who were already piled inside. One more was dumped atop me and the barrel was sealed, plunging all of us into darkness.
I wanted to know why we had to go in barrels, of all things. From what I could tell, we didn't have anything wrong with us... Unless the black faces meant anything. We all had black faces, and the weird hats, and the same clothes. Why? I didn't know, but that was the last thing on my mind. After the barrel's lid was sealed in place, we were moving again. It was a bumpy ride and I could have done without the cramped conditions. A sore was starting to spread along my back and arms, because I was at an odd position. I tried talking to the others in the barrel with me, but they didn't seem to hear me.
".... Ow, this doesn't feel very good, does it?"
After that, I just gave up. I think they were sleeping. Their eyes were closed... but I couldn't hear them breathing. They couldn't be dead... could they? No.... I don't think they would take us anywhere if we were supposed to be dead.
I think they tipped our barrel over because everyone just kind of fell against one of the sides. Lucky for me I didn't fall on my head, but the person next to me was squished over. I wanted to help him up but I couldn't move very well.
There was yelling outside and some loud humming, that soon turned into a constant roar. I didn't know what it was and neither did my sleeping friends, and I couldn't ask anyone because they wouldn't be able to hear me. I don't think we were supposed to talk, anyway. No one else had so far, except for the people that put us into the barrels. I was getting scared... Why didn't anyone try? None of them looked at me, or waved, or did anything other than just flop around when they were being carried to that one room with all the barrels. Oh, well. We'll probably get to know each other when we get to where we're going.
A while after the roaring started, we started to get pushed backwards in the barrel. On top of that, there was wind coming through the little cracks between the wood. Through the cracks, if I squinted hard enough, I could see blobs of white puff by across a pale blue background.... Were we flying? I wanted to see...
We eventually got to where we wanted to go for we weren't pushed back as hard and the wind stopped. If I looked down I could see parts of the ground. All of a sudden, there was a bug thump and the entire barrel was jarred. I would have fallen over and probably hurt myself if the people around me weren't there. I don't think I ever got to thank them.
Someone came by with a pointy stick and pried our barrel open. I had to close my eyes against the light, just like everyone else had for the entire trip. Before I could ask where we were, I felt a bunch of hands on me and I was being pulled outside. I was glad, but I wished those people could have been even a little bit more gentle. My arms and back started to hurt even more. They didn't care... Maybe they were in a bigger hurry than I thought. It seemed kind of important, by the way everyone was running around. There was some weird noise and I was lifted by two people, each lifting me up beneath an arm, and was being carried towards what looked like some kind of castle.
It was a big city that they had taken us. Buildings made of stone were all over the place, but there wasn't anyone outside. Way in front of us was the castle. It looked like someone had stuck a big piece of metal down the middle because there was something shiny and tall sticking straight up from it. I tried to bring my hand up over my eyes so that I could look at it better, because there was a big glare coming off of it, and I guess I scared one of the guys carrying me. He made a noise and dropped his side of me, and then the other guy dropped me, too. It hurt.
"This one's awake already!" one of them said.
"We'll have to take him straight to Kuja," said the other.
Kuja? Who was that? Maybe he was the king or something. I hoped he was - I wanted to meet a king.
One of the guys, who was bigger than the other and had a big beard, helped me back up. I could start moving my legs a bit, and I had to keep my hands out to my sides to keep from falling over. No one ever told me standing would be so hard.
"Hey, can you talk yet?"
"Yes," I said. He jumped a bit, like he was scared or something. His friend was looking at me funny.
"What's your name?"
"... umm.... my name?" I didn't know I had a name. No one ever told me that, either.
"Come one, let's go. Kuja doesn't like it when we straggle, remember?" The shorter one, who was looking at me, grabbed my arm. I told him it hurt. For some reason, he laughed.
"Don't worry about that hurting. I think you'll have to go through a lot worse sooner or later."
... What did he mean by that?
They didn't try to explain anything. They just rushed me into the castle, wandering through the halls and through lots of doors. I guess they were carrying me so I wouldn't wander off or something. The place was so big and I knew I would get lost if I had to follow them on foot. There were people standing in certain places inside wearing armor and holding big sticks. They all looked at me weird... Maybe there was something wrong with me?
We ended up in some really pretty room, and it was big. There was a big lady sitting in a big chair and there were big people standing around with even more big sticks. There was a person standing beside the big lady. I couldn't really tell if he was a guy or a girl. He looked kinda like both, but I guessed he was a guy because his chest wasn't puffy like all the other ladies'. He looked at me hard and cold, and I felt this weird feeling deep inside. I don't like it when he looks at me like that.
"... and what is this?"
The big guy spoke first. "This one's already awake... Just came in with our last batch."
The lady sitting down poked at her face with one of her fat hands and gave me a mean look. "Can he do anything yet?"
"No, your Highness. He's brand new, hasn't been trained or taught anything just yet."
The one standing by the big lady smiled for some reason, and brushed some of his white hair out of his face. "How quickly did he wake?"
It was the short guy's turn to talk now. He shrugged, "We're not sure, sir. Maybe right after he was manufactured, maybe on the way here. But quickly, still, faster than the other two have."
Other two? What other two?
"... Very well." Girl guy looked at the big lady and bowed a little. "This one could make an excellent addition to the Black Waltzes, Majesty."
The lady didn't look like she cared. She just blinked a few times and shrugged her big shoulders. "Go ahead then, Kuja. We could use more of them.... But try to do better with this one, won't you? My patience is already gone for the other two."
"Of course, my Queen."
Mr. Kuja walked to me and the other two guys backed off. I think they were scared of him but I didn't blame them; Mr. Kuja was kind of scary. He smiled at me in a nice sort of way and whispered, "Come along now, Number 3. We have much work to do." He took my hand and pulled me along. I though it was nice of him to keep his pace slow so that I could at least try to keep up. I still couldn't walk very well, and he seemed to understand.
We made it down a lot of stairs to a dark and small room. I don't remember what it looked like very well, except for that it was dark and there was this weird smell in the air.
"Please pardon the stench," Mr. Kuja said. "This place has been subject to much and it doesn't get cleaned very often. The people here know not to come here."
He laughed. "Because this is my domain." A light came on from a corner of the room, high up along the wall, and I could see... things. There were three tables all lined up along the center of the room, and all three looked like they had been burned then coated with mud, then burned again. Spots of dark red stained parts of the tables, particularly on the straps that were set along the sides. One really long table, stretching from wall to wall, was underneath the light. There was a cage on one end with little blue feathers sitting along the bottom, and lots of weird looking tools strewn about beside it.
"It's not much, but this is where the Black Waltzes are born," he explained, then pointed at one of the three tables in the middle. "Now would you please go lie down? I'm sure you're weary, and I have some things I need to do."
"O-ok," I said. I went to the table that he pointed to and hopped up on it to lie down when he told me to lie face down, so I did. It was disgusting. The smell was even worse on that table and I had some trouble breathing.
I glanced at Mr. Kuja when he started to put the straps around by wrists and legs, but he assured me, saying. "This is just for your own safety, so you don't fall off the table. I'll take them back off soon enough, and you can go about as you wish."
I wished I didn't listen.
Pain. It started with a small poke along my back, then it erupted into an all consuming inferno of torture racking every cell and sinew of my body. I think I screamed... Mr. Kuja didn't hear me, I guess. I screamed... then I couldn't see anymore. I couldn't feel anymore, which was good. Everything was dark, and I slept...
Time passed. Wounds healed. Scars remain. Cold resides, and triumphs. We are led and we are lost with as little effort as the wind carries and drops a dying leaf, cracked and plucked free from its hold on its mother tree. The link is found, and we are set to secure her.
I know not of why I was chosen. (-it hurt so much I didn't think I could bear it-) I know not of why, of the thousands of us being created, only three were picked to be "improved", as Kuja had put it. (-he lied to me I don't like being lied to it hurt-) But now that I wield the powers grafted onto my body, as with the magnificent wings that mark my gift (-the scars still sting when I move and when I think why did he have to-), I am glad. I am not of the sniveling puppets that walk blindly beneath me or my brothers.
There was an assignment given by the Queen. Number 1 was the first to set off, obviously. And he failed.
Number 2 was sent soon thereafter to the town of Dali, where the targets were last seen. (-I don't know if I wanted to go back that was where we were born I want-) Not to my surprise, he failed as well. What did surprise me, however, was the fact that there was one strong factor in their defeat. A young child of our blood, though weaker with the lack of strength and intelligence as the Black Waltzes, had been with the group and had fought against the two. How odd that he, one of free will unlike the others, helped in the defeat of evolved family? I wished to go see this child but (-he was kind of like me I guess except he's just a child why would we want to hurt him I don't want-) the Queen said she had would rather I go with her two henchmen to make sure Number 2 did as he was ordered.
I was given a personal airship to take on the brief flight to Dali and was ordered to take Zorn and Thorn along with me. Of course, I could have done without those two. Constantly bickering with broken logic and broken speech, and trying to exercise their non-existent influence over me... Were I not certain that the Queen would disapprove I would have done away with the two, let their small bodies fall free and onto the rough walls of Alexandrian mountains. But no... The Queen had use for them, and they would meet their own fate by her hand when the time arrives.
It had not taken long to reach Dali, for the ship we rode was a fast and good one and the weather was accommodating for the trip (-why do I have to come back here I don't want to see more-). The fact that this was the wretched place of my birth didn't shake me. Rather, of my first birth. I was pitiful then, simple minded and stupid (-why can't things be the way they were I don't like myse--) with the whims of a child and the IQ of a freshly hatched Chocobo. To this day I thank Lord Kuja for his favor (-this isn't who I-), and strive to please him as much as the Queen.
The cargo ship scheduled for arrival in Alexandria had already taken off. Barrels fully loaded with new Black Mage soldiers lined the hull (-I wish I could set them free it's not pleasant stuffed in those-) and groaned softly with the mildest touch of wind and turbulence. The Princess was aboard that ship, as well as her company... and the boy. Just as I had predicted, the ship began to turn southwestwards, towards Lindblum. It had been one of the Queen's fears that the Princess would try to seek shelter with Regent Cid. That's why I was here.
Seeing my chance, I took flight.
(-why am I doing this is someone making me I don't want to be-)
They resisted. Futile. They could not match me in skill nor strength.
(-I don't want to hurt them why can't I stop they're falling-)
The Black Mages that were charged with the duty of getting the ship to Alexandria fell silently, lifelessly, to the mist-blanketed earth far beneath the ship. It took a simple display of my thunder to send them flying, and I suppose I had overexerted myself. The barrels along the sides of the ship burst, spilling their wares after the doomed.
(-this isn't right I can't do this why aren't they doing anything they-)
A child stepped forth. Tears streamed down his face, overflowing the dull amber of his eyes (-he looks so much like me did I hurt him I didn't-) and giving him a bleary gaze. He questioned me, asking why I did as I did and whether or not those that were sent down by my hand were my friends. I laughed. Friends? My power compensates the trivial void which would otherwise be occupied by the presence of "friends" (-he's crying can't I help him cheer him up-) and the worthless emotions they would bring. I felt pity for the child; he knew not of the future he could have with us, as a Black Waltz, or of the penalties he would face for defying the Queen's word.
His friends stepped forth, as well. I recognized the Knight as Aldebert Steiner, captain of the Queen's Pluto Knights. What a fool, fighting against one of his own kingdom. No matter. I would dispose of them as I would any other, with no remorse nor pain of lives lost in the name of Her Majesty.
(- ... I don't want to fight... -)
There was battle. The young Black Mage immediately set into a Trance, which intrigued me greatly; are we able to enhance ourselves through Trance? His powers, combined with the Knight and some petty fool's, overwhelmed me... and I lost to the sounds of something within me snapping from the blow of the youth's Blizzard...
When I returned to my ship, Zorn and Thorn had fled. Wise of them, I suppose, for perhaps they knew of my intention. (-I exist only to kill...?-) By my hand, the task would be done, even if it meant the death of the Princess. If she would not obey the order of Her Majesty, than I will eliminate her along with the others.
(- ...I exist only to kill? But what about... -)
I learned to appreciate the speed, even if it didn't allow any means of precise and subtle control. That much isn't too big a sacrifice for intent, or the execution (- ... If I exist only to kill, why is... -) of those condemned by royal decree. They were heading towards South Gate, thinking that maybe they would cut me off with the bulk of their cargo ship. If they are so foolish, then it would be better if they were eliminated.
(-... that boy's just standing there.-)
(-I exist only to kill I exist-) They would not escape me, not after this much. On the deck stood the boy, the one who had caused the fall of my brothers. He would not (-only to kill I exist only to-) get away, he would die for our blood.
In my hand, upraised, I spawned a sphere of lighting, and in the child's hands spawned a sphere of fire. (-kill I exist only to kill I-) The fire met me before I could unleash my power, and the world spun about wildly for long seconds before I could regain control. It was only a mild set-back; as they lumbered through the narrowing gates, I slipped in right behind them. The child was now hanging precariously off the edge of the ship, held from death only by the trembling grip of his friend. Ahead, the other side of the portal between Lindblum and Alexandria was thinning shut.
They will not make it(-exist only to kill I exist-), not if I still live and breathe. Rage boiled hard within me and I could feel the individual threads of power dancing playfully across by robes. And by feeding that power, I fueled my own demise. I realized that a little too late, for the sparks and licking tongues of newborn fire were probing at my back.
Ahead of me the gate squealed shut, narrowly allowing the cargo ship to escape. Fire. Light. Pain. Fall.
(- .... I exist... -)
My head throbbed. My vision was blurred. My breath was short, sharp, hissing even in my own ears. It wasn't easy dragging myself back through South Gate, heading towards Alexandria. The workers there stared, offered help despite my repeated refusals. I lacked the strength to fight them back, but they didn't interfere. A woman at the northern side of the gates helped me through a door outside, but nothing more.
The sun was creeping down the skies and the horizon was taking a vague orange glow. If the Princess were to return I will catch her.. no mistakes...
I lay in wait by the tracks that carry the trolley from gate to gate, hidden away in the tall grasses. My time is short...
My judgement of time eluded me. Minutes, hours, seconds passed and she was there with Steiner and that golden-tailed boy. Their presence made little difference in their fate; I would die, and so would the Princess... no matter what...
They were hesitant, I was broken. I exist only to kill.
We fought, though the battle was short. My vision phased in and out... I could barely stand, weak like I was at birth... I would not be reduced to that again, not after this...
The Princess was watching me, not with hate or fear, but with something like... sympathy? Pity? Sadness? No, I would not take it... But I did... The final blow hit, and I was to receive release from the burning pain that spread from my shoulders and embraced the air I moved though and breathed.
During this darkness, there was no pain. There was no scream, no probing, no wishing for the ultimate peace that would befall us all. My body crumpled to the earth in a heap of cursed being, and my breath wheezed through my lungs with silencing ease...
(-... I exist... to die... -)
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