One Tiny Village

Locke saw her for the first time in over a year when he came back from hunting early that morning.

He had traveled though the wooded hills, down to what remained of the grassy valleys and back again towards the village. Animals had become scarcer since the ruining, so he spent several days hunting before he found anything. On his last day in the valley he happened upon and killed one of the large rabbit-like creatures which once roamed the land in great numbers.

He walked along a dirt path through the woods towards the village. Once he was in view of the houses, little Aline quickly spotted him. She ran to him, as quick as she could, and hugged him tightly.

He patted her on the head, smiled, and said, "See? I came back, just like I told you I would."

Aline gave him a half smile, paused a moment, then called out to the others, "Locke's back, and he's got food."

The children came out of the broken down houses and ran towards him, all smiles, in anticipation of a good meal of rabbit meat. The adults followed behind. He took the rabbit off his back and handed it to the children. It took several of them to carry the beast. They villagers welcomed him back and the crowd dispersed as the children carried the rabbit into the center of the village to be prepared.

Locke smiled at being home again. He thought back to the time when he had first arrived, when Deren and the others were wary of him, an outsider. They were slow to accept him, and almost violent at one point, but he proved his usefulness by bringing food back to the village. Now he was a part of the village and they all depended on him as he depended on them. It was the least he could to after failing to prevent the ruining.

The other children had left, but Aline didn't go off with them. She stayed with Locke, looking worried. The look wasn't uncommon. She was usually uneasy when he was away. She was probably worried that he would leave and not come back, like her parents had, that day.

She looked up at him, still worried, and said, "A woman came to see you. She's standing over there."

Aline pointed towards the side of the village. Locke saw a woman standing by one of the uninhabited homes on the edge of the village. She had blonde hair and was wrapped in a white cloak and had a sword at her side. Though he hadn't seen her for over a year, he knew immediately that it was Celes. His heart beat quickly. Locke ran to her, leaving Aline where she stood, and Celes ran to him.

They embraced and grinned at each other, temporarily lost in their excitement. Locke saw several villagers staring at them, wondering who this new stranger was, and he opted for some privacy. They walked back to the edge of the woods where Aline was standing. She looked more worried and confused. Locke knelt down to her.

"Aline. This is Celes. She's an old friend of mine. We're going up to the summit to talk."

Aline started to speak, but Locke cut her off. "Why don't you go see how that rabbit's coming along? I'm sure they could use your help. We'll be back. I promise."

Disappointed, Aline walked back towards the village.

Locke and Celes climbed up the wooded path to the summit of the mountain and found a seat on the rocky ledge overlooking the valley. They looked out towards the east, towards the last yellow of the sunrise and the shadow of the tower some miles off. The tower was a reminder of that day, when the earth had been torn apart, the seas had boiled, and many friends had been lost.

They sat on the rocky summit together, in the quiet of the early morning. It was Celes who finally spoke first.

"You've found a nice little place here," she said. "But I thought you'd be out hunting for trinkets."

"I'm happy here," he said. "I'm a part of this place now. Besides, it's the least I can do after I failed to prevent the ruining"

"We failed to save the world. And we did all we could," she noted.

He paused to let the thought sink in. They had tried their hardest, and they had failed anyway. It didn't feel very good. He looked out into the sky, feeling a little lost.

"What happened to you, after…" he trailed off.

"After the ruining I found myself on a small island with my uncle. I became sick and my uncle took care of me. When I got better, he died. So, I left and started searching for our friends. This is the third place I've come to."

She smiled at him and said, "And now, I've found you."

He smiled back. There was another pause as they both stared out at the view.

"Who's the little girl?" she asked looking concerned for the answer.

"That's Aline. I'm sort of taking care of her now. She doesn't have parents."

"Locke, that's sweet of you. But that's a lot of responsibility too."

"I know it. She's a good kid though. She's a curious kid too, always asking questions about the world. Smart enough to be a scholar in Vector, though that can't happen now."

"No." She replied, fidgeting a little. "Locke, I was hoping that when, if, I found you and any of our friends we'd try to set the world right again."

"That's what I'm doing here."

"No. I meant about Kefka," she said, gesturing towards the tower. "You know he's up there. You've seen the beams of fire that come from it sometimes. Things won't be right until he's stopped. We'll do it this time."

"I can't," he sighed. "I'm happy here. But I'm fixing the world starting with one tiny village." He felt determined. Celes would see his point. "They need me here. And most of all, Aline needs me here."

"Here's an idea," he said, getting excited. "You can still conjure up ice, right?"

"Yeah," she sighed. She didn't look too enthusiastic.

"Well, we could use some water in the village. If you made some ice, we could melt it down into water. That would solve some of our problems."

She sighed deeply, "I'll give it a try. But I won't stay here forever."

"I know," he replied. He knew Celes wasn't going to stay in the village forever, but he hoped that she might come to like it, to see what he saw in it.

Locke and Celes descended the mountain to the village. Locke got the attention of the villagers and told them that soon they would have more clean water. He told them that Celes would create it with magic.

The children came nearer to her, as did several of the adults, but they left some distance. Locke could tell they were curious about her magic, but cautious too. They probably didn't trust her much, just like they didn't trust him when he first arrived here. Since the ruining everyone was more cautious. That's survival.

Celes glanced at Locke and he gave her a reassuring nod. She focused on a spot of ground in front of her. She stood unmoving, eyes closed, for several minutes. Locke fidgeted and looked around. The villagers looked uneasy but Aline remained intently focused on Celes. Locke thought she could do this, but had the magic gone wrong? He couldn't tell. A spot of blue appeared in front of Celes, grew slowly to a lump several feet tall, and became ice.

Aline, ever curious, was the first to approach the ice. She walked around it, stared at it, and finally touched it. Seemingly satisfied it was ice and not merely an illusion, she called the others over. The children rushed over, but Deren, a strong man, brought over an axe and the children scattered. Celes instinctively stepped back into a defensive position. He chopped at the ice, cutting it into pieces. Deren then directed the children to pick up the ice and to put it into buckets, which they did. Deren came over to Celes, eyed her carefully, briefly thanked her, and walked off.

Later that day, after all the ice had been gathered, Aline approached Locke and said, "You like Celes. If she leaves here, and you want to leave with her, take me too. I like this place, but I'd rather leave the village than be left all alone again."

Locke was moved. He did like Celes, but he hoped she'd stay here in the village.

"No matter what I do, I won't leave you alone. You don't have to worry about that. I promise."

Now reassured, Aline smiled and hugged him again before running off to play with the other children.

The next morning Locke and Celes climbed up the mountain again to watch the sunrise. Locke thought that Celes looked concerned, that she wasn't convinced this was the place to stay.

"You don't want to stay here," he stated.

"I'm conflicted," she said, sighing again. "I want to stay with you. But I know that if we are ever going to live in peace we're going to have to go after Kefka in his tower."

Locke lowered and shook his head.

"You know I can't do that. I have to care for Aline. She deserves a normal life. I've promised her that much. It's the least I can do."

Locke lifted his head and looked out at the tower. It was so far away…

From the tip of the tower a small yellow light began to glow. Locke stared out in fascination before he realized what was happening. A beam of fire shot out from the tower coming towards them. The sky turned a blinding white. The ground below them shook and Celes yelled something, but Locke couldn't hear her. The ground just down the mountain, near the village, exploded in a ball of fire. He could feel the heat form the blast.

As quick as it had come the light faded and the sky dimmed. A rain of rocks, dirt, wood and debris fell from the sky. Locke ran down the mountain, Celes following close to him. As they came down the mountain, Deren, soaked with blood, ran over to them, axe in hand.

"You did this," he yelled, looking to the smoldering rubble around him. "You and your magic have killed us all!"

He charged at Celes with his axe. She stood ready for the attack, gathering her focus. Without thinking, Locke pulled out his knife and jabbed it in the back of Deren as Celes speared him with a freshly summoned shard of ice. Deren fell to the ground, dead.

Locke ran to what was left of the village. The houses had been demolished. He saw the burned faces of the villagers he had come to know over the past year, now dead. But where was Aline? He called out for her, but there was no reply.

At the last pile of rubble he found her, pinned under several rocks, bloody, but still alive. He knelt down next to her. She saw him there, and tried to speak, but was unable. Her breathing was shallow, and she shook terribly.

No, he thought. This isn't right. This isn't supposed to be happening. He spoke to her, "I'm sorry."

He said it over and over again and bent down to hug her. She moved her arm up as if to reciprocate the hug, but she tightened up in a strange position, shook violently, and then remained still. Locke cried and stayed over her for a while, though he knew she was dead.

When he finally stood up, Celes was there, and he hugged her tight, still crying. She was the last person left alive in the world that he cared about.

Through their shock and grief, it took them several days to burry the bodies from the village. They set up small shallow graves by each house. Each was buried by where they lived.

They buried Aline by the rubble of the house they had lived at. He knelt in front of her grave and took out his knife. He cut his left hand, dripped some blood over the grave and spoke loudly, "I swear by your grave, Aline, and by the now ghosts of this one tiny village that I will stop this madness. I will create for you all, the peaceful world I promised but could not provide."

That day, impassioned with the fire which comes from grief, Locke and Celes began their journey and left the remains of the village behind. They headed in the direction of the tower, but not to it. On the other side had once been other villages and towns. Perhaps there were survivors there. Perhaps there were people there who would help them in their cause. And perhaps they knew the importance of one tiny village.

The End.

All That Glitters Is Cold 4 Fanfic Competition

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