The Dying of the Light Chapter 5

War of the Kings

By Luna Manar

"Yes, Breog…it’s your turn, now."


Griever’s shockwave passed through Rinoa’s shield as if it wasn’t there.

It felt like a culmination of every natural disaster that had ever struck the Earth, even through Leviathan’s wall of protection. Zell and Irvine lost their footing from the quake-like shaking. Rinoa flattened herself against the ground, trying desperately to escape the rush of heat and covering her eyes against the blinding light. The roar of the blast that followed was nothing short of deafening.

Zell had also hit the floor—if not in so graceful a manner as Rinoa—and clapped his hands over his ears, though he dared to peek out from under his eyelids. What raged beyond Leviathan's transparent walls looked like a mess of warring magic storms; thousands, millions of colors, blending and shifting and colliding. They all rushed over in a torrent of confusion, like a massive tidal wave of wild magical power, frothing sparks and flame.

Hell, that doesn’t look like any spell I’ve ever seen. More like that Griever thing just puked up all the GF magic he ate for lunch. No wonder Ulty beat feet. This is fighting too dirty for that ugly robe of hers. Wonder if she’s really controlling this guy?

Poor Leviathan, Zell thought.

I’ll bet getting covered in magical barf just made his day, right there.

The attack left virtually nothing in its wake—except, incredibly, most of the patch of flying land. But the tiles had been shorn off, the flaking pieces of wall had been incinerated. The ground was scorched black.

Leviathan screamed.

Around them, the Water Guardian’s wall began to melt. Pieces of the barrier tumbled down in cascades of water. Others cracked like thin ice and fell apart in shards. After a few more seconds, the entire structure collapsed around them.

Leviathan had planned it this way. He fell outward, instead of burying those he protected in his own debris. Once the wall was gone, his serpentine body partially consolidated, but did not move. It looked as if a giant eagle had swept down and torn him apart with beak and talon. Huge pieces of his lithe shape were missing, water and blood beginning to pool beneath the terrible rips in his body. His head lay on its side, torn across both cheeks. One horn was broken in half. The other, cracked and dripping water like an upturned icicle. The light in his aquamarine eyes was flickering. He didn’t move, except to release a slow moan of pain. The disembodied pieces of wall lying scattered around him were fast evaporating into nothing.

Rinoa whimpered, and tried as hard as she could not to scream. Her entire body was saturated with pain. Connected to Leviathan, she, too, had felt and now suffered his agony, though she hadn’t been injured, herself. Almost blind with the pain, she grappled madly with the ground in front of her, finding Squall’s body and latching onto his arm. Shaking uncontrollably, she pulled herself close to him. Eyes wide and terrified, she clung doggedly to the heavy arm and curled up as close to Squall as she could. She shuddered as she felt Leviathan die.

Zell and Irvine watched, dazed, as the light faded in Leviathan’s eyes, and the body quickly melted into pools of silvery liquid, which in turn began to evaporate into the quickening breeze, tendrils of steam flying away into the darkness as the wind picked up.

So that’s all she wrote, Irvine thought bleakly, remembering how Selphie had faded away into nothing beneath his hands. No more GFs.

"Man," Zell muttered, clapping Irvine heartily on the back. "It was nice knowin’ ya. Even if y’are a girly-boy."

Irvine cast Zell the best scowl he was capable of.

Zell backed off about an arm’s length. "Hey, hey, didn’t mean nuthin’ personal."

Without a word, Irvine stretched his gun arm out, pointing his cocked weapon in the direction of Zell’s head.

"WHOA! Whoa, justasec Irv, I didn’t mean anything by that waitdon’tshootdon’tshoot!" Zell put up his arms as Irvine’s finger closed over the trigger.

A hot wind whipped past the panicked SeeD. A deafening roar split his eardrums. He bowled over backward, squirming, clutching at his chest. He couldn’t breathe. Holy shit, the bastard SHOT me! He must have gone over the edge. Irvine never missed his target, either. Zell coughed. His lungs felt as though filled with ash and dust. He resigned himself to the fact it was over. Slowly, he began to feel lightheaded, and stopped struggling. He let his breath leave him, and rested limply on the desecrated ground. A few more token coughs, and his body stilled.

Hell, man, I’m dead! I’m dead! Wait, I shouldn’t say ‘hell’ when I die, might give someone the wrong idea.

He waited for a few moments. Oddly, he didn’t feel his soul rise out of his body, and he didn’t see any great light like he was supposed to. He only saw darkness. He also noticed his shoulder was hurting. He shifted positions so he could die more comfortably. Still nothing happened. Except it was becoming harder and harder not to breathe.

Zell felt his shirt to find to his surprise that it was not soaked in blood. He tested a breath of air, and was rewarded with a coughing fit. His eyes snapped open—and the darkness dissipated. A few seconds more and he realized the burning in his lungs felt a lot like ash and dust because there was a lot of that on the ground. He must have breathed it in when he fell over after Irvine had shot him.

He managed to haul himself up on his knees, and searched himself for an injury. Zell blinked. Not so much as a scratch.

Another roar, much like the first one he’d heard when Irvine pulled the trigger, threatened to bust his eardrums. Zell twisted around, blinking soot-like dust from his eyes. Griever was clawing at his own face, blood streaming from his right eye. Zell heard Irvine cock his weapon again and let loose another bullet. This one found Griever’s ear, ripping through to the other side.

Zell stood up, very slowly, and turned to face Irvine as he let fly another four rounds. The bewildered SeeD looked down at himself. No wounds. No blood. No pain. He was fine. "S-s-so," he stammered, "you didn’t…s-shoot me?"

Irvine stopped to reload, and answered Zell with very serious stare: "Don’t ever touch me again. And don’t call me a ‘girly-boy.’"

Zell did his best not to blanch. "S-sure. Right. Uh, sorry. I just meant, ‘you’re girl-crazy.’ Aheh. Yeah. Girl-crazy. That’s…" he jumped a few feet in the air when the ground in front of him exploded. Again he stared incredulously at Irvine.

The sharpshooter smiled wryly. "Just testing," he said, then cocked the gun, aimed at Griever and fired another few shots into the monster’s pelt.

Rinoa clung gamely to her sanity, fighting pain, fighting darkness. She had never experienced the defeat of one of her own Guardians. Certainly not a death so brutal as this. Leviathan’s wail still echoed inside her head, his pain still ricocheted throughout her body, a wild bullet of torment that left her feeling numb and paralyzed. The tried to think of anything to concentrate on, anything to cling to that would allow her escape from this torture.


‘Make him alive, and he can die.’

I remember, she thought through her confusion. Give Griever life, and he can be destroyed. She tried to concentrate on this thought, tried to remember what Squall had asked her to do. He wanted me to try to control Griever…so he could take Griever’s place. How could Squall do that? He must have learned how, she reasoned, somehow. After all, he’d reanimated his own body for a short time, just to get his message through to her.

Slowly, the pain in her body and mind began to fade away, and her senses began to take over. She opened her eyes, saw a blur of white directly in front of her, where she’d hidden her face in the white fur of Squall’s jacket. She heard loud cracks—gunshots?—and roaring. Still trying to calm her shaky nerves, she pushed herself up to her knees, and looked to see what all the fuss was.

Griever was on the ground, looking tired and weak. Irvine was pumping round after round into the creature’s face, flanks and chest. Griever seemed to be trying to ward the attacks away, but was too lethargic to do so. He was sweeping his wings rhythmically back and forth, not in an attempt at flight, but more mechanically, as if trying to get blood flowing again to limbs that were falling asleep. Though he was healing every wound Irvine inflicted, the process was slower than it had been before, and Griever was showing obvious signs of pain. But the demon GF seemed to be getting stronger with every passing moment. Rinoa was certain that in a matter of minutes, he would recover completely from what must have been an exhausting release of stored magic and power. Surely Irvine could see that, too. But by keeping up the pressure, doing as much damage as possible, maybe he could slow the process down a bit. In this timeless world, every second mattered.

Rinoa briefly wondered how long she had actually been talking to Squall. It had felt like minutes, but she doubted Griever had taken that long to cast his terrible spell. What had happened to time in those few lost minutes? Had she done something to alter it unconsciously, or was time a matter of perception in this world? She filed the question away; perhaps it would be useful to remember.

Meanwhile, Zell had gotten in on the fun. He harassed Griever’s feet and face, digging the barbed tips of steely knuckles into the creature’s nose and toes, then dancing away nimbly when a bladed wing tried to slash him or deadly paw tried to seize him. Rinoa cringed at the number of close-calls this provoked, but Zell seemed to be enjoying himself, and it was effectively distracting for Griever, who was by now riddled with fresh, healing and scarred-over bullet wounds.

The blackness around them had become absolute. Still, there was light, from somewhere, since Rinoa could see everything clearly. She didn’t think about that, now, but wondered if Griever’s ability to absorb magic was limited only to the life force of other Guardians. She remembered his pained reactions when Zell and Quistis had thrown spells at him.

She might as well give it a try. The worst that could happen was that it would rejuvenate him completely, and they’d all be right back where they started. If she did nothing, that would happen anyway. It would just take longer. She stood up for the first time since Squall had given his life to save hers, and faced the vexed, but gradually recovering Griever. But she didn’t leave Squall’s side. "Zell, watch out—!"

Zell hardly had the chance to glance at her, and get the hell out of the way.

A white spark triggered the rest of the Ultima spell, which detonated on Griever’s position. As the vicious magic tore outward in waves, Griever howled, disappearing into the green belly of the blast.

The powerful shockwave created by the spell threw Zell a number of feet, and he landed hard, knocking the wind from his lungs. Coughing and gasping, he pushed himself up again, finding himself face-to-face with Rinoa once he’d managed to stand. "Thanks for the early warning." He cracked his neck and back to emphasize his sarcasm.

Rinoa offered an apologetic smile. "Sorry."

Griever writhed at the edge of the drop-off where the spell had pushed him. He was angry, and also hurt. Ugly plasma burns and scorch marks marred his sides, flanks and face. One of the sharp primaries in his left wing had been torn off.

Irvine had also been thrown back by the ultima spell’s shockwave, but was far enough away to avoid losing his footing, and so continued to fire away at Griever, aiming to do more damage. He shot at the injured wing, the maimed face and burned legs, all of which were already beginning to heal. Griever bellowed and thrashed under the constant onslaught.

Irvine called over his shoulder. "C’mon, Rinoa, that was good! Let’s keep it up, okay?" He didn’t say so, but he was fast running out of ammunition.

Zell pointed. "Yeah, he’s right. Do it again, Rinoa. We can knock ‘im over the edge."

Rinoa hesitated, watching Griever writhe. Would it make her any better than Ultimecia, if she continued like this, torturing the creature to death?

"C’mon, Rinoa! We ain’t got all day!" Zell turned and cast his own spell, a Flare spell, which blasted Griever in the chest, knocking the enraged beast back a few more inches.

Rinoa tried to believe what Squall had said, that Griever was hollow, that he had no soul and therefore no emotions. But the pained screams of the beast were…

"Rinoa, look out!"

She felt her legs weaken as something was pulled from her, forcibly. Zell caught her and kept her from falling. When she recovered her balance, she noticed an "empty" place in her mind that had not been there before. All her dispel magic—gone!

Another drain assaulted her, this one different, more familiar, and a little painful. She held onto Zell’s shoulders as something else was taken from her, drawn away from her mind.

"Aw, man, this is not good!"

Shaking her head to clear it, Rinoa looked up to see what Zell had been referring to. A green-hued sheen of light surrounded Griever and then vanished. But it was clear what he’d done.

He’s protected himself from magic, and made it so that I can’t break the spell!

She stood straighter, trying to look more confident than she felt. Griever couldn’t block all magic. Just normal magic. She squinted, trying to figure the best place to strike while Irvine continued his barrage of bullets. Zell’s right. Knock him over the edge, give us more time to think of a way to beat him. He’s recovering too slowly to make a quick comeback if we do that. With a shout of effort, she hurled a small army of white lances at the struggling Griever. Sorceress lances were little more than glorified Holy magic that did not conform to most normal rules. They passed through Griever’s reflective shield and struck him squarely in his furry, bloodstained chest.

The shots didn’t knock him backward so much as an inch.

In fact, the red stains on his fur faded away with the light of the lances, and Griever stopped howling altogether. In a matter of moments, the rest of his wounds healed, and Irvine stopped firing; he might as well have been shooting blanks.

After a few more exhausted pants, Griever raised his head up, stared at them, and snarled in deep-set hatred.

Rinoa glanced at Zell, to glanced back. She swallowed dryly. "Did…did anyone…scan him, at any point in time?" she asked, fearing the answer.

Zell and Irvine exchanged glances, as well, and tossed the same answer back and forth a few times. "Um…nnnno."



"Not me."

"I didn’t."

She raised a thin eyebrow. "So no one knew he would eat that up like it was candy?"

More shaking heads.

If she’d had the luxury of smacking her forehead, Rinoa would have done so in that instant.

"So I made a big BOO-BOO! Sue me! I’ll be dead by the time the subpoena gets through!" Zell protested, spreading his arms in entreaty.

Rinoa was incensed. "You were our designated scanner! You should’ve done it the second he showed up!"

"Sorry, I was a little enthralled, okay? You don’t see one of those things fly outta some hole in the floor every day!"

"All the more reason to check it out like you’re supposed to!" She planted her hands on her hips.

Zell sneered. "No telling if it woulda’ done any good, anyway. Magic doesn’t tell you everything. I didn’t see you do anything about it. You’re as good at it as I am."

"I didn’t know you hadn’t. If I did, I would."

"You didn’t ask!"

"I shouldn’t have to!"

"Uh…guys? Ahem." Irvine, having backed away from the quickly rousing Griever, interrupted the escalating argument. "I think we have bigger problems, k’? Like, how we’re gonna stay alive during the next five minutes."

All attention turned from bickering to Griever, who was pulling himself up on his hind legs, thrusting his wings, ready to take to the air again. His malevolent glare was trained on his human prey.

The world around them was black. All the Guardians were gone. There was nothing between Griever and his victims.

Save Rinoa, who put up her shield around them. She felt stronger, now, than she had minutes ago, when Griever had released his all-consuming blast and taken out Leviathan and Quetzal. Perhaps because there had been, for a short time, a surge of hope within her; the possibility that Griever was not invincible, the fact that Squall was truly still here with her, and that Ultimecia had apparently vanished completely. With any luck, she had stopped paying attention to them at all.

Lightning flashed as Griever launched himself into the air, readying for his next assault.

He never got the chance to make it.

From the coal-colored heavens raced a large ball of white-hot light. It made a bee-line straight for Griever, plowing into the beast’s chest and exploding when it struck. Griever was thrown backward and fell below the floor. Rinoa, Irvine and Zell ducked to avoid the wake of the powerful collision.

"The hell was that?!" Zell shouted over the roar.

Rinoa didn’t answer in words, but with a smile.

Squall’s final Guardian had come at last.

{Such a ridiculous maze! Is it you who creates the chaos in this world?}

More lightning flashed, outlining black clouds in seams of blue and white. Griever regained altitude, hovering once more above the floating platform. He momentarily nursed a closing burn in his chest, then seemed to focus on the skies around him, searching for the source of the commanding, all-encompassing voice.

{Soulless imposter! You recover quickly. But quickly enough, I wonder, to survive wounds that cannot heal?}

Three more balls of blinding light burst from the dark clouds, these tinged with more blue than the first, and all from different directions. They, too, struck Griever, homing in on him as if tuned to his presence. They caught him in his chest, arm, and wing, booming and scorching him like the first. But as Griever twisted in the air, the blue color from the exploded orbs clung doggedly to him, refusing to relinquish their life-draining hold. When clawing at the blue-infected wounds didn’t work, Griever twisted around to face Rinoa, and tried to draw the precious dispel he would need to remove the energy-sucking hue. Only to bring back nothing—he’d forgotten, he’d destroyed her dispel magic to keep her from breaking down his reflection spell.

Infuriated, Griever searched the sky for his attacker. He saw only blackness, and the silhouettes of dark clouds illuminated by erratic flashes of blue and white lightning.

The voice chuckled, thunder splitting the darkness. {Your only hope is to defeat me, Imposter. Come, then! Find me if you can!} A bone-jarring roar echoed in the vastness. It became an omnipresent chaos of its own, coming from nowhere and never-ending. Griever searched and twitched his ears, trying to pinpoint some sort of singularity in the confusion. The only thing he noticed was a new, extremely powerful shield had superimposed itself over Rinoa’s. He was dealing with another Guardian, it seemed. But where?

The wind howled, though there was nothing to cause the furious sound. Lightning increased in the darkness, illuminating one side of the sky, then another, the thunder further adding to the chaotic roar uttered by Griever’s new adversary. The clouds, in the brief flashes of visibility, began to roil and churn, creating a strobe-like effect that was not easy for Griever’s mind to filter through.

Another ball of thick energy sneaked up on him, crashing into him from behind, burning his wing muscles. He dropped closer to the ground, and his reflection spell failed. Someone from below took the opportunity to throw a spell of their own, probably the sorceress girl. He avoided it for the most part, but lurched as it caught the end of his tail. The almost prehensile appendage went nearly numb. He had almost no time to draw the necessary esuna from her to cure the malady before he was again stuck by multiple blasts of pure energy, this time once from every angle. Howling, Griever beat his wings, propelling him away from the suddenly dangerous platform. He raced in a random direction, escaping the immobilizing magic of the sorceress girl. He had a more pressing enemy to deal with, now.

Rinoa screamed to be heard over the shrieking wind and deafening roars of beast and thunder. Even that seemed to do nothing. Neither Zell nor Irvine could hear her. She resorted to tapping the latter on his shoulder to get his attention. He looked away from the skies for a moment to stare at her.

She tried to make her voice carry over the chaos, and got only a puzzled look from her friend. He shook his head and yelled back something that was immediately drowned in the din. But she knew from his expression that he had could not hear her. She couldn’t speak up any louder.

Rinoa sighed. She had the ability, as a sorceress, to speak to people in their minds. She loathed to use it, because it was too close to invasion of the mind for her to be comfortable with it, and whoever she chose to speak to would have no choice but to listen. Still, it seemed the easiest way to communicate in this situation. She concentrated, briefly, projecting her words outward so that both Zell and Irvine could hear her.

Listen, she thought simply, and waited for a reaction. She got one, though it wasn’t quite what she had expected.

Irvine cocked his gun. Zell put up his dukes. Both turned in opposite directions and nearly collided with each other. They glanced around for the owner of the voice in their heads, but saw no one.

Exasperated, Rinoa again tapped Irvine on the back, this time much more harshly. It’s me, you two. After a short pause to let this fact sink in, Rinoa was reasonably sure she had their attention. We—no, Zell, trying to think back won’t work. She shook her head at his wide-eyed, and then vocal attempts to talk back. I can only talk to you, so you’re going to have to trust me. Now listen— She made the SeeD hand motion for silence, and this, Zell complied with, albeit reluctantly. Rinoa continued to motion with her hands, as though she were talking normally. He’s put up another wall between us and Griever, a much stronger one—what IS it, Zell?

Zell had once again started fidgeting wildly, and for once thought past the idea of speaking or thinking his question. Instead he made a sharp gesture with his hand: who?

Rinoa rolled her eyes, trying her best to be patient. Bahamut! Who else could have done that to Griever?

Zell scratched his head, displayed an "I knew that" smile, followed by a shrug of apology.

Any other questions?

Both Irvine and Zell shook their heads.

Good! Like I was saying, Bahamut and Griever are a match for each other. I have an idea how to trap Griever so that Bahamut can take him out, but you’re going to have to help me, because in order to do it, I need Griever to be close, and standing still. With me?

Head nodding.

All right. We might need a little luck to do this. If Griever comes anywhere close, I’m going to try and stop him with magic. She’d tried it a second ago, and Griever had drawn magic from her to correct it, so she knew it would work, if she could get a clear shot. Once I do that, I need both of you to distract him, any way you can. Keep him close to the ground. That’s all I need you to do.

For once, Rinoa was glad for the wind and thunder. The questioning looks she was getting held the question: so what was she going to do?

If only for Squall’s sake, she wasn’t certain it was her right to explain.

Can you do that?

Following bewildered looks, Rinoa got the nods she had hoped for. Zell mouthed a response, and Rinoa managed to read it on his lips:

"Yes, sir."

For a moment, her stern look wavered, as she realized what the answer had implied.

She was in command.

 Griever’s new enemy had not given him the opportunity to escape.

Every time he’d tried to flee further than a few hundred yards in any direction from the floating ground, he’d run headlong into a solid, impenetrable and invisible barrier. He was trapped in a small area around a storm’s eye of danger, and his only way out was to find the perpetrator who caused his entrapment, and destroy him.

Bahamut wasn’t going to make it easy.

The dragon swept through the darkness, spitting forth intelligent, deadly orbs of destruction at Griever. His best advantage over the demon Guardian was stealth amidst noise, control amidst chaos. Every once in a while, he’d betray a savagely armed wingtip amongst the churning clouds, or allow the lightning to silhouette his draconian form for a fraction of an instant. Then he would be gone again, nowhere near the place he had been before.

It was a tactic he used to terrify and confuse. Griever was not capable of fear, but he could be confounded. It worked just as well for Bahamut’s purposes.

Fly behind him close enough to waft a breeze against his enemy’s back. Vanish into the clouds before Griever could see him. Keep him guessing. Attack; spit an orb of vengeful wrath while circling, double-back, shoot another from a different angle and position. Keep him guessing. Fly in another direction, cause a lightning flash on the opposite side of the sky, twist the wind to coil the clouds, fool the enemy into thinking he was over there, instead of over here. Move from here to there the moment after the enemy realizes the ruse. Move again. Rush past him. Flip and shoot a blast from underneath him. Keep him guessing.

Press him toward the land, before he can realize what’s happening.

Bahamut knew of Rinoa’s plot, had heard her thoughts and her voice over the crash and roar of the storm. He knew also of Squall’s intentions. They were both sound, and safer than if Bahamut had chosen to face Griever in an all-out brawl. If he had done that, he may have won, but he never would have survived.

{Ready the gates of death,} he let his voice boom with the storm as he screeched, banking to make another dive beneath Griever, {your time is coming, children of the ardent truth!}

He let hang the cryptic message, knowing Griever would not understand it, but Rinoa would. The storm gathered around him, and he drew strength from it, sending a shower of lightning down upon his enemy.

Griever stared straight into the blinding claws of electricity, searching for their source. He caught a glimpse of the dragon, watched as it vanished behind a cloud with a sudden burst of speed. He moved to intercept it. His claws grappled with black vapor. Another orb struck him from behind. He twisted around, but could see nothing. Something heavy and hard cracked against his wings, snapping a steely feather. He turned to fend off the tail and got a piece of flesh torn out of his shoulder.

Bahamut raised himself into the storm again, spitting out Griever’s flesh and adding a powerful hind kick to Griever’s face as he left. He snatched the tip of his tail from his enemy’s grasp as he vanished into the darkness once more. When Griever tried to follow, he was shoved back by a barrage of ruthless energy fired from Bahamut’s fanged mouth.

{If you are fool enough to follow me, then do so. Follow me, and meet your destruction!}

Bahamut tucked his wings and dived. He flipped up the end of one wing and let the air catch the other, twisting like a corkscrew, churning the clouds as he fell like lightning through the murk and wind. The trail he left was purposeful. The twisting wind expanded and the churning became rhythmic, turning to a pulse only Bahamut understood and controlled. He controlled all this—the entrapment itself was his creation, his own pocket of reality within Ultimecia’s time-compressed universe. Near the bottom of his own enclosure, his wings snapped open, breaking his spin and his plummet. The wind swept downward, fueling the tornado he had created within his hurricane. As he hoped, Griever had followed him, gotten caught in the winds, and now thrashed viciously in the twister, vying for control of his flight. Bahamut howled a command to the maelstrom, a sound akin to thousands of warning sirens, all harmonized in a single, terrible wail of chaos and destruction. The fearful sound pushed the tornado, carried by errant winds and claws of lightning, to the edge of the platform of earth. Another shriek from the dragon, and the twister dissipated, depositing Griever violently onto the ground.

Griever flipped onto his feet, crouched, and before any of the three humans could do anything to keep him there, launched himself for Bahamut, who hovered visibly at the end of a tunnel of twisting clouds.

Bahamut held his position. He did not flee or hide in the clouds. His mouth opened, showing a deathtrap of sabre-like teeth and razor-edged beak. He watched Griever approach, and gauged the closing distance. His body tensed as though bracing for the impact. His wings stopped beating, held stiff and curved as though shading the clouds from the lightning that flashed around him. He did not fall. He hung suspended as the thunder roared with increasing intensity around him. His jaws opened wider, giving space to the single point of energy that was building to a small star amongst the vice of his crystalline teeth. The star hummed, pulling the energy of the storm greedily into itself.

The hum spread from the growing star to Bahamut’s teeth, radiating over his horns and throughout the entire length of his body, the resonance seeking a harmonic frequency in the chaos.

Griever was seconds from plowing headfirst into Bahamut when that frequency was reached.

The star exploded, and Bahamut channeled the blast so that it shot out in a perfectly straight, unavoidably fast, unstoppable streak of pure power that would have torn fault lines in the earth. The energy beam caught Griever in the chest, carrying him back, back, back, snapping bone and ripping through flesh, before finally smashing the lion-beast against the side of the floating land. The beam pinned him there, drilling into him ruthlessly as he tried to struggle, twist, make any move to escape it.

Bahamut’s green eyes flared with the power, and he added his roar to that of the projected energy, causing the heavens to shake as violently as the land, which, for Griever, may as well have been a shooting range, with Bahamut as judge, jury and firing squad. The dragon kept up the force as long as he could make it last, crushing Griever’s chest, rendering the beast’s wings useless.

Finally the star was spent, and Bahamut’s wings began a rhythmic thrust again as the last of the power left him. He raised himself into the clouds once more, and sped toward the floating land. He reached it before the last of his terrible beam had spent itself on Griever, swooped below the beast before it could fall, and caught the demon Guardian by its broken and tattered wings.

{Follow a cobra into its burrow and be struck.}

With a few quick thrusts of his own wings, the dragon hauled Griever aboveground, and dumped the creature’s battered form unceremoniously on the dead floor.

{Follow a crocodile into water, and be drowned.}

Griever hit the ground and slid a few meters to a stop. He laid there, motionless except for an intermittent twitching. The smell of scorched flesh was carried off on the wind.

{Follow a Guardian Force into its own realm, and likewise face your doom.}

Bahamut flew higher and began a tight circling around the land, knowing that his work here was not yet done. He watched Griever with eagle-eyed intensity, passing low over the three humans and ignoring their awed stares. His attacks had beaten Griever into helplessness. Like thrusting fire into the stump of a hydra’s severed head, the carefully placed, life-draining blue energy strips were keeping Griever from regenerating in his chest and left wing. Bahamut’s eyes narrowed to green slits. He had done his job. Now all that was left was for Rinoa to do hers.

Rinoa fought against the ache in her weary heart. She stared at Griever’s crippled, crumpled form, and wondered at the brutality she had seen. Zell and Irvine were hooting and cheering. It seemed their assistance wouldn’t even be needed. Griever looked dead.

Rinoa knew better. Griever was alive, and very awake, very aware. No doubt in incredible pain.

Her eyes hardened. Griever wasn’t real. He wasn’t even truly alive—just a killing machine, conjured by Ultimecia, that happened to be animal in form. If she wanted this violence to end, she would have to end it now. She didn’t twitch as she watched Griever slowly curl the claws of his good front paw—the other had been crushed upon impact. It seemed this floor was impervious, for the most part. More impervious even than Griever.

Griever’s broken hand was not resetting any bones or mending any tears in the flesh. A glowing blue streak of light seemed to inhabit that arm, and was spreading like a cancer toward areas of pain, strands of blue reaching like disfigured fingers toward every wound. As the beast struggled to get up, his chest became visible. It seemed the entire cavity had been replaced by gelatinous blue light. Hideously, his heart was visible, dull and pulsating in the garish blue glow.

But everything not infested by blue was slowly healing, and Rinoa knew it wouldn’t be long before Griever had the ability to stand and attack, however crippled.

She heaved a resolute breath as Griever’s angry eyes opened, his lip pulled back in a snarl.

Go, she ordered both Irvine and Zell, who had long since stopped their celebrating. Now. He’s recovering. Hurry!

Watching them rush forward to obey her command, Rinoa closed her eyes. She stood still, and crossed her arms in an X across her chest. Bowing her head, she concentrated, turned her senses inward. She blocked out the wind, the roar of the hurricane, the distant gunshots and the resulting bellows of anger.

She searched within herself for the power Squall spoke of, this ability she supposedly had to control the minds and spirits of other beings. It was different from just broadcasting thoughts to other people. She wasn’t sure what to look for, knew only that she had to try. If Squall said it was possible, then it must be. About something so serious, he would never lie, or speak soundly of anything he wasn’t sure of.

The trance she entered was a vulnerable one, releasing all barriers, or even the awareness of her physical surroundings. The knowledge of how to fall back into this place was instinctive, something that came to her through the power she held inside her. How to work inside it was another matter; never before had she done this for longer than was necessary to cast a spell.

She was suddenly aware of colors. She did not see them, per se, but they were there, nevertheless. Slowly, images began to form around them, silhouettes of the people or creatures they represented. A bright ball of yellow, red and blue flame centered within Zell’s outline. A dimmer, but larger star of gold, steel and white marked Irvine’s position. Above her, circling, a deep maelstrom of platinum, sharp green and intense blue represented Bahamut. She could not see or sense herself.

Before her was an outline of Griever’s body, but no colors tainted his shape. Only a spot of black—no, not even black. More like nothingness where his spirit should be.

So what was her job? What could she do here?

She watched Zell and Irvine for a moment as they neared Griever, attacked him. The beast responded with swiping claws and a lashing tail, but had little mobility.

Another flare of color caught her attention. A large nebula, shimmering with power, meandered its way into her awareness. Blood red and Amber. Deep, smoky violet. And a core so white-hot, it defied definition. The colors themselves had no outline, seemed to float freely in this vastness she perceived.

That must be Squall… She watched as the nebula moved to a position relative of Griever’s outline to hovered there, waiting.

Now it was her turn. What was she supposed to do?

Suddenly a flash of light brought her attention back to the skirmish between Griever and humans.

Her heart lurched, snatching her out of her trance.



"Ah-h-h SCREW YOU, PUNK!" Zell had managed to get atop Griever’s back, and rammed his right fist into the back of the monster’s head, letting the barbs of his gloves hook the creature’s flesh. He was rewarded with a roar, and very violent thrashing.

Griever shook his head viciously to rid himself of the bothersome pest. His good arm reached up to slash at Zell, who avoided the claws deftly. One of Irvine’s shots struck the beast’s horns, very close to Zell, who shook his fist at him "Aww, hell! Hey, man, shoot this bitch, not me!"

"Sorry," Irvine shouted back over the wind, "hard to tell the difference, sometimes!"

"Smartass." Muttering to himself, Zell slid down the lion-thing’s shoulders and readied for another run at its face. "That’s the second time he’s almost killed me."

He froze as soon as his feet touched the ground. Slowly, suddenly, truly unable to breathe, he stared down at himself. He heard Rinoa scream his name.

The tips of three huge, blood-red claws protruded from his chest.

Griever growled long and deep, lifting the hapless SeeD into the air and up to the harsh winds. The beast’s blue eyes, cold and inquisitive, admired his work from afar, as if examining the intricacies of a dead butterfly’s wing.

A shriek from above interrupted Griever’s contemplative pose. Bahamut fell from his tireless circling, landing heavily on Griever’s back. The dragon’s powerful jaws clamped shut on the demon Guardian’s hand, breaking the bones and forcing Griever to drop Zell, who fell to the ground in a pitiful heap.

Irvine was already there to drag his friend out of the way while Bahamut took up the job of harassing Griever.

Rinoa ran to them, for the first time leaving Squall’s still form. She didn’t need to protect him anymore. He was still around. Zell needed her help right now.

Zell was jerking, fighting to breathe, but only succeeding in coughing blood. His eyes wide and frightened, he stared wordlessly as Rinoa crouched beside him. She laid her hand over his chest, covering as much of the terrible wounds as possible, then willed herself to calm. She could heal him, if he could hold onto life for long enough. Ignoring Irvine’s questions, she half-closed her eyes and focused on Zell’s plight, willing the flesh to close, willing the body to heal. She felt his pulse cease under her hands, trying not to panic as she watched comprehension fade from his eyes. Just a few more minutes Zell, hold on just a few more minutes!

A few minutes passed. The wounds healed. Rinoa came out of her light trance, and touched Zell’s cheek with her bloodied hands, now stained with the life of two friends. "Zell, you’re all right, now. Come on, come back to us," she whispered desperately. But hope was dying almost as quickly as the life in Zell’s eyes had. Though healed, he still stared ahead, unbreathing, his eyes as soulless as Griever’s.

Irvine tried Zell’s pulse. Nothing. Rinoa closed her eyes, fading into a trance once more. She cast about for signs of Zell’s bright colors. They were gone.

Grief welled inside her again. Another friend, lost to whatever prison Ultimecia had waiting for him.


Bahamut pushed away from Griever, pumping his wings powerfully and rising out of the creature’s reach. The dragon growled, thunder in his throat. Griever was indeed a leach for the power of Guardians. The more contact Bahamut had with him, the more he felt drained by this monster. He could not continue grappling with this false Guardian. It would serve no purpose but to make the beast stronger.

The girl was distracted with her dying friend. Bahamut hovered out of Griever’s reach, watching, ready to alert Rinoa and her remaining friend if necessary. Griever seemed to be resting for the moment, breathing heavily, slowly healing as much of his body as was possible.

The dragon looked on in silent patience. But at the bottom of his dark heart, he hoped Rinoa hurried before Griever became mobile once again.


Rinoa stayed in her trance, again seeking out Griever’s shape, if only to distract herself from Zell’s loss. The sight of Squall’s colors still hanging readily over the beast’s form encouraged her. She tried to think of how she might control the beast, make it vulnerable so that Squall could inhabit its mind, and by giving it a soul, also give it life. Only so that they could take that life away again.

It had to be done. So long as Griever existed, Ultimecia could control it, and none of them would be safe.

Rinoa thought back on the times she’d healed someone with her abilities. Squall and Zell…when she thought about it, healing someone wasn’t that different from controlling their body, in a way; if she could coax wounds into healing themselves, surely she could coax a body or mind to open up to…an invader?

She focused on Griever, taking in the image, and the emptiness. In her mind’s eye, she pictured that emptiness breaking, opening up to allow something to fill the void. The more she clarified the image in her mind, the more she felt herself reaching out to make it happen, felt something of herself move in to change what she saw into what she wanted to see.

Slowly, what she saw, began to resemble the image she held in her mind.

Distantly, she heard Griever’s angry roar, but didn’t let that stop her. The nothingness inside the beast opened up, just a crack, just for an instant.

Squall rushed to fill the void before the meager window had a second more to close.


Griever’s roar broke off abruptly. His body relaxed and shuddered. His eyes, coldly blue, seemed to clear all of a sudden. Three vicious wisps of blue light let go of his tortured body, rising above him to return to their master.

The Guardian sighed and shook again. He was alive, and he was free.

Moments of laying prone were a relief to his frantic mind. He felt his terrible wounds begin the gradual process of healing, where before the blue had festered within them. But the blue energy only fed on non-living power sources. He was alive now. He was free. For a short time, that was all he knew.

He could see his arm and its ugly violet fur, and watched dreamily as the hue began to change. Slowly, the pigment shifted: murky, muddy red; deep, rich brown; sleek, solid black.

His claws changed color, too, losing their bloody tint to an opaque, steel-grey sheen.

His ears twitched in the harsh wind, listening to the thump of dragon wings, not unlike his own heartbeat, and the murmuring of humans not far away. He knew those humans. They were his friends.

They would be here, soon, to kill him.

It was a fact he’d known since the moment he’d comprehended his individuality. He accepted it, knowing it was right. Soon, he not only would be free of emptiness.

He would be free of this body as well.


Rinoa watched, feelings of wonder, fear and sadness warring inside of her. Wonder, because of Griever’s unexpected transformation. Fear, because she didn’t know what the creature was about to do, now that Squall’s spirit temporarily resided in it. Sadness, because she knew that now, somehow, they had to find a way to kill the beast.

She looked over to Bahamut, who hovered nearby. The storm’s intensity was beginning to lessen, but the sky was still dark and thick with clouds. Bahamut seemed not to notice anything, had his glowing green eyes trained distrustfully on this "new" Griever. It appeared the dragon was still reluctant to attack Griever, at least head-on. Understandably so, judging from what Griever had done to the other Guardians.

She watched as Griever weakly pushed up on his front paws—in a very human motion—and was surprised to find the grossly elongated limbs had shortened to a more normal length. Sleek black fur covered Griever’s body, now, and though he still bore a crown of red-tipped horns, wings of knife-like feathers and a mane of snowy fur, he looked very different, far less vicious and far more majestic than his old self. The blade on the end of his long tail flicked back and forth as the slowly recovering beast looked around at his surroundings.

Then, Rinoa saw his eyes.

They were still blue, still cold, but held in them a soul.

The eyes were tired, perhaps sad, but they were alive, and their expression was a familiar one. Rinoa held her breath and tried to keep her emotions in check.

Griever was almost fully healed, now, and still made no move to attack or even stand up. Instead he lay down where he was, heaved a great sigh, and appeared to dose off, waiting for someone to come carry out his destiny.


Relatively satisfied that Griever was no longer a danger, Bahamut made an unusual decision—of a personal nature. He could not kill Griever, yet. That would defeat the idea he had in mind.

Rinoa had retreated back to her vigil over Squall’s body, though her eyes remained trained uncertainly on Griever. She was startled when she heard the heavy wingbeats near her. As her world was darkened by the dragon’s shadow, she craned her neck to try and meet Bahamut’s stare as he hovered low and landed, powerful talons gripping the ground and burrowing deep, as if the rock was nothing more than loose dirt. His long tail and clawed hands remained slightly above the floor, the former balancing him, the latter useless for the time being. Dark scales, platinum and steely indigo, reflected every flash of lightning in the turbulent skies.

Heavy winds, both from Bahamut’s wings and the surrounding storm, whipped at Rinoa’s hair, forcing her to brush it away once or twice in order to see this magnificent giant who stood before her.

Bahamut kept his armored wings half-furled, crouching near to the ground and leaning over Rinoa as though protecting her. He shook his horned head, ridding it of rain that did not exist, then curled his neck forward, lowering his head until it was level with an awe-stricken Rinoa’s face. The end of his fanged mouth only feet away from her, his eyes glowing like green embers, the dragon stared at the young sorceress for a long moment, then shifted his gaze from her to the body of the boy he had once considered his chosen. Here his eyes lingered, and when he spoke, his voice was known only to Rinoa.

{You stand by him…for love?}

Rinoa wasn’t sure if the question was a critical one. She nodded slowly, refusing to be hesitant.

{What has happened, here? This, it should not be.}

Shouldn’t be? Rinoa blinked, surprised at the Guardian’s declaration. What does he mean? Does he know what Squall’s future is…or was like?

{I do not see futures,} Bahamut explained, hearing her thoughts as if she had spoken them aloud. {I smell power. I sense destiny. When we first battled in that sorry prison of an island, I realized the SeeD has fate about him. His life would be riddled with many great doings, good or evil, I do not know…but not to end so soon. This sorceress, Ultimecia, has committed a temporal felony, the rape of time, as it were. She will not only destroy lives, but destinies, as well! This cannot be allowed to continue.}

Rinoa knelt, head bowed, over Squall’s body. She stared wearily at Bahamut’s taloned foot beside her. Can you, she pleaded, can you help us destroy Ultimecia?

Bahamut thought in silence. Even his powers, vast as they were, were uncertain in Ultimecia’s distorted haven. He could fight, and he could defend Rinoa and her last remaining friend. But destroy Ultimecia? He wasn’t sure anyone could do that, except Ultimecia herself.

{I will use every breath of strength in my soul to help you survive,} he answered finally, {but the sorceress lives within death, time and her own insane reality, where she is master of all rules. Your best weapon, I fear, cannot be gauged in terms of power alone. Ultimecia is hate, and malevolence, and chaos. Death is the environment in which she chooses to work. You cannot destroy a flame by showering it with more blazes.} Seeming suddenly uncomfortable, the King of Guardians shifted his weight from one foot to the other. {And the hottest fires can never be doused. Not even by the absolute cold of space.} He tilted his thorny head back, as if to see the stars he spoke of. {All begins and ends with oneself. Remember that. It is the universe you create for yourself that determines your ultimate fate.} Again he gazed down as Squall’s still form, and to Rinoa’s astonishment, the dragon’s face creased in sorrow. {Believe in your death, and you will have it; believe in your love, and you will have that, too…that is the greatest triumph, and the most horrible defeat, all in the same equation. That, like a soul, can never be twisted by any magic except its own.}

Is that why Ultimecia wanted Squall to give himself to her willingly? Because only Squall could really affect Squall?

{She would not be able to force his acquiescence.} Bahamut glared at Rinoa, looking shocked and angered at her question. {If she attempted to seduce it, instead, then there must be a reason she needs him to believe in her reality. Am I right in assuming he denied her?}

Unsure of who the dragon’s anger was directed at, Rinoa shrank back, nodding slightly in response to his question. She tried to make him give her his soul—

{NOT his soul,} the Guardian blurted, his voice resounding in Rinoa’s head, {but his self-will! With possession of that, she would take his soul, whether he wished it or not!}

Rinoa put her hands over her ears, but could not block the enraged voice. She forgot about the world around her, forgot about time. Time stood still.

{She must be seeking an energy source, if she is so desperate as to wish such a joining.} Lividly, Bahamut searched Rinoa’s memory, delving rigorously into her thoughts like pages in a book. {He believed she wanted a power he held? An ability, or strength. Could it be that even I have underestimated the magnitude of his power?}

I don’t know what you’re talking about, Rinoa cried out before Bahamut could roar anything else into her mind. She tortured him! I watched…he had no ‘power’ over anything! If he did, it didn’t save him when he came to protect me… Choking on tears, she let her hands down by her sides. You’re not being fair! Everyone has expected super-human things out of Squall, and he’s just a guy, not much older than me! Why won’t anyone just leave him alone? You can’t talk about him like he’s some kind of…laboratory experiment! His only "power" is self-sacrifice and love! He cares more about other people than he’d ever admit… Slowly, she dared to look into the Guardian’s leering green eyes. But he’s not perfect, and he’s not out to be a hero. He hides everything he feels because he doesn’t think he can stay strong if he lets go. He makes mistakes and other people suffer because of it. He’s scared of dying, and he’s scared of being alone. He fights because it helps him battle the things he’s scared of. He gets angry, and sad, and happy, sometimes. He’s got feelings just like any other person. He’s a human being… He hasn’t got any special powers. Shaking, she looked away from Bahamut’s stare. Ultimecia and I are the only ones who do.

Bahamut watched Rinoa carefully for the next few minutes that did not pass. When he spoke again, his voice was calmer, no longer angry, and not as overwhelmingly deafening as it had been. {All these things define an individual, but…you underestimate what power can be found in one’s ability to fear, or to love. These things that are part of a person…also are a part of the soul. You must know something about Squall, Rinoa.} The dragon waited, long enough for Rinoa to look up expectantly. {Regardless of what he wishes to be, he is stronger than you are likely to imagine. The strength Ultimecia wants, what she feeds on, is what you would call the will to exist. By subduing the will of others, she can control them. Not all people are so readily bent to her desires, and Squall is too strong for her dominating presence to conquer. If she had found a way, she could draw that strength from him, and her power would be unimaginable. A sorceress can use the power of a man’s being to augment her own abilities—if he can take it. If Squall is strong enough to handle the punishment, that alone is a power beyond most men, who would be shredded by her ruthlessness. They are useless to her. Squall is not. But he is also not an option for her any longer. For her to use him, he would have to be centered in a living body. By dying, he has robbed Ultimecia of her greatest prize.}

But…if that’s true, then it could work the other way around, couldn’t it? If Squall were alive, now…

{You could use his strength, and he yours, and you could crush Ultimecia and release the world from time compression.}

…If he were alive.

{Indeed. "If."}

Time resumed. Rinoa looked over at Griever’s crumpled form. Irvine was standing where he had been all along, having turned to watch as Bahamut landed. Did he know what had been exchanged between Rinoa and the dragon, or had he been unaware of the glitch in time? She didn’t know, and quite frankly, didn’t care. Her mind was spinning with the very concept that Bahamut had given her. Using someone’s willpower as power? It sounded ridiculous, but at the same time, made perfect sense: if this entire world was created through Ultimecia’s vision, then wouldn’t the power of ideas, emotions, and the feeling of reality created by one’s sense of self, be the greatest source of strength? Translating emotions and perspectives literally into physical ability.

Ultimecia used fear and torture to get her way. If Squall had been alive, Rinoa wondered, could she, herself, have used his "strength" through love and trust? Would he have let her?

Her narrow eyes widened as she watched Griever stir. Squall said he’d give Griever his sense of self. Is he still inside Griever’s body?

{Yes,} Bahamut rumbled, a near-purr in her mind. {He is.}


Griever gave a low groan of intangible pain. His mind squirmed with conflicting images of destruction and life. He remembered battles, blood and killing, but he also remembered soft words, darkness, a painless touch on a face that wasn’t his own. Or was it—?

His mind warred with his soul, rejecting it, trying to force it out of his body. He remembered being soulless. He didn’t want to be that way again. Too empty…too violent.

His eyes opened and he took in the image of the dragon and the young sorceress, both knelt over a body…his own? His real body. But it was dead. He couldn’t go back.

I want to stay here, he thought in defiance of his mind. I don’t want to be empty or alone again! At least here, he was warm. Here, he had surroundings, a world, and could see someone else. He knew he was destined to die, but was finding it harder and harder to let go of this life. Death was an end to chaos, but it was so lonely…

His war froze abruptly as Rinoa stood up. She had been looking at him for a long time. As he watched, she began to walk toward him, her eyes half-open and entranced. He was entranced…so lost in her dark eyes…

Something inside of him jerked, as if charged by a jolt of electricity. The fur rose along his back. The girl was…

Startled shouts, human and animal, invaded his thoughts. He roared, suddenly standing and rearing up on his hindquarters, one voice crying out louder than all the others in his consciousness.

Rinoa, what are you doing!?

His mind took advantage of his soul’s letup, and gleefully forced him out.


Rinoa stumbled backward amidst Griever’s roars and thrashing. She had found Squall’s "colors" still residing within the beast’s shape, using the same technique she had tried before. This time, though, she had tried to get closer, had reached out and touched the colors she had only looked at before.

The reaction had been instant, and violent. The red, amber and violet nebula had flared brightly and lashed out, knocking her back. Only seconds later, it left Griever’s body and vanished into the nothingness.

Rinoa slipped and fell in her retreat, too weak from the shock of being rejected and the sadness of watching Squall flee from her. She stared as Griever spasmed and shrieked, and watched in horror as the sickly violet hue began to return to his fur.

Irvine rushed over to her and hauled her to her feet, supporting her by the arms. He was dragging her away from Griever, who bellowed in pain as his forelimbs began to stretch beyond a natural length.

Wait, he’s all I have! Rinoa struggled against Irvine’s grip, but he held her fast and pulled her back, away from the twisting beast.

No sooner was Griever returned to his unbalanced shape when he attacked. He leapt from his place into the air, caught the rushing wind, and dove for his targets. Rinoa had no barrier up, and Bahamut’s shield had long since been released. There was nothing between Griever and his victims, this time. Except a shadow.

That shadow became darker. A terrible roar blasted the world, and Bahamut shot from behind the two humans, meeting Griever head-on, claws extended, mouth agape, tail straight as a picket. The two creatures collided amidst an explosion of Bahamut’s breath, and both tumbled horns-over-tail from the air, hissing, snapping, shrieking, warring.

Bahamut’s claws found Griever’s belly and kicked viciously, slicing his enemy open, tearing bloody gouges in the soft fur. This time, the wounds did not heal immediately. They stayed. They bled.

The dragon beat at Griever with his clawed wings, inflicting as much damage as possible. His tail wrapped around the lion-beast’s legs, while Griever’s huge hands eluded the dragon’s comparatively short arms. Bahamut learned early that biting at Griever’s neck was useless; unbreakable horns and a harrowing white mane made it almost impossible to get a good hold. But the fact meant little. Bahamut’s impervious armor protected him from claws and teeth. He outweighed and outgunned the beast. A point-blank blast burned Griever’s fur away, exposing the flesh beneath. Another took away the flesh, revealing muscle, blood, and ribs. With his horns, Bahamut knocked Griever’s head out of the way, and dug his front claws into the raw muscle of the demon-Guardian’s chest, baring ribs, lungs and an ugly, pulsating blue heart.

Time to end this beast’s wrath now. Pinning the still-struggling Griever against the floating ground, Bahamut’s jaws hung agape, and once more the power came to him, from the air, from the storm, which was beginning to twist and writhe around them. Bahamut ignored Griever’s tail chopping at his back, thrust his wings for balance, and concentrated on building the energy to its breaking point before he released it.

Griever’s arms stopped their fruitless assault on the dragon’s hide, and he stilled, watching blankly as his death built up before him, in the form of energy near Bahamut’s maw. The force reached its peak, and flickered…

In the space of a heartbeat, the lion-beast gave a pained shout of a roar, wrapped one arm around the dragon’s neck, hugged it close, and used both hands to force Bahamut’s mouth shut.

Bahamut was able to emit a brief, high-pitched cry, like that of an injured dog, before the gathered energy was swallowed into his gullet. All his destructive power, all the deadly force consolidated within his body, detonated inside of him. Griever released him and kicked him away as the explosion ripped through him. The dragon opened his mouth in a hideous scream, spewing forth a fountain of energy and blood that rained back down upon him, burning through his armor, melting his wings into skeletal fingers. The energy tore him apart from within, and from without, drowning him, bathing him in his own deadly breath.

By the time Bahamut had stopped flailing, there was little left of him save a dull, blackened shell.

Yet the dragon hung on to life. Hardly able to move, his eyes opened, as green and frightful as ever, and stared in dull hope at his enemy, not far away. Shivering, Bahamut growled in meager, agonized triumph, the fingers of his butchered wings quivering. Griever was as beaten, as helpless, as he.

The demon Guardian lay prone on his back, belly slashed and ribs open to the air. The beast’s wings were broken, shattered by the pounding they had taken from Bahamut’s own. His breaths, visible by the rise and fall of exposed, blood-covered lungs, were getting weaker.

Bahamut realized that Griever was dying. As was he.

A fearful cloud of chaos began to form around Griever’s body. The shockwave, Bahamut remembered with horror, his angry eyes widening in his char-stained face. Griever must have absorbed enough power from him to cast the evil spell one last time.

The dragon shivered. It was over.

He had failed.

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic