Auron marched through singing flowers that brushed his knees. Their blossoms were blurred by heat shimmer, although they were cool to the touch. Translucent petals blazed brilliant crimsons and purples and fiery oranges. Beyond these ethereal meadows that ended on the edge of nothing, barren crags and thundering waterfalls denied the possibility of an infinite horizon. Pyrefly streamers danced about Auron's head and shoulders, festooning the air with garlands of light. Out of respect, he did not swat them, but he tried to ignore them.
Voices. Whispers. Dreams. He thought he had left such things behind.
Time was meaningless here, but it felt as if he had been walking for a very long time, perhaps years. His legs had forgotten how to be still. The stubborn landscape refused to change, as he refused to change. Perhaps that was the problem.
Dimly he remembered having left Braska "to take a walk, my lord." Braska had been standing hand in hand with Anna on the brink of one of those fathomless cataracts. Both smiled raptly, frozen like summoners' statues. Braska had found peace. Anna had found a garden wide enough for her desert-born heart never to thirst again. Guardians were superfluous.
Auron had seen no one since he left them. That suited him. Still, he was starting to crave something or someone to break the monotony.
At last, he spotted a gentle splash of pink and white in the midst of the fields of brazen hues. He turned towards it.
Approaching, he discovered a slender young woman kneeling in the meadow, facing away from him. Her clothes were tailored in an unfamiliar style, simple and pleasing to the eye. The pink sheath-dress fitted her like a furled bird's wing. Her long brown hair was caught up in a a girlish bow; wisps of it formed elegant spirals framing her face. Sensible suede boots hinted at a practical side. She was pretty, yet reassuringly ordinary. He half expected her to be bearing a tray of cookies or a picnic basket when she rose and turned at the sound of his approach.
He had to revise his assessment slightly when he caught sight of her bicolored eyes: one blue, one green. They reminded him of someone.
He stopped walking.
"Hello," she said, walking towards him with a lightness to her step. "Want a flower?"
He stared pointedly at the fields of pyrefly-flowers around them and said nothing.
She smiled. "I didn't think so." She laced her hands behind her back and tilted her head, studying him frankly.
Auron squinted. "Have we met?"
"We have now." She bowed slightly. "Aeris."
He was not quite sure what prompted him to ask, "You are... a summoner?"
She laughed. "Not exactly. But if it helps, I'm something similar."
"Hmph." He considered. His memories were starting to blur into a golden haze, but one was clear enough. "Do you need a guardian?"
Her smile seemed fond, amused. "Nope! Thanks for offering, though!"
He felt a vague pang of disappointment.
She nodded to herself, then knelt again. Auron started to move on. However, she called after him before he had gotten many paces away. "Sooooo...got a question for me?"
He swiveled on his heel. "Excuse me?"
"Questions. You wouldn't be walking like this, if you weren't looking for something. Maybe I can help?"
Her disingenuous tones reminded him strongly of someone, and yet not: there was a blithe confidence to this young woman that was almost maddening.
"Maybe you can tell me how long we're stuck here," he said. As the eternal resting place of every soul who had ever died, the Farplane was strangely deserted.
"Until everyone you knew forgets about you. Or the other way around." She winked. "I'm afraid you'll have to be patient, Sir Auron. It takes longer for heroes to be forgotten."
He snorted. "Wonderful."
"You'll get used to it."
An unsettling thought struck him. Her clothes were like nothing in Spira. They were closer to Zanarkand fashion, but even that was not quite right. "How long have you been here?"
"Oh, always. But that's just me. I haven't even been born yet."
He scowled, digesting the offhanded words. "I don't believe in gods."
"Neither do I! Too much trouble keeping all those names straight."
She imitated the "Hmph" along with him, eyes twinkling. There was another long pause.
"Maybe," he said, surprising himself, "I do want that flower."
"I thought you might!" She drew out a white lily which did not match any of the other flowers. Coming forward, she pressed it into his hand and stood on tiptoe to give him a peck on the cheek. "There. Now, are you ready to go?"
"Go where?" Where sounded promising, at least: he was thoroughly fed up with nowhere.
"Oh, someplace where you can get into all kinds of trouble." She grinned. "I'm a part-time guardian too, you see. I'm sure we can find someone that needs our help."
Auron frowned. She was clearly more than she appeared. For once, someone else was keeping secrets. Or perhaps she simply dazzled fiends with flowers and a winning smile. Either way, "trouble" sounded like a cure for boredom.
"Lead the way."