The flames of the campfire cast a warm glow over the cool blue landscape. Although it warmed the skin of the six faces surrounding it, there was nothing it could do to warm their hearts - hardened in preparation for what they were about to face, straining not to crack and shatter under the pressure. Zanarkand - the final stop in their pilgrimage - was within sight.
Summoner Yuna and her six guardians had traveled a long way to get here. They had begun on the tiny isle of Besaid, where Yuna had grown up under the care of her future guardians Kimahri, Lulu and Wakka. She had decided at a young age that she wanted to be a summoner like her father Braska, praying at the temples of Yevon on a pilgrimage to defeat the great monster known as Sin. Each temple held a fayth - a stone statue imbued with the spirit of a human being. If the summoner’s prayers were genuine, the fayth would awaken. Their gossamer spirit would appear in human form over the statue and join with the summoner, granting the ability to summon them in the form of a magical beast known as an aeon.
Her father, Lord Braska, had become a high summoner when he and his guardians Sir Auron and Sir Jecht defeated Sin together ten years ago. No one knew why, but Sin always came back. It had been defeated several times now, yet always returned after The Calm, a period of ten years. First had been High Summoner Gandof, followed by High Summoner Ohalland, High Summoner Yocun, and then High Summoner Braska. Each began their pilgrimage with the hope their Calm would be the last - that Sin would never be seen in Spira again - for the temple of Yevon claimed that Sin would disappear when mankind had truly repented for their sins.
Most people in Spira followed the teachings of Yevon. The Al Bhed, however, believed the Yevonite yearning for atonement was pointless. Sin was a beast; it cared little for prayers. Spurning the teachings of Yevon, the Al Bhed openly used machina specifically forbidden by the temples. Machina weapons could do far more damage than conventional weapons, and were very useful in killing Sinspawn. The Al Bhed used everything from handheld machina guns to full-blown assault cannons, mechanical doors and elevators, and even flying machina airships. Yevon blamed machina for Sin’s continued presence, yet permitted its citizens to use certain machina, such as the Shoopuf elevator. As a result, there was little love between the people of Spira and the Al Bhed. Summoner Braska’s elopement with an Al Bhed woman had caused an absolute uproar.
Sir Auron and Sir Jecht came from equally unusual circumstances. Sir Auron was a warrior monk kicked out of the temple of Yevon because he refused the hand of marriage to a high-ranking member of the clergy; Jecht was a drunkard imprisoned within the Via Purifico beneath the city of Bevelle, spouting madness in his claims to be from Zanarkand - a living, breathing, populated Zanarkand, with a well-used blitzball sphere pool, and streets that never slept. Everyone in Spira knew the city had been destroyed by Bevelle in the machina war a thousand years ago. It didn’t take long for Jecht to be thrown in jail upon his arrival in Spira; the clergy couldn’t allow such blatant blasphemy to be spewed on the streets. Auron was against having this drunken madman as one of Braska’s guardians from the beginning, but Braska had insisted. If Jecht was really from Zanarkand, then maybe he would be able to go home at the end of their pilgrimage. Surely there were some answers to be found in the ancient ruins. Jecht was all too eager to be sprung from his gloomy prison cell, even though he had no idea what he was getting himself into.
From that moment on, Summoner Braska had traveled with Sir Auron and Sir Jecht as his guardians, battling Sin and its spawn all the way from the isle of Besaid through the jungle of Kilika, across the thunder plains of Djose, through the frozen forest of Macalania, across the massive expanse of the Calm Lands, up Mount Gagazet and down the other side, and finally to the temple in Zanarkand. There, Braska called forth the final Aeon and vanquished Sin, only to die by the hand of his own Aeon. No one knew why, but the final Aeon always turned on its summoner. It was the reason why precious few chose the summoner’s path; the martyr’s burden was a heavy one. Everyone in Yuna’s party knew that their summoner, their friend, was going to die.
Yuna and her guardians had followed in her father’s footsteps. They had just walked down the long slopes of Mount Gagazet that led into the valley of Zanarkand’s ruins. The broken, empty shells of towering buildings stood there, testament to what was once a great city. On the far side was a broken trail of crumbled infrastructure surrounded by water, leading the way to the battered Zanarkand temple. Exhausted from their battles on Mount Gagazet and the rising emotional turmoil, they made camp at the bottom of the mountain to rest one last time before the end of their journey. The silence around the crackling campfire was heavy with apprehension as they each pondered the journey that had brought them here.