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False Calm

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The sun set in fierce reds and golds on the island of Kilika, bathing the lush jungle with its light and glowing in the dark eyes of the inhabitants. It was the tenth year of High Summoner Isaaru's Calm and, as the case with every Calm, the people of Spira had long since convinced themselves that this one would be Eternal. They went about their daily business, their children laughing at their sides as they darted and played through the market while their parent's conducted business.

It was the end of the day and the last rush of bartering and trading was taking place. Yet today was a special day. Once the sun had fully set, the townsfolk would take up their torches and make their way, like a glowing centipede, to the temple at the top of the hill to give their thanks to Yevon for the Eternal Calm and to dedicate the statue of their native hero, High Summoner Isaaru, which had just arrived from Bevelle.

One man carried no torch, for indeed he could not. His hands were knotted and claw-like as if they had broken again and again until they did not even resemble human appendages. His eyes sat like dark holes sunk deep into his skull, devoid of light, the flesh around them creased by care and horror. He made his way silent and alone, and none of his fellow travelers paid him any mind. The elders, who perhaps knew more than they let on, Those avoided him entirely.

There was safety in numbers and the pilgrims reached the Temple without incident. The fires at the entrance cast their red glow onto their excited faces. A priest of Yevon greeted them at the door with a smile and ushered them inside. The man with the mangled hands slipped in with the crowd, his head tucked down so his black hair obscured his face. The town filled the temple to overflowing and the latecomers were forced to remain outside, waiting for their turn to see the statue.

As the sermon began, the man edged his way to the front until he was standing directly in front of the statue. The sculpture of High Summoner Isaaru was resplendent in polished bronze, every intricate detail visible. He had a kind face and the man beneath felt his throat constrict as he stared up. Without realizing it, he stumbled forward, falling at statue's feet.

"What is the meaning of this?" blustered the priest from the pulpit. The crowd stepped away from the fallen man as one, leaving him alone in a ring of emptiness. "In Yevon's name, I order you to step away from the High Summoner's statue!" the man did not move but he did look up at the priest. As he did his hair fell away from his face, and his pale skin showed red in the torchlight.

The priest regarded him and a flicker of recognition crossed his face. His expression became stony and his lips flattened into a fierce line. "Guards, take him away. He has disturbed the order of Yevon."

The crowd shifted to allow the two guards through. One had red hair that lightened to yellow at the tips, while the other had the dark hair and skin of a long time native. The man on the floor gave an inarticulate moan as they pulled him up by the arms. He began to struggle and managed to wrench on arm free, reaching back desperately at the unmoving face of the Summoner's statue.

The red head cuffed the back of his head. "Here, you, quit moving."

But the man would not. Opening his mouth he gave a dog-like howl that ended a gurgling groan, his convulsions becoming more pronounced as he flung his arms and legs about.

"Yevon, his tongue has been cut out!" muttered the darker man and it was true. Within the prisoner's mouth there was only a writhing stub.

"Let's just get him outside," said his companion and wading through the crowd at the gate. The man had ceased his struggling and was laying dead-weight in their arms. The continued out into the darkness, to the very edge of the steps.

Then they threw him down.

The first thing he noticed when he awoke was that the world around him was bright; a painful glowing whiteness that seared through his eyelids and burnt his pupils. He struggled to his feet and paid no mind to the void beneath him that may or may not have been the ground.

He began to walk. He walked for a millennium, he walked for only a few moments and the whiteness became fog that scattered passed him in little wisps and clouds. Beyond it was a sunset, far different than the bloody failing light of Kilika, this sunset was one that had already died. In a sea of pale pink and ghostly black, a pale sun hovered like a ball suspended from the sky, obscured by dark smoke.

Tentatively, he reached out his hand and caressed its shining surface. It was larger than all of Kilika but it fit against the palm of his hand like a marble. It had as much heat as a cold ball of glass as well. It was only then, with his fingers tracing the edge of the sun that he looked down.

A memory of terror blew across his heart but found no purchase there. He was suspended miles above a surface he had only seen in memory's long past. Massive waterfalls poured through rock and cliff into a valley of colors so vast it was as if all of the flowers that had ever been and would ever be resided here, waiting for their brief flicker of life on Spira. Beyond the cliffs stretched the ocean, spike with waterspouts that reached infinitely far into the sky and below the waves.

Somehow, he was on the Farplane.

"Am I dead?" he said aloud and wondered at his own voice. He had not heard it since he was a child and the priests had bound him, advancing upon him with their knives…

He shook his head and banished the image. Still, it was not the voice he remembered; it was deeper and more sure of itself. Not unlike his brother's.

"Why am I here?" he said, testing his voice once more.

"You are here because you have dreamed yourself here, Pacce," a voice he had not heard in over a decade spoke. Turning, Pacce saw a flickering pyrefly meander slowly towards him. Yet as he looked at it, a ghostly form shivered and came into being around it. A figure in blue robes, his auburn hair pulled back to show a kind face.

"Brother?" he said and felt the return of the gut-wrenching guilt that had sunk its claws into him so many years ago close around his heart once more. "Is that you?"

"Yes, it's me," said Isaaru. Now he stood only a foot away from Pacce, also suspended in the sky.

"Maroda… he isn't here, is he?" he said though in his heart he already knew.

"No, he is still trapped within Sin."

Pacce remembered.

"Is it gone, Pacce?" his brother had asked him on the Calm Land plain so many years ago. His face was ashen and a thin trickle of blood stained his lips red. His eyes were feverishly bright.

Pacce sniffled and wiped his nose on his arm. "Yes big brother, Sin is gone. Maroda killed him."

"Don't be afraid, Pacce," said Isaaru, "The Aeon is gone, Maroda is human again. You can both return to Kilika as heroes."

"Big brother?" but Isaaru wasn't there anymore. Pacce did his best to rub the tears from his eyes, he was a Guardian after all, and he had to be strong. Maroda's body was not far away and he stumbled over and put his head to his brother's chest. Still breathing. For the first time all day, Pacce felt the true elation of having defeated Sin. Now that it was gone, the Aeon had left Maroda's body and his human form lay curled up on the grass.

Maroda rolled onto his back. He was bathed in sweat and blood ran from his wound but his teeth flashed white as he grinned up at Pacce. "We did it."

Pacce sniffed, "Yeah, we did."

Yet in the distance, something was happening to Sin's body. A violet light, no larger than a blitzball, was rising out of its form like a star. Pacce watched, entranced and seeing his brother's distracted face, Maroda heaved himself to a sitting position and watched the pulsing light rise upward, hover for a moment then shoot forward like a meteor.

Towards them.

"Brother!" Pacce had screamed, too late. The ball shot into Maroda's chest and vanished.

Maroda convulsed violently, his whole body twisting forward and then backward, too far for a human to bend. He opened his mouth to scream but rather than sound violet light poured out of his mouth, his eyes, his ears, swallowing his cries.

"Brother, Brother, what's going on?" Pacce cried. His young mind could not comprehend what he was seeing. Not ten minutes before he had lost his eldest brother, and now this strange light was trying to take away Maroda.

"It's Sin…it's trying to Summon me," he gasped before another convulsion bent him in half. His skin was melting and reshaping into his Aeon form, the beast-like body that he had used to tear the old Sin apart.

"Don't let it!"

"I…I can't," an animal like scream was torn from his throat. "It hurts, oh Yevon, it hurts! Make it stop!"

"I can't, I don't know what to do," sobbed Pacce but his brother's form was melting and reshaping, past the Aeon form and into something worse. His face was now gone and his body was taking on a new shape, enshrouded in that violent purple light.

"Maroda, Maroda!" Pacce shouted again and again but there was nothing he could do as his brother's humanity disappeared piece by piece to be replaced with…to be replaced with…


A miniature Sin hovered in the air now, still writhing and calling out with his brother's voice.

And Pacce knew, as if it had been implanted fully formed into his young mind. The cycle of death and resurrection that was Sin, stealing the life of the Aeon that destroyed it, shaping and molding it until it was ready to begin its destruction again. That was the lie that the people of Spira knew of as the Calm.

And it was never going to end.

The new Sin revolved once in the air, its mouth open and screaming but the screams were becoming fainter, as if the source of the sound was retreating into the core of its body. Pacce stood up and desperately tried to grab his brother, to snatch him back from his prison but as he did the figure flew off, toward the sea.

Leaving him alone with Isaaru's corpse

"I'm sorry this happened, Pacce," said Isaaru, "Had I known the truth…I would never have gone on that Pilgrimage."

"Really?" said Pacce, "Even for the chance that Sin wouldn't come back?"

Isaaru smiled sadly, "But we both know now that that's impossible. As long as the Final Summoning is used to defeat it, Sin will return."

"Will Maroda ever be free?" said Pacce.

"Perhaps. After Lady Yuna came back from Zanarkand without the Final Aeon, she claimed that she was looking for a different way. But the Church…"

"Executed her as a traitor," finished Pacce. Years before he had not understood why the nice lady had been killed. Now he did.

If Sin were ever completely destroyed, the Church of Yevon would topple. So they found every soul that had learned the truth of Sin and the Final Summoning and either killed them or prevented them from ever revealing their secrets.

"The end is coming, Pacce. He has lost the fight for control of Sin and the ripples are like shock waves across the Farplane. You have to warn Spira," said Isaaru.

Pacce shook his head, "I can't. You'll have to find someone else."

"What? Why?"

They had found him on the edge of Calm Lands a day later, huddled against the rigid corpse of the High Summoner. He was delirious, raving about the Final Aeon, Sin, and the cycle of death. The warrior monks took the Summoner's body, to be interred in the Temple of St. Bevelle. They closed their ears to his words, having been warned by the Maester that Sin's toxins would have damaged the boy's mind and that he was to be brought to the temple for healing.

There they gave up the boy to an uncertain fate.

There the nightmare began.

They had questioned him ruthlessly on what he had seen, and when the pain of remembering his brother's dead face and the warping of his other brother's body had become too great they had broken his little fingers, one by one until the physical pain was enough to overcome the pain in his heart.

He had told them everything.

Apparently, he knew too much.

First, they broke his fingers, and then his hands until the tiny bones were mangled beyond repair. This was so he could not write.

Then they cut out his tongue, so that he could not speak.

Pacce forced his eyes shut, trying to shut out the image of the advancing priests, the leather bonds that had bound him to the surgical table, the metal they had used to pry open his mouth, the steel of their knives. Even all these years later, the memory of the pain caused his whole body to shudder.

"…The Church has silenced me."

For a long time, Isaaru was silent, drinking in this answer. Then his eyes widened as the full implication struck home.

"Oh, Pacce…"

"Please, brother, don't send me back," said the dark haired young man, "I don't want to be alone there anymore."

Isaaru reached out with his transparent arms and wrapped his little brother in a ghostly embrace. "You must return to the waking world, but I promise it will not be long. We will be together again."

"Thank you, big brother," he pressed his face against his brother's chest but it was cold and unyielding. His body had begun to ache and his head throbbed as if it were about to explode.

Forcing his eyes open, he saw that he was on the temple stairs. Blood pooled around his head and matted his hair so it stuck together in sticky clumps.

Still, he had suffered far worse.

Swaying, he got to his feet and began the long walk back to the docks. The fiends he encountered were no trouble, after all, he had been a Guardian and even a fishing knife was enough to dispatch them. His body ached and he could taste the blood in his mouth but still he walked until he reached the barnacle-coated planks of the pier. The sky was gray with the light of false dawn and the people of Kilika were in their beds, unaware of the fate that awaited them.

Pacce sat down on the very longest dock and stared east, towards the rising sun. He waited.

He did not have to wait long.

Maroda came with the sun, his huge bulk distorting the water like a tsunami. When he arrived at the Kilka Port, Pacce was waiting.

And as the great wave crashed down on the town, Pacce raised his arms and with a smile, he welcomed his brother home.