one passing night

the evening is spread out against the sky

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life in the forgotten city
led by whispers
auncyenhalig wrote in onepassingnight
[ This is a city, but it might be hard to recognize that at first. The communal housing is set in giant shells; ancient coral lines the paths in between. The entire landscape suggests a sea was once here. It has greenery, but in a sparse sense, thin plants dotting the ground and sometimes reaching up to the coral. Still, there is life here, and where there is life there is routine, particularly in an aspect so crucial as raising the children.

There is schooling.

Aerith sits in on an outdoors lesson to a mixed-age group of children, looking just as fascinated as the lot of them as the matron plucks out notes on a small harp and tells a story along with the simple melody. It might be easy to miss her in the gathering as her customary pink dress is instead a flowing white garment with light green fading in near the bottom, tied close at her waist with a colored sash. And the usual ribbon in her hair is missing. But she laughs and talks with a typical cheerfulness, helping the teacher, up until she senses the new presence nearby. Then she looks over her shoulder with cautious eyes and rises in one fluid motion to meet the stranger, staff in hand. That at least is familiar, to anyone who's seen the Princess Guard. ]

Hmm? What a surprise, it's not everyday a traveler comes along... I hope we're well met. Hello there! [ The matron is subtle but efficient as she checks that her bow and arrow are in hand's reach. The children are less so. While some young ones cower and many look on, blankly or curiously, one teenager can be seen reaching for what might be a dagger, and a preteen has a fist around a fair-sized rock for his sling.

The Cetra were used to struggle. ]

[ for this month's theme: ... I was tempted to throw in a velociraptor stampede or something, lol. Seriously, Gaia has dinosaur-like creatures in the present day (see this gem and yes that is a triceratops merged with a tank, Zack wtf is wrong with your hometown), so I doubt a few dinosaurs 2000 years in its past is stretching it, if you want to include that somehow.) ]

[ETA: My e-mail hasn't been working for over two days now, orz--stopped some hours after I posted. It's definitely slowed me down, but I'm still going on comments! ]

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The clothing he's dressed in is dark, a durable material that even so shows the stains of long, hard travel and battle. His face is bruised and his skin has cuts and scratches on it, sloppy bandages over a wrist and the palm of one bare hand. A sword that's all metal and no elegance, efficient and lacking any art, rests against his back. Shaggy hair hangs over his eyes, dusts the sides of his lean face that's know too little food and he stumbles when he stops, catching himself. The eyes he raises though are too bright a blue and the arm hanging limp and useless at his side, despite the bandages can't hide the taint that all but oozes from it.

He's infected. And he's no Cetra. But he's come all this way despite that. All because of a passing moment years ago at a trade fair and a thin, too worn hope. His eyes are too hot in his head and he doesn't see exactly what's in front of him or even that he's finally found what he's searched all these months for.

But he does see eyes of green though and he knows them. Just before his knees give way and he drops, he mutters a precious name.


It takes her a moment to place him, but already in that moment she's moving forward to help him, even as a clamor goes up from the children.


"He's got it!"

"It's the Calamity!"

Even the children know of Jenova's ravages. After all... even a young Cetra can sense when a spirit returns to the lifestream. Lately the change of the flux is terrifying; at times, the wind seems to only carry more and more cries of lives cut short, and everyone has to throw themselves into normal routine even more to keep the worry from taking over.

"Cloud." That's right, it is Cloud. He looked so different now from when they'd met at the fair...but she hoped fervently to keep him among the living, at least a little longer. "Stay with me, stay awake. You got this far! I guess maybe you're strong after all." Lighthearted teasing, just as she'd teased him back then, but the worry shows in her pursed lips and fixed eyes as she checks his temperature and pulse.

"Shouldn't - " his shoulders hunch and his voice is dry as breaking twigs. "Shouldn't touch." His skin under her fingertips is dry too and it burns like a desert that's been cooked too long in the sun. His lids hide his unnatural eyes, strength stolen from the very life of the planet, and that darkness burns inside him too but it keeps the world from the jarring focus/diffusing that it's been doing lately. He doesn't try to struggle away from her though. He hadn't meant to put her in danger but she's his last hope. His only hope. He needs her and it makes him selfish but - he needs her. Maybe a single fair isn't enough time but, for Cloud, she's already imprinted for life inside him. Even if that life is a lot shorter than he thought it would be. The Planet's going to get it's life force back earlier than expected.

He's not here for himself though.

At the moment, all that is swimming inside his feverish head though. All he can concentrate on is the sound of her voice.

"Aerith - "

She knows she probably shouldn't touch--and somehow it still seems a meaningless precaution to her. It's a feeling in her that they are all in this nightmarish time together, and to shun the sick will only make things worse.

He seemed to be a different case from the others though, somehow. There weren't any signs of the kind of change that had happened before... Did that make him safer? She looked back at the children, concerned at how worried they looked still. She might need to move him. "And you shouldn't be exerting yourself, but look where you are. Flat on the ground. Drink some water, then you can talk, okay?" As she reaches to get the flask from her waist, it sets her necklace into motion, light reflecting dully off the small dark sphere.

Even half gone with fever and chills, eyes slitting open to see what she offers, he sees that glint of darkness at her throat.

And he knows it. What's inside him knows it.

And it wants it.

His fingers twitch where they're lying on the ground but there's no strength in him to reach up and - what? Take it? No. No, if what's in him wants it, all the more reason not to touch. Not to -

snatch and yank, break a thin, pretty neck, draw blood, hear a snap, see a village in flames, taste the spatter of blood, inhale and inhale and inhale until the entire world is in the belly and then burst free to the stars, feeding on brilliant, glowing light as the world is snatched from it's rightful place and hurled outward into the cold dark

like the snatch of a stone away from a woman's slender throat.

He shuts his eyes and grits his teeth and reminds himself, reminds what's inside him that no. He is himself. And he won't - it can't make him.

His son needs him.

The green tint is still heavy in his eyes though when they open and he accepts the water with a murmured thank you that has too many notes for a single voice.

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