This came about as a mash-together of some unused plot arcs I wanted to but couldn't fit into Guardian, of which it is kind of a doom spinoff but you don't need to have read it, and an AU that occurred to me while I was doing the writeup for my Let's Play. What would have happened to Yuna -- and everyone else -- if Braska had failed to defeat Sin? What if she had grown up not as the beloved daughter of the High Summoner but known only as the child of the heretic summoner and an Al Bhed?
((Spoilers for the thing you are about to read that looked stupid stuck at the bottom of the page so scroll ahead and come back afterwards if you want: The design for the Lulubeast, Yuna's Final Aeon, was the very first piece of FFX fanart I ever drew way back in like 2008 after or near the end of the first time I played it. When Lulu volunteered to become Yuna's aeon I got SUPER EXCITED, and, in the space that it takes anyone to respond during that scene, my mind had raced ahead envisioning an outcome where these two women go off, leaving the rest of the party behind, save the world, and die together after one of them becomes a giant monster. I had a feeling that that wasn't going to happen, but I got really excited about it in the approximately three seconds I had before the scene continued. I've never posted that picture anywhere but it is still my favorite thing I've ever drawn, for anything. When I started writing Guardian I decided I should probably come up with a less monstery design, went through a few more humanlike concepts, and then decided fluff that, Lulubeast it is. You still can't quite see her clearly, and she probably won't be coming around again needing a full description until late in the story, but in the end I had to decide between not wanting to reveal it until its proper place in Guardian and wanting a dramatic opening here.))
Anyway, here's the beginning of a thing.
The Heretic’s Daughter
The execution was not scheduled to take place until midmorning, but a crowd had been gathering on the steps of the Palace of St. Bevelle since dawn. It was composed of a diverse assortment of clergy, off-duty warrior monks, and ordinary civilians, from the bent elderly with joints aching from the long wait to fidgety children perched on the shoulders of their parents to get a better look. Most of them were citizens of Bevelle, but some had come from as far away from Besaid. Everyone was eager to see Yevon’s most hated enemy, apart from Sin itself – of course – brought to justice.
At last the awaited hour arrived and temple doors slid ponderously open to admit the magisterial procession. At its head was the Grand Maester, flanked by a column of warrior monks, moving slowly with stately gravitas. The onlookers parted silently before him until they lined the steps from the temple to the palace in two unbroken rows of watching faces. When the prisoner appeared a whisper rippled through the crowd like a breeze moving a swirl of snow across the surface of Lake Macalania, but no louder.
She was barely visible amid the phalanx of guards surrounding her, the shortest of which was still a head and shoulders taller than she was. The armored figures to every side of her moved along like automatons, in programmed step with each other with every heavy, booted tread, their faces stolid and featureless behind the visors of their helmets. Between them the fleeting sight of the girl was so small, so incongruously delicate and vulnerable, that it was difficult to reconcile her with the enormity of the crimes of which she had been convicted. She had a pale, doll-like fragility about her, and her solemn, porcelain face looked as innocent as a bride’s.
The procession pressed through the dense, expectant hush measured out by a deep, somber tolling of the temple bells. As the heretic passed between them, some of the spectators sneered, and some scowled, and some lowered their eyes. The girl herself did not look to either side, but walked on with small, even steps, her back straight, her eyes fixed straight ahead. Her hands were bound before her with a length of chain but she moved with a serene grace that those among them who had seen her before recognized but could not quite place. There was no fear in her face, merely a quiet resignation.
Slowly the procession mounted the steps and assembled before the doors of palace, as the clutter of onlookers coalesced at the foot of the stairs behind a barrier of guards. The prisoner teetered a little as she was turned to face the audience on the edge of the step but managed to steady herself, and stood up straight. Her gaze moved once over the assembly with a sorrowful heaviness, and then drifted up over the city that hated her, past the gilded domes and pinnacles of the temple, to the sky, which was the same piercingly brilliant blue as it had been the last time she stood here, on her wedding day. One of her eyes reflected that vault of endless Spiran blue; the other was as green as sin.
“Summoner Yuna,” Maester Mika addressed her from the side in a frail, reedy voice, “You stand convicted of acts of heresy,” he paused as if preparing himself for the next step of a climb up a steep incline, “blasphemy,” again a pause, “treason, and other crimes, heinous in nature, against Yevon and the people of Spira. For this you have been sentenced to execution by firing squad. Have you anything to say, before your end?”
A vagrant gust of wind rifled with a flap among the hangings on the palace wall, fluttered through the silk sleeves of the summoner’s robe, and scattered a few strands of her fine, light hair about her grave and childlike face. She looked down from the sky.
“People of Spira,” she began softly, in a voice so small the breeze could barely carry it to the ears of the listeners. “I am sorry—” she made an effort to strengthen her voice, and began again, “All my life, I have only wanted to love Spira, and its people. I’m sorry that you couldn’t love me in return.”
A discontented murmur rumbled through the crowd, gathering momentum like a rolling boulder. They had not come here to be shamed and reprimanded by a heretic. Maester Mika raised his hands for order, and then appeared to decide it was best to continue with the proceedings before the unrest became unruliness. He gestured to one of the warrior monks at his side, who had borne the summoner’s rod during the procession like a ceremonial object. At the Grand Maester’s signal, he raised it horizontally before him, the little silver bell on its end tinkling faintly, and snapped its shaft over one armored knee.
The summoner flinched as though she had been struck. She raised her shackled hands, and a few people in the front rows of the assembly gasped, fearing the spellcaster’s retribution, but she only brushed her hair out of her face and let them fall again. The Grand Maester made a curling gesture with his hand, and the line of soldiers converged across the top of the stairs. In one unified movement, they raised their rifles, drew back the hammers, and aimed them at the white and solitary form of the summoner.
The taut, still air reverberated with a deafening report like a cannon blast, but the sound had not come from the guns, which never had the chance to fire. An unknown glyph appeared etched in the sky like a lightning strike, and through its revolving arcane lines soared a great, dark and shining beast. Its arrival sent a shockwave radiating out in ripples that seemed to warp and then fracture the sky like mirror-glass.
“Sin!” screamed someone in horror, and then someone else, “No – It’s an aeon!”
It was an aeon, the Aeon, the destroyer-savior from the end of the world, the only known thing with the strength to conquer Sin. And it was headed for Bevelle.
The beast swerved up against the darkening sky, unfurling wings that were the livid purple of stormclouds, or bruises, farther and farther with an impossible wingspan that seemed to block out the sun. There it hung for a moment, white as winter and dark as terror, seeming to take in the scene below – the scattering crowds, the scrambling warriors, the cowering priests, and amid it all the still and unwavering figure of the summoner – with the burning gaze of its one visible brilliant eye set into its flawlessly sculpted face like a ruby. Then it folded its wings and descended in a graceful, spiraling arc towards the Palace of St. Bevelle.
In its wake there trailed a blizzard like the tail of a comet, freezing the palace’s decorative waterfalls into abstract glass sculptures and powdering the marble columns, the gold-leafed minarets, the carved arches, and the steep, tiered steps with a fine layer of frost. The execution squad realigned their aim onto the approaching Aeon but the upward shower of bullets never seemed to hit, despite the tremendous size of the beast; between one moment and the next it had somehow swirled itself out of the way, lithe and lissome as smoke.
Fleeing crowds of onlookers who had come to see the execution jostled each other in a panic to get away from the Aeon’s spreading shadow, slipping on the steps that were becoming rapidly treacherous with ice. The powerful downdraft from its wings carried with it a heavy perfume of lilac and sent everyone, from Grand Maester to schoolchild, carelessly sprawling into the falling snow. Only the captive summoner remained standing as the nightmare creature, in accompaniment to its own strange music from the silver chains that dangled from the heavy leather straps bound about its limbs, the wooden beads that swung and clacked on the ends of the shining ebony ropes of its hair, the glass ornaments clinking and rattling above its head, and the wind from its slowly beating wings, descended and hovered in the air before her. A smile split the pale solemnity of her face and she stretched out her arms to the beautiful and terrible beast like someone reaching to embrace an old and longed-for friend.