Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Artwork Disclaimer: The featured artwork for this chapter is entitled Lucrecia and Sephiroth 2 and was created by Deviant Artist roman-ranman. All rights belong to the artist, and the work is used graciously with permission here.
“For small creatures such as we,
The vastness is bearable only through love.”
“The only way out of a labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
-John Green “Looking for Alaska”
The Icicle Inn was warmer than its title within Winterborough town. A hot springs lay beneath it like blood in a heart to fight the ever cold. Sunlight was waiting, though it would be brief to disturb the northern lights. A fiery line on the edge of horizon while the aurora shimmered above. Aeris tried not to blink for missing these moments was like shunning the Planet’s gifts. This bright in between where sun and the night lights could ever so briefly meet. Before the tall window, she rested her palms on the larger ones at her waist. Weaving them together, the gleam caught her eye for what now adorned her left.
Aeris had sobbed for nearly an hour the night they’d exchanged their gifts, and Sephiroth had held her and apologized much to the Cetra’s chagrin. She’d shaken her head and attempted to speak, but coherence was lost within tears. They’d turned moonlight more grey and that made her weep harder to stain such lovely hair. She clung to his neck while he rubbed her back, murmuring words of comfort. The guilt in his voice pierced innocent heart, and Aeris finally found words for that.
“I can’t believe you did this. How do you even exist?”
“Have I displeased you, little flower?” The question low rolled in her ear. “Ah, how I could I even think-”
“Stop that right now!” Aeris pulled herself back, quick wiping the wet from her eyes. She rested her hands on his solid wall shoulders, blinking the blur from the vision before. Sephiroth’s lips were parted so stalled from the harsh words he bore for himself. “Do you know how wonderful you are, how terribly sad, how utterly beautiful?” She laid a palm to his cheek framed in between reflected light from the table’s gleam. “Do you know how much I love you? There aren’t enough words in a million tongues.”
“Aeris…” He covered the hand on his skin, curling long fingers around. “My heart is forever broken, but you’ve conquered every part. I’m bound to you, little flower…by blood, by time, by love.”
Tiny fingers tangled in moonlight and ashes as tears painted her cheeks once again. “You know the answer is obviously yes.”
He clutched his heart for he did not, but still stood when Aeris asked. She’d accepted him…she’d actually said yes. It couldn’t be believed. If Sephiroth shut his eyes, if he blinked once, he’d awaken in his cage. Shackled to the floor, shocked beyond pain, tortured for all time. I deserve that not my life with this flower. Oh Aeris… He could wait no longer. Drawing her close he bent for the kiss that sealed the promise of those rings. This was the only safe place to be blind as she molded herself against his chest. Is this my ever penance then? Watching over this little rose? It’s more than I could ever deserve, more than I’d ever hoped for…
“My beautiful flower…” he whispered on her lips.
“My beautiful angel,” was her reply.
Growing light caught the ring that shone on her finger with its setting like a rose. A flawless diamond bound to its heart with emerald leaves growing around. It was the one she had chosen completely nonplussed that he’d purchased the entire store. Or stores. I wouldn’t put that past him. He can sidestep after all…he could’ve gone to a hundred jewelers…and a quick sob had caught in her throat. “How did you know my size?” she’d asked and he’d held up his forefinger and thumb. Aeris blinked at the small span of space until he slid her ring finger between.
“I remembered, little flower,” he’d told her then. “It was just a matter of finding that size. Your hands are so very small.” The smile had lit his face even brighter than his eyes. “That sentiment was expressed quite often…in addition to delighted surprise.” He shrugged peering at the rejects, but Aeris insisted that they be returned. Money might mean nothing to him, but that didn’t mean it should be wasted.
The rising sun silenced the lights from above, but the Cetra could still hear their cold song. She shut her eyes while Sephiroth gazed down with enough emerald to fill the black night. The hum of the Planet pulsed through her veins, whispering secrets so long held. My petulant friend, you could’ve told this before when he first went to look. Why be so cruel? Why hold this truth? Hasn’t he suffered enough? She sighed, but she knew why it had to be. There was always an order to things. Sephiroth held her closer as his hair tumbled over, caressing her neck and chest. The flower girl tilted her head back and up, the shiver of silk parting her lips.
“Shall we go then?” she asked him, and his heart did not speed, but beat a low pulse of pure grief. His final judgment, the oldest of all was hidden among endless snows, and yet she could find it. He trusted her so, but only nodded for doubt in his voice. “She used to dwell behind a waterfall further south, but now…” Aeris peered through the glass and raised her thin fingers, forcing the frost to part. “She needed the cold. She yearned for the silence…to empty herself of the pain.”
Sephiroth clasped his own wrist with her still in his arms, squeezing bones that would never break. His eyes cut the distance through sunlight and cold, searching mountains so shrouded in snow.
The counter clerk could barely keep his gaze steady upon the striking pair. His hands shook while trying to check them out, and he took note of their differing dress. She was bundled and cozy and clearly too warm within the environs of the inn. Pink flushed cheeks and a beaded brow gave slight discomfort away. He was wearing a coat, a great black coat with silver hued epaulets. His chest was bare save for leather straps and where the buckles clasped. The clerk swallowed for everyone knew who they were, but part of his job was to be polite.
“You’ll be heading south I suppose?”
“No, our path lies north.”
“Who goes north when winter is nigh?” Incredulity made his words echo, drawing all eyes toward the desk.
Sephiroth raised a silver brow and the man hunched in on himself. “Someone with something to find.”
Aeris pulled up her hood before they went outside and fixed the scarf around her mouth. It lessened the bitter chill of the wind, but she still felt it cut to her bones. Winter fingers streamed through Sephiroth’s hair, painting silver light against a clear sky. The cold didn’t reach him as he held her gloved hands, lending his warmth to the fabric.
“Take me to my mother, Aeris.” The whisper was wreathed with mist. “Let the final judgment be done.”
She would not weep. It was too cold, and the daylight would not last. Even now the sun hung low on its apex, but the night was made for lights. Aeris took his hand where heat spread full through her glove and let the Planet lead the way.
It was a world born amidst snowflakes and dreams, lost in a sea of whirling white. Even beneath daylight that swiftly turned rose, the pale encased it all. Like a giant’s frosty bauble that had been shaken up so did the wind toss and twirl. It caught the snow field in a dance beneath the empty sky. No new flakes fell from pale wane blue but the gale would have its fun.
Aeris relinquished her lead to Sephiroth for his eyes could cut through cold mist. Still hand in hand as the sea of snowflakes fell on flawless skin. He was made for winter. It lived in his hair, and he was north by the light in his eyes. The cold neither troubled him nor stole his warmth as Aeris struggled to breathe around, and at some point (though she could not have told when) he swept her up into his arms. He was so warm she forgot the cold briefly until the wind shivered between her clothes. The voice of the Planet still sang in her heart, beckoning the Cetra toward truth, and though she spoke not, he must have felt it radiating beneath her skin. The daylight died, but that didn’t matter for the pathways of light were waiting. Aeris had to look up despite winds more bitter than the flawless steel, but where the lights fell down from heaven, they were the same color as his eyes.
“They’re not still…” Aeris whispered within a pillar of frost. “They move, they shift, they shiver and pulse, and the color is more than green.”
“Yes,” Sephiroth answered, “you can see on the edges, crimson like dusk on fire.” A gentle spray of pure snowdrops melted on winter white skin. They caught in his lashes and fell like cold tears down his exquisite face. “I wish I could view this with sight unjaded, but how could that ever be?” Sadness tinged the beauty and awe as the general’s boots shushed below. The mountain reared up as the night air hummed to the cold embrace of the stars. Beyond the green veil that Aeris half swore contained another far world. When she blinked though it shimmered away and light beasts cavorted above.
Sephiroth opened his wing and the threads of aurora sought that lightless spread. It could never be touched as the wind of its beat scattered snowflakes that wished to be stars. They stalled in their yearning to hang in the air like the embers of winter flame. Aeris clung to his neck, but her eyes owned the sky. “I’ve never seen the world so alight.” She turned back to him and there it was, reflecting on unto eternity. Light to light and love to love as she warmed her lips on his own. He laid a hand on her cheek to keep the kiss chaste for moisture would call bitten frost. A twinge from the world had her looking away, and he followed her summer sight.
There was a path, but it was winding and buried by ageless snow. Only a spirit in absolute pain could traverse that tortuous way. Sephiroth alighted down on the lip of the stone leading down into darkness. A rocky awning covered in snow framed the bleak passage there. Aeris was grateful she was in his arms for she didn’t trust her feet. Endless snow and eternal ice blazed green beneath dual glow. She buried her face in the scent of his hair as the wind tried to claw off her face. Sephiroth more than obliged by holding her closer, though he was troubled by the speed of her heart. His feet were steady. His step was sure. He had his flower to protect. Stepping through the threshold, their dual pounding hearts echoed that dark vestibule.
Aeris shook lingering snow from her hair as the general set her down. Echoes and drippings harmonized with the wind which whistled in between. Sephiroth kept a tight grip on Aeris’s hand, his skin rigid as flawless marble. She couldn’t remove her gaze from his hair adorned by a myriad snowflakes. He’d hidden his wing, but his coat caught the black splashed with silver against his chest. Matching what shivered down from the heavens his eyes gave him his only true hue, but as she looked at him, he grew lost within, face stricken and terrified.
Aeris called his name, but he didn’t look down. He wet his lips so they shone a pale pink.
“Here we stand…beneath the lights, and I can’t face this truth…”
She placed her other hand in his and lifted her summer eyes up. The wind swirled snow as if to answer that verdant, rebellious green. “You can’t live your life being afraid of what you are.” Her lifted face called his eyes and his hand put warmth back in her cheek. Long bangs met her own as he bowed his head, regaining a small portion of himself.
“And she has lingered too long forgotten like a dream of the dead.” Sephiroth bent to kiss Aeris’s brow and in the brief time that she shut her eyes, the flower girl forgot the cold. They were back by the sea and the wind just swirled sand and not snow in starlight rush. “Come, little flower. Now shall we go?”
“Seph…no.” She tugged on her hand, but this time he did not release. Only paused to look quizzically down as the air seemed to whisper, My son. “This is for you. How could I enter in?”
The Great General tilted her chin in the air, shaking his head to her self-doubt. “It was your wisdom that led me here, Aeris. I would be lost without you.”
The cave held chill in its very stones, but it was at least out of the wind. It should’ve been darker through the narrow passage even augmented by Mako light, but the hum of the Planet lightened her heart and perhaps lent some sight to her eyes. Sephiroth held her hand from behind as he slowly led the way. It was dry at least, also with barely a drip and less damp than a basement below.
The general swiftly stopped as though he’d turned into statue, and his clothes and his hair just adorned. Emerald light flooded a dark lonely space as music trickled through Aeris’s mind. The first note stung tears from summer washed eyes, a sorrow to end all the ages. Emptiness, promise, fulfillment of time, loss and unbearable longing. But longing for what was hidden from her within the strains of that beautiful song.
Sephiroth expected bones or even a marker if her body had ever been found. Men were ever curious creatures to explore the coldest of wastes. What he didn’t expect was a doorway of light and the presence that dwelled still within. Like a crystalline coffin set in the stone floor, but not encasing the dead. But neither the living. No, not that either…Lucrecia dwelled in between.
Aeris opened her hand, and he slipped from her grasp, lips parted in sudden young face. Time shed its skin, but left him there wanting for never had it contained her. He dragged his feet as though trudging toward battle that could never be won. Raising the hand that had encased Aeris’s, Sephiroth slid it against the pane. Agony curled it as he shut his eyes, and his head bowed against incandescence. The light held steady, and from within issued forth a shuddering, weeping sigh. A shadowy limb that hid gleaming beneath seemed to flow from that open door. It laid itself atop of silvery head, the spirit touch of gentle fingers.
“I carried life inside of me, but now that child is gone…”
The words were not spoken, but they could be heard not with the ears but with the soul. Aeris clasped her hands before. The prayers ere sent had been mere shadows of what she poured into the earth, and her dear friend whispered lullaby, the saddest song to sooth.
Emerald light bled down flawless features. “I’m not gone…I’m right here. I’m right here by your side.”
“They took what I had from me.” The fingers soft tangled in his hair. “I never once saw your face. Only in nightmares, a hell full of dreams, the bottomless pit of corruption.”
The fallen bowed his head ever lower, gritting his teeth until his jaw ached. “You were cursed to birth me. I apologize for that.”
The gentle touch still caressed moon silver and peace tried to cut through the pain. “I would give anything…all that I had to take back what I wrought.” Sephiroth’s head jerked up at those words and the light betrayed his tears. Twin lines shimmered from the outside, and he opened his mouth but nothing would come. “I ran away, but you deserved a mother. You deserved to know the truth.”
He’d come for forgiveness. He’d come to face guilt. Amorphous hands now brushed his cheek. They passed through his tears and left love behind, but Sephiroth did not dare to touch.
“I wept for you.”
“Why?” he asked, and pain strangled his voice lower.
“Because you were my son. For only that reason I love you. How could I blame you for how you’d been made? That wasn’t your fault.” The light grew pale. “Do you forgive me?” He shook his head, but not to deny, and his fist could’ve crushed rock to dust. He should be begging. He who had never even known his true mother’s name, but he saw in his heart her shade looking down desperate for absolution.
“There’s nothing for me to forgive you for. You gave me life. I gave you sorrow. I am the one who should be begging.” He opened his eyes and Aeris was right there, tears manifold on her soft face. She took his hand and that touch from beyond could only bless their union.
“If you forgive me then I can go free, and my pain can finally end.”
He stared stark and broken for he was a failure. This thing he could never give. The words could be formed and they could be spoken, but the fallen cannot forgive. The tiniest fingers wove through his own, and Aeris smiled up through her tears. She squeezed his hand hard, and Sephiroth shut his eyes, elation filling him to the core. There wasn’t enough light in all worlds for this, and it mattered not that it wasn’t his. The only forgiveness he had was hers. He had nothing else to give.
“I forgive you…” he whispered, words strange on his tongue, but they turned his soul to light, and love it shines right from the heart and burns far hotter than wrath. It flooded that portal, that crystalline pane until it could hold no more shadow. Trailing fingers along his pale cheek left the imprint of memory there, as the doorway went dark, and that long ailing spirit was free of her torment at last.
Sephiroth fell to his knees and Aeris cried out, terrified her angel was dying, but grief so long carried must still be spent, though his tears had frozen again. Looking up he saw only stone, empty as moonless night. Memory caught him, and he turned to Aeris who was gripping his shoulders tight. “Your ribbon and lily. Love’s gifts to me. May I-”
“Do with them what you wish,” she wept. “I could think of no better use.”
The ever bloomed flower gleamed in his hand, and he slipped his coat down for her. Through shrouded in mist, her sight was unneeded to unwind the fabric from his arm. Still kneeling the general found craggy outcrop and bound his offering there. The frayed pink was fairer than a joyous bride and the lily mocked forgotten snow. Sephiroth stood and held his rose tight, and she basked in the sweet, cloying scent. This place was as holy now as her church, even more so for what had been gained.
As they left what wasn’t a tomb and stepped into frozen, falling light, Aeris blinked up, and Sephiroth was alarmed for her already freezing cheeks.
“What’s that on your face Aeris?” he asked.
“Starlight…” She smiled despite the cold. “Are you satisfied, my love?” She leaned against his side for both his comfort and warmth. The Great General halved his lids looking down, but lessened no inch of gleam.
“I have been forgiven, Aeris, and then I gave that to her…but it doesn’t diminish, it ever burns on like the northern lights or love.”
“Are you sad though that you didn’t really see her?” She peered up as night froze on her skin. Sephiroth pulled the little Cetra close, pressing his hand to her exposed cheek.
“I thought I’d only find a grave.” He only glanced briefly back, but there was nothing there now. What remained of Lucrecia was locked in his heart. “But I was blessed to find so much more…I set her free.” He gazed up in wonder and let aurora and cold bathe his face. “Freed by forgiveness.” Sephiroth shook his head. “She was waiting for that this whole time…I wish I could’ve seen her face…when she was finally free.”
“She was beautiful,” Aeris told him.
“How do you know?”
“Because…all mothers are.”
He picked her up then and stepped back to their beach where the sudden warmth pinkened her skin. The eve was quite cool, but it was such a contrast to the frozen north it left Aeris in awe. The flower maid pulled herself close to her love and kissed him on the cheek. He let his gaze linger north, but it wasn’t forced there anymore.
“The past can be forgiven, but never forgotten,” he realized. “She’ll never be forgotten again.”
“I think it was worth it, worth it to her to finally see your face.”
“Do you think she was proud, Aeris?” He jerked his gaze down, holding the little maid tight. “Do you think she was proud that I was her son?”
The flower maid kissed him in response to answer with love, and no words could’ve soothed his heart better. The smile he bore when Aeris pulled away was the truest one she’d ever seen. Through the residue of tears he returned it first soft and then firmer as he clutched her small hand. The waves shushed behind as he carried her away to their beautiful house right behind.
“My joys now conquer my many griefs,” he told her, unsure how to accept this strange truth. “It’s the triumph of morning over night when the night grows ever longer. It’s the dream of hope when you’ve nothing but dine on utter despair.” Those stars still rained down, bleeding from dark, and there was light in between. Aeris laid little kisses on his neck, creeping up past his jaw to his cheek. Sephiroth caught her lips as he leapt up the porch with emerald and jade unbound. Tilting his head, he shook away silver as he wore a half made smile. “Monsters don’t get happy endings, though.”
“Well I guess that proves you aren’t one.” Aeris grinned so satisfied. He kissed it away, making it a moan and chuckled before biting her lip. Cradling his flower in one arm, he opened the door to the scent of home. She laid her head against his shoulder where the smell mixed with vanilla and frost. Then she realized they were one. He’s home, she thought as Sephiroth again closed both of his arms around her.
“My heart is lit from within, Aeris,” he whispered. “I never knew such joy could be. We all have grief. We all carry despair, but these things are not all we are.”
That night he actually shut his eyes and allowed himself to sleep. Her skin to his kept away nightmare, though they still hissed along the edges. Utterly defeated by one little maid with her soul brighter than infinite worlds. When the morning arose and he opened his eyes, his first thought wasn’t of death. It was of his flower who murmured his name and curled tiny fingers against his chest. Spilled moonlight and ashes covered them both as chestnut washed his skin. I’m…worthy and they cannot touch me so long as she’s by my side. I have my little flower, and my true mother is free. You can’t take forgiveness. It can only be given when one is worthy to receive. Sephiroth shut his eyes again without fear for the light there held no monsters. It was as though he had dreamt of the tree of life and awoke with an apple in his hand.
Author’s Note: And so the tale comes to a close. Of course it has a happy ending…how could it not? They went through hell and crawled through darkness, they deserve a joyous end. The reason I posted on Thursday instead of Friday is because 9/3/15 is exactly a year to the date I finished the story, as seen at the ending above, and I thought it would appropriate to finish it here, as well.
I have a few music suggestions for you. The first one is for when Sephiroth finds his true mother Lucrecia. Laugh if you wish, but the song Oh Danny Boy as performed by Laura Wright is absolutely exquisite for that moment, and if Northern Lights were a movie (haha, oh it is to laugh), I envision the end credits being Mary Fahl’s Gravity, and nothing will convince me otherwise.
I will level with you all; this chapter makes me cry uncontrollably. When I did my edit on Sunday, I had to walk away twice to distract myself. There are a few lines that just break me. There are reasons behind this, which I talk about in this post.
I don’t have enough words to thank you all for reading this story. It was a labor of love and something that was in my head for a very long time. I knew I needed to write of a happy reunion between Sephiroth and his true mother, because it bothered me beyond what I can explain that he never had this information. It is a very specific motif in a narrative that digs beneath my skin and won’t let me have any peace. It irks me in ASOIAF/GOT, as well with Jon Snow never finding out his truth. It would change things in both narratives, and therein lies the irony. The things it would change are integral to the silence in the stories, so it must be kept, but…it doesn’t mean my heart isn’t broken. I believe this is the mark of an epic tale where you wish you could change something to save a character pain, but by doing so you ruin the tragedy. It is a bitter incongruence.
Though Northern Lights is at an end, my dealings with it are not. As I edited I took excessive notes that include discussions of sources and inspiration among other things. Quite often I go off on tangents about ASOIAF (more than quite) and anything else that pops into my head. So if you’re interested in my maddening thought process, you will not be disappointed. I am also considering doing an audio recording of the story and have done several tests on this. So if you enjoyed this and want to hear more about it, you’re in luck! If you hated it but continued reading it anyway (?) or have no interest in my editing process, well, um, I suppose you don’t have to read them. There will be other content 🙂 If you are interested, the editing notes are located here.
A thousand more thank yous to everyone who stuck with me through the entire tale. Your likes, comments and follows kept me going. This was not an easy story to write for many reasons, but I truly felt it was something that had to be told.
All of my best to all of you ♥