Intermission 7: The Ultimate Ordeal

Place~ Summit of Mt. Ordeals
Time~ 4 Years before Present Time

The wind was bitter cold. Of course it was near midnight, it was a mountaintop, and the season wasn’t exactly mid-summer. But, still, the wind was bitter cold.

Even that annoying fact had been pushed beyond Kain’s mind. Beyond all thoughts.

One must clear the mind to let the Truth come in…

The Truth…

What was the Truth? There had been a time the dragoon had been sure he knew. Once, long ago when he could easily say he understood who he was and his dreams in life. But those days were so far behind him. He was no longer that young, self-assured warrior who had turned his back on Baron’s gates that day at his childhood friend’s side. He honestly could say he had no idea who he was. Not anymore…

Finally, the frigid winds broke through his concentration and Kain fell out of meditation.

Why can I never keep my mind clear of these thoughts? Why?

The wind ripped at his blond hair as he sat in lotus position, head bowed. The dragoon shivered.

The fire did little to ease the chill, though he sat as closely as he could to the flame. It was at the lee of the outcrop, sheltered from the full blast of the wind, yet it still danced erratically in the pitch dark. It was the only light Kain could see in the world. He gazed into the fire’s soul, drawing a cloak about his shoulders for extra warmth.

Am I ready for this? Is it too soon?

Kain didn’t know how long he had been atop Mt. Ordeals. He had left behind the world of order and time upon dismounting the chocobo at the base of the mountain. He had been there long enough to see the warm days turn cold. And, yet, he ever pondered… and worked at his battered spirit.

Why am I here?

He had often asked himself that while gazing over the stretch of flat lands that ever bowed low to the great peak. He had to be honest with himself. There were two reasons. First, it was, as he said, to train to be a true Dragoon… to vanquish the darkness held in his soul. But, he had a second motive that was harder to admit. He just didn’t want to be there for their wedding.

Kain knew of the growing love between his two dear friends, Cecil and Rosa. He knew that in this life, they were meant to be. But he never could accept that… ever harder did he fight to win the love of the one who would never love him. And in the end, it could only pull them further apart. Now, he felt as if he was upon a tiny deserted isle, and they were upon a beautiful tropical paradise, and hundreds of miles of ocean between them…. with Leviathan heading straight for him. Kain had never been so lonely in his life.

Only… the quest of Mt. Ordeals, the place that he had sought to find inner peace, had simply served to alienate him further. As of yet, he had not found that piece of mind that he so desperately sought. And, he was tired of seeking… Tomorrow, ready or not, he was going to challenge the peak.

Kain shoved a stick into the flame, poking the fire higher, with short and vicious jabs.

Why do they get to be happy… and me… I’m cut off from everything I’ve known and loved? Why? When do I ever get–

“Is this seat taken?” a deep, powerful voice broke into his thoughts, startling him instantly. Kain peered up into the looming darkness to see the darker outline of a man against the sky.

How… did he get up here?

“If this fire is taken, then that is okay?”

“N-no! Please, forgive me… you are quite welcome.” Kain attempted to make up for his loss of mind. “You must excuse me. It’s just that I haven’t seen or heard from another person in so long…”

“I know,” the man replied, causing a chill to tug at every blond hair on the nape of Kain’s neck. He made his way into the firelight, sitting easily down upon a nearby stone.

“Would you like..?” Kain held out a hardened loaf of bread, or what was left of it. That was another reason he had to challenge the mountain soon. His rations were low, and with cold days coming, food would be impossible to find.

“No, thank you,” the man replied. “I do appreciate this, though.”

The visitor motioned to the fire. It reflected strangely in his slanted green eyes, his hair changing colors in the flames’ dance. He did not actually seem to be cold.

Kain was getting a few ideas about the newcomer, but he wasn’t sure that he liked what they added up to. “Oh, no problem. No problem at all.”

The man turned, glancing at the dark outcropping of the summit. Then he returned his gaze on Kain. “You going to try it?”

“Thinking about it… tomorrow maybe.” The dragoon didn’t question how the man knew of the trial upon the mountain. After all, it was a pretty popular legend anymore.

“Really?” the man asked, falling suddenly silent. He studied the flames. “You think you will find your answers there?”

The dragoon looked at him sharply, “Of course… if I live.”

“Oh, you’ll live all right,” he was still lost in the blaze. “But what do you expect to win?”

“Win? My true self, of course! Why else would I be here?”

“Ah…” the visitor looked up finally. “Your true self, you say. Are you so sure?”

“But… Cecil won. He became the Paladin! He destroyed his dark side!” Kain found himself suddenly getting desperate. The visitor was voicing the very doubts that had been nagging the Dragoon each and every night.

“Yes, Cecil…” the man sighed, eyes saddening, and confirming Kain’s fears. “But, you aren’t Cecil.”

“What are you saying? That this trial can work for Cecil but not for me? Why not?”

“Cecil… ” the man began slowly. “He was already the Paladin. It was in his heart, his spirit, his destiny. The moment he took it into his mind to start a quest to cleanse his soul… he became the Paladin. But, it was not until he faced the darkness within himself that he could realize this, and embrace this hidden power.”


There was silence.

“What does that have to do with me?” Kain pressed.

“As I said, you are not Cecil.”

Kain clenched his fists by his sides. He was almost shaking with rage. “So what are you saying? I’m soiled and evil with a stain that can never be erased?”

The man looked at him calmly. “Did I say that? No… I believe that those words came from your mouth, Kain.”

“That’s what you’re suggesting, though!” He was so angry he didn’t think to ask how the man knew his name.

“No, actually, it’s not. If you would like to listen, I could possibly tell you,” a droll glance up caused the disgruntled Dragoon to fall quiet. “Very well, now… As with Cecil, the true spirit of Light is held Within.”

Kain sighed, “So I’ve been told.”

“Yes, but… it is not there…” He motioned to the mountain’s summit. “Nor can it be won using this.” He reached a practiced hand back to caress his sword’s grip. “The Light is held here… and here…” He touched his chest, then his forehead. “If it is not there, then it does not exist.”

Kain frowned. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“A man is nothing more than he makes himself, Kain,” the visitor shook his head. “If you keep telling yourself of your wicked and sinful ways, eventually you will come to believe, and even live these proclamations. Man makes his own evil. It’s always been that way.”

“So, you’re saying that Cecil became a Paladin not because he over came his dark side, but because he believed he was a Paladin?” Kain shook his head again.

“In knowing that he could become Paladin, that he was not chained to the world by his past deeds. By believing that the Light would accept him… in those ways, he could overcome his past darkness.”

Kain was growing ever more confused. He sighed.

The man frowned. “You cannot expect to embrace the reality all at once. But, know this… If you do fight tomorrow, you will not find the answers you seek. You will walk away from Mt. Ordeals having defeated your own self, and that is what you will see.”

“Then… what can I do? If not here… then where?”

The man reached out, poking at mid-air, but Kain plainly felt the warmth of the hand on his chest. “There. In yourself.”


“There is so much self-doubt in you, Kain. The Light cannot accept one who does not accept himself. You must learn to forgive, child. Others at first, then yourself. To learn self-love and appreciation. The day you can honestly stop calling yourself ‘evil and stained’ is the day you will begin to embrace the Truth.”

“And where do I go to learn that?”

The man made a wide motion, a sweeping that took in the world in every direction. “Life is Man’s greatest teacher. Up here you’ve left that behind, Kain. Not only do you need to learn who you are, you need to learn how to truly live again. That’s a pretty tall order for one young Dragoon…”

“Hey!” Kain barked, “I’m not just any young Dragoon, you know!”

“I know… that’s why I have faith in you. And know this one last thing — you are not alone in your quest. Every man on the Blue Planet faces a similar journey in his life. Not everyone is successful.”

Kain was packing up his stuff as quickly as he could, figuring that his meager rations would last. He didn’t have much time. His greatest ordeal would begin tomorrow.

“What are you doing, Kain?”

“Packing…” the blond haired man looked up. “Tomorrow I ride for Baron…”

Something like relief passed over the traveler’s face. He smiled, though somewhat sadly. “Well, then, peace be with you, Kain…”

The man rose, extending one hand to the Dragoon.

“And with you, too, KluYa,” Kain took the hand, surprised at how solid it felt. He smiled in return. “Thank you.”

The spirit nodded, grinning impishly. “Hey, don’t get me wrong. I was just tired of seeing you moping around up here all the time.”

“Yeah… right…” Kain laughed, then returned to his packing, though he still felt the strange eyes upon him.

“Kain..?” the voice was oddly subdued, “Please… take care of my boys for me.”

“Boys?” Kain asked, looking up.

His sight was greeted with the early morning mists rising from the valley, and nothing more.