i am celes

Celes is born at the whim of war, designed from her birth for battle. She was born in the capital of Vector and it seems the only friendly face of her youth is that of Cid, engineer and scientist, creator of the process that granted her magic, whom she later thinks of as family. By the time the game begins, she's 18 years old (born March 10), 5'8", and 128 lbs. Her official English introduction comes with the following description:

Product of genetic-engineering, battle-hardened Magitek Knight, with a spirit as pure as snow...

Despite the atrocities in which Celes has had to participate in the name of the Empire, despite her birth and her purpose in life, she develops a sense of right and wrong and when the time comes, she risks her life---a life that could be one of prestige, power, fame, and glory---to defy the wrong-doers.

 

source of magic

Unlike a normal human, Celes possesses the ability to use magic naturally---a trait shared with half-Esper, half-human Terra. Yet whereas Terra's abilities are the product of a loving union, Celes' came at the cost of Esper life in an artificial process developed by Cid. This same process, in its early stages, permanently damaged Kefka's mind, causing him to go mad and hate everyone. Celes had better results, and is now imbued with magic.

 

into the darkness

Despite the pure as snow bit in her introduction, Celes actually has a pretty dark past. Unlike Terra, who had no control over herself while influenced by the Slave Crown, Celes knowingly participated in the Empire's cruelties, including the destruction of the town Maranda. Her cold nature is a mask that she has used to help her commit these orders of the Empire's, and, admitting to the suppression of her emotions leads Edgar to call her heartless.

When the destruction becomes too needless, and plans are revealed to poison innocent people, Celes betrays the empire. This results in her removal from a position of power, an incarciration to be followed by execution, and, finally, to her contact with Locke and the rebels. Celes' true freedom begins in chains: here, she first shucks off the less literal chains she's placed on her own morality and begins to think for herself, to distinguish right from wrong and to behave accordingly. It may be easy to overlook the struggle this presents for Celes---after all, even she can tell how awful Kefka's plan for Doma is---but in fact, she is breaking out of bonds placed on her in childhood: she is just as much a tool of the Empire's as Terra was, her choices an illusion of free will, and defying the Empire is not just defying one atrocious order but also the recognition that her entire life, her past actions, need to be called into question; she casts away hope for a future, all her training, her social bonds (eg most of the other soldiers around her seem not to care about the horrific nature of their orders, and let's not forget Kefka; against these opinions Celes must rebel), her entire life until that point. It seems like most of the characters in the game get a rebirth of sorts, and this is the beginning of Celes', culminating into her suicide attempt on the solitary island in the World of Ruin.

The bold thing is, Celes never denies that she's done awful things. She's accused, especially by Cyan, of being the Empire's, of being cold or heartless; she's called out on her history, too, and she doesn't deny it. She knows she's guilty, but she pushes forward: there's a job to be done, and Celes is a hard-working, hardened person and she doesn't relinquish her ruthlessness right away. She also seems to require honesty: when Locke, who originally saved her from her fate, admits to not trusting her, she is deeply hurt---she has never denied a thing, so why wouldn't she be trustworthy?

 

power unending

When trying to tempt Celes to join them, Gestahl makes the mistake of pointing out how powerful Celes could become alongside himself and Kefka. Celes responds with:

Power is only used to hurt others...
If that's how it's going to be, I'd rather not exist!

(Or, in the SNES English translation:)

Power only breeds war... I wish I'd never been born.

And then proceeds to stab Kefka. Celes' life has been a power struggle from the start: even at her young age, she has attained a high rank in the Empire's army. She has been given magic and she is also known as a swordsman. Celes is very powerful indeed, and despite her youth she is wise enough to realize that it has not made anyone happy, and her own power has led to destruction: she seems very aware that the kind of power that Kefka and Gestahl are after will not lead to peace, but rather to pain; not just in Kefka and Gestahl's corrupt hands, but that power in general will lead to suffering. She even admits that she'd rather not exist than hold that power. I think by this point, Celes is beginning to come to terms with what's she's done on behalf of the Empire, lending her a growing maturity.

 

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