|“||To live is to give life meaning, yet one must take others' lives to survive... Terra's souls will sleep until they forget such nonsense. They will begin a new life in a new dimension. In a world in which life and death become one... That is the dimension in which we are meant to live, as beings that transcend life and death!||„|
Garland (in Japanese: ガーランド, Gārando?) is the secondary antagonist of Final Fantasy IX. Primarily working behind the scenes, he is first seen in Disc Three during the attack on Alexandria, though it's later revealed that he's been manipulating events on Gaia for thousands of years - and much of the game's plot stems from his machinations.
Creation And Prehistory
An android created by the ancient people of Terra, Garland was built to carry out the Terrans' long-running plans for "survival." Over the course of its lifespan, Terra had always assimilated other planets to survive; five thousand years prior to the events of the game, however, no newborn planet was found to assimilate in time. So, the Terrans were forced to take a calculated risk and fuse with Gaia, a planet that might be too old to undergo assimilation; to that end, they entrusted Garland with their plans before retreating into hibernation, their souls placed in dormant bodiless state.
As commanded, Garland attempted to fuse Terra's crystal with Gaia's; however, Gaia's crystal rejected the process, and the fusion failed, leaving Gaia's surface in ruin and shifting the world of Terra inside the world it had hoped to assimilate. Now in damage control, Garland created the magical Iifa Tree and transplanted it to Gaia's surface in order to oversee the planet's recovery, but it would take thousands of years for the planet to recover from the disaster.
Intending to overtake Gaia from within, Garland began a program to slowly erode the planet's cycle of souls and replace it with the dormant soul-cycle of Terra. To that end, he installed the Soul Cage at the base of the Iifa Tree to oversee the process, siphoning off Gaian souls from the constant cycle of birth, death and rebirth. In further preparation for the inevitable takeover, he also began creating a race of soulless bodies for his Terran masters to inhabit: called Genomes, these beings were constantly perfected and reissued over the next three thousand years, improving their intellect and physical capabilities so that the reborn Terrans would enjoy the benefits their new bodies conferred.
Meanwhile, the rejected Gaian souls were discovered to possess an advantageous side-benefit: vented through the roots of the Iifa Tree, these anguished souls eventually manifested as Mist; its presence had adverse effects on those it permeated, enhancing aggression and in some cases, even giving birth to monsters. With this in mind, Garland redirected the Mist to Gaia's most populated continent - hereafter known as the Mist Continent - in the hope that the resulting violence would speed up the soul-siphoning process. Though the people of the Mist Continent chose to migrate to higher ground to escape the all-too-visible effects of the Mist, its presence was enough to spark aggression and distrust - especially given that traveling between nations often required a risky journey through the lowlands. Just as Garland had planned, wars broke out and the siphoning progress sped up.
However, the creation of airships fueled by the Mist allowed safe travel and trade between nations, putting an end to the destructive wars that had plagued the continent. Seeing the soul-cycle returning to normal, Garland decided to incite war on a more direct basis: designing and creating a special soul-bearing Genome, he intended to use this "Angel of Death" to provoke conflict and destruction; with a soul of its own, this being would be capable of individuality and creative thought sufficient to outwit the Gaians. Though the creation process went well enough, Garland's prototype - named Kuja - was considered too independent and volatile to be useful for very long.
So, quickly labeling the Genome a failure, he created another Angel of Death, Zidane, to replace him as soon as Kuja's lifespan had run it's course. In a jealous rage, Kuja abducted the infant Zidane and abandoned him on Gaia; as punishment, he was barred from ever returning to Terra. For the time being, the current Angel of Death was allowed the freedom to indulge his whims on Gaia so long as it served Garland's purposes, and left unaware that his own life might ever end. Meanwhile, with Zidane believed dead, Garland created another Genome to replace Kuja - Mikoto.
Perhaps ten years prior to the events of the game, the Summoner tribe of Madain Sari mastered the art of summoning eidolons. Unwilling to tolerate a potential threat to his plans, Garland had Madain Sari obliterated, commanding his airship The Invincible to annihilate every member of the tribe he could find. However, a handful survived: in Madain Sari, Eiko Coral's parents and grandfather were able to weather the storm, while Sarah and her mother were able to escape the burning village by boat, ultimately being swept across the ocean by the storm Garland had conjured; though Sarah's mother died over the course of the journey, Sarah herself eventually washed up on the shores of Alexandria - where she was adopted by the Queen and renamed Garnet Til Alexandros.
Events of the Game
Eventually, Garnet became the centerpiece of Kuja's newest scheme to spread chaos throughout Gaia; with Garland's blessing, he ingratiated himself into Queen Brahne's court as a weapons dealer, offering mass-produced black mages that could allow her to wage war on her neighbors. He also informed her of the summoning power her daughter possessed, and provided her with the means of extracting and harnessing Garnet's eidolons. However, Kuja was playing his own angle: once Brahne was finished taking over the major powers of the Mist Continent, Kuja borrowed the powers of The Invincible to wrest control of the eidolon Bahamut from her, killing the Queen in the process. From here, he used the great dragon to launch an attack on Alexandria Palace itself, trusting that Garnet would be able to awaken the palace's secret eidolon defender, Alexander - Kuja's end goal being to capture Alexander just as he had captured Bahamut, and use him as a weapon in his next plot: kill Garland and take over Terra.
Unfortunately for Kuja, Garland realized what his servant was planning: at the very moment of Alexander's capture, Garland seized control of The Invincible and used it to destroy the eidolon, neatly derailing Kuja's plans and destroying much of Alexandria in the process. Suddenly without his prize, Kuja was forced to rethink his plans and find another eidolon; however, his encounter with Eiko in Mt Gulug inspired him pursue Trance as the power that could dethrone Garland.Once Zidane was able to open the way to Terra and enter the mysterious world within Gaia, Garland slowly revealed himself to his creation, intending to recruit him as his Angel of Death once more; however, after learning the true nature of his existence, the rogue Genome refused to accept his destiny and vowed to end Garland's plans at any cost. Disappointed, Garland knocked Zidane unconscious, intending to render him down into another soulless vessel. However, his friends were able to locate him during the process and convince him that he was more than just a puppet of Terra; together, they confronted Garland on the tower of his fortress, dueling first his Silver Dragon, then Garland himself in a lethal magical battle.
However, Kuja chose that moment to make his move: with the path to Terra unlocked by Zidane and his allies, he was able to enter freely, steal The Invincible, and avail himself to the bounty of souls gathered during the battle at the Iifa Tree. From it, he took Brahne's soul and used it to achieve the power of Trance. With Garland crippled from the battle with Zidane, Kuja was able to swoop in and activate his new powers over the course of another boss fight - one that concludes with the party being knocked unconscious with a blast of Ultima.
Exalting his his victory over both his successor and his master, Kuja gloated that he would now rule over Terra and Gaia, reveling in his newfound powers. Garland wearily informed him that his power was ultimately meaningless - and for once, Kuja was left with nothing to say; infuriated by the lack of grovelling or weakness, Kuja kicked him off the edge of the tower to his death. However, Garland retained his presence as a disembodied voice, revealing Kuja's mortality to him: enraged by the realization, the deranged Genome drew upon his newfound powers and annihilated Terra in a fit of petty rage.
In Memoria, Garland assisted Zidane with advice about the origins of Gaia, Terra, and the Crystal from which all life is formed. In the void of space, just before reaching the Crystal World, Garland's presence faded away even as he asked Zidane to take care of Kuja and protect the Crystal. In his last words, Garland expressed no regrets for being created as a savior to a world which would perish by his creation's hands.
- Garland is a reference to the antagonist from the original Final Fantasy. The use of the Four Fiends is one of the similarities between the two characters. Concept art shows that he was originally going to bear a much closer resemblance to Garland from the original Final Fantasy.
- Kuja kicking Garland off the edge of Pandemonium evokes the events of Final Fantasy VI, in which Kefka ejects Gestahl over the edge of the Floating Continent in much the same manner - including the presence of the player party as witnesses, as well as the fact that both Kefka and Kuja are betraying what could best be called their creators and mentors.
- A subtle allusion to Garland is present in Dissidia, when Kuja briefly clashes with Garland in a cutscene. Both Kuja's and Zidane's opening battle quotes to Garland have a level of animosity not explained by the events of Dissidia.
- Garland's role and appearance is similar to another character, Fusoya. Both are caretakers for their sleeping species and are old, white-bearded men with great magical prowess. They both reside on red Planets/Moons, and serve similar roles to the two sibling pairs Cecil Harvey/Golbez and Zidane/Kuja. He shares similarities to Zemus, as he intends to populate a planet with his own kind.