Name: Aerith Gainsborough (エアリス・ゲインズブール, Earisu Geinzubūru)
First appearance: Final Fantasy VII
Creator: Tetsuya Nomura
Weapon/ability: Staff and magic
Aerith is the flower-girl that the hero of the game Final Fantasy VII, Cloud Strife, meets when he falls through the roof of the church where she tends to her flowers. She is a friendly, and somewhat flirtatious, young woman who joins the group on their quest to save the world from the madness of Sephiroth. Things will not turn out well for her in doing so.
She is the last of the ancient race of the Cetras, her mother being a Cetra herself and her father, professor Gast, being a human. Her father is killed and mother and daughter is captured by the evil professor Hojo - but they manage to escape. The mother died and Aerith was raised by Elmyra Gainsborough in the city of Midgar. The Turks, the Investigation Sector of the Shin-Ra company, keep an eye on her - but she is actually on quite friendly terms with their boss Tseng and they mostly leave her alone.
Some more back-story to her character is given in the game Crisis Core, set five years prior to the original game, where Aerith gets to know the main character of that game, Zack Fair - who shares some traits with Cloud, which she will note when she later meets Cloud. It is Zack that buys her her trade-mark pink ribbons and also talks her into selling flowers.
For obvious reasons Aerith doesn't partake much in the film Advent Children - which instead deals a lot with the guilt Cloud feels as a result of her death. But there is still an opportunity to show up long enough to ease his suffering, telling him that she does not blame him for her death.
Her name was at first translated into English as Aeris, in the first game, Final Fantasy VII. But the truth is that Aerith is much closer to the original idea of her name (though it was hard to put into Japanese writing - hence the misunderstanding) and the following appearances of her (Final Fantasy VII - Crisis Core and Advent Children) she is more correctly named as Aerith. Her last name should, according to the katakana, be pronounced more as the French singer than the English painter, despite the spelling.