The Sorceress War Part I, Chapter XII
Flicka/Shootinstar: Oh yeah, it's just sooo much fun to write link chapters. NOT. To get my feeling on it, take the feeling you get when you write link chapters and then add the feeling that you aren't even 1/3 of the way done with the book you're writing, AND have four more books to write after it. Eh, oh well. I go watch TV for an hour, then I feel better (but of course, then I forget to go back and finish the chapter, and have to do it again tomorrow, which starts the cycle all over again).
As soon as the two teams hiked up passed the beaches on which they landed, the two commanders faced each other. They both knew very well that the two teams couldn't work very well together, and knew that the two of them would have to come up with an idea that would keep the soldiers- and themselves- at peace terms.
"Now look, Jesse," Raine began to say, avoiding his gaze and looking down at the other soldiers that were away from them, "You and I need to think of something to make sure that this mission gets completed without our teams beating the crap out of one another."
He nodded and crossed his arms, slightly messing up his favorite brown trenchcoat. He took out a map of the surrounding area. "Yeah. Well, here's an idea: Wolf Pack hikes up to this town, Orleans, and Excalibur goes up to Madain? There we can get into Helios City and since we have comm. links, we can inform the other when the mission is done, then meet back at the Orleans when we're done?"
"Sounds good." Raine agreed, "We won't have to argue and we can cover twice as much ground separate."
He nodded and went to inform his unit, who were looking at him expectantly. Raine turned and went down to her own unit, who were organizing all of their equipment and items to make the journey easier. Feeling relieved that the two Special Ops. units didn't have to stick together the whole way, which would be extremely good news for the rest of the Pack as well.
"All right Wolves, listen up!" Raine ordered. All eyes turned to her as they stopped what they were doing. "Here is the plan. The Excaliburs and the Pack are going to split up. The Excaliburs are heading to a town East of here while we're heading to Orleans, a town to the Northeast about a mile away. We'll meet back in Orleans after the mission is completed."
"All right!!" Corin burst out, happily thrusting his fist into the air, "Thank the gods we don't have stick with them, I'm a happy guy now!"
Jesse looked over from his group with a snarl on his face, "Watch it Dincht. I have a higher rank than you, would you like to spend the whole day once we get back to base locked in the brig? Don't worry, Heartilly will most likely keep you company. She's the jailbird remember?"
"Hey," Julia interrupted, a slightly angered look on her face, "that may be true, but you don't have to say it so mean!" She stuck her tongue out at him and turned back to Raine with a flip of her hair.
Raine shook her head, "Whatever. Look, just get your equipment together so we can move out. The sooner we get to Helios City the sooner we can kill Virados and go home."
They agreed with mumbling and soft whispers. They returned to their equipment, making sure once again that everything that they had brought was operational and ready to use at a moments notice. Jesse's group was already together and ready to move out. Raine overheard him yelling out commands to them, and one-by-one they all left the area where the teams had gathered together, heading off for Madain to the North. With any luck, they would find a way to sneak into the capitol and get into Virados' residence to see if he was there. Wolf Pack now had to go to Orleans, which Raine decided to herself was probably going to be fairly easy. Trabia was so cold that there weren't that many monsters around aside from the cold-climate beasts which could be handled easily.
Raine looked up to the sky. It was only four in the afternoon, but since they were in the Northern part of Terra, the days were much shorter. The sun was already setting over the snow-capped Trabian mountains, giving the fresh snow an orange and pink tint. Raine smirked to herself as she took in the scenery around her, Kodak moment. What the army promised them was true, they did have the chance to see places most Galbadians could never afford or even dream of going to one day.
Celeste looked around, since her equipment was as usual in it's prime condition. She walked over to Andraia, who was checking to make sure that she had enough clips for her two pistols. Celeste bent down to the kneeling brunette below her and scuffed up her neatly combed hair. With a squeal of protest, Andraia looked up to the smiling blonde.
"Hey, what's the big idea?!" Andraia whined, using her hands to put her hair back in its former order.
Celeste laughed, "Nothing, I just couldn't resist." The blonde knelt down to Andraia's level and asked with a impish smile, "Say, what was going on between you and that Tilmitt guy when the teams got off the ships? You were all buddy-buddy with him. Something I should know about?"
Andraia blushed as she asked this. She waved her hands frantically, "No, no, no! It's not what you think! We grew up together in Deling City, we're just old friends and I was glad to see him! Aaron was stationed with another team at a different base for a long time, and I never got to see him. He's new to the Excalibur unit, you know?"
"Uh huh, I'm sure that's all it is!" Celeste teased the other woman. Andraia crossed her arms and playfully frowned at the whip user.
"Well, at least all you did to me was mess up my hair," Andraia amended, "Julia usually gives me a noogie when I don't tell her something!"
As if on cue, Julia reached over from her own equipment and put Andraia in a half Nelson choke hold. Celeste started to laugh as Julia used her free hand to grind her knuckles into Andraia's skull, causing the younger girl to wail out in pain and protest. Julia smirked and called out, "Aww, you know you love it when I do this, 'Draia! Stop acting like you don't!"
"What the heck are you guys up to now?" Raine asked, approaching from behind Celeste, "Julia... didn't I yell at you last time you gave someone a noogie? That should be a clue to you to stop it!"
"Oh, you only yelled at me because I gave the noogie to you, dummy!" Julia replied, letting Andraia go with a slight push. "That should have taught you that you should always, always give me access to your Nintendo!"
"Now stop it, seriously," Raine said, authority in her voice, "We've got a mission to complete! You silly people can wait until we have some free time to beat the crap out of each other. If we ever get free time, I'll be sure to join you."
Julia smirked with her final phrase. Raine then addressed the whole Pack, "Okay guys, let's move out! Let's see if we can't get to Orleans by sundown! Get your stuff together ASAP and get ready!"
The group slung their heavy backpacks over their shoulders and drew out their weapons for ready use in case of a monster attack. Raine checked behind her to make sure that they were all ready to go. She saw them nod or give a thumbs up sign to let her know that they were all set to move out. She motioned for them to follow her, and she began to hike up the first of probably many snowy hills to come.
(Excuse the Narshe similarities between itself and Orleans, it was not intended. Also, there are some WWII references here, such as the camps Galbadians are being sent to like the Nazis did to the Jews.)
Orleans wasn't exactly a large town. In fact, it was probably the size of Winhill, or even smaller. At first glance, it appeared to be nothing more than a coal mining town, with a large cavern leading to the coal mine itself and a few scattered buildings outside of it to house the miners and a few remote shops to create some kind of commercial business in the town. It was only about two miles from the Wolf Pack landing site at the shore, but seemed to have little connection with the sea at all. It was nightfall when the Pack entered the isolated town, yet they could still hear the clanging noises from inside the mining shafts.
The town was built in the foothills of the coastal Trabian mountain range, so the town was at an upward slope towards the coal mines. A train track was built leading from a station near the mine and went through the town, curving off to the southeast towards Helios City. With the amount of machinery that Helios was rumored to use, an abundance of steel and coal was probably needed to keep things operational within the capitol.
As Wolf Pack entered the town, they were faced with the odd looks that the Orleans natives were giving them. With a city so remote, they had never expected to have visitors that often, especially ones that looked like travel-weary Galbadians. They didn't know that they were soon to go to war with these people, being away from the main source of news and information on the continent.
A young boy, probably no more than seven years old, looked up with awe from his game of Triple Triad with what appeared to be his sister. "Oh, wow! Strangers! Look, they're Galbadian, cool!"
Raine raised an eyebrow as she heard this. He acts like he never saw a Galbadian before. That's strange, even Galbadians sometimes immigrate to Trabia. Surely the population can't just be Estharian and Trabian. Raine and the Pack continued to walk through the town, taking in the sites. They continued to be gawked at by the local people, some even giving them a frightened look.
Raine turned around to her soldiers, "Okay, it's not late at night yet, so we don't need to find a hotel here. That train track looks like it heads to Helios City, maybe we can get aboard that and travel to the capitol. We can rest there, and go to Virados the next day."
Epsilon shook his head, "No, let's just skip rest and go straight for Virados. He'll probably be at the base anyway. We should get into there at about midnight, right? No problem!"
Raine nodded in agreement, but Corin and Andraia groaned. The decided to comply anyway, despite the fatigue they felt. Lancer shook his head for a moment, "Raine, the Helios base isn't like Esthar's palace. It's much smaller, I've researched it before. It's going to be awfully hard sneaking ten people safely into that base, kill Virados, and get back out quickly."
"You're right." She agreed, "Epsilon, Celeste, you and I will go into the base. Everyone else will wait at the hotel and come bail us out if there is any trouble. Epsilon and I will sneak into the upper levels, while you and Celeste take the lower levels. Celeste, I trust that you can be able to hack into the security system if need be, right?"
Celeste nodded happily, "Of course. The Helian technology might be a slight challenge for Galbadian hacking equipment, but don't worry, I can handle it with ease!"
Raine turned to Lilliana and Edea and handed them a part of the group's gil stash. "Here. You two go take this money and stock up on items, we're running a bit low since Esthar. Be sure to grab some remedies and phoenix downs. The rest of us are going to the train station to see about a ride, meet us there."
The two women nodded and turned to go to the item store. Raine and the others began to hike up the stone path that must have acted as a makeshift road. There didn't appear to be any cars in the town, aside from a snowmobile that rested against an outcropping of rocks behind the hotel. The only way out of the town aside from that was either to walk, or apparently take the train. As the group of soldiers approached the train station, a woman in her mid-seventies stopped them.
"You are Galbadian." She declared, her face wrinkling up in confusion. "How is it possible that you are still in this country?"
Raine looked at her with a neutral expression, "Yes we are. What do you mean, though? Weren't there Galbadians here before? There must have been, records show that at least fifty or one hundred Galbadians visit Helios a year. Some even stay to live."
She nodded sadly, "Yes, there were in fact, several Galbadian coal miners who lived here a few weeks ago. However, the Helios government has just signed a document that forces all Galbadians to go to POW camps. If they refuse to go, they are killed on the spot, as a few of our residents did. That is why it amazes me that you dare to come here."
Their eyes widened as they heard this startling information. Raine spoke again, "Taken to POW camps? What for? Who did this?!"
"The new ambassador Virados Nomair enforced this plan." The woman replied, "He sends teams out every week to make sure that there are not any Galbadians in the towns. If they find any, they are sent to the camps. Some are worked to death there, and many Galbadians have died in these camps. We don't know why they're sent really. It might be that there is a conflict between Helios and Galbadia that we here in Orleans don't know about yet."
Raine nodded slowly and thanked the woman for the information. The Pack continued to walk up towards the train with sullen expressions. Their own Galbadian brothers and sisters (as the Deling populace often referred to themselves as) were being taken from their homes and thrown in camps to work for Helios? And people were dieing because of the difficulty of this work? Virados himself had enforced this act! Raine, who had felt immense anger at Virados for killing her hometown, now felt something that couldn't be defined as rage or livid anger, it was much more passionate than that. Now she was more than willing to kill with a vengeance, to end the suffering of the souls that he killed and the pain of those he tortured that were still unfortunate enough to be alive under his dictation. Now she hoped that the other Wolves were beginning to see how much she hated him, now that he was killing Galbadians.
"That's so wrong!" Andraia wailed, "We've never done anything to Helios, why are they throwing our brothers and sisters into concentration camps?!"
Raine huffed as they continued to walk towards the train station. She replied, "This just goes to show that Virados is a sadistic bastard who cares about nothing more than pain and suffering. I say we get to Helios and kill him in the most gruesome way possible."
Julia shook her head, "Now Raine, we're mad too -- though obviously not as much as you. But remember that little talk Edea and I had with you before we left Deling City! Don't do anything stupid!"
Raine nodded without a word and waved her hand in dismissal. Edea and Lilliana ran up behind them, a bag full of potions and phoenix down and whatnot. As soon as they caught up with the group, Edea asked, "Hey, I figured we'd have train tickets by now! What is wrong?"
Celeste informed the other women of what they had just heard. Edea and Lilliana looked at them in shock. Lilliana replied to the news, "You've got to be kidding me! That's so... evil!"
Raine walked up to the train official at the station, not bothering to reply to Lilliana's reaction. "Hello. How much money does it take to get on this train. It heads to Helios City, correct?"
The train official nodded, "Yes it heads to Helios. But, this is just a cargo train. We have little room for passengers, and if Helios soldiers spot you Galbadians, then you'll be sent to the camps! You've got to be crazy to go to Helios!"
Julia smiled and pointed to herself with a smirk, "Yep, crazy. That's the word most often used to describe me! Uh, I don't favor the idea of riding in coal, isn't there some... non messy cargo we could ride to Helios in?"
"Yes," he nodded, "We're carrying out a shipment of wood from the timber mill nearby. I suppose you could ride on the boards inside that car. I'm not going to charge you for the transportation, but I do want to warn you again. Many Galbadian lives have been lost to the Helios military. Do not add your names to the casualty list. Do not let any Helios soldiers see you."
Raine nodded, "Thank you, sir. We'll be sure to keep out of the sight of Helian soldiers. Thank you for the advice."
He pointed out which train car held the shipment of timber for them to ride to Helios in. He told them that the train was ready to embark on its journey to the capitol, and would begin to move as soon as the team got into the car. Raine led her team in, opening the double doors that led inside. Finding a flat surface that wasn't too high, the team members climbed up onto the beams of wood and sat down, preparing for the train to move. A loud whistle from the engine and a clank from underneath signaled that they were moving out. The train began to speed up as it traveled down the slope of the town, and soon they were on their way to Helios.
Andraia crossed her legs and placed her chin against her fist. "That sucks. The whole town will be looking for us! Even Adel didn't send Galbadians living in Esthar into POW camps!"
"Yes." Edea amended, "It does seem a bit strange that Helios, who isn't even fully at war with us yet, would imprison Galbadians while Esthar, who has been at war with us for two years, doesn't do anything of the sort to their Galbadians. I find that odd."
Raine nodded quietly. Lancer added on, "You guys are right. Adel is famous for her cruelty, but she never did anything as sadistic as this. I don't think a stunt like this was pulled since the War of 3145."
"Once again by Helios." Celeste declared, "They were at war with a second country in Trabia, Feyrband, and imprisoned most of its people in camps. They totally demolished the country, leaving Helios the only governing body left in Trabia."
"Helios does have a dangerous reputation." Epsilon said, "I remember from my ancient studies class back in high school that they used to leave their criminals rotting in the town plazas after they were thrust onto large spikes in the ground."
"Eww...." Andraia wailed, "That's so disgusting! Why would people do a thing like that?!"
Corin shrugged, "Some countries thought capitol punishment was the best way to get people to stop their thieving habits. It's the old eye-for-an-eye treatment, except worse. Back then if they stole something they got that spike treatment... a slow and painful death."
"Cruel. That's all it is." Lilliana interjected, "It comes down to the people in charge. Helios has long been ruled by sadist people. Luckily for a time, up until now, they had good leaders and wouldn't have dreamt of doing such things. Virados has rekindled the flames of Helios' habit of bloodlust."
Not another word was spoken after that. Lilliana had said what was the truth, and they decided to no press the subject any further. Raine knew for a fact that in the War of 3145 between Helios and Feyrband that Helios had been ruled by an sadistic and cruel leader. If she could remember correctly, his name was Frederick Kefka, and was known for reinstating that 'spike punishment' that the other Wolves had mentioned. Textbooks said that he was murdered by the Helios senate after the destruction of Feyrband, and then the government was turned over to a more compassionate leader.
Raine looked through the window in the train car that they were sitting in. She marveled at the icy scenery as they flew by it. Deling of course had snow during the winter, but it was nothing like the climate of Trabia. She used the image of snow to clear the morbid images that the others had made her think of. This was why she really joined the army. Not to get away from her abusive parents, or not to just get the chance to kill Virados (those were just added bonuses). Her real reason was to help end the suffering that places like Helios induced to their people. She just hoped she could make some bit of difference when she got to the capitol with her team.
AN: (singing) Everyday I write linking chapters, write them alll day long! Every day a linking chaapter, while I sing this song! (normal) Okay, yes that was another linking chapter. Do not fret my fans, there should be action again... someday.... (sighs) Never mind the 30+ chapters I thought of. This is probably going to be spiraling into the 40-50 chapter range if I keep up this pace.