The sorceress war Part I, Chapter III
"Death to all who stand in the way of the Queen of the Idiots!!" Julia Heartilly referring to an outburst by Andraia Navradski.
Somewhere Outside Timber:
"Y'know? If we weren't on our way to some god forsaken mission, this would be a very pretty ride!" Lily commented, admiring Timber's lush forests and green rolling hills. The six of the girls had been crammed into a single car for two hours, but still they weren't annoyed with each other yet.
"Yeah..." Edea responded lazily, looking around as well. They could see the outline of the Timber main building district on the horizon, but they still had a ways to go before they could even enter the city.
Raine had her feet propped up against the dashboard of Andraia's convertible and was simply watching the clouds roll by as they drove. Any conversation that had been going on earlier had faded out when they ran out of things to say. They had been talking the whole way down from Deling, which means they lengthy discussions of both men and their own hobbies. Andraia and Julia had gotten into about five fights on the way as well, which sparked even more talking. Now they just rested, their minds drawing knowledge from the fact that they knew this would be a difficult mission ahead of them, and they were trying to psyche themselves up for what was ahead.
Andraia, who couldn't silence on bit, began to sing, "Her name was Lola! She was a sweet girl, with yellow feathers in her hair and a skirt cut down to there! And she'd Meringue and do the Cha-Cha... "
Julia, who was lying down in the back her legs stretched over Celeste's and Edea's, bolted upright in alarm. She avoided Lily, who awkwardly set between Raine and Andraia on the CD holder lid and smacked Andraia on the head to keep her quiet, "No songs! I mean it!"
Andraia was quiet for a second then started up again, "Brandy, you're a fine girl, what good wife you would be. But my love, my life, and my lady is the sea....!"
This time a beer can hit their car from behind them. The guys could apparently hear everything in their jeep and threw something to try and silence the small little Siren. Julia gave them a thumbs up from her position in the back and Andraia yelled something at them in aggravation.
After the brief argument, silence befell the cars again, and Raine drifted into her own thoughts. She thought of her life and how it had changed over one catastrophic event that she hadn't even told Edea or Julia about in the twelve years that they had been best friends...
Caran, Centra (the clearing near Edea's house in the forest? Yeah that's it) Thirteen Years Ago
Six year old Raine Leonhart watched her mother Krystal cleaning dishes in the dim lights of the Leonhart household in a small town in the Centra continent. Her father Kenneth was out for the night on watch duty, should any monsters attack during the night. Raine brushed a strand of hair back from her blue eyes.
"Mommy, why does Daddy have to stay out so late?" she asked her mother, who turned back to face her young daughter.
"He's got to make sure all those mean monsters you hate so much don't get into the town when we're all asleep, and we wouldn't want that would we?" Krystal replied.
"I'm not scared, I'll just stomp on 'em!" Raine cheered.
"Aw, you're just to brave...its not fair to me," her mother replied, then went back to washing the dishes.
Raine went back to coloring in a sketchbook when a friendly voice called through the open doorway in the kitchen, "Hey there Rainy Day Girl!"
Raine looked up to the bright face of her Uncle Trance walking through the doorway, he gave a quick hug to Krystal, then swung Raine up on his shoulders.
"Uncle Trance!" Raine squealed happily as she was jolted several feet up in the air.
"Hey, Trance. What brings you around here?" Krystal asked as she greeted him.
Trance smiled back, "Well, I was on my way by, and Raine always said she wanted to see a chocobo so...."
"A chocobo?! Where?!" Raine shrieked.
"I'm going to go show her before she claws up my neck, 'kay?" Trance asked.
"Yeah okay, but be quick it's almost her bed time," Krystal said, waving goodbye to the two as Trance jogged out to the evening sky.
Trance continued to jog out to a small hill outside of town, where he had left his chocobo, "Raine, this is Sky."
Raine climbed down from her uncle and ran over to the yellow bird, which looked at her curiously. Raine smiled, "Hi Sky!"
"Wanna go for a quick ride?" Trance asked her as he knelt to her level.
He picked Raine up onto the bird then lifted himself up, "Okay, but don't tell your mom, you know how she hates these things."
"Okay! Let's Go!"
Trance motioned for the bird to go, and it took of a jog away from the town, and up a nearby hill. Raine was squealing with delight and she admired her surroundings and petted the bird as it ran. The sun was fully set by now, and stars were visible in the sky, and there was a low rumble from back towards the village, but the two paid it no mind, since earthquakes were rather frequent in the area.
As the stopped near the hill a small boy from the town ran to them with fear in his eyes, Raine recognized him as Teo, a boy a few years older than her.
"Hey Teo, what's wrong?" Raine asked as he approached them.
"Mr. Trance! You're needed in the town now!!" Teo said, out of breath.
"Why what's wrong?" Trance asked him.
"There's some guy hovering over the village- no flying over the village! He wants something called a 'Shaduna', " Teo replied, pointing in the villages direction.
"What?!" He cried, then motioned the chocobo to head back to the town, setting Raine on the ground, "Stay here with Teo!"
"But--!" Raine started, but she noticed Trance wasn't listening, she ran after him anyway, Teo close behind.
The two of the stopped a bit later, on a small cliff overlooking the town. As Teo had stated there was indeed a person flying over the village. Raine looked at him more closely, he was red headed boy no more than 12 or 13 years old dressed in leather armor, and two snow white wings kept him in the air. She saw her Uncle Trance and her father Kenneth step out of the gathered crowd to face him.
Kenneth was the first to speak, "Who are you and what do you want from us?!"
The boy looked down on him conceitedly, "My name is of no concern to you filthy Centrans, and I have said before, I want the Shaduna."
"The Shaduna?!" Trance started, "What the hell is that?"
"Tch...." The boy scoffed, "You mean who the hell is that."
An older man from the crowd stepped forward pointing at the boy, "Look, the wings! And the word, duna that means knight in the old Mysidian tongue! That boy is a Mysidian survivor!!"
"Clever old man," The boy said, "Now where is the Shaduna?"
"Shaduna....we don't have any knights in this town, all of the men aside from those present are either out patrolling or heading to Galbadia to trade," Kenneth said, "So get lost, there is no one here you seek."
"You Centrans are so clueless," the boy spoke with exasperation, "Well since you can't produce the Shaduna, I'll just have to torch the town. No one may oppose our Tyraduna."
Kenneth and the other men quickly drew their weapons, but the boy just smiled. He formed a ball of fire in his hands, then sent it flying towards them. It split into several strands of flame, each pierced one of the men, sending them falling to their doom, Raine's father included. Blood spewed everywhere and caused many people to jump back in alarm. Trance was able to dodge the attack., then turned to run towards Raine and Teo.
"Ultima!" the boy cried.
A yellow orb formed inside the town house, and in a matter of seconds it exploded outward, completely blowing up the town house and nearby buildings.
People tried to turn and run, but were hit by the same flame spells that hit the soldiers a few moments earlier. Trance ran up to Raine and Teo, scooping up each in one arm. Raine's mother picked up her husband's bow and shot an arrow at the boy. He simply caught it before it could reach him, then casted a Blizzaga on her, which gave her a quick but painful death, causing her skin to break and scar.
"What about Mommy and Daddy?!" Raine screeched.
"They're gone Raine, I'm sorry," Trance said jogging to the chocobo, "Were going to have to leave here, the town is up in flames, no one will survive."
"But--!" Teo started.
"No buts! Trust me! It's for the best we leave!" Trance said commandingly.
Raine continued to watch the boy as he continued to cast Ultimas on the town, "Tyraduna...that's the reason the town was destroyed. I swear to you Mommy, Daddy, I'll find it and get it before I die! I promise!"
Raine snapped back to reality as the grotesque images of her parents being slaughtered filled her mind. She quickly blinked out what tears were forming out of the memories of her loving mother and brave father. She and her uncle had escaped with her friend Teo, who later became a citizen of Balamb. She was lucky Trance had a business and house in the rich portion of Deling, or she would have never met Edea or Julia, who were now her best friends. Her Uncle later died of cancer, and she was adopted by the Canon family when she was twelve, yet refused to take their last name. She often argued with them and always seemed to stay with Edea or Julia since their parents treated her like one of their own kids.
Julia placed a hand on her shoulder, "You okay? You look sad."
"I'm fine Julia, don't worry so much," Raine said in reply, lightly shrugging off the brunette's hand.
Julia knew she was lying, she could tell, but she decided not to push her any farther until they were either alone, or until Raine decided to tell her for herself. By this time Julia had learned that Raine wasn't exactly a nice or open person when she was angered, and if she were to open up at all it would be to one of her closer friends when they were alone. She decided to let it rest until they were on the Horizon Bridge train.
Raine's daydream had lasted longer than she had thought, and they were already in the Timber Outskirts. The area was also known as the Timber Slums, since only the vastly poor lived out in the more rural part of the town among the lush forests and scrap lands by Timber's large wall surrounding the main part of the city. Andraia and Zion both slowed and pulled over next to a group of Timber army officers who were waving them down to park. The two cars halted and the team exited, grabbing their equipment and extra bags.
The Timber soldiers had agreed to the mission in the only hope that the war could be diverted from Timber lands, so the government allowed the passage of the otherwise restricted Galbadian teams which were on espionage missions in Esthar. They secured the two vehicles and would guard them until the team returned back so they could drive home. The shaky truce between Galbadia and Timber was weak and Galbadia was doing almost everything in their power to keep the Horizon Bridge route open, since Timber was the only country with access to the private railway between the large continents.
They walked into the main plaza of the town, avoiding the many tourists and train riders who were in the process of switching trains in order to get to Balamb, Dollet or Deling City. The main plaza was relatively small, and the constant trains that passed through the city and the many people almost made it unbearably loud compared to the Galbadian capitol, which only had scheduled festivals a few times every year. The Wolves tried to stay bunched up so that they wouldn't be separated. After a few moments the crowd had dispersed from the plaza and had gone into what shops or region they had intended. Raine took this time to command her soldiers before another wave of people disembarked from another train.
She turned around to face a few of them and handed Edea a large mass of gil, "Edea, Lily and Epsilon. We're running out of potions and what-not. Go into the item store down below and buy what you can with this gil, then meet the rest of us at the train depot."
Edea nodded and took the gil from Raine with a happy look, "Got you covered! We'll be back in no time."
She watched as the three young adults took off in the direction of the Pub store, then led the other six to the direction of the train depot on the other side of the nearby tunnel. They crossed the closing bridge after another train had took off for Dollet and avoided a few kids who were playing games on the sidewalk on the other side. They grouped together to wait for Edea, Lilliana and Epsilon to return with their purchased items.
After a few minutes of waiting Celeste spotted the three coming out of the tunnel at a quick pace and saw Edea waving to them in greeting. Out of their group only Andraia returned the wave. Epsilon came up with a bag and handed it to Raine, it was her duty to spread the items around later so that each soldier had the necessary items to recover fallen soldiers when they had to. Raine quickly surveyed the bag, but it was to cluttered to make out anything in it.
"What'd you buy?" Raine asked, tightening the bag shut and swinging it over her shoulder.
Lilliana thought for a moment, "Let's see... about 15 hi-potions, 8 phoenix downs, and a few remedies. I think."
"Okay, good. Time to get on the train guys, I hope any of you don't get train sickness," she taunted, signaling them to follow her as she headed towards the ticket vendor.
The young ticket vendor, not even passed his twenties it appeared, saw them immediately and drew out ten tickets from his pocket. As they approached Raine flashed her Galbadian dog tags at him which they all wore around their necks. The vendor each handed the soldiers their own tickets for one of the last scheduled runs of the Horizon Bridge train. He informed them that they would have to pair up, two people per room so that there would be more room for the normal passengers when they boarded.
The team boarded the silver, modern looking train and walked down the main boarding area until they were standing near the entry-way to the cabin areas. Raine, who knew very well who couldn't be pair with whom unless she wanted to hear bitching and screaming from her soldiers. They all liked each other well enough, but some argued with each other more than others. The few she had to watch out for were pairings of Julia and Andraia or Julia and Edea.
Raine put her hands on her hips, a sign she was in a commanding mood, "All right, I'm making the room pairs this time! We all know very well we don't want another fighting trip like last time. Room one: Celeste and Edea. Room two: Epsilon and Corin. Three: Zion and Lancer. Four: Andraia and Lily. Julia and I get the last one. Got it? Go take a breather till we get to Salt Lake."
Most of the team looked relieved, but Julia shot her a sarcastic glare, "Okay fine. But if you snore just once, my socks are going down your throat!"
Raine shook her head, "Yeah, yeah. Just get in the cabin Oh-wondrous-psycho."
The all went further down the hall and each pair entered their own room. It wasn't really a bad deal, since each room was a large enough to probably even support half of the team at once. As soon as the two girls entered their room, which was the farthest down, Julia quickly threw her bags on the nearest table and flung herself onto the small bed in the corner. Raine huffed mockingly and set her stuff down lightly and sat down on the sofa in front of the bed. She then took a book out of her backpack and began to read, which made Julia give her a strange look. Raine knew very well that Julia considered reading a waste of time and would much rather prefer something with a little more action to it. Leave it to people with high adrenaline levels to hate reading.
Julia was already bored and began to tap her fingers against the wooden post of the bedside, which in the small room echoed and made it seem louder than it really was. Raine quickly shut her book and grabbed the girls hand and put it away from anything that could produce such an annoying noise. Julia smirked and tried to make conversation.
"So Raine, what's the ETA for the train ride when it actually starts to move?" Julia asked, already starting to finger the post again after Raine had removed it only seconds before.
The other girl looked up from her book, "I think the file Reinhart gave me said about three hours, good luck finding something to do till then Miss Pyromaniac."
Julia, probably the least patient person on the team, groaned in frustration, "Oh man! You've gotta be kidding me, I'm going to die with nothing to do!"
"Yeah, I'm sure that you'll drag me down with you too," Raine said with a smirk on her face, which was something you didn't see to often.
Julia sat up from the bed and swung her legs over the side, "Oh, but of course. Can't leave you out of the fun of being bored out of your mind!"
Julia got up from the bed, and she felt a strong vibration from underneath her. The train had started its journey across the large ocean between lush Timber and the rugged, mountainous western shore of the Estharian continent. Julia was relieved, "Finally! That took long enough."
The second the train had started to move, the two soldiers heard the hastily opening and shutting of one the cabin doors not that far away from them. The sound of light running could be detected as the person ran passed Raine and Julia's door into the main lounge area of the train. As the person ran down the hallway, Julia swore she could make out a light 'Whoo- hoo' and several comments on how cool the train was once it started to leave the station. Without a wavering opinion, both teens knew it was Wolf Pack's own Andraia, who had long been a fan of large vehicles. At the same time Raine and Julia started to laugh at the girls predictable behavior. Raine was always cheered up by the young and hyperactive girl who never seemed to run out of happy things to say.
Julia told Raine she was going to see what the lounge area of the train was like. The other girl urged her to go on, and that she might join her a bit later since she wanted to catch up on her sleep. Julia nodded as she exited and went to see how bad she could torment the unsuspecting Andraia. The older girl looked around for the ever-cheerful girl, but saw her giddily jumping up and down in excitement as she watch the landscape flash by the quick moving train from one of the large windows at the side of the train car. Seeing the girl so happy, Julia decided to leave her alone for once. She noticed Lilliana had joined Andraia on her rampage through the hall to get to the lounge area.
She glanced around for any other Wolf Pack members which she could bug. It was either that or she'd have to start bugging the tourists again like on their last trip. She saw Zion standing by a secluded window near the corner of the train lounge, watching the waves crash against the posts of Horizon Bridge, looking relaxed as if he enjoyed watching the sea on some days. She decided that Zion would be good to try and kill some time with, maybe get a chance to know him. The two hadn't really had a conversation ever since his arrival. She walked calmly up to him and said a polite hello, which he returned.
She was the first to speak, "Why are you all alone in this little corner? I figured you and Lancer would be talking."
He shook his head in falseness on that fact, his black hair falling in his eyes as he did so, "No, he's not much of a talker. I think he only opens up to people who he likes fairly well."
"You must like looking at the water, you were watching closely. Or were you just thinking of something?" Julia asked him, peering down at the water lapping below the bridge in little white wavelets.
He nodded, "It's soothing. I grew up in Balamb, so looking at the water like this kind of reminds me of home." He pointed at a stretch of land that was vaguely visible, "See? That's the Island of Balamb on the horizon."
"I don't think I've been there that often. Only maybe once or twice on a mission," Julia said, looking at the small island in the distance, "Corin grew up there too, did you know him?"
"No. My parents never liked me to associate with other people that much," Zion started, then filled in what she guessed, "We weren't rich or anything, they were just...demanding. That's why I joined the army, so I could get away from them."
She chuckled softly, "Just like Raine...."
He crossed his arms and smiled, "Where is the great Wolf Pack commander? I heard so much about her when I was with the Ravens. They say she's the best there is when it comes to leading."
Julia laughed, "She is a good leader, but has the personality of a wet dish rag sometimes. She said she wanted to catch up on her sleep. I think she's got some insomnia problems that developed recently."
He nodded in acknowledgement and looked back to the ocean. Then he asked, almost delicately, "So...you can use black magic, huh? I read it in the roster listing. Are you a.... sorceress?"
She frowned and tensed up, "Would it make any real difference if I was? Edea is. I had tests on me when I was little, when I discovered I could actually cast a few basic spells. They said I wasn't a sorceress... they still don't know why I can cast."
"Can they even tell? How would they?"
She looked to him, less irritated and a little looser, "Sorceresses all have a certain blood strain. Edea used to have AB blood before she inherited her magic, then it became a new type, ABs. All sorceresses get the 's' designation, it's visible as a different strain." My god, this is the smartest I've sounded in..... well, EVER.....
"And your blood?"
"Not my blood, it's my DNA. Everyone has a double-helix strand right?" she explained, recalling facts from when she was little, "My strands are triple-helix."
He looked shocked, then he scoffed in disbelief, "Yeah, right! Is that even possible?"
"What, you want to test some of my blood?" Julia asked in defense, "It's true!"
He remained silent, but she could tell he wasn't upset. He just ran out of something to say in a sort of argument, and Julia could tell he didn't really believe her. Why should he? It was pretty far-fetched, and it sounded like something Andraia would use to stay out of some kind of trouble with her superiors. She told Zion that she'd see him later, and she took off over to Andraia, Lilliana and Edea, who had just recently shown up. They were in a heated debate about something or other, and Julia came up to them and jumped up against the couch that was by them, listening to them ramble on and on.
Raine had walked into the room and sat down beside her, pausing for a moment to see if she should break up the argument to her side, but decided against it. It was then that Julia asked her the question she didn't want to hear.
"Raine? Why did you look so sad in the car?" Julia asked, eying Raine carefully to make sure she didn't get upset.
"Well.... I-- " Raine started to tell her but choked on her words a bit, "I'll tell you some other time maybe...."
Ah ha! So there is something wrong after all! Julia thought, sad for Raine but happy to know that she was right. Julia nodded to her commander in acknowledgment, then leaned further back against the soft velvet material of the couch. Raine checked her watch. Even her, the most patient person on the team aside from possibly Edea, had gotten bored since the train started its journey across the eastern ocean, which was known as the Imperial Ocean by most people. She estimated that it would probably take another ten minutes to get to Fisherman's Horizon, a small city halfway to Esthar's Great Salt Lake which was built right alongside the bridge as a floating city.
"Attention all passengers: The train will be stopping at F.H. in approximately fifteen minutes, prepare to disembark...."
Hey, I wasn't too far off...... Raine thought with a smile, Only a bit more until we're at Death's Door......