The Sorceress War Part I, Chapter V
There was a bright flash in front of Julia's eyes, then she suddenly felt herself collide with Raine behind her. Then, the light was replaced with darkness. She found herself lying in the middle of a large forest clearing, trees and grass encircling her in every direction. It was night, and there were countless stars in the sky, yet she could not spot any recognizable constellations. Strange ivy grew along the bases of tree trunks and shrubs she had never seen before, even during her hikes with Raine and Edea in Timber's vast forests. She stood up and took a longer, more in depth look around the area. At first, she saw nothing but forest in every direction. An Aurora was lighting the skies above, giving it an ethereal glow. After a few more seconds, she spotted several twinkling lights on the horizon, indication of a large city. In fact, it must have been rather large, since it took up most of the view in that direction. At first she was afraid she had gotten drunk somehow, and had woke up in the outskirts of Timber or Deling City, but something was wrong.
Without warning, a shrill and piercing inhuman shriek pierced the calm of the night. It seemed as though it was some sort of strange cross between a horse's cry and a falcon's call. On instinct, the girl reached for the staff that was attached to her back. However, it was nowhere to be found. She then looked around for the culprit of the shriek, seeing if she couldn't locate its source and quietly slip away. She peered through the foliage before her, and finding no movement of any sorts she quickly pivoted her foot to turn around behind her. Her brown eyes widened at what lay before her. A black, shadowy figure was charging at her, a blade of some kind extended from a twisted hand along its indescribable shape. Two bright red eyes glared out from its cloak and stared her down for a brief second. As it raised the blade above its head to strike her down... the scene and the figure vanished.
Julia was breathing very rapidly at the shock of what just happened. She glanced around quickly, looking to see what happened to her enemy. She was inside a star field, out is space. Terra was below her, hovering endlessly in the vast abyss. A soft glow perked her attention to her left arm. She looked down, bringing up her arm for a better look at what was glowing. On her skin was a type of cross or sword, with a pair of wings for its hilt. Vines were behind the blade of the cross, and the whole thing was glowing a bright red. She gasped in shock when she saw the ring on the hand that she had raised. The surface of the ring was platinum, which was reflective. In her ring she saw her eyes. Instead of being their natural brown color, they were bright red like the cross, the whites of her eyes were also the same color. Her eyes and her arm were dwarfed for a moment, as she saw a bright explosion on Terra.
She looked down to the surface of the planet. The continents themselves were shifting, and the atmosphere was turning bright orange-red with flames. Beams of magical energy were searing life from the major cities. One by one, Deling, Esthar, Balamb... all were shredded by the beams. Incinerated beyond recovery. It was as if Julia could feel the screams of millions, and all at once they stopped and were replaced by another dying city. That was when she saw him. A demonic figure, bat like wings stretched out to their fullest length, but still in a similar shape to a man. It looked like a more powerful form of Diablos.... but far more evil than the guardian of darkness could ever dream of becoming. It sneered at her, its yellow eyes glowing malevolently. On each side of him stood two angel like beings, one male with long red hair and white wings, and a female with longer hair and large black wings. The female was wearing a loose red robe, and had her hair in some eccentric design.
She landed on a snowfield, similar to Trabia's vast fields of endless ice
and permafrost. A woman, wearing a black robe and hood, stood before
her. A blood-stained katana was in her right hand. This time,
Julia's staff was still attached to her back. She quickly drew it
out and extended its blades, which prompted the woman to charge at her.
Katana raised high above her head, a blue/cyan colored mark on her shoulder was
seen. It was exactly the same as Julia's. She was able to
block the first three slashes from the katana, which fell to her in a swift
motion in under two seconds. Julia kicked the attacker in the stomach and
sent a Fira into her chest. The robed figure fell back, onto the ground,
lightly grunting in pain. However, she stood back up and charged
again. She raised the katana and yelled out a war cry, and before Julia could
release the Thundara she was charging, she glimpsed at a painfully familiar
pair of sapphire eyes under the cloak's hood. The katana plunged through
her heart due to her delay in action. The blood quickly spilled out
of her, onto the white snow that pressed against her knees. The
robed woman let out a low laugh and pushed Julia off her katana with a quick
kick to the shoulder, leaving the girl to bleed and spasm to death face down in
"Raine!!" Julia shrieked out as she bolted upright in alarm. Not calling to her, but in a way that showed a hint of venom and disgust in the brunette's voice. As she did so she clashed foreheads with Zion, who was watching over her at that time. He rubbed his head in pain, as did she.
At that instant Raine ran over from the group of Wolves that had gathered and sat down at a rock outcropping not far off. They had waited for her to wake up for two hours, and were anxious to see if she was alright. Raine bent down to Julia's level, eyes watery and full of worry. To everyone's shock, the usually stoic Raine quickly grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a tight hug. For a moment, Julia was nervously shocked, in fact her mouth had dropped as far as it could have. It was a rarity in their friendship that Raine was the emotional one, and to Julia's knowledge Raine had only hugged her or Edea once or twice since age ten. However, despite this, the shake Julia had gotten from her vision forced her to shrug of Raine's arms.
Raine wiped her eyes, stood back up and helped Julia to her feet. Julia sighed out of frustration as Edea and Andraia mocked her by attempting to fake faint. She pushed Edea by the shoulders, causing her to crash into Andraia and send both of them tumbling to the ground. The two stood back up and stuck their tongues out at her as Julia walked briskly by.
Zion narrowed his eyes at her odd behavior. He had only known her a brief time, but she was usually so energetic and reckless. Now, she was acting somber and withdrawn. Her eyes seemed to be clouded in some way, as if she had something on her mind. He made the initiative to ask what was wrong, if no one else would.
"Julia? Are you okay?" He started, receiving a strong glare from her in return, "I mean-- uh... you look a bit tense."
Julia turned her gaze from Zion to the large hologram-covered ladder that was still in front of them. She adjusted her armor for a moment, then felt for the ladder holds through the technology sealed mask. She found it and began to climb up. As she did so, a hole opened up above her, revealing a metallic chamber within. The Wolves gave her odd looks towards her shaken behavior. The truth was, Julia was almost ready to break down and cry over what she just experienced, but was able to keep a brave face to mask her true emotions. At that time, she felt how she guessed Raine had felt most of her life, that feeling of solitude. Lily stepped forward to further Zion's question.
"Are you sure? You really-- " The blonde summoner started, but was cut off by Julia.
"I told you... I'm fine!" Julia replied, with a bit of venom in her voice. Julia realized how cruel she was being to her comrades and apologized, "I'm sorry guys. I just had a bad dream, after all, I did eat three chili cheese dogs for lunch in Timber, remember?"
Epsilon chuckled, "Ah ha, that's it! The ever famous chili cheese dog nightmare effect! I've had that happen a few times myself, you know."
"Yeah, okay." Raine began, "But that still doesn't explain why you passed out like that. You've never done that before, if I remember right."
"I'll tell you later if you really want to know. But we got a mission to do, and if you want Andraia to stop whining about sleep, we need to get to a hotel!" Julia said, her trademark smirk coming over her once sad face, always finding her own jokes on Andraia hilarious.
Andraia gasped in anger, but Lancer chuckled lowly, "Dear Hyne, yes! We should keep moving!"
Andraia crossed her arms and frowned in disapproval. But, she chose to keep silent, since she really did want to go to sleep as soon as possible. Julia finished climbing into the tunnel, which allowed the rest of the team to climb up one by one after her. Once they entered the metallic room, Raine took a good look at her surroundings. They were inside a small corridor, the ladder entrance behind them and an armored door in front of them. It was just an average hallway, and she didn't even spot any security cameras. She signaled the team to move forward and open the door.
Epsilon darted in front of them and opened the door. When it opened, he drew out the Galbadian issue pistol from his bag and moved into the next room. Once he searched it and found it was clear, he signaled the rest to come in as well.
This room was darker, and in the shape of an octagon. It had a more eerie feeling to it as well, which made Raine get the vibe that something was about to happen. Just as the thoughts graced her mind, the steel door behind them slammed shut, leaving them trapped in the room. Most of the team jumped up in alarm.
"Okay," Raine began an order, "Just spread out and look for an exit! There has to be one!" I'll be damned if I get stuck in some trap....!
"This is freaky!!" Corin exclaimed, thrusting his fist in the air angrily.
"What if some, like, giant monster is let loose in here! Raine, I'm scared!!" Andraia wailed, looking around frantically for some kind of exit.
"Just calm down you two," Epsilon replied reassuringly, "There's a way out some how, we'll force the door open if we have ta!"
All of a sudden, a large metal clanking sound was heard. A clank which had the vague sense of metal against metal. The floor was actually some kind of lift, and now it began to rise up the large shaft that it was it. As Raine looked up, it seemed to be vast less.
"What the hell...?" Lancer asked to no one in particular. That phrase pretty much summed up most of Wolf Pack's feelings at the time.
Since both the elevator and its shaft were both completely black, there was nothing to use as a kind of frame-of-reference to tell if they were really moving or not. However, the sick kind of nauseating feeling people got when they were going quite fast in a straight vertical path was distinctly present in the Wolves stomachs. Raine looked around for some sort of a hatch that the team could escape from, but seeing nothing but black metal she sighed heavily and awaited the elevator's stop in ascent. Andraia and Lily were quietly whining to themselves, praying silently that the lift would stop soon and they could find a way out. Edea counted the seconds that they continued to rise. Thirty... forty five.... sixty.... seventy.....
Then, all of a sudden, it stopped. Julia and Lancer exhaled in relief now that their ascent into Hyne knew where had stopped. Raine's eyes darted around for a moment, seeing if she couldn't spot some sign of activity. A metal door slid open in front of them, revealing yet another black room.
"Raine? What do we do?" Edea asked, placing her hand on her hip and looking towards her commander.
"I say we go in."
"What?!" Andraia exclaimed, "After all that stuff that just happened? You're tripping!"
Raine spun around to face her, "Well it's better that staying on this lift, isn't it?! Would you rather be flying around on this screwy thing?"
Andraia shook her head no, and they all turned towards the new door. One by one, they each entered and looked around their new surroundings. After the last person entered, the door slammed shut behind them. Edea sighed, not wanting to relive what had happened only a few seconds before. Instead, to her amazement, two panels opened up, revealing the sparkling sapphire city below. Esthar... it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see, and since it was dusk it gave the city a red tint to its buildings. If it wasn't ruled by the enemy, Edea would have wanted to see as much of the city as possible. But... she did value her life after all, so that was out of the question.
Lilliana gasped in wonder as she saw the city. Having grown up in Timber, she wasn't used to seeing these types of places very often. It had blown her away when she saw Deling City for the first time, and now this city was about to make her faint.
Andraia smiled. She was glad she was going to get to a hotel so she could sleep finally. But, she had to marvel at its beauty, "Wow... it's so prett-- WHAA !!!!"
Before Andraia could have finished her phrase, the platform they were on skyrocketed downwards at an amazing speed. Usually, at these speeds, people would have flown off... but somehow they were all still standing securely on the platform. The buildings and suspended roads flew quickly past the team, at an excess of over one hundred miles per hour, it seemed. They could hear talking and the roars of engines around them, but as soon as they heard these noises they seemed to cease when the flew past them.
"My God!" Lilliana screamed, "Raine! Make it stop!!"
Raine would have said a quick and nasty retort if she wasn't so freaked out at the moment. Julia had jumped in between her and Zion in a surge of fear, and was holding onto Raine for dear life. However, Raine could feel them slowing down, and spotted a gunmetal colored balcony of sorts directly in front of them. After a few more seconds, the platform had come to a complete stop and locked itself onto the gunmetal platform. Two Estharian officers, dressed in blue and yellow armor similar to the kind that Wolf Pack was wearing, came up to them and halted their progress.
"Halt!" One officer said, then turned to Raine, "Soldier, why are these two out of uniform?!"
"We were out on patrol, sir," Raine began, trying to find a good lie as an excuse, "and we found a Malboro. We barely escaped, sir, but their armor was badly damaged and we had to disguard it so we could move quicker."
The Estharian pondered this for a moment, and eventually replied, "Alright. Those things have been giving us trouble, so go back to the barracks and grab some new ones for these two. Hey-- what's with that katana strapped to you're back!"
"Don't be alarmed sir, I claimed it from a dead Galbadian in our last battle. I thought it would make a good present for my son," Raine lied again, trying to sneak away before any more questions.
But, the officer nodded and waved them toward the road that would take them to the main part of the city. Once out of hearing range, Raine sighed with relief. Now they were finally within the vast city. Now all they had to do was find a hotel, and create espionage plans to enter the palace the next day. Her soldiers were keeping up with her towards the main road, but Andraia was frowning at her.
"Yeah Raine," She began, "That lift was just sooo much better than the elevator. I swear, I don't think I've screamed like that for months!"
Raine shook her head, Yeah right 'Draia. You scream like that whenever someone tickles you. Either that or you squeak like a little mouse. The team came at a crossroads. Raine looked around for a location of a hotel. Lancer offered his help.
"Raine, on the way down, I think I noticed some shops over in that direction," Lancer said, pointing down the left road, "Maybe there's a hotel down there?"
"Thanks Lancer, good job." Raine replied, motioning for the team to follow her down the road.
A few hundred meters of walking brought them to a shopping center. The plaza was filled with dozens of people, so surely one of them could help them find their way to a place of rest.
Andraia went up to one man and tapped him on the shoulder, "Excuse me sir, where is the nearest hotel?"
"Get out of my way."
Andraia returned to the group with a frown, "How rude!"
Raine sighed and went up to a couple of teenage girls, and since she was wearing trooper armor, she made more of an influence, "Where's the closest hotel?"
"I-it's... right over... t-there... " One managed to choke out, pointing to a tall building another hundred meters away, fearful of her life.
"Thanks," Raine said curtly, "Okay team, let's go!"
Julia quickly returned from her brief window shopping with Celeste, and the team marched in order towards the hotel. The building was tall and sapphire, like most of the other buildings in the city. Luckily, it was tall enough that they could leap out of a window and use the roofs of buildings as transportation instead of using the crowded streets, which would probably get them spotted by Estharian troops. Also, it was remote enough so that it could be used as a makeshift Headquarters for the Wolves. Raine was very thankful that the team would finally get to go to sleep. Andraia, the most exhausted member, was sprinting towards the doors despite how tired she was.
They entered the cool atmosphere of the hotel and approached the young female clerk at the main desk.
Celeste spoke for the group, "Hi! Do you guys have uh... ten rooms available?"
After the clerk typed her computer for a moment, she smiled, "Yes we do! That will be 10,000 gil please."
Corin's jaw hit the floor, "What?! That much for rooms?!"
"Well you did want ten. It's 1,000 gil per room."
Julia grumbled under her breath, but handed the clerk the money. In return, the clerk handed them the keys to their rooms. Each team member took a key and practically ran into the elevator. Finally... they had made it safely to the high-tech city, and now they had a place to sleep for the night. Despite Raine's worries, she thought they might just make it after all....
A.N.: Okay, a few of you guys E-mailed me asking for the Wolf Pack profiles. So here they are! Also... in your reviews, I'm curious, tell me who your favorite characters are right now! I want to know.... seriously! (I Americanized all heights in the profile... so if they seem a bit tall... just ignore it.)
-- Julia Heartilly
-- Edea van Neil
-- Zion Caraway
-- Lilliana Frieda
-- Epsilon Kinneas