The Sorceress War II: Black September
3 Years Ago:
Raine Loire lay on her side, looking into the crib beside her bed. Within it resided her three week old son, whom she had named Squall. She smiled as she saw him move in his sleep, having dreams that only he possessed. It was rare that her son slept, and the midwife of Winhill had openly said that she had never seen a child that young stay awake that much. Her son was always watching, taking in every detail, and never cried to bring attention to himself. The only time he cried was when he was hungry, but for no other reason.
She sighed as she looked into Squall's eyes. While still blue, they were a far cry from the deep blue that her own were. His father's genes caused that, for he had fairly pale green eyes. Raine looked out the window and rolled onto her back. She silently wondered where her husband was now. Laguna Loire, the clumsy yet honorable ex-soldier that had stumbled into her life a little less than a year ago.
When she first came from Deling City to Winhill, she realized that there was a problem that hadn't gone away when Wolf Pack had killed Virados. Esthar. Though Helios was out of the picture, Adel now acted on her own, still attacking Galbadian towns and cities on the shores. Still hoping that maybe, just maybe, she would be able to hang on and win the war. Though, she must have held some fear for her life. She was seeking out successors for her powers, and one such successor was found in this tiny little village.
Ellone, a young girl only about three years old, was Adel's new primary target. She attacked the town of Winhill a day before Raine arrived, slaughtering several civilians. Including the girl's parents. Raine, having taken pity on the girl, took the small child into her custody. At the same time, there had been a wounded Galbadian foot soldier brought in by several of the townsfolk. Knowing basic medic procedures, Raine also took the soldier into her care. What a way to spend the first day in her new home.
As the soldier, whom she learned to be named Laguna, healed, he agreed to become the town monster hunter. From that honorable act, and from his bumbling behavior that made the ex-Alpha Wolf laugh, she grew to care for him. He had the same feelings even before she did, and in a very quick dating period, the two were married by the town priest.
But then tragedy stuck the town again. In another Estharian raid, Ellone was finally captured by the soldiers. Laguna immediately set off to find her with his two old war friends, Kiros and Ward. In a few months after they left, Raine noticed that she was pregnant. Waiting for Laguna's return, she hoped he would be there to see his child born. However, only Ellone came back. She told Raine that Laguna had made a promise, and that he had to stay in Esthar for a few more months.
Though Raine had been initially angered, she grew to understand. She, herself, would have never broken a promise, either. When Squall, named after the passing storm when he was born, came into the world, she wished Laguna had seen it. She wondered what her loyal but oafish husband had gotten himself worked into this time.
Getting up from watching her son slumber in the afternoon sun, she went back downstairs to clean the bar off for the next morning. However, before she could get the cleaning supplies out from the cupboard, the phone rang. Not wanting Squall to wake, she quickly grabbed it and answered.
"Hello, Winhill Pub."
"Hey, Raine!" called a familiar voice from the other end of the line. "You liar! You haven't called or came to see us lately!"
Raine laughed as she heard her friend's voice. "Hey, Julia! Sorry, I've been a bit.... busy here. What's up?"
"Guess who's pregnant now?" Julia asked, a hint of humor in her voice.
"Dincht." Raine guessed, running a hand through her long brown hair.
There was silence on the other end for a moment. "Well...yeah. Wolf Pack doesn't exactly have many missions with the girls all off on maternal leave. But, you're also a blockhead! Didn't you hear my tone when I said, 'guess who's pregnant now?' Do you get it yet?"
Raine laughed again at that. "Wow! I didn't know Zion had it in him. Congratulations!"
She heard Zion Caraway on the other end now, too. "Hey! I heard that boss, not funny at all! You don't say that to a guy! Ever!"
"I'm not your boss, now. Your wife is. Scary world, isn't it?" Raine said with sarcasm. "I'm just kidding Zion, don't get your boxers in a twist."
"'Scary world'. I'll make your world a scary world if you say that again. Anyway, I'm coming by tonight! Ready for one of our late night get-togethers?" Julia asked.
"Sure!" Raine said with a smile. "I know I wanted peace... but it gets a little to placid around here. I could use you, psycho."
"Aww.. thanks. Catch you later!" Julia replied, and hung up her receiver.
Raine did the same, replacing her phone back to it's pedestal on the other side of the bar. She smiled broadly. For one, she couldn't believe that Julia was actually pregnant. She laughed as she pictured the grenadier chasing around some toddler while still trying to act like she could handle anything that came her way. For another factor, she simply couldn't wait to see her best friend. Though she had promised to take time and visit the Pack, something always seemed to come up. She felt guilty for it, but knew nothing could be done.
Ellone came bounding down the stairs. "Is Squall awake? Can I play with him now?!"
Raine shook her head. "No, Ellone. He just went down for his nap. You can play with him in maybe an hour."
The three year old pouted in front of her, trying to coax Raine into feeling remorse for her state. It wouldn't work, as Andraia and Julia both had wore away that side of Raine many years ago. "Don't even try with the puppy-dog eyes. I grew up with the masters of that, and I learned a thing or two."
"Rats!" Ellone said, using the closest thing she knew to a swear word. "Who was on the phone?"
"You know the lady that sings that song you like?" Raine asked. After seeing Ellone nod, she continued. "I'm friends with her. She's coming by later tonight. But way passed your bedtime."
Ellone slowly walked back up the stairs, a frown on her face. "Oh, why does all the fun stuff happen after I go to sleep? Man..."
Raine smirked as she saw the girl try to put on a sad face again. Inwardly, she knew Ellone wasn't that upset. The girl never liked to stay up any time passed eight, unless of course she wanted to get crabby. It didn't matter. Julia was coming, and finally Raine could act like a teenager again.
It was nine o'clock at night when the door to Raine's pub flung open. Hearing the commotion, Raine rushed downstairs to see what the problem was. One of her neighbors stood there, an extremely panicked look on her face. She saw Raine coming down the stairs, and quickly rushed over to her.
"Raine! It's Esthar again!" She shouted, hysterically grabbing Raine by the collar of her favorite yellow sweater.
"Take it easy!" Raine said, trying to calm her down. With most of the men gone, Raine guessed it was time to blow her cover, and go back into soldier mode. "How many are there?"
"They have two garrisons this time! Two!" She sobbed. "What do we do, Raine?"
"Ellone! Ellone, get Squall and bring him down here!" Raine yelled towards the upper floor rooms. She turned back to the woman. "Okay, there is a truck parked behind the bar. Take Ellone and Squall to Deling City, and give them to a woman named Edea! Edea. She lives in the northern part of the city. Ask around, people will know her."
The woman nodded, and shakily smiled at the two children coming down the stairs. Ellone gave Raine a tired and confused look. "Raine... what's going...?"
"Go with this woman, Ellone. Take Squall with you and look after him. You're going to see a friend of mine." Raine said, and turned back to her neighbor. "Tell everyone to flee into the forests. It will be harder for Esthar to find you guys there. Go!"
The neighbor nodded, grabbing Ellone by the hand as she held the still sleeping Squall. The three rushed out the door, leaving Raine alone in her bar. Shaking her head, Raine raced back up the stairs and into her room. Going to her knees as she reached her bed, she pulled a flat case from underneath it. Flipping open the switches, she pulled open the lid and glanced briefly at what was inside. Ultima Blade. The weapon that killed Virados a few years ago.
She pulled it out of the case and quickly ran back downstairs, ready to battle any Estharian that came her way. Now, there were two garrisons in the small town. Each Estharian garrison had thirty soldiers in it, meaning Raine now had to fight off sixty! It wouldn't be too bad, just so long as she could sneak around and attack when they weren't paying attention.
She ran out of the bar, and into the darkness of the empty streets. They hadn't reached this point of the town yet, as they were approaching from the south. Raine quickly dashed across the small bridge that covered the stream. Seeing a group of five ahead of her, she ducked behind a store, and slowly and silently crept over to them. Still not seeing her behind the building, she leapt out and attacked.
Her sword instantly killed the first one as she stabbed him. The other four backed away, drawing out their own weapons in alarm. Before the could shout for backup, Raine began to rapidly slash at them. Three fell to the ground dead in her assault, while she had to block the last who tried to attack. She kicked him back, and stabbed him in the stomach.
Another group rushed her from the side, this time only three of them were there. She pivoted, and brought her blade forcefully down on the first one. She leapt up, and kicked the other two in the face. Filling her blade with Shaduna energy as she went into the familiar trance, she slashed at them quickly. With one strike, both fell to the ground dead.
She continued on, going back into the shadows. As she neared the flower shop, she saw an elderly man with a shotgun fighting off a group of ten soldiers. He ducked back behind his shutters when they fired, and took out two more with his pre-Sorceress War rifle. Two soldiers were trying to break down the door, and seeing now way for the man to fend for himself, she sprinted over to help.
She, still in the shadows, used a skill she had only learned a few weeks ago. She put her blade to the side, and let her fist charge up with cyan colored energy. Flinging it forward, she sent a sphere of power directly into two of the soldiers. They were thrown backwards, killed instantly due to the force of the attack. The others quickly spun around to face her, but she had already snuck away.
Two more feel to the shotgun above, and only four now remained. Raine jumped out from the shadows, her body glowing a slight blue due to her trance. She flipped above the four, bringing her blade down on one. Blocking an attack, Raine slashed again, this time killing two more of them. She rushed forward and stabbed the last, and watched as he fell to the ground.
She looked above to the man with the shotgun. He gave her an odd glance as he saw her in her trance, but decided there were more important things to worry about. "Raine! Careful, those bug soldiers are swarming all over the place. I saw you pick off eight, we just got ten, and I took out five more before. That leaves 37 more! Watch out!"
Raine nodded, and took off towards the entrance of the town again. Going back behind the main buildings, she spotted the main group of soldiers. They were searching the houses at the southern end of the town, gradually working their way north. She counted them. At least thirty occupied that area, some others patrolling around.
Before Raine could go towards them, she heard a twig snap behind her. With lightning quick reflexes, she spun around, her sword pointed outward towards the sound. As she saw the person before her, she froze.
"You!" Raine said in shock. "In the words of Julia Heartilly, 'why don't you just stay dead?!'"
Satori, now older, laughed in front of her. She still wore the same armor, and her sais had never left her side since the beginning part of the Sorceress War. Upon closer inspection, Raine noticed a large burn on her left arm, and a smaller on the left side of her face.
"Thought I died in the explosion?" Satori asked, crossing her arms and smirking. "Now, Leonhart, I'm a little more resilient than you think I am. I was able to escape, no thanks to you and your team. I escaped as you Wolves did, in another aircraft going the opposite direction. Esthar picked me up later."
"Perfect. That's just what I needed." Raine said through gritted teeth. "I guess it's you who is responsible for the troops hunting Ellone, huh? Well, get the hell out of here before I kill you like I should have then."
Satori drew her sais out, not saying anther word, and attacked. Raine quickly blocked the first couple of blows before returning her own. Significantly faster than Satori, she was able send a flurry of attacks directed at the general's stomach. Satori rolled out of the way, and attempted to cast Shock Break.
Jumping up into the air as Satori casted it, she was able to dodge most of the attack. However, not able to stay up as long as Julia could, she found herself falling back to the ground sooner than expected. She was hit by the last few seconds of the attack, and thrown backwards a bit. Satori ran up before Raine had a chance to recover. She kicked the ex-Alpha Wolf in the stomach, but received a swift punch in the gut back. Raine raised her weapon while Satori was down, and prepared to strike.
Satori dodged out of the way, and a shot rang out in the dead silence of the night. A sniper behind the two women took his shot, and it made its mark. A bullet entered Raine's spine, and she unwillingly dropped her weapon and fell to the ground as her limbs went completely numb. The only thing she could do was look back up at Satori as the blood began to seep out of her back.
The general looked down to the once proud soldier below her. "This... is for Virados. And for the pain you have caused me!"
Satori grabbed one of her sai daggers, and brought it down on Raine swiftly. Unable to move, Raine could only scream as the dagger split open her stomach, leaving her with a fatal wound that would not kill her quickly and leave her in intense pain until death claimed her. Satori grabbed her weapons and fled the area. Her troops went with her, unable to find the girl they were looking for.
Afterwards, Raine was only alone with her thoughts as she slowly passed on. I'm never going to watch Squall grow up. I'll never see Laguna again... Why now, when everything was finally going good for me? This is my fate. A price I had to pay for being a soldier? I deserve it... after all the people who have died before me. Good-bye world. I love you Laguna... Ellone, and Squall. Never forget me...
Julia was speeding down the roads that went to Winhill, and silently chastised herself. She had promised both Zion and herself that since she was a mother to be, she wasn't going to drive as fast as she did any more. No more acting like a road-rage maniac. But then, where was the fun in that? Never the less, she slowed down, a hand going down to her stomach. Two months pregnant, and the hormone changes were going to start coming. Julia had a bad temper before, but she couldn't wait until 'pregnant-mommy rages' took over. That would be interesting.
As she came atop the hill that led to the town, her jaw dropped. Slamming on the brakes, her deep red Lamborghini came to a quick halt as it skidded on the road. She grabbed a hold of the steering wheel tightly, forcing pain into her hands so that she new it was a dream. It wasn't. Winhill was on fire.
"Oh my gods..." Julia mumbled, and a worry struck her. "Raine!"
Julia slammed on the gas again, forcing the car to take off at top speed towards the town. Pulling in at the city limits, she pulled the car to the side and leapt out the door. Grabbing her staff, which she had hoped she wouldn't need, she raced towards the pub from the south entrance of the town.
As she looked around, she could only see the fires that engulfed some of the buildings, and the dead civilians that were lying around her. Several dozen, all of them innocent and not suited for combat. Julia looked around in worry. There were no soldiers here, meaning that they must have pulled out some time ago. Raine was no where to be seen either.
"Raine! Raine?!" She called into the night. "Where are you?"
Receiving no answer, Julia began to sprint towards the bar. If Raine was alive, she would be held up there with her adopted daughter. Jumping over dead Estharians, she made her way towards the north part of the town, yet something caught her eye that stopped her.
Looking back to make sure no one was following her, she spotted a hint of yellow behind a building. She ceased running and spun around to get a more in depth look. It was a sweater, belonging to a young woman that looked Julia's age. There was only one person in Winhill that was Julia's age.
"Raine!" She called in anger, tears welling up in her eyes.
Julia sprinted over to the woman who was lying on the ground, and sunk to her knees when she realized it was Raine. She was even still alive, but barely. Raine looked up at Julia with slightly lifeless eyes, her once beautiful sapphire eyes beginning to glaze over. There was a large cut in Raine's stomach, and a wound on her back. Blood was everywhere, and it was now sinking in around Julia's knees. She didn't care.
Julia took Raine into her arms and began to weep. Raine began to speak, though her usually clear and stern voice was choked with blood. "J-Julia... you came. I-I didn't want to be alone..."
"You're not alone. You never were." Julia said back, tears flowing from her face. "And you're not going anywhere! Stay with me Raine.. it'll be okay!" God damn you, Julia! Why didn't you bring any potions?! She though angrily to herself.
"M-my son... I sent him to Edea." Raine choked out. "Make sure... he gets there."
Son? What son? "Uh, yes, of course! Stay with me Raine! Don't leave me here. Come on, were supposed to grow old with the kids, and watch them grow up into teenagers who will argue with us! They'll probably date if mine's a girl! Please..."
Raine smiled at her, though a trickle of blood escaped from her lips. "I'm going to miss you. Just remember I'll always be with you. Take care of everyone for me..."
Julia shook her head. "Don't say that! Don't leave me! Raine...? Raine!"
Her friend cease moving, and breathing all together. Her eyes still looked to Julia, but held no emotion behind them, except for a solitary tear that fell before she died. Julia, in shock, scooted back a little.
"Oh god...." Julia croaked, sobs distorting her usual voice. "Oh, gods, no. Raine! Raine!!"
Julia hugged Raine's lifeless body to her own, feeling just how cold she really was. Clinging to her, as if it would bring her back or hold her to the mortal realm, Julia refused to let go. She cried rivers into Raine's shoulder, when she realized there was nothing more that she could do, and her best friend was gone from this worlds forever. Her Shaduna powers left her, disappearing into the sky, transferred to some baby that had just been born.
Julia planted a small farewell kiss on Raine's forehead, and held onto her still, not knowing what else she could do.
Julia woke up quickly, tears in her eyes. She sat up, Zion's arms falling off their positions of when they had been wrapped around her body. He brought her head into her hands, and began to silently cry. She had been having that nightmare on and off for the past few years, the trauma of seeing Raine die still haunting her mind.
"Gods... not again." She said softly, forcing the image out of her head.
Zion, woken by her movement and voice, sat up with her. He slid his arms back around her body, gently caressing her back as to sooth her back into slumber. He looked at her with concern in his eyes, and he laid a small kiss on her cheek.
"Again?" He asked, already knowing the answer.
She nodded slightly, lying back down in their bed. She slid back into his arms, placing her head on his bare chest, hoping the rhythmic beating of his heart would coax her back into deep sleep.
"Hold me. Don't let me go." She whispered, pleadingly.
He tightened his hold on her. "Never."
The two lay there, in the darkness, until sleep finally crept back into the troubled woman. Then, and only then, did she find peace during the night.