A Ranger's story

A place to post back-stories, character descriptions, etc.
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Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

A Ranger's story

Post by Vatrina » Fri Nov 17, 2006 5:49 pm

This section seems kinda empty so I guess I'll add my backstory to it. This is the prologue to a much larger work, which I'm not sure is appropriate due to various risquee sections; no details but lots of inferences. Only this prologue is my actual character's story in the game; it leads up right to where I unlocked the RNG job, the rest is a stand-alone work with little to do with my actual character. If it's liked, I can post the rest of the story.

Prologue

She was 9 when her father took her 6 year old sister and left. Vatrina couldn’t believe it. Her sister, Lunarflower, and best friend had just been taken away from her. And she hated her father for it. But there was nothing she could do. She was the apprentice to a Sybil Guard. She couldn’t let her feelings get in the way. And so her life went on. Guided by her mother’s training and her own instincts, she was able to become a world-class ranger. Known throughout the lands of her home, she was soon the apprentice to the Captain of the Sybil Guards herself.

But the world was changing. The tides of war were approaching. Her country closed its borders. She was now 14, and knew well what was going on. Her mother had retired from the Mithran Mercenaries, giving Vatrina her bow, as her mother had done for her, and so on. It was old, but it still had power. News arrived of an army massing outside the Sauromogue Champaign. The Captain of the Sybil Guards and two others were returning from a meeting in the Duchy of Jeuno when her party was ambushed and killed in a mountain pass north of the canyon.

Vatrina ascended to the rank merely a week before the attack came. Three days before the attack, the Sybil called Vatrina to her chambers. “The upcoming battle will be harsh. Many will die. But the city will ultimately be saved by a great and powerful magic. I cannot say from whence this magic comes, but you cannot be by my side when it is time. I want you on the front lines, commanding our troops.”

Vatrina was taken aback by this. How could the leader of the Federation not want her protection? During a war no less? She attempted to ask why, but the Sybil stopped her, saying that she wished she could explain. Which hinted to Vatrina that the magic was dangerous and that even if Vatrina was by her side, there would be nothing she could do. And so she accepted her assignment and left to ready for the battle.

Three days later, it happened. Thousands of orcs charged the city. The first wave was turned back, but losses were heavy. The second wave broke through the walls and into the city. Intense street to street fighting ensued. Vatrina lashed out at every orc she could reach, their blood soaking her blade and armor, their stench filling the air around her. But something was wrong. It was as if they couldn’t see her. None of the orcs passing her tried to block her attacks. None of them even tried to attack her. They simply passed her by. She looked around, her friends falling to the ground one by one, the screams of the wounded filling her ears. She couldn’t stand it and attacked with such ferocity that no enemy would be able to ignore her. But the orcs did. They continued to pass her by. She could hear the screams and fires raging behind her. She was tiring, and nothing she was doing was slowing the orcs’ advance.

She finally stopped and turned around. She watched the fires rage amongst the buildings, listened to the screams of women and children. She thanked the gods that her mother had agreed to go to Mhaura before the attack. She wondered what had happened to her sister, hoping that somewhere, somehow, she wasn’t witnessing anything like this.

Her sword clanged to the ground, surprisingly loud amongst the raging noise of the orcs. Then it happened. A light in the sky. Clouds gathered and a figure appeared, soaring down from the darkened skies. It landed on the ground on its four paws, its tail swishing back and forth. She heard a booming voice, “Now Fenrir, destroy the invaders!”

The huge dog-like creature pounced into action, killing dozens of orcs with a single swing of its paw. But something was wrong. Every attack wasn't directed just at the orcs. Buildings, even her own troops fell prey to the monsterous fiend. Vatrina looked on in horror. The Sybil was wrong. The city wasn’t being saved, it was being destroyed by the same beast that she said would save them. Vatrina fell to her knees as the orcs rushed by her out of the city. The beast followed them, killing everything it could reach. When the orcs were vanquished, the beast disappeared.

The city was in ruins. Heaven’s Tower, the home of the Sybil, was the only building still in one piece. The half of the city that wasn’t burning, had been reduced to rubble. She stood and looked around. The stench was unbearable, the ground ran thick with the orcs’ blood. And that of her comrades’. She went to every body she could find, hoping to find life, but there was none. She fell to her knees beside one of her dearest friends and cried. Taking the dagger from her friend’s hand, she placed it against her breast.

“NO!” A voice called to her. A hand grabbed hers before she could thrust the dagger into her heart.

“I--I should’ve died on this battlefield,” she stammered.

A hand was placed on hers. “As should’ve I. But there’s been enough death already.” The voice was soft, comforting. The hand firm and reassuring. She looked up at the person’s face. A silver haired male Elvaan. She couldn’t believe it. An Elvaan wanted to save her life. But at this point she didn’t care. She let the dagger fall to the ground and wrapped her arms around him, crying her heart out. She did not know him but it didn’t matter.

The next day, she left the city, and the Sybil guards. Taking the few belongings she had left, her weapons, armor, a picture of her family, and some food, she set out to the north, hoping to reach Jeuno. The Yagudo in the canyon and mountains gave her little resistance. It took a week for her to reach Jeuno, but she didn’t stop there. She continued west through the Jugner forest, orcs attacking her at every turn. She had been traveling for a fortnight when she reached the La Theine Plateau. Her destination was in sight but she was exhausted. But she couldn’t stop now. She continued to the northwest. The orc attacks were relentless now. Every turn, every little hill, every tree seemed to contain half a dozen orcs ready to kill her. But she persevered, finally reaching the forests of Ronafure. She approached the city of San d’Oria, hoping that she would be allowed to enter. Her mother had told her that her father and sister had come here when they left. She may not have been very fond of her father, but he was family. And seeing her sister again would bring her great joy. And, she hoped, quell the nightmares that had been haunting her sleep since the battle.

But the Elvaan at the gate would not let her enter. She was furious. How could they be so uptight that they wouldn’t even let her in the city to find her family? They claimed that it was because of the orcs running around, but she knew the truth. They didn’t want her, or any other foreigners, around. So she turned and went south again. But she stopped, and found a small clump of trees that she might live in, hoping that maybe she could catch a glimpse of her sister passing by one day.

She was there barely a month before the guards found out and sent troops to remove her from their lands. Her heart screamed at her to put up a fight, that the guards would kill her and ease her suffering, but her mind stayed her hand and reluctantly, she left. With nowhere to go, she turned back east toward Jeuno. The orcs were again relentless in their pursuit of her. Through a month of wandering she found herself back near her home of Windurst. But she could no longer live there. She had been shunned the day she left and had vowed never to return. So she turned back north, and then east, and headed for the town of Mhaura, where she had sent her mother.

When she got there, she talked to the townsfolk and found that her mother had left to the islands of Kazham. After a few days of thinking, she decided to do the same. Maybe she could start over in a new land. She took the last boat of the day and by morning had reached the island paradise. The Mithra who had built the town welcomed her, and even helped her build a new home. Her mother had told them much of her and the chieftainness invited her to join as her personal guard. Vatrina accepted, at the pressuring of her mother.

So she lived there for 15 years. Her mother passed on, and though it was hard on her, she was able to continue on. Then one day, someone came in on the boat. He was an Elvaan, with silver hair. Due to the laws in Kazham, he was not allowed to stay and the chieftainness ordered him to leave. But Vatrina recognized him. She wasn’t sure from where, but she felt like she knew him. She pleaded with the chieftainness to let him stay, that she would take responsibility for him. And the chieftainness agreed, although reluctantly.

She led him by the hand to her house. He grasped her hand and a shiver ran down her spine. She had felt a hand like his before. It was a long time ago, from a time whose memories were buried deep within her. They reached her home and for the first time he spoke.

“Thank you,” his soft voice said.

Her eyes widened. That voice. She remembered that voice as clear as day. It was the same voice that prevented her from killing herself at the Battle of Windurst 15 years ago. “I-it’s you,” she said.

He was a little puzzled. “Pardon? I don’t know that we’ve met.”
She took a step toward him. “But we have. It was a long time ago, in Windurst. After the battle. I was going to kill myself, but you stopped me. I wanted to find you and thank you, but I never got the chance.”

His eyes widened. “Yes, I remember now. That was a horrible day. And you are very welcome, my dear. My name is Nicolas.”

She took another step closer, a tear running down her cheek. “I’m Vatrina.” She took his hand and led him to a chair. “Please, sit.”

He did and said, “I must thank you. I have no place to go. I thought that the Mithra might accept me here, but I guess not. There are times they aren’t any more arrogant than my own race.”

“Well, we’ve been isolated out here. The only people that knew about this place were Mithra. The chieftainness is distrustful of the other races. She could see that they would bring destruction to our town, even if they don’t mean to.” She sat down across from him. “So what’s happened for the last 15 years?”

He stirred uneasily, avoiding her glaze. She could see that he did not want to remember. “I’m sorry.”

He looked at her, “No, it’s alright. About four months after the loss of Windurst, Bastok also fell. The orcs were relentless, and after they had the quadav join their ranks they were unstoppable. Even the huge cannons inside the city could not drive them back. The city was nearly wiped out.”

She gave him a glass of tea and he took a sip. “And a few months after that, they struck San d’Oria.”

Vatrina’s eyes widened. She leaned forward, eager for him to continue, though fearing what he might say.

He saw her increased interest and it hurt him to continue. “Because of the losses endured at the other two battles, there was almost no one left to defend the city. It took a matter of hours for the orcs to break through. Very few made it out alive. The city was leveled, nothing was left standing.”

This is not what Vatrina wanted to hear. Tears welled up in her eyes, some of them rolling down her cheeks. No, she can’t be, she thought. She stood and asked him, “Were there any mithra that got out alive? Do you know?”

The question surprised him because he did not know that there were even any mithra living in San d’Oria. But he shook his head. “I know there were mithra in the defending forces, but I did not see if any were left alive.”

Vatrina shook her head. She can’t be dead…can she? She took a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Did you happen to notice any mithra with long blonde hair?”

To her dread, he nodded. “There was one, very beautiful, that had fallen in the battle. She had a katana in her hand, I don’t know what kind, and a sword wound just below her left breast.”

“Oh god,” Vatrina said as the tears started again. She fell back down into the chair. “No, she can’t be dead, she just can’t be,” she sobbed. Nicolas wasn’t sure whether he should comfort her or not. He decided best not to for he did not even know what this person had meant to her. “I’m sorry,” was all he could say. He left out that the mithra in question had not only blonde hair, but, unlike Vatrina's sister, had silver stripes on her face and neck.

He let her calm down a little before saying anything more. Changing the subject he said, “Since I won't be able to stay here, I’ll be going back to Windurst soon. And I want you to come with.”

She was taken aback by his offer. “I-I’m sorry, I can’t.” She turned away from him. “There’s nothing left for me there.”

He stood and put his hands on her shoulders. “Why not? If it’s because you think you won’t be welcomed, things have changed quite a bit. You can't hide forever. The world is changing, we will need strong warriors and leaders in the near future.”

Vatrina thought about it for a bit. He turned her around and she looked into his eyes. He leaned down and kissed her. She smiled and agreed to go with him on one condition, that she didn’t have to live inside the city with him. She may have looked forward to seeing the city that had once been her home, but she had no wish to live inside it. Too many people in too small a space, she always said. And so she had lived in small towns or outside the city in the wilderness.

A week later, they took the boat back to Mhaura and set off for Windurst. They stopped on the east side of the Starfall Hillock near a clump of tall trees. Vatrina decided that this was where she would live. And so it was. Nicolas would visit her every couple of days, and sometimes she would surprise him and visit him in the city.

The Yagudo, who also made their home in the plains of Sarutabaruta, were apprehensive at the appearance of the Mithra who wished to live amongst them. But they soon found out that she bore no ill will toward them and they became friends. They kept her informed of the happenings amongst the beastmen nations and she was able to get them decent food, among other things, on her trips into the city.

Then one day, not too long ago, a Yagudo Templar, who was a member of their high council, came to her with some troubling news. The beastmen were again organizing. A new leader had appeared in the castle to the north of San d’Oria. At the pressuring of the orcs, organized raids were already being planned on the caravans to and from Jeuno. The Yagudo did not like the idea of another war, they were happy with their relationship with Windurst. But they would rather have war than be utterly wiped out by the forces from Castle Zvhal.

Vatrina was troubled by this news. She took this information and went to Windurst to speak with her once childhood friend, now rival, and Sybil Guard Captain, Semih. But Semih just scoffed at Vatrina, as she expected, saying that the yagudo were intentionally trying to mislead her, to hide their true purpose. Vatrina stormed out at Semih’s narrow-mindedness. She went to speak to the chieftainness of the Windurst tribe of Mithra about once again traveling the path of the ranger. The chieftainness accepted Vatrina’s plea, even though her skills had diminished over the past 5 years living in Sarutabaruta.

And so it began.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

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Tianshii
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Post by Tianshii » Fri Nov 17, 2006 10:57 pm

:) verry nice, I would like to read the rest.
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Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Tue Nov 21, 2006 3:45 pm

Well, seeing as how nobody's gouging their eyes out, or at least posted that they're gouging their eyes out, I'll start posting the remainder of the work. Bear with me, due to the fact that it's completely seperate from the game, though loosely based on the Zilart storyline, the inconsistancies between the prologue and main story are due to the fact that they were originally seperate works. After reading it, my sister requested that I continue it so I did. And to please the mods I'll try and edit the risquee parts as much as I can.


A New Quest

It was a day like any other. The sun was bright and warm, the sky a clear blue. The wind was always present in varying degrees because of her proximity to the ocean cliffs. She sat in a tree, sunning herself in the morning light. The warmth of the sun felt good on her light brown fur. The previous night had been a chilly one, almost forcing her inside the city walls. But the fire had kept her warm all night.

She was enjoying the warm sunlight, wearing as little as possible to absorb as much of the warmth as she could, when a large gust of wind nearly blew her out of the tree. The wind whipped around her like knives, lacerating her arms and legs and staining her brown fur red. She looked around, and there, hovering near the tree limb where she sat, was a large crow. It looked at her and cawed twice before it dove in for another attack, its claws aiming for her neck. She pushed off from the tree, hooking her legs around the branch and swung upside down, evading the attack. She pulled herself back up and grabbed her bow. She strung an arrow and fired. The arrow passed through the bird and stuck in a tree over a hundred yards away. The bird fell to the ground, it’s life brought to an end.

The girl put her bow away, her tail twitching in annoyance at the attack. She took some leaves and wrapped them around the cuts in her legs. She looked at her left arm and began to lick at the wounds on it. Why had that crow attacked her? She pondered the question but could not find an answer.

She was licking at the wounds on her legs when the ears on top of her head perked up. Someone was approaching from the south. Probably just another elf or human on their way to their first adventure, she thought. There were too many of them in the Federation these days. Windurst was being overrun with foreigners and the outlying towns weren’t any better. But as the sound got closer, she noticed that the footsteps were too light. She took the time to look up and saw a small figure in the distance. Much too small for a human or elf. And it was coming right toward her. She was curious now and stopped dressing her wounds to watch it. Who could it be? she thought. The guards from the city never came this way. Nevertheless, it was approaching her.

When it finally got close enough for her to see its face, a smile came across hers. She jumped down, landing softly on the grass, she walked to meet it. “Baranda, what brings you out to my part of the plains?” she asked.

The short, pudgy, little man stopped and bowed. His race’s brown skin and mouse-like appearance made it dangerous for them to venture far from the city. Many times the dead were not found because some animal or monster had decided to make them a meal.

“Vatrina, it is good to see you again,” he said. “You don’t come into the city much anymore. How come?”

She tried to shy away from the question, but he persisted, so she answered him. “You know that I’m not exactly welcome there anymore. Not since I left the Guards anyways.”

“But you could at least come to see your friends once in a while. We worry about you when we don’t see you for weeks on end.”

She looked at him and smiled, but didn’t respond. Instead, she changed the subject. “So what brings you all the way out here?” she asked rephrasing her first question.

“Well, first I wanted to bring you this,” he said taking a beret out of his pack. It was black with gold stitching and had two white bird feathers. She held it in the sunlight and admired the way the light glanced off the gold thread.

“And second I came to bring a message. The Captain of the Guards has summoned you.”

Vatrina looked at the little man, a low growl forming in her throat, her ears cocked sideways. “Did she say what she wanted?”

Baranda turned, looking into the morning light. “No, but she did say that it was urgent. I can teleport you directly to the tower if you wish.”

Vatrina giggled at his suggestion and tossed the beret into the tree she had been in. It landed perfectly, hanging on a branch. “You actually think that I’m going to abide by her wishes?” She brushed the hair out of her eyes and back over her shoulder. “She probably just wants to ridicule me again for leaving the Guards.”

“Vatrina, the order was sent by the Sybil herself.”

She looked at Baranda suspiciously. Something was going on. “You know that I don’t get along with the Sybil any better than I do with Semih.”

“Either way,” he said, “I have orders to bring you in; by force if necessary.”

Vatrina did not like the sound of that. Something very peculiar was going on and she was curious to find out what. So she agreed. She put some clothes on, grabbed her bow, sword and a quiver of arrows. “Alright,” she sighed, “Let’s go.”

She stood next to the little mouse-like man. A dark energy surrounded him, slowly growing in size to envelop them both. A vortex opened in front of them and they stepped through.

****************

She stirred, feeling the warm sun on her face. She slowly opened her eyes, only to be blinded by the sun coming through the open window. The shock of being unable to see caused her to roll over and off her bed. She hit the floor and whimpered a little, having landed on her breasts. Whimpering a little, she stood and shook her head clear, blinking the sunspots from her eyes. She disrobed and checked herself to make sure there was no permanent damage.

Satisfied that she had not hurt herself, she tossed her nightgown onto the bed and dressed. There was a letter on her dresser. She decided to read it later. It was marked as important, but knowing the source of the letter, and her standing with that person, it could wait. She brushed her hair and twitched her ears at the sounds coming from downstairs. Curious, and hungry, she exited her room to find out what the sounds were.

****************

Vatrina and Baranda stepped out of the vortex and into the tower. They were outside the audience hall and the two guards jumped at their sudden appearance. Baranda ordered them to announce their arrival, which one of them did. When the guard returned, the two entered the cavernous hall. It’s just like I remember, Vatrina thought. As they approached the center of the room, a door on the far side opened and Semih walked through. Vatrina’s eyes narrowed slightly, the fur on the back of her neck stood on end.

The fur on Semih’s neck also stood on end, a low growl forming in her throat that she stifled almost as fast as it appeared. She could not afford to let their petty argument from over 20 years ago get the better of her right now. Yet, her ears flattened to her head as Vatrina’s had done. They were staring at each other and both were on edge.

They were both Mithra. Their people had come to the main lands exploring from their island homes across the ocean to the south. Both cat-like in appearance and mentality, their bodies were covered in various shades of brown and silver fur. Their eyes were commonly yellow or green, though some had blue or even brown eyes. Their ears came out of the top of their heads and were normally tipped with black fur. Some even had white tufts of fur on the tips of their ears, hinting at a wilder heritage. Their hair was brown, red, blonde or even silver. Their tails were commonly tipped with the same color fur as their hair. Vatrina’s hair was dark brown, complimenting the rest of her fur while Semih’s was silver, giving a sharp contrast.

The two stood not ten feet apart and an eerie silence filled the room. Semih dismissed the four guards and Vatrina nodded to Baranda letting him know that he could also leave. Baranda was reluctant to, but when Vatrina shot him a glance, he made his way to the exit.

And so the two stood there. The tension rising as fast as the flood waters in the spring. Neither moved and neither said anything. Even their tails, normally twitching to indicate the owner's mood, were as still as the night air. One could not tell that they were alive save for the slight sounds of breathing. It was only when the rear door opened again that they moved.

The Star Sybil entered the room and both turned to look at her. She was a Taru, like Baranda. Short with light brown skin and a glowing white headdress, she approached the two mithra in the center of the room. She bowed, and the two returned the gesture.

“Vatrina,” she said in her melodic voice. “Thank you for coming. I know we have had our differences in the past, but I ask you to put those aside for the moment and consider this request.”

Reluctantly, Vatrina nodded and relaxed a little to listen to the Sybil’s request. “I know it has been some time since I’ve asked anything of you,” the Sybil began. “But we are in need of someone with experience, and someone that I can trust. I would ask Semih to do this task, but her duties here have kept her extremely busy.”

Vatrina was a little surprised that the Sybil could trust her since they had not spoken in almost ten years. That and if the Sybil was asking her to do this task instead of Semih, she knew that it was extremely dangerous. Vatrina knew that the Sybil would not risk her personal guard on such a mission. She had been in the same position as Semih had once been, as short as her commission had been. But she said nothing, allowing the Sybil to continue.

“It has come to our attention that the Dark One may have risen again. Beastmen attacks have been reported at outposts along the Federation’s boarders. The Yagudo in Giddeus have yet to attack but we feel that it is not a matter of if, but simply a matter of when. We believe they are after the part of the talisman that was sealed deep within the Horutoto Ruins. Similar attacks have been reported by the other nations. It can be assumed that the beastmen are coordinating their attacks out of their strongholds of Oztroja, Davoi, and Beadeaux.”

A shiver ran down Vatrina’s spine at the mention of the beastmen strongholds. She did not have pleasant memories of those places. “So you’re asking me to visit the leaders of the beastmen and find out their intentions?”

The Sybil shook her head. “If it were that simple, it would have been done already. We know from the last war that the Gigas in the northlands were dragged reluctantly into the conflict by the Kindred. But since their leader resides on the island north of Jeuno, I need you to travel to the Delkfutt’s Tower, on that island, and find out if they have been contacted again. If the Gigas have been contacted by the Kindred, it is a sign that the Dark One is ready to again ravage our lands.”

Vatrina shifted her weight from her right leg to her left. The Gigas were difficult to work with, and even more difficult to talk to. All brawn and no brains only begins to describe them. They tended to kill first and not ask questions later. They were giants, with powerful arms and bodies, standing at least four times as tall as a normal man, with nearly unlimited strength. Their powerful hands could easily crush the body of any of the other races. She thought for a moment, then asked, “And if I take the mission?”

Semih took the liberty of answering that question. “The usual reward, a few thousand gil depending on the information brought back, our personal thanks, and the knowledge that you helped to protect the Federation.”

But Vatrina shook her head. “Not enough.” She looked at the Sybil. She was tired of it. Of being called back to a place she despised even above the actions of her father on that night so many years ago. “I want to be free of any obligations to the Federation. I want all my ties to you cut. I wish to live simply, and not have to worry that I might be sent off to my death whenever you decide you need me. I am tired of this. Tired of this land, tired of this city. I want to be free, that is all I ask.”

The Sybil was surprised by this request. But she thought about it, looking into the waters surrounding the platform they were on. She looked back at Vatrina and said, “Done.”

Semih looked at the Sybil in surprise. “Your highness, you can’t seriously be thinking…”

“I am and it is done,” rebuked the Sybil. She turned to Vatrina. “With the completion of the mission, you will be free of any past, present, and future obligation to the Federation.”

Vatrina nodded and made her way to the exit. “I shall take the rest of the day to decide what provisions I’ll need. I will let you know in the morning.”

Vatrina exited the audience chamber and saw Baranda waiting for her. He escorted her out of the tower and she told him to come find her later in the day. With that, she made her way to the city gates.

The sun was high in the sky when she got back to her tree. Her gear was still there and after taking her clothes off again, she jumped up to a branch to bathe in the sun. She tried to get some sleep but her mind was racing. How the hell am I going to get the Gigas to talk to me? She felt something dripping down her leg and noticed that one of her wounds from the morning had reopened. She leaned forward and started licking at it when she heard someone approach. She looked up and saw a sliver-haired elf standing under her. She smiled and jumped down.

She landed on him, knocking him to the ground. She licked his cheek then kissed him. “Hi Nic,” she said.

He wrapped his arms around her almost naked body. “Awful frisky today aren’t you?” he asked chuckling.

She kissed him again and wrapped her tail around his leg. She didn’t answer him but smiled. “I’m going to be free, Nic. Free from the Federation’s grasp.”

He smiled, brushing her hair from her face. “Really? They’re just letting you go? That’s great!”

She slid off his stomach and frowned. “Not quite. The Sybil gave me a mission that I need to complete.”

He rolled onto his side and looked into her eyes. “It can’t be that bad, can it?”

She avoided his gaze. “I need to talk to the Gigas about the Dark One’s rising. She needs to know if they’ve been contacted by the Kindred or not.”

Nicolas’s eyes widened. “You’re not serious?” Vatrina’s expression didn’t change. “You’re serious…” He sat up and pulled her into his lap. “It’ll be fine, I’m sure they’ll listen to you.”

“You don’t understand,” she said, pulling his arms tight around her. “The Gigas are ruthless. I’ve tried dealing with them before, they don’t talk to people. I…may not come back from this one.”

He gently slapped her cheek. “Hey now, don’t talk like that. You’re better than that and you know it.”

She smiled at his enthusiasm. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be free either way. I have no family left, they all died in or shortly after the war.” She looked at him. “And we can’t have children because I’m not an elf and you’re not mithran. So what’s it mat—“

Nic cut her off by slapping her cheek again. “I said don’t talk like that. You know that it doesn’t matter to me if we can have kids or not. You’ll get through this, then we can move wherever. We can just disappear.” He held her close, kissing her cheek.

She purred softly at the touch of his lips, drowning herself in his presence. Yes, she would get through this. She did have something to live for. She had him. And even though he brought her the news about her sister’s and father’s deaths in the war, she still loved him, and it was enough.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Wed Nov 22, 2006 4:06 pm

If you haven't figured it out by now, yes I enjoy writing, even if it's not the best, and yes, this story has "novel length" written all over it.


A Toast to the End of the World

The ears poking out of her long blonde hair were twitching with all the noise around her. The smells overwhelmed her nose, there were so many; some pleasant, most not. She came down the stairs and turned right into the designated “lower” section of the city. The auction house was crammed with adventurers and citizens alike making it hard to get through. She thought about pulling the katana out of their sheathes in the small of her back and threatening her way through but thought better of it. The city guards would be on her like a fly on sugar if she attempted that. So she pushed and shoved her way toward the door of the Neptune’s Spire.

She entered the inn and, after nodding to the girl behind the desk, went to the door in the back. She passed through and was immediately recognized by the man on the other side who welcomed her and told her exactly what she wanted to know. She thanked him and proceeded down the flight of stairs. Greeting others that she knew, she made her way to the rear chambers, entering after knocking.

The man on the other side was dressed in fine white silk. He looked at her and greeted her warmly. “Thank you for coming my dear,” he said.

“How could I turn down a request for help from the leader of the Tenshodo?” she replied, kissing his cheek.

“As always, my dear, you are too kind,” he said in response to the kiss, which he was slightly blushing from. He picked up a pot of tea. “Drink?”

She nodded, took the full cup from him and sipped at it. It was horrible but she tried not to let her face show it. “It’s…very good,” she said after swallowing.

The man chuckled. “You are very lovely, my dear, but you are a horrible liar.” He smiled. “I will have my sister look into getting a different brew for the next time you visit.” He set his cup down and laced his fingers in front of him. “Now for the reason you have been summoned.”

She sat down in a chair even though she had not been told to do so. Taking another sip from the tea she said, “I assume this has something to do with the increased beastmen attacks?”

He smiled again as this time she did not hide her distaste for the tea. “You don’t have to drink anymore of that if you don’t want to.” He walked to the faucet to get her some water. “But you are right. The Duke is worried that the Dark One may rise again. The pattern of attacks mirrors those before the war 20 years ago. I need you to go to Delkfutt’s Tower and find out the Gigas’ stance.”

The girl leaned forward saying, “I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve never dealt with the Gigas before. I could get killed. Surely there is someone else you can send on this mission? I have my school in San d’Oria to run. What would happen to my students if I were to suddenly die?”

He set the glass of water down on the table in front of her and sat down in the chair across from her. “I wouldn’t ask this of you if someone else could do it, you know that. You are the best we have, no one even comes close to your talent and skills. If anyone can survive this ordeal, it’s you.”

She smiled, blushing slightly at his praise, and looked at the floor. “I admire your faith in me but this time it may be misplaced.”

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “You can do this. If you want, I can send someone else with you.”

She shook her head at his suggestion. “No. Risking another would be pointless. I will do this myself.”

“Thank you, my dear,” he said as he rose again. He reached a hand out and she took it, rising to leave. “Take a couple days to figure out what you need and to get your things together. Let me know the day you leave and I will have them open the gate to Qufim Island.” He kissed her hand as he opened the door for her.

She smiled at the touch of his lips but longed for something more. She longed to lean over and kiss his lips, to have him hold her tight. But she knew it was not meant to be. He was the leader of the Tenshodo after all, and having an affair with the woman of another race would be looked down upon by his subordinates. Let alone her own lover.

****************

Sunrise the next day was a cold one. It had rained the previous night and Vatrina was damp, cold, and miserable. Being open to the elements was one of the drawbacks to living outdoors. She stood shivering at the gates of the city waiting for Semih to bring what she had ordered. The sun was rising fast and she had wanted to get an early start but Semih had not yet arrived. This is so like her, Vatrina thought. She had stopped shivering by the time that Semih came out with two horses. One was laden with the gear and food she had requested while the other had a saddle. Vatrina frowned at the sight of the saddle, she had always enjoyed riding bareback. She walked over to the horse that was to be her mount and knelt under it to remove the saddle. She undid the buckle, pulled the saddle off and tossed it to the ground behind the horse. Then she took the blankets and tossed them aside as well. The horse looked at her and seemed to thank her with its dark brown eyes. She kissed its nose, then looked over at the other horse. It was larger and appeared used to the heavy things on its back. She checked the straps and bags to make sure everything was in place.

She jumped and landed softly on the back of her mount. The horse looked back at her and she petted its neck. Taking the reins of the other horse in her hand, she gently kicked the sides of her mount, made a clicking sound with her tongue, and they started off down the road. She didn’t even bother to look back at Semih because she knew that she wouldn’t be there.

Vatrina made amazing time to the canyon pass, reaching it by about noon, but decided to continue on instead of stopping for a bite to eat. She had expected one of her Yagudo friends to come out to meet her but none of them had, which made her wonder. She knew the Yagudo High Priest didn’t like his subordinates conversing with the non-beastmen races. Even hearing that Tzee Xicu even executed those that were believed to be collaborators. Windurst’s treaty with the Yagudo was thin at best, but she couldn’t let it distract her now. She had more pressing issues to worry about. Rockslides were a common killer in the canyon, but they weren’t the only peril that awaited her. Impassible trails, the lack of a water source for the horses, and the possibility of attack were the thoughts that filled her head now.

She made her way through the canyon slowly, even though time was of the essence. She figured that she best not overwork the horses or she would be without them through the mountains. She stopped often and left the horses standing to go scout the trail ahead. So much had changed since the last time she was here that she wasn’t sure if the trails she thought were safe really were.

It took her two days to make it through the canyon. But she felt the time was well spent. The horses still had a lot of stamina and would be able to make it through the mountains with ease. The path there was more well traveled and kept in better condition. Mostly because there was only one pass through the mountains as opposed to multiple possible trails in the canyon. Even though the path was simpler, it was also more dangerous. With her proximity to Oztroja, the possibility of being attacked increased with every step. Even though she had friends amongst the Yagudo, they had yet to convince the entire race that she was unlike the others and could be trusted. She kept her weapons close in a failed attempt to ease her nerves. She had never felt safe traveling through here alone and doubted that she ever would.

But nevertheless, after two days of traveling, she reached the Sauromogue plateau. She could feel at ease again for the patrols from Jeuno reached far and deterred any form of attack. The Ducal knights were well trained and feared even by their allies. But the horses were tiring and the last day in the mountains they had gone without water. She knew there was a spring close by to where she needed to travel so she went there first. She found the spring right where she remembered it was. Dismounting, she led the horses to the edge of the pool where they drank happily. She also took the time to wash the dust and dirt from her fur and refill her water skins.

Her mount came over and nuzzled her while she was cleaning her hair. She didn’t want to stop and feed them yet, but she couldn’t say no to the big, brown eyes that looked at her. She smiled and rubbed its forehead and walked over to take the bags off the other horse. She opened the bag of oats and filled each feed bag evenly. After filling their daily allotment, she noticed that there wasn’t much left and judged that she could get to Jeuno by morning the next day. So she emptied the oats and tossed the bag aside to be gathered up later. She stood bringing the food to her mount first, placing the horses mouth and nose in the bag then the strap up behind its ears. Then she did the same for the other horse.

She took her clothes off and knelt down in the water. She didn’t much care for water but it had its uses. The bubbling of the spring felt good on her sore back and legs, and the water rushing through her fur was much faster at cleaning the dirt up than her bathing herself. And it saved her tongue the horrible sweat and dirt taste as well as her stomach digesting whatever she swallowed while bathing. She looked up at the wispy clouds in the sky, wondering how they could make such beautiful patterns one day, and pour rain the next. She closed her eyes and continued letting the bubbling spring work its magic on her muscles until her horses started pawing at the ground.

She looked up and one of them was shaking its head saying it was done with the food. She got up and waded out of the pool to remove the feed bags. She took the bags off their heads and after being nuzzled by both of them, they went back to drinking. Tossing the feed bags over near the empty oats bag, she shook herself dry, her fur dripping the cool water into the dusty ground. She dressed, and was about to sit down to have a bite to eat herself when something approached. A shadow on the horizon at first, but as it got closer, she could see that it was a mounted human. She stood up as the figure angled right toward her, barely slowing before reaching her and scattering dust everywhere.

The rider was a young, dark-haired human male wearing some shiny plate armor. The horse had its own plate mail along its neck, face, and sides. He had a booming voice when he spoke to her. “You are the messenger from the Federation are you not?”

She looked at him and took a bite of her bread. “I am,” was all she said.

He snorted at her lack of respect. “I am here to escort you to the city. Gather your things.”

She took another bite of her bread before answering him. “I don’t need an escort. I will be there by morning.” She knelt down and cupped some water in her hands to drink.

He jumped down from his horse, clearly agitated. “We expected you on the airship over 4 days ago. Why are you on foot?”

She wiped her mouth, clearly not shaken by his tone. “I don’t trust the airships. I never have.”

He looked at her like she was nuts. “I am under orders to bring you in. If I get back and you’re not with me…”

“Then that is your problem,” she finished for him. She turned and started to pack her things back into the bags. “What happens to you is really none of my concern. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be bathing again since you decided to spray up so much dirt during your arrival.”

He was outraged and it clearly showed. She started to undress again as he grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. “I don’t know what your problem is, young lady, but you will come with me. I will not stand for such behavior as your commander apparently does.”

All Vatrina did was look at his hand then back at him. “Take it off, or I’ll break it off.” He looked at her and did just that. “I may appear young, but so did my mother when she turned 300." The mithran race was a long-lived one, similar to the elves. Though Vatrina was young by her race's standards, only 34, the world had become overpopulated with human ideals about age and mentality. The Windurst Chieftainness was well into her 300s, and the Kazham Chieftainness was encroaching on 450, her hair and fur already having some gray streaks through it. Mithran cubs learned quickly, and grew just as quickly. Contrary to the elves who spent tens of years learning and honing their skills, the mithra were more like the humans, ready to set out on their own by the time they reached 20. Vatrina had been on her own since she was 14, but this was due to the war, and she was sure there were other mithra in the same state that she was; young with age, but hundreds of years old with experience and wisdom, far from what this obviously young human could say. "This ‘young lady,’ was killing beastmen well before you were born. And as for my commander, she is the Star Sybil herself, and because of our history together, she does not care how I act around her. Now I will tell you again. Go back to Jeuno and notify whomever sent you that I will arrive in the morning. I am going to bathe again, and then I will be on my way.”

He was surprised by her sudden assertiveness and wondered. Could she be…? But it didn’t matter who she was. If she had the trust of a head of state, that was good enough for him. He apologized for his rudeness, mounted his horse, and rode off to let her bathe.

Vatrina snorted as more dust was kicked up as the knight left. When she decided that he was far enough away to no longer see her, she again disrobed and immersed herself in the bubbling water. Making me bathe twice in the same day, how dare he! She ran her hands along the very pronounced curves of her body to move her fur around and loosen the dust and sand. Satisfied that she was clean enough again, she got out and shook herself dry.

She pulled her clothes on even though her fur was still a little damp. The sun was almost directly overhead and she needed to get moving. She finished packing up and fitting the bags to the horse’s back. She again jumped onto her mount, landing softly on its back. Taking the reins in her hands she led them off to the north. The road was well traveled but she knew a shorter way and decided to take it. Night fell as she arrived at her path but she decided to continue on. The horses didn’t seem to want to stop anyways. She would go on for as long as they could manage before stopping for the night.

The horses were able to make it quite a ways through her chosen path before tiring and slowing their pace, their heads hung low. Vatrina found an old, partially destroyed building to shelter the three of them in for the night. Three walls and a roof over their heads was the most shelter they’d had since they left Windurst. As well as the most she’d had for the past five years.

The horses slept soundly but for some reason she did not. No matter how hard she tried, sleep would not come. Thoughts of the knight that approached her that morning were running through her head; as were reasons for his arrival. He seemed scared of what might happen if she did not get to Jeuno with him. Maybe it would’ve been better if I went with him, she thought. But no, these horses were not trained as his had been and long, laborious, fast rides were not possible for them. They wouldn’t have made it half as far as she had if they were riding as hard as he was.

She stood and walked out into the cool night air. She shivered as she stood there and watched her breath crystallize into a little cloud with each exhale. There were other buildings around, some less destroyed most of them in total ruin. Old guardposts, defensive walls and towers, relics from the war. The Ducal Knights feared nothing, but he was clearly scared. And I don’t think it was the tongue lashing that he got when he returned with out me that he was afraid of. There was something very wrong in the world and she had just been thrown into the middle of it.

****************

The halls were lit only by some sparsely placed torches. They were wide and the shadows between the torches were thick. More than enough to hide a small group of men from sight. But men dared not venture here. Here was the dungeon of the Castle Zhval. And what roamed these halls was as not human as possible. Very tall and slender, they had long arms ending in powerful clawed hands. Their wings were large and leathery. Their skin ranged from dark blue to the black of a moonless night, and was as strong as darksteel. Their eyes were red with hate and glowed when they powered up their magic. Their knowledge of the black arts was extensive, beyond that of even the oldest books in the Library of Magic in Windurst.

Their race was very old, one of the oldest on the planet. Believed to have been made in the spitting image of their god, their religion is based on death and destruction. And each member obeys without question. The Kindred, as they called themselves, were the ones who first brought the Dark One into the world. They formed his armies of Orcs, Quadav, Yagudo, and Gigas. But at the same time they succeeded in forming the Dark Armies, they failed by making them too independent of one another. At the beginning they fought amongst themselves, when finally the other races, the Taru, Elves, and Humans, cornered them into small, designated areas of each continent. Without the aid of his armies, the Dark One faded from existence for a time.

It took hundreds of years before the magic developed to revive the Dark One. With the help of a mineral found deep underground, near where the Castle Zhval was to be built, The Kindred were able to revive the Dark One, placing his power into the mineral instead of the armies. But without the cooperation of the now named beastmen, they would fail in their endeavor to bring chaos to the world. And so a messenger was sent out to each of the beastmen forces to “ask” for their assistance. It was a well disguised ploy. While the beastmen were busy with the attaches, a single member would sneak deep within the strongholds and place a piece of the mineral so that they could exercise control over the beastmen once again.

It was the Gigas who saw through this ploy and were able to stop the implantation within their tower. Free of their control, the Gigas had a choice, to follow them or be destroyed. Reluctantly, the Gigas chose to obey.

And so their long awaited war began. But something went awry toward the end of the war. After San d’Oria had fallen to the Orcs, they started losing control over their beastmen hordes. The only thing they could think of was that the mineral implanted was losing power. What they did not know is that the beastmen had found the mineral in each of their strongholds and were learning how to control its power over them. When they finally broke free, the beastmen ceased the war, retreating to their strongholds. The Kindred were furious. With the loss of the three mineral pieces the Dark One was again losing his power. It was then that a small attacking force of Humans, Elves, Mithra, and Taru approached the Castle Zhval. The Dark One was no match for the combined forces in his weakened state.

Defeated, they retreated to the dungeons of Castle Zhval. There, they started planning the next attack. It would take work, and time. But they were patient. They would have to find a way to get the cooperation of the beastmen instead of trying to find a way to control them. This was a challenge in and of itself. For not only did they have conflicting interests, their cultures had developed as well, something The Kindred had not foreseen. This would require earning their trust, which was not something The Kindred were used to doing. Versed in the ways of deception and trickery, honesty was not something they were familiar with. So they took 20 years to become trustworthy in the eyes of the beastmen. Then they started again.

****************

The sun had just cleared the horizon when she got to Jeuno. She hadn’t slept at all the previous night and decided to set out at first light. The words of the knight that met her at the spring the previous day were still on her mind. Well, not so much the words as the urgent tone of his voice. They were worried about something and she had a feeling that she would find out whether she wanted to or not.

The guards at the entrance to the city had taken her horses and stabled them for the duration of her stay. They would be well rested and well fed for the next few days. The workers were top-notch when it came to caring for the animals. It was a strange place for them but she was sure the horses would get used to it.

As Vatrina made her way through Jeuno she noticed a large number of people stopping to look at her. They almost acted as if they had never seen a mithran ranger before. But then she heard some of them talking.

“Is that the Sybil Guard from the war?” asked one.

“That’s her, the leader of the Windurst forces from the battle,” said another.

A little elf girl came up to her and asked, “Are you a Sybil Guard?”

Vatrina knelt down and said, “I was, but I’m not anymore.”

The girl looked disappointed. “Oh.” She looked back after hearing her father call. “I gotta go, bye.” She waved as she ran back to him.

Vatrina stood up and watched as he put his arm around his little girl leading her away. She smiled a little but that quickly vanished when her ears picked up more of what the people around her were saying.

“I hear she was a coward and ran from battle,” one voice said.

Another chimed in, “I heard that she was dead.”

“No, she just moved to Kazham with all those worthless mithra.”

“Some say that she’s looking for death after she found out that her family was dead.”

“They say that she was a Sybil guard but now takes on only the most dangerous missions she can find.”

“Is she insane, or just fascinated with death?”

She was getting dirty looks now from all those around her. The bad rumors had resurfaced. And they hurt just as much now as they did then. She kept walking, trying to tune them out but there was only so much she could take. Her eyes started filling with tears and her pace quickened. I could only do so much. A tear ran down her face but she didn’t wipe it away. It wasn’t my fault. Those damned tarus had summoned that beast. At the order of the Sybil nonetheless! That’s why she didn’t want me near her, so I could take the blame for the loss of the battle. She reached the stairs down to the island gate and away from all the jeers and stares of the people in the city.

She took a few moments and composed herself then made her way to the gate. She got down there and requested that it be opened. The guard mumbled something about her being the second person today to venture to the island but she wasn’t sure exactly what he said. He checked her papers and commanded the gate be opened. She proceeded through and heard the gate slam shut behind her. She was on her own now, there was no one to help her.

She made her way through the cave connecting the city to the island. The temperature difference was substantial and made her wish she had packed warmer clothing. There were only a few bats inside the cave. Hanging from the ceiling they paid her no mind as she passed by. Emerging from the cave, her feet crunched the fresh snow. There was a single set of tracks heading out of the cave and in the direction of the tower. How strange, she thought. They were too small for a human or elf, and the taru rarely left the Federation. That only left the possibility that they were mithran in origin. But why? What business would another mithra have at the tower?

She knelt down and measured the tracks. They weren’t much bigger than her own and similarly shaped. She judged the weight of the person to be about 110 lbs, and about 5 foot 4 inches tall, or about 5 lbs lighter and an inch shorter than her. And based on the deeper impression of the ball of the foot, the person had extra weight on the front side of their body, indicating that they were female, her breasts shifting her center of gravity forward and placing more weight on the balls of her feet. Well, whatever business she has here, it is not my concern.

Vatrina continued on her way, making her way through the snow. It was deep in some places and she sank up to her waist, as the person before her had done. There were no Gigas wandering around the island, which she found to be quite odd. But when she found some blood in the snow, she figured that she knew the answer. It wasn’t mithran blood, it was black, and probably from one of the Gigas. She picked up the frozen section of blood-stained snow and looked at it.

Tossing it aside and wiping her hands in the snow she continued on. The wind was brutal, blowing snow into her face and hair. It stung her eyes and tears that formed froze to her whiskers and face. She shivered as the wind whipped around her, going right through her clothes and even her fur. She took the time to take some shelter in the shadow of a cliff wall and cleared an area to sit. She tried to start a small fire, but it wouldn’t stay lit. She gave up on that and pulled out some bread to eat. The sun was turning and she would need to find shelter soon. Though she had been here before, it changes every time the snow falls. The wind causes drifts in different places every day, and what looks like a safe path one day could lead to a crevasse or frozen pond the next.
Caves appeared and disappeared as they were blocked or cleared out by the wind.

Finished with her food, she got up and trudged on. She followed the prints of the mithra that came before her hoping that the path had not been wiped away by the wind. The tower was in sight now, in all its majesty. Hundreds of feet tall and white from the ocean spray and snow that battered its outer walls, it had once harnessed the power of the heavens themselves before being abandoned. She had hoped to reach it before nightfall but that was not possible as clouds had moved in and blocked the sun bringing an early sunset. She looked around and was lucky to find a cave that sheltered her from the wind.

Surprisingly, she found plenty of wood toward the back of the cave and proceeded to build a fire to warm herself up. She removed some of her outer clothing to dry it by the fire and warmed up some food. Setting her water skin by the fire to thaw it outs she tossed some more wood on the fire, hoping that it would make it through the night and laid down next to it. Resting her head on her arm, she tried to get some sleep.

****************

“Do they suspect anything?”

“No, My Lord.”

The doors were sealed and no one was allowed in. The guards saw to that. An ornate hall, decorated with all manner of plants and silks. The two stood next to each other gazing into a crystal. They saw the girl curl up next to her fire, trying to ward off the cold. Her sleep was restless, if she was even sleeping at all. They could have probed into her mind but that would require the aid of a third, and they did not wish to bring any more into this just yet. They did wish to know her plans and what she was thinking however.

“She could become quite problematic in the future.”

“I agree.” He waved his hand over the crystal revealing another girl, similar to the first but with blonde hair instead of brown. “What of this one?”

“She could cause equal problems. But they both will be dealt with in the future. I will see to that personally.”

****************

The fire was still glowing when she awoke and she tossed more wood onto it. She put her dry clothes back on and stood to stretch. Her sleep had been restless and filled with nightmares. She had a small bite to eat then warmed herself by the fire one last time before venturing out into the snow. The wind was gone, but it had done its damage. The tracks she had followed here were gone and now she would have to find her own way. Even though the tower was in sight, she still had a ways to go. She left the majority of her supplies in the cave for retrieval upon her return.

And if hidden crevasses and water were not bad enough, she smelled something on the air. It was the scent of Gigas. They must’ve taken shelter in the tower during the windstorm yesterday. But they were out now, and she could see a few of them in the distance. Although confrontation was not guaranteed, it was something she may not be able to avoid. Checking her gear, she arranged her weapons for easier access in case one of the Gigas decided it didn’t like the look of her.
She started off carefully toward the tower, checking her footing with each step. The snow had drifted up against the walls of the towering cliffs leaving her a fairly clear path but she couldn’t be too careful in the place. She had heard of people who didn’t come back from this place simply because they were careless and didn’t watch where they were walking.

The closer she got to the tower, the more Gigas she saw. She was able to slip behind them or dodge out of their sight but she could only do so for so long. She was tiring and decided to stow her gear someplace safe until she could return for it. If she returned for it, she corrected herself.
Able to move quicker now, she made for the entrance to the tower at a slow run. She reached the shelter of the tower and quickly rushed in. She took the time to brush herself off then started to make her way through the tower. There was an overwhelming Gigas scent throughout the tower but there was also something else. The mithra she was tracking earlier, she was here. And there was something odd about the scent. An old memory of her sister came to her mind, unbidden and unwanted. She shook it from her mind wondering why it had surfaced at a time like this.

She made her way through the first and second floors unchallenged. But getting to the fourth floor was more troublesome. Numerous times she had to slip by a Gigas just as it turned its back, or get a lot closer to one than she really wanted, squeezing herself between it and a wall. On the fourth floor she had to kill one because of a simple mistake. She slipped on some water and the Gigas heard her. It came charging for her and she felled it with an arrow to its neck.

She got to the fifth floor and saw two of them lying side by side, dead. Their blood had poured onto the floor and was still oozing out of their wounds. The pool was making its way toward the stairs. She jumped around it and continued on down a hallway.

The girl was kneeling down and apparently tending a wound when Vatrina saw her. Her long blonde hair covered her back and gave a sharp contrast to the black armor she was wearing. Vatrina noticed the two katana in the small of her back. A ninja sent by the Tenshodo…but why? Vatrina took a few steps and quickly dodged into a side corridor to see how well this girl could hear. But there was no movement, other than the constant twitch of the blonde girl’s tail. A little disappointed, Vatrina crept closer, dodging into another corridor. But again, nothing. Then she figured it out. I know what you’re doing, you’re trying to make me think that you can’t hear me so I’ll come up behind you to be cut down. Clever little one aren’t you?

Vatrina walked closer, and as soon as she was in striking distance, she jumped into the air. And her assessment was right on. The girl drew a single katana and spun quickly cutting through the space that had once been Vatrina’s stomach. Vatrina landed behind her and drew her own sword spinning to deflect an attack, but none came. The girl stood and drew her other katana turning to face her opponent.

The girl smiled and said, “Well done, there aren’t many people who can avoid that attack of mine. It’s almost as if you were reading my mind.”

Vatrina relaxed a little and replied, “When you’ve fought as many deceptive enemies as I have, you pick up a few tricks of the trade, so to speak.”

The girl smiled. “But I’ll bet that you’ve never fought someone like me now have you?”

“You’d be surprised,” Vatrina replied with a smirk on her face.
Their ears twitched in unison, neither seemingly mad but eager at the challenging opponent before them. The girl didn’t like Vatrina’s response and attacked, spinning, but her katana caught nothing but air. Vatrina had not even tried to parry the attack, but simply evaded. A simple slide to her left was all that was required and they were back to square one.

“Is that the best you got?” Vatrina taunted.

That seemed to hit a chord. The girl’s ears twitched again, cocking back slightly, and she attacked again, faster this time. Vatrina wasn’t able to evade these attacks, but was able to parry both of them and deliver a counterstrike of her own. A backhand slice from ground to the sky that the girl did a back flip to evade.

“So,” she said, “you can attack.”

“Come now, you’ve got to be better than that,” Vatrina countered. “Come on now. Kitty wanna play?” she taunted.

This made the girl clearly mad as her ears flattened and a throaty growl accompanied her next set of attacks. Which Vatrina parried, seemingly with ease. She also delivered a couple of her own attacks, though at a disadvantage. Her single sword against a member of the renowned Tenshodo wielding two katana. Her attacks would need to be planned out in advance, based on what her opponent appeared to do next.
She parried a couple more attacks, then with her other hand, grabbed one of the girl’s arms and pulled her off balance. The girl stumbled and Vatrina hit her in the back of the head with the hilt of her sword. The girl fell to the ground and Vatrina stepped back.

Shaking her head, she stood up again. “Well then, if you’re gonna play that way, lets make this interesting, shall we?” She took a small piece of paper from her satchel and held it in front of her. Suddenly, the air around her seemed distorted somehow, Vatrina wasn’t sure.
But she had no time to figure it out as the girl attacked again. Vatrina now used all she could think of to be victorious in this fight. Parrying twice and evading once, she took a slice at the girl’s neck…only to have her sword pass through the air.

The girl jumped back and shook a finger at Vatrina. “That’s one,” she said and lunged in for another strike. This time one of her katana connected with Vatrina’s free arm. It wasn’t much but it was enough to cause her to bleed. Vatrina countered with a thrust for the girl’s midsection which again seemed to vanish and leave her sword passing through the air.

This time the girl didn’t halt her attack but simply said, “That’s two.” Vatrina jumped back, using the wall to spring her forward again for an attack of her own. This caught the girl by surprise but she was able to parry the attack. Then Vatrina came with a horizontal slice for the girl’s neck again. And once again, her sword missed flesh and hit nothing but air. But this time Vatrina did not stop there. She continued her spin that started with her sword and brought her free arm around in a follow-though catching the girl completely off-guard. Vatrina’s elbow connected with the bridge of the girl’s nose knocking her backward into a wall. She fell to the ground, unmoving.

Vatrina walked up to her, her sword held out in case this was another deceptive move but it was not. She knelt down and examined the girls nose, seeing that it was clearly broken. She felt for a pulse and found one, then straightened the girl’s nose out. She took the katana from her hands and sheathed them, then laying her sword on the ground, she picked the girl up and carried her back toward the stairs to the fourth floor deciding to leave her there.

She looked at her wounded arm. The girl had done more damage than she originally thought. Blood was running down her arm and dripping onto the floor. She tore the sleeve off where the fabric had been cut and sat down to lick at the wound. When the bleeding stopped, she tore the part of her sleeve she had removed along the seam to open it up. Fashioning a bandage, she wrapped it around her wound and tied it tight. She flexed her arm a few times to make sure it wasn’t too tight then looked at the mithra on the floor. There was some blood coming out of her nose and Vatrina knelt down to clean it up. She was still out cold and Vatrina decided to leave before she woke up.

She walked back to where they had fought, picked up her sword and sheathed it. She started on her way again, moving to the sixth floor. There were more Gigas here than on the other floors combined. Getting around them would not be easy. But she got lucky. Most of them were gathered together over in a corner. She hurried as quickly as she could to the next set of stairs. The seventh floor was eerily quiet. No one was around and the only sound was the low hum from the tower’s internal workings. Vatrina made her way quietly through in case someone was watching the area.

The eighth and ninth floors were just as deserted. This was worrisome to her. She had never seen this part of the tower so deserted. She walked through uneasily, watching her back carefully. A chill ran down her spine. I would’ve felt safer if there were some Gigas around. She crept up the stairs to the tenth floor, the one where the Gigas’ leader, Porphyrion, resided.

There were a few Gigas guarding the entrance to his chambers, his personal guard, Mimas, being one of them. She crept up trying to get by them without incident but it wasn’t possible. They spotted her as she came up the stairs. The first two that came at her she was able to take down with an arrow each. The third got to her before she could string another arrow. With one swing of its massive hand it sent her flying across the room. She hit the ground and slid to the wall. She shook her head to clear it and got to her feet. She looked up and saw the Gigas coming at her again.

Mimas had remained near the door, she knew, and would only engage her if there was no one left. The massive axe he held could easily cut her in two. She dove to the left of a Gigas’ attack, his hand striking the ground where she had been. She quickly strung an arrow and loosed it at Mimas. But he saw it coming and easily deflected the arrow with his axe. Vatrina grunted at the missed attack and forgot about the one that was still standing near her. He attacked again hitting her and smashing her into a wall with his hand. She could feel her ribs crack under the pressure of the Gigas’s hand. He pulled his hand back and she fell limp to the ground.

Mimas approached her and picked her up by an arm. She was breathing, but barely. Coughing a few times, blood sprayed from her mouth as she regained consciousness. Her breathing was very labored, two of her ribs having punctured a lung. But she was able to get out a simple request. “I wish…to speak…with Porphyrion.”

Mimas snorted and said, “Why should one so frail wish to speak with him?”

She took her time to rest as much as possible. “I only wish to ask,” she winced in pain, “him a question. Just one question.”

Mimas snorted again. “We shall see,” he said and dropped her to the ground. “Stay here.”

She crashed to the ground and screamed at the impact on her chest. She wrapped her arms around her chest as a reflex to the pain. She carefully lifted her shirt up and noticed a rib poking out of her right side just slightly. It wasn’t bleeding as much as she expected, but blood had stained her clothes and soaked into her fur. She carefully touched the tip of the bone and winced in pain. She thought about pushing the bone back in but decided against it because it would probably cause more bleeding than there already was.

She was able to get to a sitting position when Mimas came back. He looked at her and made a disgusted face. “Come,” was all he said.
She struggled to get up and followed Mimas into the chambers. Porphyrion was standing there and watched her carefully as she approached. She stood before him and looked up. She still had a hard time breathing and it showed. Her left arm was still across her chest and her right arm hung at her side.

“What is your question?” he asked in a booming voice.

She didn’t ask right away, instead she decided to try and gain his trust to get as honest an answer as she could. “Many people in the world do not believe you Gigas to be of any intelligence. I, however, know that you are much more intelligent than the other races give you credit for.” She winced slightly as she took a deep breath. “You were smart enough to see through The Kindred’s ploy 20 years ago and I believe that you are just as smart to see through it now. Whatever your answer to my question, I will take it as the truth.” She took another painful breath and said, “I must know, have you been contacted by The Kindred?”

Her careful choice of words had taken full effect by the time she asked. Porphyrion had straightened up a little at her praises. He thought for a moment then answered her. “Come with me.”

He walked over to the wall behind her, motioning for her to follow, and pushed a button. The floor dropped out below them, going down all ten floors and into the basement of the tower. He had surprised her with such an answer. She had expected, even after such praise as she had given him, to be turned away with a simple, “No.” But such was not the case. But he could still be taking me someplace to kill me, she thought.

The elevator stopped and a door opened into a chamber. On the far wall was a dark figure. As they approached, Vatrina could see that it was one of The Kindred. He had been chained to the wall, but by the look of him he hadn’t been here very long.

Porphyrion looked at her and said, “He came to us a few days ago and talked of the Dark One’s resurrection. We wish no part in the coming war so we restrained him here in the depths of the tower.”

Vatrina stumbled up to the demon. “What is your business here?”

“You are injured,” he responded. “Release my hand and I can cure all your ills.”

Vatrina scoffed at his suggestion. “It wouldn’t take me long to make you worse off then I am. Tell me, how long before the Dark One awakes?”

The demon smiled, his pointed teeth meshing perfectly. “He will destroy you all, it is only a matter of time.”

Vatrina was getting agitated. She pulled her bow and strung an arrow. She struggled to draw it back but she did. “One last time, when will the Dark One awake?”

A deep laugh filled the demon’s throat. “Heh heh heh, you foolish mortal girl. He has already awoken.”

She lowered her bow and relaxed the string. Things were going too fast. But something still troubled her. If the Dark One had already risen, why had they not attacked already? And why had the Sybil sent her on this mission? Surely she had seen this. Or hadn’t she? Vatrina’s eyes widened at that thought. She’s lost her ability to predict the future.

She replaced the arrow in her quiver and slung the bow over her shoulder. She grasped her side again and turned back toward Porphyrion. He nodded and led her toward a tunnel that would take her back to the entrance of the tower. She thanked him and made her way back out into the wind and snow.

The wind was bitter, blowing snow into her wounds. The cold was incredibly painful, making her double over. She fell to her knees in pain. She wasn’t bleeding anymore but the rib sticking out of her side had yet to be pushed back into place. She was getting light headed. Her legs didn’t want to move but she got up anyways. She had to make it to the cave she had camped in the previous night. She could rest there and take the time to dress her wounds properly.

She stumbled through the snow following her footsteps from earlier. The wind whipped around her, even knocking her over a few times. But she was able to struggle back to her feet and continue on. She made it to the cave after nightfall. She rifled through her pack and pulled out some dried meat to eat. She also pulled out a small jar and poured some of its contents into her hand. She pulled the bandage off her arm and rubbed the wound with the cream from the jar. She started a fire before continuing to tend her wounds. Taking her shirt off, she struggled to push her rib back into place. She grimaced with pain as the rib moved. When she finally got it back into place, she rubbed the wound with some of the cream from the jar.

Finished tending to her wounds, she put her shirt back on and lay down, gingerly, next to the fire. Still in pain, she tried to sleep. But her mind was racing again and would not let sleep come…or so it seemed.

****************

The air was thick with the scent of blood. Fires were raging behind her and Orcs were rushing around her. Vatrina was out of arrows and dropped her bow. Pulling her sword she starting lashing out at every orc she could reach. Slicing off head after head, she was soon up to her waist in bodies. She charged forward but tripped and fell to the ground. She looked at what she tripped over and saw the face of an elf.

A look of horror spread across her face. No, it can’t be! She crawled over to him and checked to see if he was breathing. A spear had pierced his scale armor just below his ribs. She held her hand in front of his mouth and felt his breath. He looked at her and took her hand in his. He kissed it and she lifted his head onto her lap. He smiled and coughed, blood spraying from his mouth. Tears filled her eyes, and she brushed his cheek. You can’t die! You just can’t!

“I’m…sorry,” was all he could say. She put a finger over his mouth telling him to save his strength, her tears blinding her. He smiled again and grasped her hand tightly one last time. She bent over and kissed him, his last breath emptying into her mouth. She pulled her head up in time to see the glow in his eyes disappear. His grip on her hand relaxed as it fell to the ground.

She pulled his head to her chest and cried. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be living together in Kazham, growing old together. Where had all this come from? This wasn’t supposed to be happening. He wasn’t supposed to die.

She felt something sharp pierce her back and thrust its way out her chest. She looked down and saw the blade of a sword, covered in her blood. The sword withdrew from her chest and blood spilled out onto the elf’s chest. Her vision faded, and she fell forward onto him.

****************

She startled awake and sat up, gasping for breath. Her hand shot to her chest, but found no hole, no sword wound. She was still breathing heavily and looked down at her chest, feeling relieved. It wasn’t real, it was just a dream. She got some of her water and splashed it on her face. The fire had all but gone out and the sun had risen. She got up slowly, and walked to the entrance to the cave. There was no wind again, and the sun blinded her shining off the snow. She walked back to her pack and took out something to eat. As she ate, she looked at the wound on her arm. It was all but healed. She checked her side and ribs too and they were also nearly healed.

She hoisted her pack, checked her weapons, and left the cave hoping that she would never have to return. The snow had been drifted again, this time in seemingly random spots. She made her way through avoiding the drifts. Better to avoid them entirely and have less chance of running into a surprise hidden beneath them. The wind was calm but the sun wasn’t very high in the sky yet. She didn’t see any tracks around and wondered if the other mithra had made it out. She hadn’t left her in a bad condition. A broken nose was nothing compared to what had happened to her. But the information she had needed to be relayed to the Sybil. A single life was a simple price for information that could save millions.

She made it to the underground tunnel around noon. She took a specially made bread that had meat baked into it and ate it as she traveled. Thinking about changing the recipe, she choked down the first bite. As horrible as it was, it was made to be a single meal for the day. It had enough in it to give her the energy she needed until the morning.

The cave was quite damp. There was water dripping from the ceiling and pooling on the floor. She was able to avoid the puddles but got dripped on a few times, much to her annoyance. She reached the gates and the guards let her through. They told her that the duke had requested an audience with her upon her return. Odd, she thought. Why would he want to see me? She didn’t argue, but took her time reaching the palace.

She stopped off at the physician’s office who welcomed her when she entered. “Vatrina! What are you doing here?”

She set her pack down and said, “Hi Velugi.” He was an elf, and quite a bit taller than she was. His black hair was tied back behind him, and his beard was thick again. Vatrina smiled as she looked at him. “I like you better without the beard.”

He laughed. “So does my wife.” He looked at her pack, which was basically empty now. “This can’t be a simple social call, is there anything I can help you with?”

She nodded and went into one of the exam rooms. She lifted her shirt to reveal the bruised area where her broken rib was. It was easy to see the spot even beneath her fur. He crouched down and looked at it. His fingers slid over the area gently, but she still cringed in pain at his touch.
He frowned and looked at her. “It’s broken. I can probably put a wrap on it but you’ll need to be careful for a few weeks.”

She smiled at his conclusion. “I know it’s broken, it was poking out of my side for a few hours. And anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.”

He nodded and went into a different room to get a wrap for her. He returned a few minutes later and instructed her to remove her shirt. She did so and he handed her an end of a long, thick piece of cloth. He told her to position it under her breasts and to start turning slowly in a circle. She did so, and he kept it as tight as he could. The wrap would be under her breasts, which she covered and held up with her free arm. It was quite tight, causing her a little discomfort.

Reaching the end of the wrap, he tied it to the end that Vatrina was holding. Looking at her, she nodded, indicating that it wasn’t too tight. “Now, like I said,” he said as she put her shirt back on. “Take it easy for the next couple weeks. When you can touch the spot and it doesn’t hurt, come back and I’ll take another look at it.”

She thanked him and, leaving her pack there to pick up later, she started up toward the palace to meet with the duke. The guards at the entrance to the audience chamber were expecting her. They allowed her to enter and she walked down the hall. Stone columns lined the walkway, and the carpet was soft, and felt good on her sore feet.

She approached the throne where the duke sat, and bowed in respect. “What can I do for you, mi'Lord?”

He stood and welcomed her. “You have just returned from an audience with Porphyrion, yes?” He didn’t want for an answer. “I wish to know, why were you sent there?”

She thought for a moment. “I was sent on behalf of the Federation. The Yagudo have been amassing forces in our area and the Sybil was concerned that another war might be brewing.”

He stepped down. He was tall, like an elf, but did not have the same features. His skin was fair, and his hair red, and quite long. His clothing seemed to come from an older time. She had never seen designs or cloth quite like it before. He approached and walked around her. “You are injured,” he observed.

“It is nothing I can’t handle,” she replied.

“I never remember ever seeing you visibly injured. What might’ve happened up in that tower, hmm?”

“My injuries are not—“ He cut her off.

“Of my concern, I am aware. It is just that I believed you to be invulnerable. The great Sybil Guard Vatrina. You disappeared for quite some time after the last war. But you didn't truely disappear did you? Kazham had become your home, aside from when the Sybil called upon you. Odd that she let you be for almost ten years before making this request of you.”

She had started to become uneasy. Hearing her old title from the lips of this man sent a chill down her spine. He certainly didn’t look that old. He should’ve been just a child during the war, how could he have known about her? The fur on the back of her neck was starting to stand on end. She shifted her weight uneasily as he continued.

“You are wondering how I could know all this are you not? I am the leader of a neutral nation, a trafficker of information you might say. I make it my business to know all I can.” He returned to his chair again and sat down. “Now, back to why you visited the tower. Surely the Sybil could’ve sent someone else to perform such a task. Why would she choose you?”

Vatrina started to answer but he held up a hand. “She still trusts you, after all that has gone on between the three of you.” Vatrina’s eyes widened at the mention of three people. “Yes, I know all about your quarrel with the current Sybil Captain, Semih was her name? She is a maverick in my opinion. Someone who will go off on her own without so much as an explanation. You, on the other hand, are much more focused. You are able to concentrate on the job at hand.”

Vatrina’s defensive instincts were yelling at her to turn and run. He was scaring her with the depth of his knowledge. Her tail had stopped twitching, which the duke noticed. He smiled, but it was not a warm smile. It was the smile of a murderer looking at his next victim. Her hand wanted to draw her sword but her fright held it back. She was too scared to move. How could he know all this? It’s like he’s reading my mind.

“So, my dear Vatrina, what was the job you were sent to do, hmm? Kill Prophyrion perhaps? No, that would need to be approved by the Council. Information gathering maybe? Your history with the Gigas would make you a pristine choice for such a mission. That’s it isn’t it? You were sent by the Sybil to talk to the Gigas and determine whether or not they had been contacted by the Kindred. She believed that if they had that you would be able to get that information out of them. How interesting that the Sybil would send you on such a mission without the knowledge of the others.”

He took a sip from the golden goblet that sat on a small table next to him. “Well, no matter. I’m sure you found out that they have been contacted and that another war is on our doorstep.” He looked at her surprised expression. “But you wonder why I have concealed this information. Let us just say that I do not put matters of state above personal gain.” He smiled that cold, evil smile again.

He stood and motioned for a guard. “Helbran, lead her back down to the airship dock will you?” Then he looked at her. “Wait…she doesn’t like the airships so bring her to the stables and have her horses saddled and provisions set aside for her return trip to Windurst. I have taken up enough of your time, Lady Vatrina. You may return to the Sybil now with your knowledge.”

She managed to bow slightly as the guard came over to her. Then quickly turning, she nearly ran out of the castle. As she did so, another guard came into the room.

“Lord Kum’Lanut, there’s just been another mithra come through the Qufim gate.”

Vatrina looked back at him and he almost acted surprised. “A relative of yours perhaps, my dear Vatrina?” was all she heard him say. She had exited the audience chamber and made her way out to the gardens. She was breathing heavily, more than when she was in battle. She had just stared death in the face a thousand times before, but never in quite so personal a setting. And it had scared the hell out of her. She scratched at her arms, her fur still standing on end.

She stopped at the physician’s office to gather her pack and say her goodbyes. The guard showed her down to the stables where her horses were ready and eager to get back home. Treated as well as they were, the place was still foreign to them. And as many times as she had been here, it was the same for her.

****************

She walked through the door of the Neptune’s Spire holding her nose. The warmth of the city had brought the pain back. It wasn’t bleeding, but it was still quite painful. Goddess that woman hits hard. She walked through the Tenshodo getting looks from the other members. She was embarrassed at coming back in this way and let them know it with a glare to all that looked at her for too long. She walked into the leader’s room without so much as a knock.

“Cornelia, you can’t keep…” he paused at the interruption. Had it been anyone else he wouldn’t have hesitated to kill them. “Luna, you’re back.”
The other woman in the room looked at her for a moment, then turned back to the leader. “Aldo, you can’t keep denying what’s going on in the city to the resident goblins. But I see you have more pressing business, so I’ll leave you two be.” She kissed him on the cheek and left.

Aldo noticed that Luna was holding her nose and grabbed some ice. Wrapping it in a towel, he handed it to her and she quickly placed it on her face. “I take it the quest did not go well?”

Luna tried to snort but couldn’t. “There was another mithra there, a ranger, probably sent by Kum’Lanut,” she said in a pinched voice. “She tried to ambush me, but somehow I couldn’t get an upper hand in our battle.” Her blonde hair was draped over her shoulders and was falling into her face. Her tail came up to brush it out of her eyes. “What was Cornelia talking about?”

Aldo smiled. “My sister is concerned with the feelings of the residents toward the goblins and their shop. Many want them out of the city, thinking that they might start sabotaging the airships, or worse.”
Luna sat down on the couch, her tail wrapping around her leg. “Is there anything we can do?”

He shook his head. “Not likely. I have a feeling that Muckvix and the others are on their own for this one.” He took a drink of his water. “Well, other than getting beat up by a mithran ranger, what did you learn?”

Luna shook her head. “Absolutely nothing. I woke up near the stairs on the fourth floor. The Gigas I had killed were still there, as was a pool of blood from the wound I inflicted on the mithra I fought with. I continued on after gathering myself together, made it to the tenth floor, only to be turned back by Mimas and his goons. It looked like there had been a battle, a hole in the ground, quite a bit of blood, and a portion of the wall smashed in. But they refused to let me pass saying that I had already been there. I insisted that I hadn’t but they are so thick-headed. They forced me to turn back.”

Aldo sighed. “Well, no matter. If Kum’Lanut had sent that ranger, I would’ve been informed. It must’ve been one of the other countries acting on their own accord. Either way, the duke will know of the events that transpired in the tower between the ranger and the Gigas. Don’t ask me how, but he just knows.” He smiled and looked at her holding the cold compress on her discolored nose. “You should really get that looked at. It makes you look hideous,” he teased.

She giggled and hit his leg with her tail. “I will, I just wanted to tell you what happened first.”

He stood and helped her up. “You will be returning to San d’Oria tonight, correct?”

She nodded. “Unfortunately, I must. I have been away from my school and students for too long. The other instructors, although competent, lack the proper skills for teaching.”

He escorted her to the door. “I’ve heard rumors, you know. That he’ll be returning from Zi’Tah soon.”

Her eyes widened. “Where did you hear this? Who told you?”

He smiled. “It was something I picked up in conversation with a few of the royal knights while you were gone.” He brushed a finger along her cheek. “Now go get that nose of yours looked at. I will send for you when your services are needed again.”
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:30 pm

Hope you all had a good weekend, I know I didn't but that's another matter. Off to chapter 3 we go.


Reunion

Vatrina returned home on the morning of her sixth day out of Jeuno. No one was there to meet her, as she expected. They probably figured that she was dead. She had tempted death many times before but had always been able to slip out of his grasp. Each time he seemed more and more desperate and each time she foiled his attempts. But none of her encounters with him were as frightening as being in the audience chamber with the duke. Simply thinking about him made her fur stand on end.

She dismounted at the gate and led the horses into the stable. There were two mithra there that took the saddles and packs off, hanging them on various hooks on the wall. The horses were then fed and brushed while Vatrina sorted through the gear for her belongings. Gathering them up, she exited the stable, after thanking and kissing both of the animals, to the crowded streets around the city’s auction house. Though not nearly as crowded as the area around the auction house in Jeuno, there were still quite a few people here, making it difficult to get through.

But she was able to find her way through and made her way along the grassy streets and paths to the oldest section of the city, around Heaven’s Tower. It was also the only section of the city that was not rebuilt after the war, partly because it was now underwater. The tarus had built up hills to build bridges and houses on, but the majority of the area was left alone. Walking along the wooden bridges, she noticed quite a few people standing along the edges fishing. She was unaware that any fish had grown or been placed in the flooded areas but apparently they had. It was probably great bass fishing thanks to all the wrecked buildings and walls that lay along the lake bottom. She wondered if it could even be considered a lake since it was inside the city and all. What else would it be called? She stopped and crouched on the edge of the bridge, looking down into the clear water. She could see some small fish swimming around near one of the supports of the bridge. They probably took cover in the shade of the bridge when the sun was high in the sky.

Her curiosity about the lake and its fishers satisfied, she stood and continued on to the tower. The guards at the entrance seemed to be expecting her. They were not visibly surprised about her appearance, but they did not seem to know what to do as she approached. She told them to notify the Sybil that she had returned. They looked at each other and hesitated, before one of them walked back toward the entrance of the tower. He disappeared as he entered the teleport into the tower, and returned a short time later, motioning for Vatrina to enter.

She entered the beam of light that was the entrance and was immediately teleported inside. She walked around the fountain in the middle of the tower and started up the stairs. Taking her time, she stopped to look at the planetarium on the second floor. It had been remodeled since she saw it last. It showed the night sky and the stars and constellations according to the time of year now, instead of all of them at once. She picked out the ones she knew and had someone help her with the ones she didn’t. Again satisfied, she continued up the next flight of stairs. This is where the Sybil Guards were posted, and they took note of her appearance. One of them asked what business she had here but Vatrina simply ignored her, passing her by to enter the Sybil’s chamber.

Her chamber was ornately decorated, and even had a glass floor to allow the Sybil to see the planetarium beneath. The chamber was large, especially for a taru. The Sybil stood upon seeing Vatrina, but didn’t hide her surprise very well. Vatrina looked around and noticed that Semih was not present. No matter, it was not necessary for her to hear the information that Vatrina had obtained.

The Sybil bowed, but Vatrina refrained due to her broken ribs. She simply nodded, and began to relay what she had learned. It did not take long and the Sybil was disturbed by the information. She stood on the glass overlooking the planetarium. “Are you sure of this?”

Vatrina nodded, even though the Sybil could not see her. “Yes. The information came right from the demon’s mouth.”

“And you believed him?” the Sybil queried.

“Why would he lie?” Vatrina retorted. “They believe themselves to be all-powerful. They believe that they were betrayed during the last war. The way they see it, we did not beat them. They were simply betrayed by their armies. They are very powerful and very few can stand toe to toe with one of the Kindred. His disseminating this information to me was his way of asserting his power and his belief that we can’t do anything about it.”

The Sybil nodded. “You have a very interesting way of looking at things, Vatrina. I will take your analysis under advisement." The Sybil sighed. "I wish you were still in the guards.”

“That makes one of us,” Vatrina retorted.

She turned. “Now there is one more matter that we must discuss.”

Vatrina felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She was free from the Federation’s grasp. She would live on her own with Nic now. They could live together anywhere in the world, though she would probably persuade him to come back to Kazham with her. It was her home after all. Her mother was buried there and she felt an obligation to keep the town safe.

But when she saw the Sybil’s expression, the weight came back and her heart sank. The Sybil’s expression was somber as she spoke, as if she truly seemed sorry that this was happening. But Vatrina knew the truth. It was not the first time she had been betrayed by the Star Sybil. Her emotions washed out of her like water down a river. Anger, hate, happiness, love, fear, all gone in the blink of an eye. She felt as robotic as the automaton guards at the city gates.

The Sybil went on about the new mission Vatrina was to undertake. “You must travel to San d’Oria and speak with King Destin. If this war is to start soon, it will be there. San d’Oria is the most powerful of the nations and they will be the first to be attacked. I need you to warn him. I would send Semih on this mission but she is currently unavailable.”

Vatrina glared at the taru, not even bowing to the head of state out of respect for she no longer had any. She executed a crisp turn and started to exit the chambers. She stopped only long enough for the Sybil to say, “I’m sorry.”

Vatrina cocked her head and said, “It seems that only my death can free me from your traitorous grasp.” She exited the tower without another word.

****************

The airship docked at the San d’Oria Harbor at four in the morning. Luna had taken time to rest in Jeuno, taking the first flight of the day back to her home. But nonetheless, she was still quite tired and took her time making her way off the ship and onto the dock. She only had her pack with her, which the customs officer quickly looked through for any sign of illegal materials. Satisfied, he closed it up and handed it back to her and she was allowed to enter the city.

There were only a few people moving around at this time of the morning, and none of the usual shops were open. The auction house ran 24 hours a day and there were always people there. She walked by it, and entered Craftsman’s Street. There was a Woodworking guild and Blacksmithing guild on the lower level, and an armor shop on the raised bridges.

She climbed the stairs and walked past the darkened windows and closed doors of the armor shop. They sold good armor, she thought, but the prices were pretty high. But no matter, all her school’s armor was supplied by the Tenshodo. When her students had outgrown the supplied equipment, they had aquired enough knowledge and wealth to purchase what they wanted and needed on their own, without help from her. She walked by the Inn, which did have some lights on. The furniture shop was closed up tightly, and she would have to remember to stop by there after it opened. The students had broken a table the day before she left and she would need a new one if it hadn’t been replaced.

She walked past the parade grounds, usually lit up brightly, even at night. But for some reason, they were not this night. The festival was over, she figured. They must still be adjusting various things to prepare it for the next holiday. It was not something she had control over so she cared little. She walked through the gate into the south portion of the city and past another auction house. This one had more people at it, but still nothing compared to midday.

She turned west to head past the Leatherworking guild toward her dojo. The grass of the lawn felt good on her feet. Her dojo was one of the few places in the city that did not have a paved walkway up to the door. There were few lights on and the doors were always open. Students were encouraged to go out at night and test their stealthy skills against one another in the ninja’s best ally, night. She opened the heavy door without a sound and closed it behind her.

She turned after closing the door to see a rabbit hopping toward her. She smiled and knelt down as the rabbit jumped into her arms. “Vittie, how is it you always know when I come home?” The rabbit nuzzled her and she kissed it, scratching behind its ears. She walked up the two flights of stairs to her room and opened the door. It was a simple place to live, a soft bed made of mahogany wood and wool padding and blankets, a small dresser to keep her clothes in, a pair of armoires for her suits of heavy armor, a small bed for Vittie that he never slept in, and a rack on the wall that held her weapons. She had various types of katana, each with a special purpose and special time and place of use. Her bow sat un-strung, to retain its full tension, in a corner with her quiver.

She stepped up to her bed and Vittie jumped from her arms to her bed. She scratched him again and took her pack off her shoulders. As soon as she sat down on her bed, Vittie jumped onto her lap. She giggled and agreed to give him some more attention. She set him back on her bed and stood removing her dirty and smelly clothes, tossing them in a corner. Sitting down again, she petted Vittie some more and lay down in her big bed. Her head rested on the pillow and she drifted to sleep.

****************

The airship splashed down and taxied to the dock in San d’Oria. Vatrina was shaking when she stepped onto the dock. She couldn’t believe that she had ridden the thing, but the Sybil had ordered her to saying that normal means of transportation were too slow for the message she carried. She'd been sick for most of the flight, wishing her feet were back on solid ground and wondering how the hell the infernal machines ever stayed in the air.

She knelt down and one of the dock workers came over to her. “Ferst time an me airship, eh lass? Aye, they can be a rough ride if ya hit some bad weather but otherwise they's be smooth sailin'."

Bad weather? she thought. The stupid thing wouldn't stop shaking. I've had smoother rides on the ocean during a storm. He handed her some water and she took a sip. Thanking him, she stood and moved off. She was dressed in plate mail this time, unbefitting of a ranger, but better to project a vision of strength through defense to a rival nation. She was armed with two short swords, both sheathed on her left hip, and of course her bow across her back with two quivers of arrows: one on her right hip opposite her blades, the other across her back. The customs officers almost wouldn’t let her through until she showed them the permission she had to carry them in the city. A simple gold leaf with a symbol stamped into it was all that was needed to allow her to pass unheeded.

And so she entered the city of the elves. Paved streets, tall stone buildings, even taller stone walls. Fine masons though the elves were, even their walls failed to keep the darkness at bay 20 years ago, she thought. She made her way through the streets, getting odd looks from passersby. As uncomfortable as the armor was on her, she felt safer wearing it. Those she caught staring at her averted their gaze quickly, and some even made way for her through the streets. She made her way toward the Chateau d’Orgaulle, the castle that one of the first rulers had built, where she had an appointment with the king.

****************

Luna awoke around noon, finding Vittie curled up between her bare breasts. She scratched his head to wake him up and he jumped off her and onto the bed. She rose, stretched, and walked to her closet to put on her robe. It was short, but it covered enough of her to let her get by with it. The curves of her body were very pronounced, almost a perfect hourglass shape. She stood by the window as she tied the front of her silk robe, looking out onto the lawn of her school. It was really her father’s school, she told herself, she had just inherited it with his passing in the war. There were some of her older students out on the lawn, sparring or practicing alone. It would not be long before they would be accepted as full members of the clan and offered Tenshodo membership.

She stepped away from the window to see that Vittie had again fallen asleep on her pillow. She smiled and quietly exited her chambers. She made her way down to the entrance chamber where various students stopped what they were doing to look at her. Though they were used to seeing her scantily clad, they did not expect to see her so soon after she had left for Jeuno. She nodded to the students, who then resumed their activities, while she made her way to the kitchen for some food.

She entered the kitchen, to the surprise of the cook, who came out to greet her. “Well, my Lady Luna, back so soon eh? Was Jeuno really that boring?”

She giggled as he pulled out a chair for her to sit on. “No,” she said wrinkling her nose and sitting down, “it was quite painful this time around.”

He pushed the chair into the table and grabbed a plate. “I’m sorry to hear that mi'Lady. I suppose you’re not allowed to talk about it are you?”

She smiled as she saw him grab a fresh kabob off the grill. “Mmm…those smell really good today Ehchillo. And how many times do I have to tell you, you can drop the ‘Lady’ when talking to me. We’ve known each other for how long?” He was a shorter man, with dark hair and a thick beard. His eyes were dark but soothing. One of the best cooks in the land, and it showed. Both by the scents always wafting from his kitchen and his large, round belly. Always tasting his meals while they were cooking, he'd always said that he ate more than the entire school combined.

He placed the meat from the kabob onto her plate and poured a glass of water for her. “Of course, mi'Lady.” She glared at him. “Just kidding Luna,” he said grinning. He knew that she wouldn’t do anything to him. They’d been friends for far too long for her to turn on him for such a small thing. It was just his way of teasing her and showing that he cared. He sat down across from her. “It must not have been all that important if you were only gone for four days.”

She swallowed a bite. “You have got to be the only human I know that can cook Mithran kabobs this good.”

He chuckled. “You know as well as I do that I’ve had my share of failure when making these things.”

Luna giggled again. “Oh yes.” She took another bite and her expression changed. “It’s getting serious. Aldo believes that another war is on the horizon. He wanted me to check out the Gigas in Delkfutt’s Tower. But because of some idiotic ranger, I couldn’t complete my mission. She got up to see Porphyrion before I could and Mimas wouldn’t let me by because he said that I had already been there. She looked so much like me too. It was really weird.”

Ehchillo was surprised that she was telling him of her mission. Usually she was instructed by Aldo not to speak of them to anyone. “There aren’t many people in this world that can defeat you in solo combat. The only thing that I can think of is that she was a friend of yours or trained with you in the past. Are you sure you didn’t know her?”

Luna shook her head. “No, I had never seen her before in my life. But there was something. Her scent. She smelled so familiar. Almost like she was family.”

“But I thought your family died in the war?”

She stopped eating momentarily. “I never found out what happened to my sister and mother. I just assumed the worst after what I heard happened to Windurst. Could my sister be alive? I don’t know. But I doubt that she was the woman I fought with in Delkfutt’s.”

“Stranger things have happened.”

“Truer words have never been spoken,” Luna said giggling again. She had finished her food and was sipping at her water. Ehchillo took her plate and set it in the sink. A couple of the younger students at her school came into the dining room looking for something to drink. When they saw her dressed as she was, they averted their eyes, giggling. She smiled and closed the front of her robe a little more, realizing that it had fallen open.

She finished her water and rose, thanking Ehchillo for the meal and went back up to her chambers. Disrobing once again, she licked at a spot on her chest where some of the sauce from the meat had fallen. Vittie was awake and hopping around and came toward her when she entered. He jumped into her arms while she was cleaning herself almost knocking her to the floor. “Vittie,” she giggled, “take it easy. You’re a little big to jump into my arms like that, you know.” She scratched him, kissed him and set him on her bed. She set some food down for him and looked out the window again, careful not to draw the shades too far as she still hadn’t gotten dressed.

She found a pair of black pants and a dark blue kimono to put on. She pulled on her boots and grabbed a pair of katana to sling on her hips, since she was one of the few non-knights allowed to carry weapons in the city proper. She took a look at her hair in the mirror and decided to leave it free. Luna exited her room, leaving the door open so Vittie could roam the compound. Exiting the building, she passed some students who were training on the front lawn.

The city was bustling now, it being almost noon. She didn’t have any specific errands to run today so she thought she would just wander around the town, not feeling like heading out into the forests that lay beyond the walls of the city. She walked past the arch entering the parade grounds, which were bustling with merchants of all sorts. Most of them trying to sell things they had crafted, while others were selling supplies that were hard to come by for those crafts.

She passed the entrance to the Chateau and caught a scent on the wind. It was faint, but it was there. A growl formed in her throat, the fur on the back of her neck standing on end. She started to walk in the direction the scent was coming from, down Craftsmen’s Way. She didn’t get very far before she bumped into someone. Her eyes narrowed as she turned and saw who it was.

Vatrina was walking down the streets and caught a scent on the air. She had smelled it before, and moaned at what the scent meant. Then she bumped into someone, and turning to see who it was, her muscles tensed up.

Luna drew her katana, and at the sound of metal ringing, the others in the street immediately backed away from her and the brown-haired woman who had drawn her swords in response.

“I don’t want to fight you,” Vatrina said, her swords at the ready.

“If you don’t fight, then you will die for what you did to me in Delkfutt’s,” Luna retorted, hissing.

Vatrina sighed. “You attacked me, I was only defending myself.”

The two were circling now, but neither had attacked. “That’s a lie!” Luna yelled, hissing again. “You snuck up behind me looking to defeat me in one blow.” With that, Luna lunged forward swinging the katana in her left hand in for a strike. Vatrina cleanly parried the attack, the ring from their weapons echoing off the buildings.

Vatrina took a step back. “This is not going to get you anywhere. I’ve beaten you once, I can do it again.”

Luna came in to attack again, swinging both her katana, and having both attacks parried by each of Vatrina’s swords. “Your movements are sluggish with more than one sword in your hands,” she said upon finishing her attack.

Vatrina stood up out of her battle stance. “You have much to learn,” she said. Luna attacked again, furiously, but each attack was met with the unhappy clang of metal or the equally unhappy, but soundless, miss through the air. Several times their weapons clashed, but Luna could not gain an upper hand in the battle.

Suddenly, Vatrina unleashed an attack of her own, swinging low with one sword, making Luna commit to blocking it then coming over the top with the flat of her other sword, connecting with the side of Luna’s head. She staggered, grasping the point of contact and crying out in pain.

She glared at Vatrina, her eyes burning with fury. Shrugging off the pain, she attacked again, but this time was at a struggle of strengths, their weapons grinding together. It was Vatrina who pushed off but Luna kept coming. Vatrina let the katana slide up the blade of her sword to the hilt where it was stopped by the guard. And with one swift motion, she brought her other sword down hard on the katana. A loud clang rang out as the metal contacted, then a few quieter rings while the two fighters separated.

Luna looked at the now broken katana in her right hand in horror. It was one of the ones that had been specially made for her. She fell to her knees, tears starting to well up in her eyes. Tears of anger and sadness. She stood again and charged forward, only to be stopped as the point of one of Vatrina’s swords touched her neck.

“Do it,” she said. “You have won.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She had never been beaten this badly before. To have her blade broken by an opponent was the ultimate defeat to her and her clan. She had never lost to the same person more than once. But this mithra had beaten her, again. And she was a lowly ranger. She wasn’t even versed in the ways of the ninja, how could she wield two weapons so proficiently? But it didn’t matter anymore. She had lost and was at the mercy of this woman.

Vatrina heard the sounds of approaching soldiers. She removed her sword from Luna’s neck and sheathed her blades. Luna opened her eyes in surprise. Now instead of a sword at her neck, there were spears surrounding them.

The captain approached them. “You are both under arrest for disorderly…” He stopped before he could finish as he laid his eyes on Luna. “My Lady Luna, what are you doing here?”

She was still crying. “Ferat, don’t interrupt. I’ve lost, my life is hers.”

He shook his head. “I have no clue what code you ninjas live by, but the laws of the city override yours. I will allow you to leave. This woman will come with me and be tossed into the dungeon.”

“NO!” Luna cried out. “This is the second time she has beaten me. I will not let you take her away, even if it means that my life is forfeit.”

“You know I cannot do that, My Lady.” He turned to the other guards. “Take her.”

The guards surrounded Vatrina, reaching out to grab her. “That will not be necessary,” she said. She reached into a fold of her armor and pulled out the same leaf of gold she showed the customs officer. Holding it up for the captain to see, she looked at him. He was quite surprised, and called the guards back. “Make way, let her pass.”

They looked at him, confused, but obeyed. Vatrina nodded, and placing the leaf back into her armor, she moved off. As she passed Luna, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

As the guards dispersed the crowd that had gathered, Luna knelt down to the ground. She looked at the remnants of the katana in her right hand. She picked up the blade that had clanged to the ground. The break was clean, and straight. She might be able to repair it, but it pained her greatly to hold the two pieces of her broken katana.

She stood, caressing the pieces, tears sliding down her cheeks. The students watched her as she passed when she returned to the school. They even followed her inside, expecting her to rally them to exact vengeance for whatever had just happened. The entire clan had gathered around her in the entrance of the building.

“My Lady, what happened?” one of them asked.

“Whatever it was, let us help,” another said.

“NO!” Luna snapped. “You cannot. None of you can.”

Everyone was taken aback by her attitude. They had never seen their mistress like this. Something drastic must have happened for her to be so somber.

“I was defeated,” she said. “My life was forfeit and she spared me. I yelled at her to kill me but she didn’t.”

The clan members murmured amongst themselves at the news. “Tell us her name, and we will seek retribution for you!” someone called out. The rest of the clan agreed, some of them shouting their support.

Luna bowed her head. “No. I told you, you cannot. I must deal with this myself.” She pushed her way through the crowd and up the stairs. Setting the broken katana on her dresser, she hung the other one in its place. She didn’t bother closing her door, even though the clan members had followed her up. Falling onto her bed, she cried her heart out.

****************

Vatrina left the crowd behind her, letting the guards disperse it as she made her way toward the chateau. The structure lay in the very center of the city. Made of brick and stone, it towered above even the tallest defense towers. She was amazed that it was in the same condition that it was 20 years ago. The orcs must’ve spared it their wrath, she thought. She walked toward it, her mail clanging along the paved streets. Another thing she disliked about her old Sybil Guard armor. Glancing at the two guards flanking the entrance, she entered the building. Walking up to the two guards in front of the audience chamber, she silently pulled the gold leaf and showed it to them. Astonished, they let her pass.

“That was…” one started after she passed.

“That was one of the few ‘Hero of Vana’deil’ markers,” the other explained. “There have only been five given out since the current nations were founded five hundred years ago. The first one was to the Bastokian president who negotiated the truce between San d’Oria and Bastok over two hundred years ago. The second to the Star Sybil almost 150 years ago now. That one was for the discovery of the Books of the Gods magic tomes.” He paused a moment. “The other three were given to the leaders of the defense forces of each of the three cities in the war 20 years ago. And there was only one leader left alive to accept the award.”

Vatrina heard them talking but paid them no mind as the doors to the chamber slammed shut behind her. She looked around a moment. This room hadn’t changed either, though she couldn’t be sure because she had only been in it once before. And that was a very long time ago.

She started to walk toward the throne. Her entrance had startled everyone in the room and the guards had weapons drawn preparing for the worst from this intruder. She noticed the weapons, but continued her approach. She made no hostile moves, but the guards were ready for anything. She stopped short of the steps in front of the throne.

“My Lord King Destin, I bring you news from the Federation of Windurst,” she said to the ailing man in the chair.

He looked at her and stood. She did not kneel as one of his subjects would, and he did not remember hiring any mithra to do intelligence-gathering. He looked into her eyes, and there he remembered. A smile came across his wrinkled face, and with a simple gesture, the guards stood down, sheathing their swords. “Well, Vatrina, Captain of the Sybil Guards, it indeed has been a long time.”

Vatrina smiled at being addressed by her old title. “My Lord, you know as well as I do that I gave up that title long ago.”

“So it would seem. Yet you are still in the service of the Sybil.” His silver hair shone in the torch and sunlight. “And I must say, that armor of yours still looks good on you.”

She smiled again. “I figured it would be better if I looked respectable when talking to such a renowned leader as yourself. Honestly though, I was surprised that this mail was in such good condition.” She twisted her arms letting the sun glance off the silver and gold inlay of her gauntlets. Similar patterns were drawn across her breastplate and leg armor.

The king laughed. “Well, though we may not like them much, those humans are good for something. Their metalwork is indeed first class. Though our sword smiths are quite a bit more skilled than theirs,” he boasted. He stepped down from the throne to be on the same level as his friend. “Now, you said you had news from Windurst?”

“Indeed,” she said pulling a slip of paper from a pouch. “The Sybil would like to enlist your help in a mission to the northlands and the old Castle Zvhal. As you know, the Federation’s War Warlock regiments are still severely depleted. It takes years to replenish them and we simply have not had enough time.”

“So what is it that woman wants of me?”

“She wishes to enlist two of your best regiments to travel to Castle Zvhal and destroy the Dark One.”

The king was taken aback. “Preposterous, he was destroyed 20 years ago, you know that, you were with those that defeated him. She cannot be serious?”

“My Lord, I would not be here unless she were. I have recently gathered information that leads her, and myself, to believe that there will be another war between the beastmen and the free nations. A war that is scheduled to start very soon.”

He looked at Vatrina. “So the Sybil wants me to give up a regiment of my best men and women to go into the lion’s den? To their deaths? I’m sorry, but what she asks cannot be done. If there is another war coming, as you say, then I will need every able-bodied elf to defend the city. As it is, tensions are rising between us and the Republic. There have already been some small skirmishes in our border lands. I simply cannot spare the troops.”

Vatrina smiled, as if expecting his answer. “I know.”

Destin raised a brow. “You do? Then why have you come exactly?”

“Before I go on, I just want to let you know that Bastok is simply rattling the saber. They have no intention of another war with San d’Oria. At least not one that they start.” He looked at her suspiciously. “And I’m not saying this to try and sway you to spare the troops. I simply wish access to the Rangumont Pass. I will travel to Zvahl and take care of the Dark One myself.”

“No, it is too dangerous for you to go alone.” Destin shook his head. He was not worried about Bastok, the humans there had always coveted his lands but never wished to start anything. He was more concerned about the possibility of a massive orc attack. And what will happen if Vatrina were to go alone into the northlands. “I will not allow you access to the pass without backup. As if the glacier and Xarcabard were dangerous enough, Zvhal is no place to travel alone. And how do you expect to defeat the Dark One on your own? It took legions of troops to drive his army back, and even then only the six most skilled warriors were able to defeat him, at the loss of five. You cannot hope to stand up to him alone. And I do not wish to lose such a good friend as you.”

Vatrina smiled and bowed her head. “If that is my fate then so be it. It is what I can do to make up for the shame I faced running from the defense of the other cities 20 years ago.”

“You may have ran from the aid of our country but you lead a valiant and successful campaign in the northlands. Still, I cannot let you go alone.” Destin called a guard over. “Go to the Dojo and let them know that we are in need of their help once again.” The guard nodded and rushed off. “At the end of Pikeman’s Way, there is a school for ninjas, set up by your late father. I allow them to continue to operate within the city because your sister has been invaluable to me.”

She looked at him, anger in her eyes. “How could you? You know my sister is dead, as I do. Don’t mock me.”

Shaking his head, he said, “No, she is not. Whatever you may have heard about her passing in the war was wrong. She is as resilient and resourceful as you in battle. Luna was her name, was it not?”

Vatrina’s eyes widened, but all she could do was nod. “Go to the Dojo,” Destin continued. “Ask for her by name. Oh, and take this with,” he said handing her a piece of paper. “This will make sure that she helps you.”
Folding the paper neatly, she placed it in a pouch and turned to exit the room. “One last thing, Vatrina. Be careful around her, she has a fiery attitude, but is very sensitive.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied without looking back. She exited the chamber, and then the chateau. She made her way toward the Triumphal Arch that signified the border between south and north San d’Oria. Her heart was beating rapidly, anxious to meet her sister, to see what she had become. But she also had a feeling that this meeting would not go well, and that working with her would be quite difficult.

She turned onto Pikeman’s Way and her pace slowed. She took her time, even though she didn’t exactly have a lot of it. The sooner she could get to the northlands and Castle Zvahl, the better off the world would be. Besides, she thought, I have no intention of returning. She did not wish to be in that traitorous woman’s service any longer. She had planned it so that Vatrina got the blame for the loss of Windurst during the war, and now Vatrina still hadn’t been released from her service, even though 20 years had passed. Regardless of her abilities with a blade, all she wished for was a peaceful rest of her life in Kazham. But some things were not meant to be, and her wishes seemed to be one of them.

The school was a large, rectangular building set atop a lush green lawn. There were people of all races and sizes out on the lawn in front of the building. Some looked as if they were meditating, others were training with each other. The clack of the wooden weapons echoed in the narrow confines of the city walls. They had noticed her approach but paid her no mind until she announced her intentions.

“I am looking for Luna,” she called out. This got the attention of the entire promenade. Everyone had stopped what they were doing to look at her. An elf ran inside the building. He returned, followed by the blonde-haired mithra that Vatrina had fought both earlier that day and in Delkfutt’s Tower. She was still wearing a short, blue kimono and looked as if she had been crying.

“Who calls for me by name?” Luna asked the crowd.

Vatrina’s armor clanged the ground as she took a step forward. “That would be me.”

Luna stood erect as Vatrina stepped forward. “I suppose you have come to finish what you could not this morning.” Upon hearing their mistress say that, the others in the yard drew what weapons they had and made ready for battle. They would not give up their leader so willingly, whether she wished it or not.

Shaking her head, Vatrina said, “No, I have come to seek your assistance.” She looked around the yard and at the building more closely. “So this is what father set up when he left myself and mother.”

Luna raised a brow. “What do you mean ‘father’?”

Vatrina smiled. “I mean, that my father was a renowned ninja in the Federation. But because of the coming war 20 years ago, he took my sister and fled here to San d’Oria. My sister, whom I thought killed in the war,” she looked down. “has not died after all.”

Luna took a few steps toward Vatrina, who appeared to be crying. “My name is Vatrina, and that of my sister is Luna. We grew up together, as short-lived as it was, in Windurst. For so long I believed you had perished in the war. But here I am, talking to you.”

Luna looked at her, her face emotionless. Without warning, her hand came across Vatrina’s face, the slap echoing as much as the wooden clack of the training weapons. “How dare you,” she sneered. “How dare you sully the name of my sister. She was the captain of the Sybil Guards during that war, and perished at that post. I suggest you leave this place and never return, before I slit your throat.”

Luna turned to head back into the building but Vatrina stopped her. Reaching into a pouch on her hip, she pulled the gold leaf and the slip of paper that Destin had given her. “I’m sure you know what the gold is. Imprinted on it is the Seal of Vana’diel. Each of the city defense commanders received one after the war’s end. If you know that your sister was the captain of the Sybil Guards and leader of the Windurstain defense forces, then you know that she would have gotten a leaf like that. With my possession of the leaf, you must also know that she and I are one in the same.”

“For all I know, you could’ve killed her and stolen it from her.” She took the folded piece of paper and opened it. The royal seal was at the top of the page and underneath was a letter addressed to her in the King’s handwriting. Luna, the bearer of this letter is Vatrina, Captain of the Sybil Guards. She has come to San d’Oria to seek assistance. But due to the current situation with the Republic, I cannot spare the troops. Therefore, I hereby order you to assist her in whatever endeavor she has planned. King Destin IV. A tear started to run down Luna’s cheek once again, but this time for a different reason. She looked up at Vatrina, who was also crying, and slapped her again. “Why the hell didn’t you seek me out after the war? How dare you make me think you were dead! I’ve got half a mind to beat you up right here but since you’ve already beaten me twice, I don’t think I’d get very far.”

Vatrina started laughing. Though there was a scowl on Luna’s face, it couldn’t stay there for long. She lunged forward, embracing her sister tightly. “You know,” she said. “this armor isn’t very befitting a ranger.”

“Maybe not, but where we’re going, I’m going to need it,” Vatrina replied.

“Oh?” Luna asked. “Where’s that?”

****************

Torches lit a room where no sun would shine. Some were natural, others made by magic. Blue, green, orange, and even black light danced off the walls and floors making the shadows of the occupants dance with them. There were five occupants of the room, four of them standing shoulder to shoulder, with the fifth sitting atop a platform. This one was large by comparison, dwarfing the other four with his immense size. The other four were a demon, quadav, orc, and yagudo. The leaders of their respective nations, they were permanently stationed inside the walls of the castle with their personal guard. The demons were the only ones guarding the lands immediately surrounding the castle.

“My forces are at your command,” the yagudo cawed. A high priest by trade, he had command of incredible magic.

“The forces of the Orc Dominion are always prepared for battle.” The orc captain was a paladin. His magic powers weak, and some would consider his profession an insult. For all that a paladin believed in, the orc captain was completely opposite.

“The Quadav will always be ready to take lands from the fair skinned ones.” A powerful black mage, the quadav captain had an aura of pure energy surrounding him.

“The legions of the Kindred will always be loyal to you, My Lord.” A dark knight, and though his people were few, they were very powerful. Dark energy coursed through their veins like blood.

He stood, towering over them. “Excellent,” his booming voice proclaimed. “With the dawn of the new moon, a new power will rule the land of Vana’diel.”

****************

They were in the cafeteria and giggling up a storm. Ehchillo had cooked up some of his best kabobs, and the sisters were gobbling them up as fast as he could cook them. Vatrina had taken her armor off, and was sitting in a light purple kimono that Luna had provided her to wear.
There was a break in the flow of food to their plates, and Luna took it as a chance to ask her question again. “You never answered me, where are we going?”

Vatrina finished a bite she had in her mouth before answering. “To Castle Zvhal in the northlands.”

Luna’s eyes widened. “Why in the world do we have to go there?”

Vatrina raised an eyebrow. “You were with me in Delkfutt’s. You mean you didn’t find out what was going on?” Luna shook her head. “The beastmen forces are massing. The Dark One has risen again and it’s my job to destroy him. I wanted to go alone, but Destin would not allow it. He would not give me passage through Rangumont unless you came with. And so, here I am.”

This time Luna’s jaw dropped. “You mean to tell me that you’re going to take on the Dark One alone? What the hell is wrong with you? You don’t stand a chance! Even if you did somehow beat him, you’d never get out alive.”

Vatrina smiled. “That’s the idea, my sister.” It felt good to call her that. It was something she hadn’t said for a very long time, and it made her happy. Regardless of their means of separation, and what may have happened during their years apart, they were still family, and she loved her like family.

“No,” Luna said. “I won’t let you do that. I just got you back and I will not lose you again.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” Vatrina said just as Ehchillo delivered another platter full with kabobs. Each took their share and ate heartily. Vatrina finished first and rose from the table. She stretched while Luna finished and rose as well. Luna led her away and up the stairs. A room was set aside for Vatrina’s use and Luna had her armor and weapons placed inside. After leaving Vatrina in her room, Luna walked with Vittie to her own to lie down for a while.

Her sister had told her that they’d be leaving in the morning, and to get a good night’s rest. The sun was setting and she figured that now was as good a time as any to go to sleep. She took her kimono off, examined herself in the mirror for a few minutes, licking at a few places that the sauce from her dinner had fallen. Pulling her nightgown over hear head and letting it fall to her knees, she laid down in her bed with Vittie by her side, feeling that, for the first time, her life was complete again.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Kiri~onna
Kitten
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:57 am

Post by Kiri~onna » Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:36 pm

very well written story
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Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Tue Nov 28, 2006 5:00 pm

Thank you Kiri. I may not fully agree but then I'm a pretty harsh judge of my own works.



When Hell had Frozen Over

They had risen at sunrise to begin gathering the equipment and supplies they would need for the trip. Heavy armor and weapons got priority. Thick clothing was also necessary for the cold weather on the glacier. After food and cooking supplies, there was no room left in their packs for any sleeping equipment. That was, however, less of a problem than it seemed. Both Vatrina and Luna were comfortable with sleeping on the ground with no padding. Pillows could be scraped together from leaves or snow, and their clothing would keep them warm enough through the night. Vatrina even knew of ancient towers scattered across the glacier similar to the towers that conceal the Horototo Ruins beneath Saruta near Windurst that would protect them from the wind.

The sun was barely over the horizon when they set off from the East gate. They would go on horseback for as long as they could. Which, due to the conditions on the glacier and in the pass, was not very long. It only took them half a day to get to the entrance to the pass on horseback. From there, they shouldered their packs, left the horses in the care of the two guards at the entrance to the pass, and entered the dark tunnel.

Widely spaced torches lined the path to the glacier. They ate little, rationing their food as much as possible. Better to have more than they need than not enough, they thought. Though there were various animals they could kill for food on the glacier, the permafrost of the Xarcabard region upon which the Castle Zvhal sat had no such animals. The area was littered with small dragons and the soldiers of fallen armies that had been reanimated with some dark magic.

Within two days of their departure, they found themselves treading through the snow of the glacier. To their surprise, the sun was shining when they exited the dank tunnel. As nice as it was to feel the sunlight on their faces once again, they were blinded by the incredible brightness from the sky and the light reflecting off the snow at their feet. Unable to see, they were forced to take shelter in the tunnel until some clouds moved over the sky.

They had traveled in relative silence since they had left the city. Words were few and stuck to the matter at hand. Neither could think of anything else to talk about even though they had been apart for so long. Vatrina tossed Luna a piece of jerky to chew on while they waited for the weather to change. They sat and ate in silence, listening to the few birds that could survive in this climate. Luna had set up the cooking pan and with some dry sticks she found nearby, and started a small fire to melt some snow for the two to drink. They hadn’t taken much water with, realizing the abundance of it in the area they would be traveling. It would simply need to be melted before being consumed.

Vatrina took a step out and looked at the sky. The sun was setting but the weather had not changed. She shook her head and went back to the small corner where they had set camp. She knelt down and started to smooth out a circle in the snow. “The weather isn’t changing, we’ll have to stay here tonight,” was all she said. She laid down in her makeshift bed, testing it. It was far from comfortable, but it would do. It was definitely better than sleeping on the uneven rock floor of the pass, they thought.

Darkness fell quickly as the sun dipped behind the cliff walls. Vatrina laid down but found that she could not sleep. She found her mind wandering back into memories she had buried long ago. The feel of the snow made her shiver, but not because it was cold. She glanced over at Luna from time to time, who was sleeping soundly. It was then that Vatrina made a decision. She had refused to endanger anyone else but herself. Destin, in his overt caring for her well-being, had demanded that she take someone with who could assist her. And so she decided that in two days she would slip away with the minimum amount of supplies she would need for the trek to Castle Zhahl. She would leave the majority of the supplies with her sister so that she would have enough to get back to the city.

But she could not leave tonight. The sun would be rising soon and her tracks would be visible in the entrance of the cave since the wind didn’t penetrate this far. She simply laid back down and tried to push the memories from her mind. But they would not go. Screams of dying soldiers under her command. The sound of powerful magic spells being cast. The smell of blood on the snow. The demons were powerful, and the land of Xarcabard held no cover for her troops, nor any features that she could exploit. Men and women were dying by the dozens, but she was ordered to push on.

It had been two weeks after her arrival in Kazham that they had found her and ordered her to lead this expedition. She had tried to refuse, saying that there had to be someone more qualified. But both the other defense commanders had perished in battle. The Duke of the brand new Duchy of Jeuno, which had been in the early stages of construction at the time the war broke out, believed that she was the only one who could lead them to victory. So she reluctantly took the position, returning to the service of her country.

However, despite her greatest efforts, the expedition to Castle Zvhal was failing. Her army was being picked apart and they hadn’t even laid eyes on the walls of the castle. The demons were just too powerful, but her leaders would not let her pull back to regroup. Tears formed in her eyes as the memories continued to rush forward. She wasn’t even 20 years old at the time and she was residing over the largest battle in history.

The sun had started to set on the battlefield, and the demons began to withdraw. She ordered her troops not to pursue. She ordered the archers and rangers to walk amongst the battlefield to see if anyone was still alive. They took only three hours to traverse the four mile battlefield, and came back with only four men. She realized now that this was not a war for land, or power. It was a war of survival. The demons were out to wipe them from the planet, and she could not allow that. Talking with her division commanders, it was decided that a small contingent could penetrate during the night and make it to the castle. The contingent would be comprised of two humans, two elves, a taru and herself. The rest of the army would withdraw to the canyon entrance to the glacier. If the demons pressed the advance, they would be drawn into a bottleneck and losses might be reduced with the reduced fighting area.

They would set out immediately, nights were short at this time of year and they wanted to get as far as they could before being discovered. The six moved quickly, avoiding the demon patrols. Surprisingly, they found themselves at the entrance to the castle by sunrise. They entered, and continued through without contest. They traversed into the depths of the castle, coming upon a large brass and iron door. Bursting through, they found the Dark One waiting for them. The battle that ensued was long. Each one of them was struck down again, and again. But they continued to get up and fight, as if driven by pure will. Energy coursing through her veins, Vatrina lashed out as quickly and as violently as she could. Arrow after arrow found its mark, but nothing seemed to slow the Dark One down.

But there was something wrong and she shivered when the memory surfaced. Every time one of her comrades was struck down, they rose again, seemingly more powerful than the last time. It was the same with herself, and it frightened her to think of what might have happened had she been struck once or twice more. It seemed that every time he struck one of her comrades or herself, that part of his power was transferred to them. She watched each of her contingent undergo a transformation and then simply vanish. She couldn’t figure it out until she was the only one left. The Dark One was severely weakened, and it was a simple matter to loose another barrage of arrows and take him down. He fell at her feet and his body vaporized, dissolving in the air.

She beat her head with her fist in an effort to remove the memories. Finally succeeding, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and eyes and looked outside. It had brightened significantly, but the sky was overcast. She judged that the sun had risen but was unsure if she had actually slept. The speed at which her memories rushed forward was too fast for her to have been awake. But it didn’t matter. She took a piece of bread, broke it, and after waking Luna, started to eat, giving her the other piece.

They ate quietly, listening to the wind whistle through the dead trees outside in the canyon. They gathered their things, and exited the tunnel out into the light falling snow of the glacier. The glacier was treacherous. Steep cliffs and seemingly bottomless valleys lined the only safe path. They took their time, traveling in relative silence. Though they tried to avoid having to climb up or down any cliffs, it was not always the case. There was one in particular. Going around could cost them days of travel. Climbing the ice-covered rock face was their only option. They tied ropes to their packs and then took the ropes in their mouth so that they could haul the packs up once they reached the top. Vatrina started off first. Taking her time she tested her grip on each place she put her hands and feet. She was about a hundred feet off the ground when she slipped. Some snow had gotten trapped between her foot and the spot she was using to stand on. Her reflexes took over and her claws grabbed onto the first hand hold she could find. She lurched at the sudden halt in her descent, nearly pulling her shoulder from its socket. Luna cried out to her from the ground, but there was nothing she could do.

Vatrina hung there for a second, catching her breath before looking down. She judged that she had fallen almost 30 feet. She looked up again and found a place to put her other hand. Then, without looking, she searched for places to stand on while she gathered her composure to begin her climb again. She continued her slow ascent, and once she got to the top, she started pulling her pack up the rope. It seemed heavier than it was a few minutes before. Must be because of my shoulder, she thought. She looked down and saw that Luna had started her ascent up the cliff. She was also moving slowly and carefully. Testing each hand and foot hold before putting her weight on it, she made her way up the cliff.

After Luna had made it to the top and hoisted her pack up the cliff and back onto her shoulders, the two set off again, trudging through the snow. The wind had picked up creating a blizzard-like condition. Throwing snow in all directions and making it difficult to see and navigate, but they continued on as best they could.

As they traveled, they saw large towers in the distance. Ancient structures, long since forgotten, but they provided good shelter. As night fell on them again, they took shelter in one of the towers they had passed. It was considerably warmer compared to the air outside. The ground was flat, and made of some cermet or stone. Hardly fit for sleeping on but they would get no sleep if they made camp in the howling wind outside. Luna started a small fire and gathered some snow to melt for drinking water while Vatrina dug out something for them to eat for dinner.

“I’ll give you a choice tonight,” Vatrina said when Luna had returned. “Bread with salted pork, bread with salted rabbit, or bread with salted beef?”

Luna giggled and took some of the beef. “I don’t know how much more salted meat I can eat,” she said.

Vatrina shook her head. “Oh come now, it’s only been three days. You mean to tell me that you’ve never set out on foot from San d’Oria to Jeuno, just for the experience?”

“Can’t say that I have,” Luna said. She tore off a piece of bread and ate it. “Airships are so much more convenient.”

“I hate those things,” Vatrina said, shuddering. “I had to take one from Windurst to San d’Oria and it scared the hell out of me.”

“The mighty ranger Vatrina, scared of heights?” Luna teased.

“Hey knock it off. At least I’ve kept in touch with my wilder heritage.”

Luna frowned. “You got me there. I guess I am kind of spoiled living in San d’Oria huh?”

Vatrina finished her pork. “Just a little.” She looked outside. The wind wasn’t dying down. Tomorrow night, she thought. After Luna has fallen asleep. She fiddled around with her pack a little bit while Luna doused the fire and lay down to sleep. After packing the cooking gear back up she did the same.

"Good old cermet bed," Vatrina mumbled to herself. A wonderous creation from the alchemists in Bastok, cermet was almost a miracle stone. It could be shaped easily with sandpaper, molded with one's own two hands before being allowed to dry and harden. And then it would last for years. Thousands of years, Vatrina thought, remembering on a time when she sat in on a discussion as to the age of Delkfutt's. It was simple enough to make, and was used for everything from buildings to roads, to commemorative statues these days. She leaned her head on her arm and thought of nothing in order to fall asleep.

Or tried to. The second she closed her eyes, the memories returned. Again, unbidden by her mind but seemingly dragged to the surface by her being in this place. For the second night in a row, she heard the screams, smelled the blood, and watched her comrades die at the hands of the Kindred. For the second night in a row she saw herself slay the Dark One after her companions had disappeared, seemingly enveloped by the dark energy that he was transferring to them. And once again when she awoke, she wasn’t sure if she had slept or not.

****************

The stars were shining brightly this night in the Federation. The Sybil was on her balcony gazing up at them. Reading them, as it was done in the old days. But there was a problem. What she had foreseen had not come to pass. For years the life seemed to be draining from the land around them, and seemingly her powers to foresee the future along with it. Though she had always been able to explain off the other incorrect readings as clouds or something else obstructing her vision, this time was different. This time, what she saw in the stars did not even exist.

It was then that Semih entered her chamber. “Any news from Vatrina yet Semih?”

The Mithra shook her head. “No, My Lady. However, we have received a message from King Destin of San d’Oria. He regrets to inform you that he could not spare any troops to head to the Castle Zvahl as per your request, and instead has sent Vatrina and her sister, Luna, on the mission.”

“Vatrina and her sister?” the Sybil asked. “Those two do not even stand a hair of a chance against a foe such as this. They will surely perish at his hand and the world will be covered in darkness. Curse those elves. Can they not think of more than just the wellbeing of their own country?”

“Apparently,” Semih continued. “The humans from the Republic are gearing up for war against the Kingdom. There have already been minor skirmishes along the outposts of Valkurm and Pashhow.”

The Sybil snorted in disgust. “They will doom us all.” She turned back to her balcony and gazing at the stars, hoping that her future sight would come back to her.

Semih left the room, pausing only a moment to look over at the little woman. She'd never seen the Sybil so disturbed or disgusted. Something else was wrong. It wasn't just the upcoming war, or the continuing squabbles between the other two nations. She gazed into the pool surrounding the platform outside of the Sybil's chambers. The other guards gathered around her, all of them mithra. They could feel it too. A people connected to the land through their Chieftainness, they could all feel its pain. To top it off, the Star Readings were becoming less frequent, and less accurate.

The captain looked at her guards somberly and they returned to their posts. She, on the other hand, had things to do, and quickly. War was coming. And she was unsure if the Sybil and the other Taru could protect them.

****************

Their fourth day set out from San d’Oria, the second on the glacier, was the calmest as far as the weather was concerned. No wind, no sun, the sky overcast. It was the perfect day for traveling in such an environment. And the Mithran sisters made the best of it, traveling swiftly to cover as much ground as they could. This section of their journey was quite flat, snowdrifts being their only obstacle. Though these could be just as treacherous as the sand dunes on the isle of Kuzotz. They traveled for as long as they could, waiting until the sun had nearly disappeared to find shelter for the night because they knew that they would rarely have conditions that pleasant.

They found another one of the towers to take shelter in for the night and went about the same duties as they had the previous night. Luna started a small fire and gathered snow to be melted for drinking water. Vatrina pulled some meat out of the packs for their dinner. Luna had complained about the salted meat the night before and Vatrina had noticed her eyeing a few of the rabbits and even an elk or two during the day. She herself would enjoy some fresher meat than what they carried with them but they could not spare the time this day to take a side hunting trip. Luna will have to do that for herself after tonight, Vatrina thought.

“Trin, how much farther do you think we have until we reach Xarcabard?” Luna asked.

Vatrina was surprised at the use of her shortened name. “Well, if we were able to travel like we did today, then no more than a day’s travel would find ourselves in Xarcabard. However, there are a couple more cliffs we need to scale, and I have a feeling that a storm is brewing. Weather this calm usually precedes a large snowstorm.”

Luna nodded and finished eating her meat. She was exhausted, Vatrina could tell. She was not lying when she said she was not used to this kind of travel. Of course neither was Vatrina. This environment was far different than the canyon and mountains she regularly traveled through on horseback between Windurst and Jeuno.

She got up and went outside to look at the sky. A gust of wind caught her off guard. Yes, a storm will be here by morning. With luck, Luna won’t be able to follow me for at least another day. By then, my trail will have long since gone cold forcing her to turn back to safety. She went back inside the tower to find Luna fast asleep. She smiled and packed up a few things, doused the fire, and checked their rations. She set aside only what she would need to get to the castle and placed the rest inside Luna’s pack. Then she quietly hoisted her considerably lighter pack and looked at her sister one last time. Turn back from this evil place when you find me gone, my sister, and live in peace.

She wiped a tear from here eye and exited the tower. She moved quickly, trying to get as much distance between her and Luna as she could; for she would also be able to do little during the storm the next day. Her footprints would be wiped away by the snowfall and wind so she made no effort to cover them.

She soon came upon the first of the cliffs that she had spoken to Luna of. Scaling it quickly, she moved on. The wind was picking up and snow starting to fall. The sky was brightening, sunrise was approaching. She was exhausted but pushed on a little further. There was a tower in the distance, and if she could get there, she would be able to take shelter and sleep during the storm. That is, if Sleep was kind enough to grace her with his presence.

The wind was howling and snow falling hard when she reached the entrance to the tower. Once inside, she fell to her knees. She set her pack down and began melting some snow for water, which she drank quickly. She wasn’t hungry and laid down to sleep. She watched the snow fall outside as her eyes closed and she drifted into an uneasy, dreamless sleep.

****************

Luna awoke that morning to the howl of the wind. She wiped her eyes and looked around. She jumped to her feet when she didn’t see her sister or even Vatrina’s pack lying next to her. She ran outside frantically, only to be blinded by the falling and blowing snow. She could see the trail that Vatrina had made as she trudged through the snow but knew that it wouldn’t be there for long. She called out, yelling her sister’s name hoping that she would hear and come back, but to no avail. Walking back inside, she rubbed her hands quickly along her arms and sides, trying to warm up.

But she couldn’t sit still. She was pacing around, her mind racing. How could she leave me here like this? Why would she? She knelt down and opened her pack. Her eyes widened as she found double the amount of food she was originally carrying. She doesn’t expect to come back, Luna thought with horror. She wiped a tear from her eye. “No, I will not let you do this Trin.” Luna packed the food back up and set out into the storm. She would get as far as she could while the trail was still visible.

She covered up as much as she could and stepped out into the storm. She moved slowly, shielding her face from the wind and snow. She continued stumbling forward, following the disappearing trail her sister left. But the wind and snow were too much for her. She was forced to take shelter in the first tower she found. She let her pack fall to the ground and collapsed, shivering, to the floor. She started a large fire and cursed herself for not making it farther than a couple of miles. She laid next to the fire and fell asleep.

****************

Vatrina awoke later in the day. The snow had stopped falling but the wind was still blowing. She had no idea what time it could be because of the clouds overhead. But nonetheless, she grabbed something to eat and set off again hoping that Luna had turned back. She didn’t get far before running into another cliff to climb. She scaled it quickly and easily and recognized where she was. I made it farther last night than I thought I did. She pushed across the last open plain and into a canyon, the entrance to the dead lands of Xarcabard.

The winds from the glacier gave her a push through but were calm on the other side. The sky was cloudy here too and the lands wide and flat. There would be demons out patrolling near the castle, she knew. Crossing the plains themselves posed their own hazard. The dead soldiers that had fallen in battle, reanimated as skeletons to do the Dark One’s bidding, also roamed this land. She also knew that there were small dragons prowling around the plains, ones that did not need food but simply the dark energy the land provided to survive. Shadow Dragons they are called, she remembered.

She also recalled that she would not find shelter at night and decided to stay here in the canyon until morning. She leaned against a wall and cleared the snow for a fire. She would need one out here with no structure or cave to keep her warm. She drank some water and laid down to sleep once again.

****************

Luna awoke about the same time that Vatrina did. The snow had stopped, but the wind was still howling. Her fire had gone out and she was shivering again. She rebuilt it, and grabbed something to eat. She had eaten more than she could stand of the salted meat in the past five days and hoped to never see such food again. But it was all she had. Bread was too bulky to carry much of and Vatrina had taken most of that. She thought about tossing some in water to try making a thin soup but decided that she did not have the time. She needed to set off again as soon as she warmed up. Vatrina’s trail would most certainly have gone cold, the blizzard wiping it away. But there was only one place that her sister would be heading, and if Luna could get there, she would find her.

She gathered her things and let the fire burn itself out. She was amazed that there was anything in this goddess forsaken land that could burn, let alone would. Hoisting her pack, she stepped out into the wind. It was still quite cold, but she moved on anyway, quicker now because there was no flying snow to blind her. She continued on through nightfall where she found a small cliff. Using the method that she had at the first wall they had to scale, she tied a rope to her pack and took the end in her mouth. This one was not nearly as large as the first one but the weight of her pack would increase her chances of falling.

Pulling and hoisting her pack again, she saw a tower in the distance. I’ll stay there tonight. Its better than trying to continue on in the black of night. The wind had calmed down considerably with nightfall, but it didn’t get any warmer. As the sun went down, so did the temperature, and Luna was freezing again. She shivered as she walked through the snow, unable to feel her feet, ears and tail. Her hands were tucked tightly in her armpits so that she could manipulate sticks and cooking materials when she made her fire for the night.

She shook the snow from her feet and legs as she entered the tower. She walked in and set her pack down. And smiled when she saw the scorched ground and burned sticks. Her sister had stayed there recently, and she was glad to be on the right track. She built her fire and set a pan of snow on it to melt. She pulled out a piece of meat and once the snow had melted, she cut the meat up and tossed it into the pan. After it had been boiling for a few minutes, she pulled the pan off and let it cool. Then, sipping at the broth, she nearly spit it out in disgust. “Well, I never said I could cook.”

It tasted horrible, but she ate it anyway. The hot food would do her good. Finishing her crude soup, she lay down and wished that she was back in her warm bed in San d’Oria.

Her dreams were filled with thoughts of a warmer place. A nice small home on the fields of Rolanberry inhabited by herself and Sarano. And of course Vittie would live with them as well. There, they could live out their days in comfort, away from the bustle and stress of the city. Of course she would have to retire from her school and pass the leadership onto one of the graduate students, but that didn’t bother her as much as it seemed like it should. She smiled in her sleep at the notion of living out the remainder of her life in peace.

****************

He entered the chateau, his mail clanging along the ground. The guards in front of the audience chamber saluted and allowed him to pass. He removed his helm, laid his sword on the ground in front of him and knelt before the king. His silver hair was a sharp contrast to the black plate mail he wore. His sword was elegantly decorated and crafted from the strongest materials known to the elfish smiths.

“Welcome home, Sarano. How fare ye?” the king asked.

“The enemy was engaged according to plan, My Lord. The Orcs were indeed massing an army in the sanctuary. My men fought bravely and were victorious. The remains of the orc army scattered in all directions.”

The king applauded. “Well done. I would expect nothing less from you. Notify your men that they have leave for the next two weeks. After a campaign like that, they deserve it.”

Sarano smiled. “Thank you, My Lord. If there is anything you need from me, I shall be at the Dojo.” He gathered his sword, placing it in its sheath on his back.

He turned to leave but Destin stopped him. “I think you should know that you will not find Luna there. She has been sent on a mission to the Castle Zvhal with her sister at the order of the Federation.”

Sarano snapped around. “What? Why would you send her on such a mission?”

“Her sister, Vatrina, came to me asking for a legion of troops to travel to Zvhal and take care of the Dark One. Since we cannot spare them, she suggested that she go alone. However, I would not allow it. I had to order her sister to accompany her, more for Vatrina’s safety than anything else. That woman is so reckless with her own life. Either way, I will order the pass opened if you wish to follow.”

Sarano bowed slightly and said, “Thank you, My Lord. I will set out immediately.” He turned and left the chateau to prepare for his journey.

****************

Luna awoke the next morning to a calm, cloudy day. She quickly packed up and exited the tower. It wasn’t long before she found the trail left by Vatrina. Good, this part hasn’t been wiped away, she thought. She could move more quickly now that he had a path to follow. She would also have to move quickly to try and catch her sister. She would be moving today too. Vatrina was more accustomed to this kind of travel, and Luna would have to do her best to catch up.

She trudged on through the snow, up a cliff and across the final flat area that Vatrina had traveled the day before. Her stomach longed for something more than dried and salted meat, and she had to fight multiple urges to hunt the elk that she passed by.

She made it to the canyon that signaled the entrance to Xarcabard and found another pile of burned sticks. Her sister had camped here overnight. She’s not as far ahead of me as I thought. But now Luna was in unfamiliar and dangerous territory. She had no idea what awaited her on the flat snow-covered plains of Xarcabard. All she knew was to travel northwest to find the castle. And she would have no cover once she exited the canyon. But the sun had yet to turn, by her reckoning, so she continued on, following the footsteps left by her sister.

What am I thinking, traveling through here alone. She had to more than once try and disappear from the sight of passing skeletons. There’s nothing I hate more in this world than walking bones. She thought about fighting them but that could only draw more and would slow her down. So she waited patiently for them to pass her by.

At one point, she came across a second set of tracks, crossing those her sister had made. They were large, and in the shape of a hand. And Luna had no desire to find out what had made those tracks. She continued on quickly, avoiding the demon patrols, and various other monsters running around near the castle.

She slipped into the entrance of the castle but there was no sign of her sister. She was exhausted and the sun was setting. She took shelter in an apparently little-used room near the gates of the castle. Afraid that a fire might draw unwanted attention, she sat in darkness and ate. She fell asleep leaning against a wall, wondering how she would track her sister now.

****************

Vatrina was deep within the castle when the sun disappeared from the sky. She wandered around the corridors aimlessly, unsure of where she needed to go. So far, she had evaded the demon patrols, but did not know how much longer that would last.

She was tired and looked for someplace to sit down for a while. She found a hidden door that led to a small, empty room. Hoping that no one had heard or seen her, she closed the door again and sat down in the darkness. She ate the last of her food and drifted to sleep.

****************

He left the gate quickly, his horse at a full gallop. They had a five day head start on him and he would need to travel long and hard to catch up. He carried only food with him. He would need nothing else for he wore his armor and weapons.

He reached the pass before noon and continued on at a grueling pace. Even though he was in the best physical condition, it would only take a few days like he planned to travel before he would be completely exhausted and unable to move. But still he pushed on, through the night his path lit by a torch. He reached the exit of the pass as the sky was just starting to brighten. The weather was too harsh to continue on, and if he was to be of any assistance to Luna and her sister upon his arrival at Zvahl, he would need all the energy he could get. So he laid down to sleep.

****************

Vatrina awoke a few hours later, unsure of the time. She made her way to the wall she thought was the door to her room and pushed on it, cracking it open slightly. Sunlight shone into her room, blinding her momentarily. She looked back into the room to see what exactly it was and saw three skeletons, their bones chained to the wall. She shuddered. I can’t believe I slept amongst these things. She looked out into the hall again and, seeing that no one was there, exited the room and closed the door once again.

Sticking to shadows as much as she could, she moved quickly about the castle halls. She would have to take extra care now that day had broken. It would be too easy to spot her if she let herself get in the sunlight.

She entered a dead end room with four teleportation pads in it. Not knowing which to take, she selected one at random and got lucky. It took her to a long open corridor. It appeared empty, but she couldn’t be sure and moved slowly though.

At the end of the corridor was a large brass and iron door. She touched it and her memories rushed to the surface again. She cringed slightly, knowing what was on the other side. She knelt down and looked through her pack to make sure she had everything she would need. She had been wearing her armor and weapons during the whole trip, her swords on the same hip, her bow slung across her back. A quiver of arrows was on her right hip and another was slung on her back under her bow.

She stood, tossing her empty pack aside and took a few deep breaths. Her death was waiting for her on the other side of the door. There was no escape this time, no talking her way out of it, no fancy evasion. This is where her story, her legacy, would come to an end. She had always thought it would be this way, dying alone in a battle she could not win, but had hoped that it would not.

She bowed her head and pushed on the doors. As they creaked open, she thought she heard a voice from behind her. But she did not turn to look. She entered the cavernous room, and there he was, sitting there like he had twenty years ago. Large, his skin black as a demon's, he wore no apparent armor. Eyes red as rubies, and veins that pulsed with violet power, he was indeed a menacing sight to behold. The twisted horns that emerged from the top of his head were for more than just decoration, Vatrina remembered. They were indeed quite sharp and he could use them at a moment's notice if the oppertunity presented itself. He stood as she entered, and was clearly disappointed.

His booming voice echoed as he laughed. “Is this all that the peoples of Vana’diel can muster? One measly warrior?”

Vatrina didn’t let his insults get to her. “This is where your reign comes to an end. No more will you threaten the free lands. You will die by my hand, like you should have twenty years ago.”

He laughed again as she readied her bow. “I remember you. You were so young and full of life back then. What happened I wonder? The horrors of the war too much for your fragile mind?”

She scowled. “Stop it! You don’t know me at all!”

He stepped down from his throne and drew his sword. “Oh but I do, Captain Vatrina. I know you better than you know yourself. Inside, you long for power that equals mine. You have ever since we fought that first time.”

She fired an arrow at his neck. But he blocked it with his armored hand. “You are here to try and stop me. Stop me from taking over Vana’diel. Stop me from spreading my power around to all the living things in this world. You, my dear, are here to claim that power for yourself.”

She fired another barrage of arrows at his neck and these found their mark. “No, I am here to stop you from destroying all the things I hold dear to me.” She raced in, drawing her sword and slashing for his neck, but he parried the attack and thrust her back with a punch to her midsection. She felt an energy course through her, like she did during their first battle. She tossed her bow down and drew her other sword, charging in again. But he parried or evaded every attack, and with a swift kick, knocked her back to a wall. She fell to the ground gasping for breath.

Just then the doors opened again and Luna stepped through. She drew her katana immediately at the sight of the Dark One. She kept her eyes on him as she ran to her sister’s side. “You alright?” she asked.

“You shouldn’t have followed me,” Vatrina scolded. “You doom yourself in doing so."

“What, you wanted me to go home and leave you to die here alone? Not a chance. I lost you once, I won’t lose you again.”

Vatrina smiled and picked up her bow again. “Then what are we waiting for? Today may very well be a good day to die.”

Vatrina launched off another volley of arrows as Luna charged in to challenge him hand to hand. Many arrows found their mark but they didn’t seem to do any good. Luna didn’t fare any better, each one of her attacks being parried. Vatrina reached for her other quiver and fired off some more arrows. But there was something different. Each arrow she fired had a small black trail leading from the bowstring to where it impacted the Dark One.

She shook it off as her imagination and continued to fire. She checked on Luna who was still struggling to land a hit. Even with all her skills and abilities, she still could not get inside his defenses. Of course, neither could she at close range. She reached back for another arrow but grasped nothing but air. Her eyes widened. I’m out of arrows! She tossed her bow to the ground again and charged in with both her swords.

With both of them attacking close range, he was able to block fewer of their attacks and they started landing hits. Luna’s katana here, Vatrina’s sword there. They were sparse and not very well placed, but they were hits.

Suddenly, he let out a yell and an immense shockwave impacted the sisters, throwing them back to the wall. Vatrina got up and shook it off, but Luna appeared unconscious. She thought about running to her fallen sister but could not as the Dark One moved to the offensive. Vatrina parried his attacks as well as she could but to little avail. He landed hit after hit and every time she felt something course through her. She noticed now that her swords also had a small black trail following their path through the air. She was able to shrug off her arrows having such an aura, but not her swords. There was something wrong. Not with the fight, but with her. Every time he hit her, she seemed to be able to block one more of his attacks. She was getting faster and stronger, able to read his movements as if she was fighting Luna.

It was then that Luna awoke and shook her head. Seeing her sister in trouble, she charged in. But the Dark One let out another yell, and another shockwave of his power came with it, throwing them back into the wall again. And once again, Vatrina got up but Luna did not. So she charged in again, this time though, she and the Dark One seemed evenly matched. Neither could land a hit until he pinned her swords to the ground and landed his left fist to her right cheek, laying her flat on the ground.

Luna awoke again, shook her head, and looked at her sister. Vatrina was lying on the ground, the Dark One standing over her. Luna got ready to charge in but then noticed something about Vatrina. There was something different about her. Something that wasn’t there before. It took a moment, but as Vatrina got up, Luna could see it clearly. There was a dark aura surrounding Vatrina now. An energy that could have only come from the Dark One during the fight.

Luna took a few steps forward and called out to her sister. “Trin, get away, I’ll take him on!”

But all she got was a glare from her sister. Vatrina didn’t back down, and didn’t slow her assault. As Luna watched, the shadow surrounding her sister got darker. Then, suddenly, Vatrina knocked the Dark One back and something happened.

Vatrina stood and looked at her enemy. She could feel energy coursing through her, giving her strength and power. She looked down at her hands and saw the black aura surrounding them. Then it happened. The energy swirled around her like a tornado. Her long brown hair became short and spiked. Her armor changed, becoming lighter and black like her hair had become. Her fur changed color as well, becoming silver like the snow. Her eyes became as red as fresh blood.

She laughed, her voice having a demonic tone to it. “This feeling…it is incredible! I have never known such power!” She looked at the Dark One. And seemingly out of nowhere, he was thrown back into a wall. She took her swords and with two quick movements, the Dark One was without a head. She watched him dissolve into the air once again and started to walk back toward Luna.

Luna was shaking as she approached. “This feeling is incredible,” Vatrina said. Vatrina opened her arms to Luna. But her sister would have no part of what she had become. “My sister, why do you run?”

“You are not my sister,” Luna retorted.

“But I am,” Vatrina replied. “Come, join me. This power is not too much for you to handle.”

“I will not. Trin, you have become something evil and I will have no part in it.”

Vatrina’s arms fell to her sides. “You are a disobedient one aren’t you? I tell you to let me go alone, but you insist on coming with. I leave you alone in the middle of the night to go home but you follow me. And now, when I offer you more power than you could ever imagine, you scoff at me, your own flesh and blood.” Vatrina shook her head. “Since you will not obey, then you will die.”

Vatrina drew her sword and started walking toward Luna. Luna drew her katana once again and prepared to defend herself. I don’t stand a chance, Luna thought. Maybe I should’ve left her to face this foe on her own. At least she would’ve died and not turned into…this. She blocked what she could but was getting beat, badly. Vatrina was only using one sword but she was too fast for Luna to even attempt to block her attacks. Luna had one chance to live and try to save her sister from this fate. But she had to do it quickly. Each attack she was struck with sent the same energy that had transformed her sister coursing through her own veins. She positioned herself so that Vatrina’s next attack would send her close to the door.

Luna could feel the energy pulsing through her, her katana gaining a black aura. She was able to block a few of Vatrina’s attacks now. This is getting dangerous. The energy that transformed her is taking root in me. I have to get out of here. Luna didn’t try to block the next flurry of attacks, hoping she could get sent toward the door. It would hurt, but she would have to put up with it.

It happened just as she’d hoped. Vatrina’s attacks impacted her ribs, sending her flying and hitting the door. She stood, shook her head and looked at Vatrina. I will find a way to free you from this, my sister. She sheathed a katana, reached for the door and pulled it open.

Vatrina’s eyes went wide as Luna escaped through the door to the chamber. “Coward!” she called after Luna. “Come back and fight me!” But Luna would not return. Vatrina sheathed her sword and did not pursue. She looked at her hand and flexed it. Well, she’ll have to be dealt with later. In the meantime, I’ll head back to Windurst. She picked up her bow and quivered her arrows. “She’ll never see it coming.”

****************

Luna made her way to the teleportation pad as quickly as possible. She sheathed her katana and ran through the castle. She found it odd that there weren’t any sentries around this time. All the better for my getting the hell out of here. She took the chance to look behind her to see if her sister was chasing her. She slowed down when she noticed that she wasn’t being followed. She leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. She looked around but had no idea where she was. “I promise you sis, I will free you from this fate.” She started off again, picking a direction that she thought was correct.

She wandered around the castle for hours. Turning left here, right there. Goddess, I feel like I’m going in circles. She didn’t know what time it was or even how much time had passed since her fight with her sister. All she knew was that she hadn’t slept. She didn’t dare to unless she could find a safe spot. Not knowing where the sentries were scared her.

She finally found what she thought was a safe spot to sit and rest. She had no intention of falling asleep, but the next thing she knew, the sun was rising. She stood slowly, amazed that she hadn’t been discovered during the night. Stretching, she started wandering around the castle again. All these corridors look the same. She finally came upon an area that looked familiar. But when she started walking through the path she thought was right, she found herself at the spot she had slept. Furious, she kicked the wall and nearly broke her foot.

This is getting me nowhere. At least when I came through following Vatrina I had her scent to follow. This time I have nothing. She sat down and thought about her movements and the turns she had made or not made. Standing again, she moved off in the same direction, but taking different turns. After what she judged to be an hour of random wandering, she felt an ice cold breeze hit her in the face. She followed it and found herself back on the snow-covered plains of Xarcabard.

She breathed a heavy sigh of relief to be out of that dreadful maze of a castle. Even though she had slept, she was still exhausted. She looked at the endless fields of snow and saw a shadow amongst them. My dear sister, on her way to terrorize someone, she thought. But then the shadow started getting larger, and Luna realized that it was getting closer. She stood again and prepared for battle, but as the figure approached, she recognized what and who it was.

A smile crossed her face and she ran to the figure, tears in her eyes. She embraced him tightly, and he returned the gesture. She looked into his green eyes and smiled. She wouldn’t have to travel home alone. She knew that he was coming home and had hoped that he would set out after her. She buried her face in his chest, happy and relieved that he was there.

“What were you thinking, coming all the way out here?” Sarano asked her.

She sniffled a little. “It was the king’s wish that I accompany my sister out here. She didn’t want me with but I came anyway.”

Sarano looked around. “What happened? Where is your sister?”

“She was…taken. Transformed by the energies of the Dark One.” She looked up at him again. “We have to save her. There has to be a way to change her back.”

Sarano set her down in the snow. “You look famished, here.” He handed her a piece of dried meat and some bread. “It’s not Ehchillo’s kabobs, but it’s better than nothing.”

Luna took the food and ate it, despising every bite. “I have had enough dried, salted meat in the past week to last a lifetime.”

Sarano laughed. “Well, if you know a better way to keep meat on a journey like this, please, let someone know. I’m sure they’d be happy to start making it.”

Luna giggled and finished the bread. “I still like the airships.”

“My dear, the airships don’t go everywhere, you know that.” He took his canteen and handed it to her. She took it and drank her fill. “The sun is still high in the sky, if you’re able, we can still make it back across these undead lands before nightfall.”

Luna nodded, and he helped her to her feet. Without realizing it, she had left her pack at the entrance to the room that she and Vatrina had fought. She just remembered now but decided that there was nothing of great value in it and to leave it.

The two set off across the snow-covered plains. They hoped to reach the glacier by nightfall. After that, it would be two days until they reached the caverns and safety in the pass. Another two days from there and they would be in San d’Oria, and Luna would have her soft bed and warm covers back. Vittie would be happy to see her, she thought, and probably wouldn’t let her out of his sight for at least a week. But she had work to do. She had to find a way to remove this curse from her sister. And I will, she thought.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:20 pm

Sorry for the slow posting, I got kinda busy. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but this is one of the few works I've actually been able to title. Those tend to be the last things I work out. Anyway, the name of this work is "The Curse of the Crystal"


Repayment

The rain was falling heavily, soaking her armor and fur. Mud splashed up with her every step. Her katana were black with orc blood, and her chest covered in that of her allies. She had held many friends during their dying moments, their blood spilling onto her chest. She was nearly out of breath. Never had she been in a battle of this magnitude before. The fighting was intense, all throughout the city. It hadn’t taken them long to break through the city gates and flood into the streets. Inches of a street were contended for like a mile of open land.

She sliced and cut her way along the front lines, taking down orc after orc in search of her prey. There was only one person amongst these orcs she wished to find. But she heard a familiar voice call out to her, and she went to it. She found Sarano lying in a pool of blood with a gaping wound in his side. Tears came to her eyes as she saw him.

Kneeling down she said, “No, this can’t be happening.” She took his head in her arms and held it to her chest. His breathing was shallow and he reached up to touch her face.

“I’m—sorry,” he said. “That we couldn’t live together like you wanted.”

She put a finger to his lips. “Shh, save your strength.” She tried to smile but the tears kept coming. He slid his hand around to the back of her neck and pulled her lips to his, giving her a last kiss, which she continued even after his arm had fallen limp, splashing in the blood-tainted mud of the street.

She broke the kiss, tears streaming down her face. She gently laid him back on the ground and stood up. Picking her katana off the ground she turned to continue her search. But as she did, a sharp pain coursed through the left side of her body. Her eyes widened and she saw her sister standing there, her arm extended. Luna looked down, seeing Vatrina’s sword piercing her armor and body. Blood was oozing past the blade and down her leg.

Vatrina brought her face close to Luna’s. “Hello, sister dear,” she said giving the sword a small twist to open the wound more. Luna could feel her life draining as her sister brought their lips together for a passionate kiss.

Breaking the kiss after a moment, Vatrina said, “Good bye, sister dear,” and yanked her sword from Luna’s body, spilling her blood across the street and her fallen love.

Luna fell to her knees looking up to the sky, hoping to see the stars for one last time but was blinded by the falling rain. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, she thought. She teetered backwards and fell across Sarano’s chest, the life in her eyes gone.

She gasped a deep breath as she was rocked out of her sleep. She sat up, holding her covers across her chest and looked around. It was dark in her room, but she could still tell where she was. It was a dream, she thought. She started to relax, letting the covers fall from her bare breasts. She looked over at Sarano, who was asleep next to her. She gently leaned over him and set her hand in front of his face. And smiled as his breath tickled the fur on the back of her hand.

Vittie was stirring slightly at the foot of her bed. She carefully moved her legs out from under the covers and placed her feet on the cold floor. She shuffled, naked, around the room for a moment, and bent down to pick up her nightgown. She walked to the window and looked out onto the empty street pulling the garment over her head. The white, silky cloth draped over her body, hanging down to her knees.

Quietly crossing the room again, she exited into the hall and made her way to the bathroom. She was surprised to find that she was not the only one up. Turning the corner, she ran into a younger, male student. The two bumped into each other and Luna’s nightgown fell off of her shoulders revealing her breasts to the much younger student, who quickly turned away in embarrassment. Luna did the same, giggling a little at the predicament she found herself in. The student passed behind her and disappeared down the stairs as she pulled the gown back into place.

She entered the bathroom, closed the door and lit a candle. She gazed into the mirror and realized that she had been crying. Her eyes were red, and the fur on her face streaked wet. She cupped some water in her hands from the bowl on the counter. Splashing it on her face she looked in the mirror again, the water dripping from her nose, chin and hair. It was so real, she thought. She touched her lips. I swear I could feel her kiss me. What does it mean?

She exited the bathroom after blowing the candle out and made her way, not back to her room, but to the room Vatrina had used during her short stay. She entered and closed the door behind her. Thankfully it had not been touched. The light from the moon shone in through the open drapes. She walked to the end of the bed and picked up some of Vatrina’s clothes. She held the clothes close to her, the familiar smell comforting. But the tears came anyway. How am I supposed to find a way to save her when I don’t even know what she’s become?

She got up, still holding the top she had picked up, and walked to her sister’s old pack. She gently set it down so as not to make too much noise. There was little inside. Another set of clothes, a world map, a pair of what appeared to be torches, and what appeared to be a diary. She opened it to a random page and started reading.

May 4. My contingent has been driven back again. Shantotto is getting restless for progress. She doesn’t seem to understand how many have fallen at the hands of the Kindred. The Sybil is getting impatient as well, saying that the armies of the other countries have made forward progress toward Xarcabard while all mine does is retreat. I know this is not true but I cannot do anything. Without reinforcements, I will barely have enough troops to garrison an outpost.

She was a general during the war? She told me that she had retired to Kazham after the loss of Windurst. She flipped to another page and started reading again.

May 19. Xarcabard. We made it. We stand on the brink of victory, but the war is far from over. The leaders celebrate as if we’ve already won, but my men and women are still dying at the hands of these relentless demons. The San d’Orian commander was struck down yesterday and his forces have been absorbed into my own. We are so close, we have no choice but to push on.

No wonder she hadn’t told me. I’d never be able to bear the loss of so many friends. She continued reading on the next page.

May 27. The six member expedition to the castle has been successful. We were victorious in defeating the Dark One, but at what cost? I was the only one who survived, and there is no sign of my troops. I pray that they have made it out of this land alive. For I fear that I may not. My body is pulsing with an unusual energy. The others that were with me must’ve felt the same thing before they were absorbed into the earth. He said they were not worthy to become the “Warriors of the Crystal” whatever that means.

Warriors of the Crystal? Could that be what she has become? Luna closed the diary and stood again. There is only one person who could know of such things, but Luna hated talking with him. He had just as evil an aura as the Dark One did. Tomorrow, I will travel to Jeuno and demand that Kum’Lanut tell me what I wish to know.

She stood and decided that she would try on the top she was holding. Letting her gown fall to the floor, the fur from her body shining in the light from the moon, she pulled the top over her head. It fit perfectly. There was also not much to it. It covered her breasts, and even that was barely enough, draped up and over her shoulders and around her back. And that was it. It didn’t cover down to her waist like she was used to wearing. She was not used to such garments but felt she could get used to it. She turned to admire herself in the mirror, and noticed a small spot on her butt. Her finger found the spot and felt it. A bald spot? Sure enough, there was a small spot the side of her butt that had no fur on it. She would have to show that to Sarano, and then slap him for it. She hated bald spots. Though her fur would grow back, she felt more naked with a bald spot than if she were not wearing any clothing.

She sighed, and pulled the top off. If only it weren’t red, she thought. Folding it neatly, she set it on the dresser and picked up her nightgown. She peaked out the door, and seeing that there was no one about, ran quickly and quietly back to her room carrying her nightgown in her hands. She climbed back into bed, after dropping her gown on the floor. Cuddling up next to Sarano, she wrapped an arm around his chest, her leg around his. He stirred a little, moving his arm that was between them around to her back pulling her naked body tight against his. Luna drifted to sleep using his shoulder as a pillow.

****************

Semih entered the Sybil’s chamber and saluted. The moon was out, shining into the pool in the middle of the room. But the pool was dark. Semih had been in the chamber multiple times during a star reading ceremony, like the one that the Sybil was performing, but the pool was usually alive with colors.

The Sybil shook her head. “The answer to your question is yes. I have lost the ability to predict the future. The Moon Pool has gone dark.” She sighed and walked back to her pedestal to look out at the stars. “What is it that troubles you at this time of night Semih?”

Semih hesitated, wondering if she would get a straight answer. “Could it be that Vatrina has failed and the Dark One is responsible for this?”

The Sybil looked at her. She had to lie. She couldn’t tell her captain that she’d lost her powers because it would surely make it to the general public. Everyone would lose faith in her and she’d lose her position, possibly even bring disaster to her beloved country. “Sadly, it is. But we must not give up hope. She is a powerful and very cunning warrior. It may take some time before we know the outcome of such a battle.”

The mithra nodded, her ears and tail twitching slightly at the praise the Sybil gave her rival. In her mind, it was only a matter of time before they were sent word of Vatrina’s fall in battle. And Semih would be glad that her friend-turned-rival would be gone. The Sybil would turn to her for the missions she sent Vatrina on instead of giving her all the menial tasks. She was tired of patrolling the border outposts, traveling to Jeuno for diplomatic reasons, and dealing with the heads of the various ministries across Windurst. Speaking of which…

“We have apprehended Adurio-Majurio. He was arrested and thrown into the dungeon,” she said with some satisfaction.

The Sybil smiled. “Well done, my faithful mithra. The magics he was experimenting with are far too powerful to be released into this world. We will try him and execute him for crimes against the federation tomorrow.”

My faithful mithra? The words made Semih’s blood boil. She was not someone’s dog to order around. And what was that about the minister being executed? Something was wrong. She started to think that Vatrina had been right to leave the service of the Sybil. She was not the all-caring, all-seeing leader that the Taru believed her to be. But they could not see it because they did not get this close to her. And she was sure that the ones that did had the same feelings as the Sybil. Behind closed doors she was an entirely different person. But why hadn’t it shown until now? Did it have something to do with the darkened Moon Pool? Or maybe the summoning magic that the minister was delving into? Semih knew that it was summoning magic gone awry that had destroyed most of Windurst 20 years ago. Could the Sybil be…? No. She knows the danger as much as anyone else. But her instincts told her otherwise. She would have to be cautious. Though it would probably lead to a civil war between the Mithra and Taru, the Sybil could have her executed for interfering.

She would work on that slowly, but for now, her task here was done. She bowed and prepared to exit when another Sybil Guard came rushing in unannounced. She was nearly out of breath, and appeared to be wounded, blood dripping to the floor.

“My Ladies, there’s someone coming! We couldn’t stop her, she was too powerful. Our troops fell at her feet like blades of grass.” The guard fell to her knees, blood pooling on the floor from an unseen wound.

Semih ran to her, laying her down and ripping her clothes open. There was a stab wound in her right side. Semih took the torn garment and wrapped it around the guard’s stomach to put pressure on the wound. “There’s only one person I know of who could do this. But why would Vatrina…?”

The door was suddenly shattered by a dark energy. Semih and the Sybil covered themselves, and avoided the shards of flying metal and wood. The guard Semih was tending to wasn’t as lucky, taking a sharp piece of metal under her left breast that pierced her heart, killing her.

The dust cleared and Semih looked up. A dark figure was standing in the doorway, sheathing its sword. It took a few steps in past the smoke and dust and Semih could see that it was a mithra. But it didn’t seem like it was Vatrina.

Semih stood and drew her sword. “Who are you?”

The mithra looked down at the fallen guard. “A pity. She had potential.”

She looked at Semih, her silver ears poking out of her black hair, her red eyes gleaming. “Come now Semih, don’t tell me you don’t recognize me.”

“Semih may not, but I do,” the Sybil chimed in. “What is your purpose here, Vatrina?”

It is Vatrina, Semih thought. She looked back at the Sybil. But Vatrina never possessed this kind of power. She shook her head, turning back toward the intruder, whoever she was.

“My purpose,” Vatrina said, “is you.” She drew her sword once again, pointing it at the Sybil. “I have come to exact revenge for what you have made me.”

“This is not my power that has done this,” the Sybil retorted. “Only the power of the Dark One can create a Crystal Warrior.”

Vatrina smiled. “He will trouble you no more. At least until the darkness of the lands once again overflows. Vana’diel was a paradise. A scourge was endowed on this place and I have come to return it to that state. Starting with the one who caused me so much pain and suffering.”

Vatrina started to approach the Sybil, but Semih stood in her way. “You will have to get past me first.”

Shaking her head, Vatrina said, “My dear Semih. You have been a Captain of the Sybil Guards for a long time. You of all people know what she is capable of. She is a disease on this land, corrupted by her power to read the future. I have taken that from her, and now her time is at an end.” Vatrina grabbed Semih by her neck and threw her across the room. “Semih, I suggest you leave this place. Return across the seas from whence our race came, and convince as many of us as you can to accompany you.”

Semih shook her head after hitting the ground. She watched as Vatrina approached the Sybil. She saw the Sybil start to chant a spell. But she wasn’t fast enough. Vatrina raised her sword, Semih cried out, but the sword came down, slicing through flesh. Blood spilled on the floor, the Sybil’s eyes widened, their gleam fading. She fell backwards as Vatrina sheathed her sword. Semih stood and watched Vatrina as she exited the room. She looked over at the fallen Federation leader, but she did not cry. She picked up her own sword and sheathed it. Picking up the body of her fallen comrade, she too exited the room, wondering what would happen now.

****************

She awoke late the next morning. Gently wiping her eyes, she looked around. Sarano was already up and gone, and Vittie looked as if he was eager to get outside. Luna sat up and yawned, stretching and letting the covers fall where they may. Vittie saw her moving and jumped onto her lap, nuzzling her bare chest and neck in greeting. She scratched his cheeks, kissed him, and set him on the floor so she could get out of bed. She slipped her legs out from under the covers and placed her feet on the cold floor. Standing, she stretched again. Looking down at her body, she noticed a few places of tangled fur, which she sat down and licked at to straighten out. Unkempt fur was not to be tolerated.

Satisfied with her looks, she stood to make the bed. She straightened everything out, and tucked the loose ends between the mattress and frame. She walked over to pull the drapes aside when there was a knock on the door. Startled, and in no condition for anyone to see her, she crouched down behind the bed as the door opened. Vittie quickly escaped between Sarano’s legs as he entered the room and closed the door behind him.

Luna leaned against the bed, her arms crossed and her chin resting on them. “Don’t scare me like that. I thought you were one of my students.”
He laughed. “Oh come on, you know you like showing off. Besides, I’m sure they’ve all snuck a peak at you once or twice.”

She glared at him. “That’s beside the point.”

He walked over behind her and ran his hands along the curves of her body. She purred softly at his touch, the tug of his hands on her fur pleasing. He slid a hand down between her legs, and she giggled, turning quickly to look at him. He pulled her up on her knees, his hand finding her bare backside, and kissed her. She became enveloped in his presence, pressing her body to his. He slid his hand up her back, against the grain of her fur, making her quiver. She pressed her lips to his harder, but only for a moment before breaking the kiss and smiling at him.

“I have things to get done. We can play when I get home,” she said as she stood. He watched her as she dressed and equipped. He also stood, walked over to her when she had finished, and kissed her again before opening the door.

Luna grabbed a quick bite to eat, checked on her students, and exited the building. The sun was already high in the sky. She made her way toward the airship dock, passing various merchants that would try to sell her their goods, saying that they were the best in the land.

She had almost made it to the ticket counter when one of the Temple Knights stopped her. “My lady Luna, the King has requested your presence.”

Luna sighed, and followed the knight. Though her business in Jeuno was important, she could not deny the king a request. She was immediately allowed into the audience chamber.

She approached the throne and knelt respectfully. “At your service, my King.”

He rose, and bid her to rise as well. “Thank you for coming Luna. I have a request of you.” She nodded. “I wish you to travel to the dunes of Valkurm. There has been a severe disturbance there. My generals believe it to be the Republic’s initial attack, prior to a full war. I think otherwise. It was not a large force that attacked the border guards, but there were many casualties. Please, check it out for me.”

Luna looked at him, shocked. He was sending her to do the work of one of his knights. Surely there was someone else he could send on this…errand. “My Lord, I appreciate your faith in me, but certainly there is someone more qualified to carry out this mission. I have business in Jeuno that I would like to take care of before the day is out.”

Destin shook his head. “I had a feeling you would say that.” He snapped his fingers and an aide appeared, carrying something wrapped in a blanket. He opened the blanket and removed the sword, showing it to Luna. “This was found suck in the sands. I, nor any of my knights, have seen anything like this before. I was hoping you have.”

Luna’s face went from disgust to horror as she saw the sword, and the dark aura that surrounded it. There was only one person in this world who could produce such an aura. She looked up at Destin, “I will leave immediately. Have a mount ready for my journey when I arrive at the stables. I will need to gather a few things first.”

He smiled. “The horse is being groomed, and food and sleeping materials are being packed as we speak.”

Luna took her leave of the king, rushing back to her school. Sarano met her at the entrance. “I thought you were off to Jeuno?”

She quickly went upstairs, gathering a few of her weapons and tools. “I was, but then something came up. I’m leaving for Valkurm momentarily. Where’s my—?” she looked around. And frowned that she couldn’t find what she was looking for. “No matter, I’ll make due without it.”

She grabbed her bag and went into the room her sister had used, thinking that she might find something useful. She shuffled through a few things but found nothing she could use. She looked at Sarano. “Have all of my sister’s things transferred into my room while I’m gone.”

He nodded. “How long will you be gone?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. It could be days. Take care of everyone for me.”

He nodded again, tilting her chin up before she could run away. “Take care of yourself,” he said looking into her eyes.

She smiled. “It’ll give some time for that bald spot on my butt to fill back in.” She poked his nose. “The one you gave me.” She turned, letting her hair hit his face before he could kiss her. “See you in a few days.”

****************

The sun was warm, even with the proverbial cloud hanging over the city with the death of the Sybil. Her immediate task in the Federation complete, she wondered why she hadn’t left. Instead, she had merely jumped into the boughs of the Star Tree that made itself the center of the city, and home to the government. She looked down at the little Taru scurrying around beneath her, panicking now that their leader was dead. They had little idea of what happened, and less of what to do now. The mithra seemed to be keeping out of the way, likely at the urging of Semih. That was good, she thought. Her chosen people would survive, to populate the paradise that she would forge. Sadly, those still loyal to the plague races of the world would stand in her way, and would meet their demise. But she pitied them not. They had chosen their path, and she had found hers.

She took the time to think about what she would do next. With luck, the two nations on the western continent were already fighting each other, thanks to her efforts in Valkurm before she arrived here. Though each force had never seen a mithra quite like her, they both knew that the mithra were commonly used as mercenaries in each others’ armies. She was easily able to attack each of them, in the name of their rival, and the proximity of the two outposts made it all that much easier to watch the ensuing fun.

The Jeuno duke had been able to read her mind when she returned from Delkfutt’s Tower. Perhaps he was the key. She knew now that he was something other than he declared himself to be. Yes, she decided. She would have a conversation with the duke. She watched the sunlight dance off her blade. And depending upon his answers to her questions, it could very well be his last.

****************

She pulled her horse to a stop at midday on her third day out from San d’Oria. The sun was bright, nearly blinding her, and the horse danced a little, the hot sand from the desert-like beach under its hooves. There was smoke rising in the distance, probably from one of the two outposts. She urged her horse toward it, deciding that’s where she’d start. It amazed her how much smoke was still rising, despite the fact that the battle would have ended almost 7 days ago. It can’t be as bad as it looks, she thought.

She came up to the top of a dune and again pulled her horse to a stop. Dismounting, she looked down on the battlefield. The normally bleach-white sand was stained red, and not just a pool under each of the bodies. It seemed like a lake of blood had been spilled, and the bodies simply thrown in. She started slowly down the slope of the dune, tripped, and rolled in the sand the rest of the way down to the edge of the blood lake.

She picked herself up and brushed herself off. She looked upon the field in horror. Never had she seen anything so brutal. There was no way her sister could have done all this. She began to walk among the fallen, the blood-sand sticking to her feet. She knelt down to each body she passed, checking for survivors. Each time finding no life left in the body. Tears began rolling down her cheeks. They were all dead. Human, Elf, neither side had survived. No, Vatrina could not have done this. She got them to fight each other.

She started making her way toward one of the outposts, the sand still sticking to her feet like molasses. She approached the outpost, it was still smoldering with smoke and ash, and picked up a Bastok banner from near the ashes. She shook her head. She would find nothing here. Turning, she made her way back across the battlefield, treading lightly and respectfully of her fallen comrades. She whistled for her horse after she had cleared the field, and it came trotting to her. Scraping the soles of her feet off, she mounted up and gently kicked its sides. The horse took off at a gallop toward the San d’Orian outpost. The sun was starting to set, and she feared that she would end up spending the night here.

She noticed that the border had been well guarded, by both sides. Such a high concentration of troops was a result of the rising tensions between the two nations. This explosion of violence on such a tight border would certainly plunge the continent into another territorial war. Both nations would look toward the Federation for assistance, knowing that Jeuno was neutral according to international law, and Windurst would, in turn, turn both requests down, itself wishing to remain neutral, their own territorial holding not in danger. Luna figured that Windurst had it easiest. The only sovereign nation on the eastern continent, and with Jeuno protecting the points of easy access for any large army and without large numbers of oversea troop transports making invasion nearly impossible, they had free reign on the continent with little opposition. The beastmen opposed all the nations, but even the Yagudo had reached an uneasy peace with the Federation. She marveled at that. As weak as they were, the Taru were certainly clever. They controlled over two-thirds of the continent, leaving the region of Li’Telor free from any significant military presence. A wild and untamed region, Zi’Tah and the areas beyond were considered holy grounds for the followers of Altana. Her country would be glad if it could lay claim to the region, but such things were not possible. The Federation was at least nice enough to grant passage to those willing to venture into the untamed land.

She slowed her horse as she approached the San d’Oria outpost. There was life here, she could see. A few troops standing around, apparently not sure of what they should be doing. They saw her approach, one of the guards outside pointed to his companion, and they seemed to recognize Luna. She approached on horseback, dismounting only when she got a few feet away from the guards. She looked up at them. They were clearly exhausted, and she was surprised they weren’t out gathering up the dead. One appeared to be wounded, a bandage wrapped around his left shoulder. They gave her no opposition as she passed them to enter the outpost. The commander was sitting behind the lone desk, and was startled by her entrance.

“Lady Luna, what—?” he asked, standing to greet her.

“What happened here, Captain?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. One second we were eating our midday meal, the next shouts of an attack by the Republic army from across the border filled the air. Some of the men and women said there was a mithra here, and that she attacked us in the name of the Republic in order to draw us into an ambush. But when she vanished, and republic soldiers appeared over the dunes…” he stopped, unsure of what to say next.

Luna thought for a moment. “You said there was a mithra here too? Did anyone get a good look at her?”

The captain shook his head solemnly. “No one that’s still alive.”

Luna punched the desk. “Damn it.”

Just then, a scout burst into the outpost building. “Captain, sir! There’s a column of Republic troops moving through the highlands!”

The captain stood, nearly knocking over his desk. “What? How many?”

The scout was out of breath. “I don’t know, sir. At least a battalion. Either way, sir, we’re going to be overrun here within the day.”

Luna turned to look at the captain. “Pull your troops back into the plateau. I’ll ride to San d’Oria and inform to king to replenish our forces here. With luck, we’ll be able to hold La Theine.” The captain nodded, and the order went out. The remaining soldiers, barely a platoon, assembled for departure.

Luna mounted her horse again, and with a final command to the captain, she rode off. The horse moved as quickly as it could along the loose sand. She would have to ride through the night, which was fast approaching. She was running on adrenalin now, though her horse would not like the constant fast travel she would force upon it. Time was of the essence, the longer she stopped to rest, the farther that Republic battalion traveled unchallenged by Kingdom forces. She knew it was only an expeditionary force, a response to the attack on the outpost in Valkurm. But a battalion of the Republic’s soldiers was a formidable force, even if it was only the beginning. San d’Oria would need to muster an equal force of the Royal Knights to counter such a move. The battle would be fierce, and blood would again stain the grass of the La Theine Plateau. And the King would send a proportioned response into the highlands. And land would be exchanged, boarders would move one way, then back the other. Countless lives would be lost and in the end, nothing would change between the two countries. Just like all the times before. So many wars, so many deaths, a thousand year stalemate that appeared to have no end.

She picked up the pace as she emerged from the sandy beach and onto the solid, steppe of the plateau. The sun had set, but she needed to continue on. The sooner she brought this information to the King, the shorter the coming war would last.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
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Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Mon Dec 04, 2006 5:40 pm

I should really make a note to not write so much the next story I start. Or at least not give in to the desire for others to read it on a public forum cuz of how long they get. But to continue...


The Tides of War

The city seemed to darken as she entered. Those she passed averted their gaze, aware of her but scared. The aura around her caused others to clear a path wide enough for four to travel through. She made her way straight up the stairs into the gardens that topped the city. The ducal palace was here, heavily guarded as it was. The guards wouldn’t be a problem. She did worry about the duke though. He had some strange powers, which she did not understand.

She was amazed that she did not encounter any resistance. Surely the guards would have suspected something when they saw her. Mayhap they are not as vigilant as I thought. It was only when she approached the Duke’s audience chamber that she was stopped and questioned. She prepared to draw her sword and cut them down when the doors were thrown open.

There, the duke stood. “Come, we shall talk in private,” he said to her. The two entered the large room., the duke dismissing the guards. He took his seat, spreading his robes over the arms of the chair. “There are many questions that plague your mind. And though you expect simple answers, I assure you, there was nothing simple about your creation.”

His words threw Vatrina for a loop. My creation? What could he mean? “What am I?”

The duke leaned forward slightly. “You, my dear girl, are what is called a Crystal Warrior. The Mithra version anyway. Thousands of years ago, my people created powerful technologies and magic. Through the use of these we were able to create five perfect beings. Galka, Elf, Taru, Human, and Mithra. Alas, an accident corrupted the new creatures, their powers absorbed by the earth itself, and the beings spread to the corners of the globe. Our perfect creations were broken, imperfect, each with its own major flaw. Together, all five could stand as one, but their flaws prevented them from coming together.

“It was the Galkas’ rage that eventually lead to their downfall. The arrogance of the elves and apathy of the humans has kept them at odds with each other for many hundreds of years. The cowardice of the Taru causing them to fear nearly everything in the world, and though powerful as they are, they cower in their capital like rabbits hiding from wolves. And then there are the Mithra. The only race who’s jealousy not only extends to the other races, but to their own brethren as well. It amazed me when you befriended the taru and joined the Federation.

“So you see? The full potential of each race is contained within the others. You, my dear Vatrina, are the only one who has reached that potential. Your dealings with the war 20 years ago, your confrontation with the Dark One, who was one of the survivors of the Galka, paved the way to your transformation a few weeks ago.” He smiled as if he knew what she would ask next.

He had perked her interest. Another flaw of the Mithra, their never ending curiosity to know more. “So what will become of me now?”

“You will use your god-like powers and open the gates to Paradise. That was the reason for your creation so long ago. Your power feeds the machines in the fortress of Ro’Maeve, in the Hall of the Gods. It is there that your destiny leads, and there that your life will end.”

Her eyes widened. “Never! I will not succumb to such an end!”

The duke rose and approached her. “You have no choice. You were designed for one thing, and one thing only. To open the Gate of the Gods and usher in an era of peace to this forsaken land. An era where my people will once again rise.” He touched her face.

She turned her head. Her eyes glowed red with rage. “No. I will not allow myself to be used. I will form this world to my dream. And I dare you to try and stop me!”

Kum’Lanut laughed, and the hall shook. He started to rise off the floor, floating in the air. “Foolish girl, you have no powers here. You were designed to serve me, to open the gate. You have no power to do anything else. You may wreak havoc across these lands, but the vision you hold will never come to pass.”

Vatrina drew her swords. “It will! My power exceeds that of any creature on this earth!” She jumped at him, preparing to cut him down but was thrown back by a simple gesture. She crashed through one of the marble columns that lined the hall, falling to the ground in pain.

“My power rivals that of the gods themselves,” Kum’Lanut taunted. “Such an unworthy creature you are. How could such a disobedient thing like you become a Crystal Warrior?” He floated to the ground and approached her. “Your kind does not deserve to enter Paradise. You will serve your function, or I will simply find another. Ten thousand years is a long time to wait. A few hundred more can easily be tolerated.”

Furious, she lashed out, her blade slicing through the air so fast he couldn’t have seen it. But he did, and he blocked the strike with his forearm, a bright flash of light shining out from the contact. The glare dissipated, and Vatrina had vanished. “No matter,” he said to no one. “One cannot escape fate.”

****************

It was cold. She opened her eyes but saw nothing but white. She sat up quickly, the powdery snow falling from her hair and clothes. She looked around to get her bearings. There was snow falling, but not heavily. She stood, shaking the blanket of cold from her body, wrapping her tail around her waist to try and keep it warm. She still held her swords in her hands, though one was broken now. She tossed it aside and sheathed the other.

“Damn him,” Vatrina said aloud. “Damn him to hell!” Her eyes glowed red with rage as she trudged off through the snow.

****************

Luna burst into the audience chamber, the guards hot on her heels. The king was in the middle of his midday meal, the table covered with various meats and fruits for him to choose from. He looked up, scowling at the interruption, to see a ragged mithra and his two guards approaching.

“My Lord, I apologize but she insisted…” the first guard began.

“It is alright, Captain,” the king replied. “Luna, what have you discovered in Valkurm?” he said as he dismissed the guards.

She wiped some of the dirt from her face, shaking the water from her hair, then blushing sheepishly at covering the room with the mud from her hair and armor. She looked at one of the roast rabbits on the table, and the king nodded his approval. Sitting down, she pulled her knife and cut a large piece off the golden carcass to eat.

“I apologize, my Lord,” after she finished the first couple bites. “But this news could not wait.” Swallowing again she said, “The Republic is moving against us. As we speak, a division of their troops marches through the highlands and dunes.” She grabbed a few grapes and ate them as well. Looking up at the king, she blushed again, realizing that she had done so without his permission, but he simply smiled. “I’m sorry, I haven’t had anything to eat in three days.”

“That’s quite alright, my dear. As always, the cooks provide me with more than I can eat myself.” He took another bite of the bird he was eating. “You said the Republic has massed only a single division of troops?”

“Yes, sir. I would assume that this is a simple expeditionary force with the main army gearing up to move,” she said after draining a goblet of water.

“Hmm…this is troubling news indeed. Thank you, Luna, for getting this news to me so quickly. I will have to muster our forces so the Republic does not think us weak. Go get yourself cleaned up and refreshed, I may have another task for you.”

Luna nodded and rose. Having taken the edge off her hunger, she could wait to eat again until she had taken a long, hot bath. She had never understood how Vatrina could hate water so much. There was nothing more relaxing than a hot bath after a long day or week of traveling. She exited the chamber, to the glare of both of the guards, to which she simply shrugged. Walking out of the chateau, she walked south, through the parade grounds and toward the southern auction house where, as usual, hundreds of people were gathered to buy and sell various wares they had produced or found somewhere. It was odd, but for once her own stench was overpowering that of the local area.

She approached her school, and was surprised to see that there was no one outside. The students usually took advantage of good weather and either trained, or meditated outside. She opened the doors and found the building quite empty. She walked around, looking for anyone, but to no avail.

Then something different caught her nose. The scent of roasted meat wafted out of the kitchen. Meat, with a hint of sage, and maybe even some curry, she thought. She approached the kitchen, and saw steam coming from the back. Walking around the buffet counter, she saw Vittie patiently awaiting whatever might drop for him to eat.

“Ehchillo,” she said when she saw who was cooking.

The man turned, and saw Luna standing there. “Dear god, woman, you scared me.” He smiled, “Good to see you home, Luna. Hungry I take it?”

She smiled and knelt down to cuddle Vittie. “Very. I had a small bite to eat over at the chateau, but other than that I haven’t had anything in three days.”

Ehchillo shook his head. “You know it’s not good for you to go without food for that long. Take this annoying rodent and sit, I’ll bring something out for you in a minute.”

“Oh come on, Vittie isn’t that bad.”

But Vittie had other plans than to be cuddled by his dirty mistress. He jumped out of her arms and hopped over to one of the chairs. Ehchillo laughed. “I think he’s trying to tell you something, Lady Luna.”

She looked at herself and smiled. “I guess I am kind of dirty right now. Maybe I’ll go clean up first.”

“You do that. It’ll give me more time to cook you up something to eat.”

She nodded, and after scratching Vittie once more, she left her “annoying rodent” with Ehchillo, just to bug him some more. She went upstairs, taking off her armor as she went. She grabbed a towel from her room, and after wrapping it around herself, in case there was still someone around, she walked off to her bathroom to heat up a bath. She closed and locked the door, turned on the faucet in the bathtub, and turned to the sink, testing the water’s temperature periodically with her tail as the tub filled. After cleaning her teeth, she glanced at the tub and turned off the water. She stepped into it, letting the warm water soak every hair of her fur as she slid down rubbing the curves of her body with her hands. And without realizing it, she started to drift off to sleep.

****************

The city was in an uproar. The tarus were furious, and they were coming to her for answers she didn’t have. A week had passed but none of the fury had subsided. Semih finally found a place to hide; a place to escape all of the angry rodents. Some cowardly race they are. Already her guards had been attacked for simply trying to keep the peace. A couple of them had even been killed. And if they struck down a taru in defense, the little rodents would just become more infuriated saying it was a mithra plot to take control of the Federation.

She could see it. A civil war would break out because of what Vatrina had done. Blood had been spilled on both sides, and many times, that is all it took. Semih made her way to the Windurst Chieftainness. She had to be warned, she could gather the mithra and get them out before all hell broke loose.

“My Lady Vishai,” Semih called out.

The mithra looked up, her red hair blowing in the wind. “Semih, I have been expecting you.”

Sounds of battle caught the attention of both, looking toward the sounds of clashing metal, then back to each other. “Your guards, they are…?”

“They are out keeping the groves safe, my dear. The earth has told me of what has happened. We are no longer welcome in this land.”

Semih relaxed for the first time all day. It was hard not to when hearing the words of someone like Perih Vishai. “Yes. The taru suspect an attempted mithra takeover of the Federation. And they’re not too happy about it. What can we do?”

Perih pulled out a map of the continent. “We must gather those willing and find a new home.” She looked around the map, tracing her finger from place to place until she came upon an almost uncharted area. “Here,” she concluded.

Semih shook her head. “But mi'Lady, Zi’Tah is a sanctuary for those following Altana. We cannot simply move in. Besides, we have no idea what may lay in wait for us there.”

“I agree that it will not be simple,” the chieftainness replied. “But we do not have the recourses to move the entire mithra population of the Federation back to Kazham and Elshimo. As I recall from my brief visit to Zi’Tah, the region is covered thickly with forests of trees that reach the sky. We should be able to find a secure place without too much of a problem.”

The two looked at each other. “Of course,” Semih said. “Even the Altana pilgrims heading to Ro’Maeve don’t journey through the entire sanctuary. There has to be some undiscovered glade that we can take refuge in.”

Perih nodded. “Take as many of your guards you can and gather up all those willing to travel with us. Tell them to pack only what food and belongings they need. We will gather them here in the grove and set off at dawn. My ranger guards will keep this place safe until we leave.”

Semih saluted, something she normally only did for the Sybil, and rushed off to gather her guards. They needed to move quickly, the day was half over and there were thousands of mithra to gather. They would have to pick up the ones living in the plains of Saruta on their way out. The taru would get their wish. The mithra would be gone, and with luck, there would be no war. This is going to work, Semih thought. It has to.

****************

She awoke, shivering in the water. It was dark now, filled with the mud that had been in her fur and hair. She wondered how long she had been asleep and stood, carefully stepping out of the now cold bathwater. She shook herself off before grabbing the towel. Tying up her hair with another towel she found in the bathroom, Luna wrapped herself in the one she’d brought with and went back to her bedroom.

Vittie was there, and he jumped into her arms as soon as she closed the door, knocking the towel to the floor. She laid down on her bed, after unwrapping her hair, and cuddled him for a while, letting his warm fur warm her up. Wish I hadn’t fallen asleep. Cold baths are the worst. She stood again, against Vittie’s wishes, and put on some clothes. Picking him up again, she made her way back to the kitchen.

She sniffed the air. “Mmm, whatever it is you’re making Ehchillo, it sure smells good.”

“I hope you like it,” he called from the back. “I picked up some dragon meat today at the market, some of the best in the world. Used some to make a stew and the rest to make some kabobs for you.”

Luna giggled. “Dragon meat? You spoil me so much.”

Ehchillo emerged carrying a bowl filled with a dark stew. “You deserve it,” he said placing the bowl in front of her. “Eat up, the kabobs are on the way.”

She picked up her spoon and tasted the stew. “By Altana, this is amazing!” She continued eating, not even noticing that Ehchillo had brought out the kabobs. Vittie had jumped up on the table and was sniffing the kabobs while Ehchillo sat down across from Luna.

She finished the stew and shooed Vittie away from her kabobs. “So,” she said after swallowing the first bite. “Where is everyone?”

Ehchillo shook his head. “I don’t know. I was asked to prepare meals for traveling, a lot of them. Beyond that, I don’t know why or where everyone went. I think Sarano had something to do with it. A long quest for each of them to a different part of the world.”

“Really?” Luna said with her mouth full. “How odd. He never took interest in helping me run the school before.”

“Well, if you ask me, he just wants some alone time with you,” he said smiling.

She smiled back, taking a drink of water. “He gets all the ‘alone time’ he wants when he’s actually here. I haven’t even seen him since I’ve been back.”

“He’s out with the Temple Knights, training their archers or some such nonsense.”

“Huh? Sarano has never shot a bow in his life!”

Ehchillo laughed. “I know. I think it was something to do with hand to hand combat—sword training I think.”

Luna shrugged. “Yeah, that could be. He is good with one of those. Among other things,” she added winking.

They both got a good laugh out of that. Vittie just sat there, looking at them curiously. Luna had finished both the kabobs and the entire bowl of stew. “You keep eating like that, you’re going to grow out,” Ehchillo observed.

Luna glared at him. “Not with all the training I end up doing when my students are actually here.” She stood and picked Vittie up. “I think I’m going to go take a nap.”

“Alright,” he said gathering up the dishes. “Don’t you worry about these, I’ll take care of them.”

“Thank you,” she said kissing his cheek. She and Vittie went back up to her room, where she stripped again and crawled under her covers. The sun was still up, but nearing the horizon. She hoped she would sleep through the night. Vittie curled up in her arms, and fell asleep. She snuggled him, letting her mind drift as she too fell asleep.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:32 pm

Slow posting again, didn't have enough time earlier this week to spend spacing things out and making sure it's not too dirty.



A New Apprentice

Luna awoke early the next day. She raised her head, feeling a warm pressure on her back. She turned and saw Vittie, still fast asleep in the middle of her back. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, but she looked around. No one else was here. Sarano hadn’t come home that night, which worried her.

She rolled over onto her side slowly to let Vittie slide off without disturbing him too much. She got up on her hands and knees, stretching her back, letting the sheets fall off of her bare body. The floor was cold on her bare feet, and she stretched again, her tail swishing back and forth along the bed. She looked back when it seemed stuck on something and saw Vittie sitting on it. “Sorry baby, I didn’t mean to wake you up,” she said softly to the rabbit. She picked him up, cradling him on her breasts and wrapped her tail around her waist. He seemed content with her apology and fell asleep again in her arms.

She walked to the window and looked out. It was still dark, the moon shining brightly in the western sky. She looked down at the empty streets and wondered if her students were faring well. She quickly closed the drapes when she realized that someone across the street might be looking at her. She set Vittie down on her pillow and put on a silk nightgown. It was one of her longer ones, dropping down to her knees, and was bright white, reflecting even the smallest light.

She crept out of her room, looking in on some of the other rooms, all of which were empty. Normally there’d be two or three students in each room, separated by sex of course. The last thing she needed were students taking advantage of each other that way. The older students were, of course, encouraged to seek out a love and move out of the school to a place of his or her own. She shook the thought from her mind, not sure why it came to her in the first place. The floor was even colder here. Winter would be coming soon, her favorite time of year. Everything so fragile and beautiful when covered with ice and snow.

She walked to the kitchen, looking for something to eat. Ehchillo always kept the dried meat and various fruits out in the open for any who might be hungry. She found an apple, and after lowering her nightgown slightly, she buffed it on the fur between her breasts. Her ears twitched as she heard something behind her. Covering herself quickly again, she turned to look but saw nothing. Thinking that a gust of wind had just blown some of the hanging pans around, she turned back to her apple. Satisfied with the glow on the bright red skin, she took a bite and turned around again.

As she did, a large, strong hand grasped her throat. Her eyes widened, seeing a large figure cloaked in black. She spit the bite out of her mouth at the figure, hitting it’s head with the rest of the apple. Reacting on instinct, she grabbed the arm that was stretched out to her with one hand and attacked with the other, striking the figure’s elbow making it loosen its grip. She pulled the hand off her neck, opening her attacker’s torso to a direct strike while its other hand was still rubbing its head. Luna’s flat palm thrust out, striking the figure right in the middle of its chest. But there was something strange. There seemed to be a crevasse in the middle of its chest. Does this person have breasts? Could it be a woman? The thought crossed her mind for only a moment as her attacker staggered back, gasping for breath now.

Luna knelt down, sweeping a kick for the back of her? knees. The woman fell to the ground, for the first time making a sound in a definitely feminine voice. She tried to roll onto her side, but Luna pounced, having grabbed a knife from the cutting block on the counter, and landed on the woman’s chest—she was certain now, able to feel the push of a pair of breasts against her legs—holding the knife against her neck.

“STOP! PLEASE!” the woman cried out. She pulled the mask off of her head. She was an elf, with shining red hair, something rare among their race. “I have no wish you harm you!”

“I wish I shared that sentiment,” Luna said with a low growl in her throat. “How dare you attack me in my own home!”

There looked to be a tear or two rolling down the cheek of the she-elf. “I’m sorry, but it was necessary. Aldo said if I wasn’t sure it was you, I had to do that.”

Luna’s ears perked up at the mention of Aldo’s name. “Aldo sent you?” she asked removing the knife. The elf just nodded. Her eyes were filled with fear, clearly not having fought such a skilled opponent before. The tears were numerous now, and Luna used her tail to wipe a few of them away as she slowly stood. “I’m sorry.”

She set the knife on the counter and helped the she-elf to her feet. The elf looked down at Luna, blushing slightly and turning away. Luna was confused, and looked down to see that her nightgown had torn quite a bit. Now barely covering her breasts, and not much else, most of the cloth dangled at her side. Unsure of how it happened, she tore the rest of the cloth off and wrapped it around her waist. She sighed, “And I liked this nitie too.”

She looked up at the elf again, who had taken her cloak off to reveal a silver gown of her own. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Serena,” she sniffed. She turned back, seeing that Luna had covered herself—for the most part. She pulled a sheet of paper from between her tight breasts. “Aldo told me to give this to you.”

Luna took it, but did not open it. “You wanna go up to my room and rest a while?”

Serena nodded and Luna took her hand. She wasn’t very tall, for an elf, but still stood half a foot higher than Luna. She could easily be confused for a tall human, especially with her red hair. Her gown was a beautiful silver color, probably silk Luna thought, and was slightly wrinkled. It must’ve been gathered up in the black top she was wearing. It was longer than Luna’s had been, relatively speaking, swaying down to a few inches above Serena’s ankles. The straight gown did a good job of hiding her hips and lower figure, but her breasts seemed to push out against the cloth support of the gown.

The two girls reached Luna’s room and closed the door. Vittie had been hopping around nervously, probably at all the sounds coming from below. He hopped up into Luna’s arms. Serena walked to the window to look out while Luna changed. Luna picked a new nightgown out of her drawer, and slipped it on. Shorter than the last one, and a dark blue, she set the pieces of her other one in front of her mirror to take care of later.

“Come sit with me,” Luna said, patting the bed. Vittie had curled up on her pillow again, and Serena came over seeing that Luna had once again dressed. “You’re not very old are you?”

Serena shook her head. “I’m only 19. My mother sent me to Jeuno, thinking that I could find a better life there. I was always good with a sword, and Aldo took me into the Tenshodo there to train me. He said that this would be a good mission for me to test my skills—even though I’ve only been training a few months.”

“Aldo never was a very good teacher,” Luna replied, wrapping an arm around Serena’s shoulders. They were the same height while sitting, saying to Luna that most of Serena’s height lay in her legs. “He probably sent you here so I could see you and offer you training here.”

Serena’s eyes widened. “You would do that?”

Luna smiled, twirling Serena’s long, red hair in her fingers. “Yes I would. Of course I don’t actually do much of the training myself. Most of my students got to where they are by learning on their own or from each other. I choose the top ones to train for one year, then they go do whatever they please. A few have stayed here to train the younger students—and I think they like me too much to leave.” She blushed a little.

Serena’s heart fluttered. This was too good to be true. Luna was smiling at her, and she smiled back. Then Serena yawned. Giggling, Luna slid back into bed, pulling Serena with. Vittie climbed in between the two girls. Luna leaned over and kissed Serena on the forehead. The sky was starting to brighten. Dawn was approaching. She wasn’t sure how much more sleep she’d get but figured it would be enough. The two drifted off to sleep with Vittie snuggling both of them happily.

****************

The sun was rising, and the fields around the city were filled with activity. Crying children, worried mothers, all of them on edge. Where were they going? Would they all make it? But more importantly, why were they going? Only a few seemed to know. They all knew that the Taru were lashing out at them but, for what reason? Surely a local mother and her cub couldn’t be to blame…could they?

The city was half empty, nearly every mithra now outside its gates with a few personal belongings, a weapon or two, and enough food to last them a week. If the food happened to run low, it was the cubs that would get the most of it. The mothers and warriors would hunt the land for food to feed themselves. Semih and Perih had gone from door to door gathering all they could for the exodus, as it was being called. Never had so many mithra left their home in search of a new land at once.

And so they set out. Perih and Semih on horseback to control everyone and respond to trouble quicker. Thousands and thousands of mithra on foot trudging across the Saruta plains. Their entire race had very few males, and most that had come to the mainlands or been born here had decided to reside in the smaller towns near the borders of the federation. They'd visit the capital from time to time, and be sought after by the females as a mate, then leave again for another year or so. The handful of male mithra that lived in the capital were gathered with them, and they'd be in charge of the cubs if the need arose for a large hunting party. Designated as the homemakers of their race, they were the exception to the world status quo. But the mithra were never ones for trends, nor did their race's genes allow for a larger population of males, mostly due to their long life spans. A few of the younger, grown mithra were pregnant and near the birthing time, which would provide further complication if they stayed on the road for too long. Their destination leagues ahead of them, it would take many days with a company this large to reach. The cubs would be the slowest and none could travel any faster than the little ones could. Semih judged that they might be able to make 8 or 10 miles per day.

Semih led them off, while Perih stayed behind the group to make sure that no one was lost behind. The road would be hard, and with luck, no lives would be lost. But the world was anything but predictable. Yagudo roamed the lands they were to travel through, and they would pass very near the dreaded Castle Oztroja. The path through the canyon and mountains was treacherous, and if they were not careful, many would fall to their deaths. Perih could not live with something like that on her head; an accident stealing the life of a cub’s mother. Or worse, the cub herself.

She tried to shake the thought from her mind, but it was useless. Losing members of her tribe, the ones who’d chosen her to lead them, in matters as trivial as this was simply unbearable for her. She had gone around like Semih had, rounding up all those that would accompany them. And to her horror, she found houses where no one was left alive. Mothers, sisters, cubs, all slaughtered with no idea of why. Simply because the Taru could no longer function. She had wept many tears for them, sitting and crying by their sides in each house she found in such a state. She was supposed to be their protector. But she could not protect them from what she did not understand. She remembered Vatrina, a star pupil in the ranger ways when she was young. Why she would do something as hideous as slaying the Star Sybil, Perih Vishai could not understand. Semih had been there, but couldn’t believe it herself. Tears welled up in the Chieftainness’ eyes again. She shook her head. She had a people to lead, and could not let these matters cloud her judgment or this exodus would surely fail.

****************

They awoke at the same time, slowly since they were both quite comfortable. Vittie had ended up on the floor, much to his dismay. Luna and Serena were cuddling close to each other, and startled to find out they were doing so. They quickly separated from each other’s arms and got out of bed, not wanting the other to see her blushing deep red, visible even through Luna’s fur.

Serena walked to the window and realized that her clothes were in the bag she had left at the entrance of the building. She told Luna, who quickly ran down to get them. Serena hadn’t realized that there was almost no one else here, and she was free to roam in whatever clothing she wished. Her nightgown wasn’t nearly as revealing as Luna’s was, longer in every aspect, but it was a nightgown nonetheless and she felt that only a few select people should be allowed to see someone in one.

Luna returned, closed the door and handed the bag to Serena. It was a moderate sized bag, easily carried on horseback or even one’s shoulder. Luna watched as Serena fished a couple of things out of it. Luna did the same out of her dresser.

Serena was the first to undress, and Luna tried not to look but couldn’t overcome her curiosity. Her silky white nightgown fell to the floor, her fair skin shining in the sunlight coming in through the window. Luna was surprised as how good she looked, the nightgown having covered most of that. Her full breasts, and pronounced, curvy hips and legs, made Luna’s heart flutter slightly and she looked away. What was this she was feeling? She was 31 years old, fantasizing about something like that was meant for the young…wasn’t it? Not that she was very old by her race's standards, many of them living to the ripe old age of 500. But the world's morality had been formed by the humans, and thier relatively short lives by comparison. The first 20 years of their lives the mithra aged just as fast as the humans, but then everything slowed down considerably. What the humans achieved in years of development took the mithra decades. So while her thoughts were more befitting of a 20 year old, it wasn't all that unexpected, her only being 21 based on the human model of morality.

She tried to shake her head clear but failed. The thoughts remained and she glanced over at Serena one more time. She had put on a pair of black slacks, and was in the process of pulling a top over her head. Also black, it did a good job of covering her breasts, but not much else, leaving her fair shoulders and middle open.

Luna looked away again, and decided that she, too, should get dressed. Serena was content with looking through the window onto the now busy streets. She’d seen quite a bit of Luna the previous night. But she glanced over anyway, just as Luna’s nightgown fell to the floor. She hadn’t taken the time to actually examine Luna’s body. She was too embarrassed last night at seeing it to actually look. A pity that Mithra should be covered in fur like that, she thought.

She watched out of the corner of her eye as Luna dressed. A pair of tight, black pants, and what looked to be a very rugged and well-worn red top. She had seen other Mithra wearing something similar. Had even asked one if she could get a similar top because it looked good. But she was told it was a Mithra secret. The low-cut garment left little to the imagination. Those cats really like showing themselves off. But then Luna caught her looking…and smiled. Serena blushed again and turned away. Curse my thoughts distracting me like that.

“Serena,” Luna said after a long silence. “I have decided to train you personally. You will learn from the best from day one.”

Serena’s eyes widened and she turned back in surprise. “Are you serious?”

Luna nodded. “Yes, very. We will begin in a few hours. Feel free to walk around the school and its grounds for a while. You’ll be here for quite a while and it’s best to learn your way around early.”

Serena took a few steps toward her. “Thank you so much, you have no idea what this means to me.”

Luna giggled taking Serena’s hand. “Come on, let’s go get some breakfast. Ehchillo is one of the best cooks in the world.”

****************

She was nearly frozen when she made it back to Zvahl. She burst into her chambers and removed her armor to get a good look at the wound on her arm. Her silver fur glowed in the light from her window. She hadn’t gotten a good look at herself since the transformation, and this seemed as good a time as any. She ran her hands along her body, feeling every strand of fur, every rise and fall of her figure. She seemed unchanged. Except for the color of her fur, hair, eyes and the incredible power running through her. The power that had been thrust aside by a simple gesture by that damned Duke. What is he? Certainly not human as he appeared. And the elves seemed to fear him as much as the next race.

She wondered how things were going in Windurst. She had cut down the Sybil right in front of Semih. Surely the taru were infuriated, possibly blaming the mithra. In an effort to avoid open war, the mithra would leave. And head to…where? Someplace green and forest-like. Vatrina thought for a moment. Zi’Tah. Yes the sanctuary was a veritable jungle, complete with a canopy and nearly never-ending rain. And there were plenty of places that the pilgrims didn’t go that her people could make as their home.

Yes, she thought, slipping into something less cumbersome. She would pay a visit to both Windurst and the sanctuary in a few days. It would take time for her people to make the journey. And Windurst, in all its confusion, would be a prime target for her to finish off once and for all. Her ears twitched at the sound of the door opening. She turned, seeing a demon enter. Snarling at the interruption she said, “What is it?”

“Lady Vatrina,” it said in a very deep voice. “Our scouts report that the nations of San d’Oria and Bastok will soon be at full, open war with each other. The Gigas still refuse to move from their tower on the island north of Jeuno. And the ones in the glacier have holed themselves up in Fei’Yin. They will be of no help to us.”

Vatrina strolled over drawing her sword from its sheath. Shining it in the light, she dropped the sheath on the floor. “Incompetence,” she said as she swung the blade through the demon’s neck severing his head. She cleaned the blade off as two more cleared the body and a third took the dead one’s place. “Find the source of the duke’s power. It may lie somewhere in either Delkfutt’s Tower or the ruins at Fei’Yin. The Gigas are protecting it, possibly at the whim of the duke. If you can’t find the source of his power, find out everything you can about him. Failure will not be tolerated.”

The demon nodded. “Yes, my Lady,” it responded and disappeared. She admired herself in the blade of her sword. Her arm was still sore from his power coursing through her and breaking her other blade. She rubbed it gently. Next time will be different, she thought. Next time, I will be the one to throw him to the ground. No one makes those kinds of demands of me. She sheathed her sword again, walking back to the window and looked out at the fresh snow.

****************

They finished breakfast and Luna left Serena to find an empty room to use as her own. She greeted a couple of her students on her way back to her room. They returned bearing the experience and various stories to share amongst the others. It would be an interesting few days around the school. Sarano had yet to return, and she worried a little about him. Probably the same way he worries about me, she thought. She gathered a few articles of clothing together, and put on her black, padded chain armor. She fixed her katana to her belt, hoisted her pack and made for the kitchen again. Serena had settled in and caught her going into the kitchen.

“You look like you’re off somewhere. Where you going?” Serena asked.

“Jeuno,” Luna replied grabbing some dried goods from the cupboards. “I need to see Aldo and the duke. Regarding the note and some other things.” Luna grabbed a few packages of salted meat and wrapped them in paper.

Serena sighed. “So I guess my training doesn’t begin for a while yet, huh?”

Luna thought for a moment, then grabbed another package of meat and handed it to Serena. “Pack some clothes, armor and weapons, then come back here for more food.”

She smiled, took the package and quickly headed off to do as her teacher told her. Luna wasn’t quite sure how much she’d need. The one time she’d traveled by foot, Vatrina had packed their provisions. But she couldn’t take the airship because of the war. Airships to and from nations at war were delegated to emergencies and negotiators only. Though she could probably get the king to give her a pass, she didn’t want to bother him. He had more pressing matters to deal with than to hand out specialty airship passes. Besides, Luna wasn’t even sure that Aldo would have the answers she sought. Though she was sure the duke would. And the note that Serena had brought her disturbed her slightly.

Serena returned in similar, red armor. She set her pack down next to Luna, who added some meat and bread to it. Luna stood and looked around mumbling to herself, “Canteens, canteens…” She opened another cupboard and found what she was looking for and tossed two to Serena to fill. Luna filled up two of her own and hooked them to her pack. Hoisting it on her back, she looked to see if Serena was ready. Her pack was also on her shoulders and the two set off for the stables.

They’d only be able to take one horse. Most of them were reserved for the division and corps commanders of the knights. They chose one, and hooked their packs evenly onto its back. They exited into Ronafure right before another company of knights set out from the gates heading toward the plateau. The battle would be raging soon, and Luna hoped that they’d be able to avoid the eyes of any of the higher ups. Less chance of getting detained as spies, or recognized and thrown into the fight.

They quickened their pace to get ahead of the marching company, not wanting to get washed up with them either. They had left late, and barely made it to the Knightwell Lake by nightfall. The first night was restless for Luna, but Serena slept soundly. It had been like this during her trip with Vatrina through the northlands as well. She just couldn’t seem to get comfortable enough to get any decent amount of sleep. When the sun rose, Luna woke Serena and they ate and set off again.

The clouds had rolled in overnight and rain seemed imminent. They took their time now, as the forests ended and the plateau began. Sparse grassland that abutted to the wispy sands of the Valkurm dunes where this war started. Luna wondered if she’d see her sister again anytime soon. She almost hoped that she didn’t for she knew if they fought, she wouldn’t survive. Vatrina was so much more powerful than Luna was now. She shook the thoughts off as Serena asked which direction they should go next. Luna took a look at the sun through the clouds and thought about how long they had been traveling from Ronafure.

“This way,” Luna said tugging on the reins of the horse and turning to the east. The elves had built ramps down some of the cliffs that lined the plateau. The two girls found a satisfactory one and carefully guided the horse down it. The loose gravel made for difficult traction for horses, their metal shoes polished and sliding around on the larger rocks. The rain had started, light but still a nuisance.

Passing another lake, they refilled their canteens and sat for a while under a tree to try and stay dry. But the rain only seemed to intensify. Deciding that they would be unable to continue in the current weather, they set up camp as best as possible. Being this far from the safety of the city, a fire would only drag unwanted attention from both the local orc raiders and any knights that may be close. They unloaded the horse and tied it to a tree near the edge of the lake, letting it graze and drink as it wished. They sat under a tree with a thicker canopy, trying to stay as dry as possible.

Luna thought about doing some fishing, but decided against it, instead checking the tension on her bow and counting her arrows. She found a small rock to sharpen the heads on. It had been a while since she had used it and the arrowheads were getting quite dull. Serena watched her with interest, wondering when her first real lesson would be. Luna noticed and handed over an arrow. “Here, find yourself a good rock and sharpen it for me.”

Serena took it and nodded, looking around for a smooth stone. Finding one of satisfactory size, she began to meticulously drag the edge of the broad head along the rock. Luna watched for a few moments before intervening. “No, no,” she said taking Serena’s hands. “Don’t pull it across the rock, push it. Grind away a small part of the metal to leave a new edge.”

Serena watched a moment and said, “Okay.” Repositioning the rock in her hand, she began again, pushing the blade of the arrowhead across the rock. Luna watched for another moment, then nodded and left her to her task. Against her better judgment, she stepped out into the rain. She didn’t know how long the two of them had been sitting there but it seemed to be getting darker. Not that she’d be able to get much sleep with rain falling on her face.

Luna turned back and sat down again under the tree to find the contents of her quiver lain out in a row, each arrow having a new edge on its head. Luna picked one up at random and slid her thumb along the broad head. She jerked at the pain of the head cutting her thumb. Looking at the blood, she quickly stuck the small wound in her mouth and nodded her approval. Serena smiled and gathered the arrows, placing them back in the quiver.

Serena sat down again, taking some meat out of her pack and handing half of it to Luna. They ate it quickly, neither wanting to keep the taste of the salted meat in their mouth for very long.

Luna watched Serena for a moment before asking, “You look like you have something on your mind. Care to share it?”

She blushed. “That obvious, huh? Well, I guess I was kind of wondering, why do you sharpen your weapons by hand?”

Luna smiled. “Because I can. Because I don’t trust many other people to do it for me.”

The answer seemed to satisfy her and Serena laid down to sleep. Luna did the same, unsure of what truly lay ahead of them. The rain was letting up, or maybe it was simply the tree, Luna thought.

****************

She spent a couple of days in the castle nursing her wounded arm, but she felt so blind. Being stuck in one place for very long was never something she enjoyed. She was always on the move, even before. She had kept most of her stuff near a certain rock formation in Saruta, but rarely slept in the same place. Moving around gave her something to do. She had loved the exercise and wondered what would happen when she completed her dream. Would she allow herself to return to normal? Or would she stay like this, shunned and feared by even her own people? For the first time, she found herself questioning why she had allowed herself to gain this power. She could easily have stepped back during her battle with the Dark One to let the power dissipate. But she hadn’t. She kept fighting, ignoring the cries of her sister, whom she really hardly knew. They had acted like the best of friends but such a thing was difficult when there was a 25 year gap since she last saw her. Even so, Luna still wanted to save her. And to stop her. Vatrina had no wish to kill her sister, her only remaining family. Luna might even confront the duke to find a way to change her sister back.

There was something else. Something the duke hadn’t told her. There was more to his story about the Crystal Warriors, she could feel it. Something had happened to the first ones, he’d said, but he never said what. Could it be that someone protested and found a way to drain them of their power? A powerful magic hiding away in someplace like Fei’Yin? Even if there wasn’t, she couldn’t take that risk. She couldn’t allow herself to be turned back to normal before she completed her task. She would travel there once her demon puppets had returned.

No news had come to her yet about the Gigas in Fei’Yin or the progress of the war that had broken out to the south of her. She didn’t like trusting such horrid creatures as the demons, but she had little choice. Windurst was an easy target for her now, and she would take care of the pesky little Tarus in due time. The Republic of Bastok and the Kingdom of San d’Oria were another matter. Taking them on by herself would prove difficult if not fatal. As powerful as she had become, she was still not without weaknesses. You don’t fight Bastok and San d’Oria, you get Bastok and San d’Oria to fight each other. Her people would be well on their way to Zi’Tah by now. She would give them a few more days before paying a visit.

Vatrina put her armor back on. As black as night, a strong contrast to her silver fur, but it was better than anything she had worn. It almost felt like a second skin, but protected her as well as the strongest plate mail. Her only regret was that her hair had become shorter and no longer flowed with her every motion. But then something happened. As if on command, she felt her hair stretching, pulling against her head. She looked in the mirror and saw it grow and lengthen back to its original length. She smiled, spinning and letting her hair flow around her.

She grabbed her weapons and exited the castle. She had someone to meet, and had a good feeling on where to find her.

****************

A couple of days had passed, and Luna and Serena were running low on food. Deep within the forests of Jugner, they found the river and followed it north. The crystal clear lake which the river fed was filled with fish of all sizes. Their trip had been uneventful so far, and dry since their night at the lake on the plateau. They let their horse run free and Serena took a dip in the lake to clean herself off.

She emerged nude and shaking. “Burrr, that water is cold,” she said grabbing a towel she had brought with.

Luna couldn’t help herself and glanced over again. “Well then, why did you go swimming?”

Serena giggled. “Because I needed to. All that rain water just make me feel nasty and caked with dirt.” She dried off and put her armor back on. Walking over she sat next to Luna. “Catch anything yet?”

Luna sighed. “Nope. Had plenty of things nibbling on the bait but nothing I can reel in yet.” Just as she said that, her rod bent nearly double over. Luna jumped and grabbed it, Serena jumping to her feet. Luna pulled at it, reeling slowly and bringing it to the surface. She reeled in the large carp to Serena’s applause and tossed it aside.

Rebaiting her line she said, “There’s another fishing pole in my pack, get it.”

Serena nodded and retrieved the item. After casting the first one, Luna baited the second pole and handed it to Serena to fish with. “Let’s see if we can catch a couple more.”

Serena nodded, casting the line and the two waited patiently. The sun was still high in the sky, as they had decided to take a day and rest here at the lake. Luna would have to remember this place and come back. It was quite beautiful. Thick trees, clear water, and the soft grass made it a perfect vacation spot. And it’s not like there was a shortage of fish, she thought. She hadn’t been fishing in a long time and had forgotten how peaceful it could be. And besides, there wasn’t a mithra in the world who didn’t enjoy good fish, raw or cooked.

Just then, both their rods bent over double. Peaceful until the fish bite. They jumped to their feet and hauled in two more large carp. The three fish would feed them for the day, Luna decided. She put the fishing gear away and found a good log on which to clean the fish. Pulling the knife from her boot, she started to cut into the first fish right behind the gill flap. She slowly sliced until the knife wouldn’t go any further, then turned the fish over and repeated the process. Serena watched on intently as Luna’s knife cut into the soft flesh of the fish. She reached the same stopping point on the second side of the fish, and after rocking the knife back and forth a little, she picked the fish up in both hands and quickly bent it at the cut, breaking the fish’s spine clean in half. Pulling the head off, since there was nothing holding it to the body anymore, with the entrails hanging off she tossed it into the woods.

Luna sliced the belly of the fish open to make sure there weren’t any of the entrails left, then found a stick and, after making a clean point on it, carefully slid it through the length of the fish for cooking. She looked over at Serena and laughed. “You want to try?”

Serena was already holding her mouth in disgust at the sight. Luna’s invitation was met only with a wide-eyed shake of the head. When she’d gathered her composure, and after Luna had butchered another fish, she asked, “Why do you do that by hand? Doesn’t it gross you out?”

Luna smiled. “Well, maybe a little. But it’s the experience you gain that’s worth it.”

Before Luna could start the third fish, Serena grabbed a small green rock from her pack. It was transparent, almost glowing with a light of its own. “Here,” she said handing it to Luna. “Try that.”

“Hmm?” Luna said taking the item. “A crystal? Yes, I suppose this would work. But think, how much of the fish is lost because of this magic? The head and entrails that could go to feed another animal simply vanish in the process. As convenient as it is, there are some things that are better done by hand.”

Serena still seemed confused as she took the crystal back from Luna. “Ninjutsu isn’t just a way of fighting, my dear. It is a way of life. Everything you do has an effect on something else. Similar to a ranger’s way of life, we must come to terms with that which is around us if we are to use it to our advantage. A simple skill like cleaning a fish, or butchering an animal, can have benefits in battle. Skill and positioning of a blade, for instance. This age of technology and magic makes us want to take the easy way out, but the truly great Ninjas do everything by hand.”

As if a light had been switched on, it all became clear. Serena nodded, now having a deeper understanding of why she was asked to sharpen the arrowheads a few days ago. She reached out her hand as Luna set the last fish on the log. “I’ll try,” she said.

Luna smiled and handed her the blade. She watched carefully as Serena tried to imitate Luna’s actions; with limited success, however. She placed too much pressure on the knife and sliced clean through the backbone of the fish, spilling the entrails onto the log. Choking back the unsettled feeling in her stomach, she picked up the head and tossed it into the woods in the direction that Luna had. She cleaned the belly out, and after grabbing a piece of tree bark, scraped those onto it and carried them a few steps into the trees as well, dumping them onto a pile of dried leaves for whatever animal would come by.

Luna nodded her approval and sharpened to more sticks for the remaining fish. She speared them both and laid all three in the cold water of the lake to keep them fresh for dinner. She turned and saw that Serena was entertaining herself with the fire so Luna took this chance to take a walk through the trees. She found a couple of plants that she could use the season the fish and picked them. Sitting on a rock for a moment, she saw a couple of wild carrots that she also picked. Though she had a natural distaste for them, Serena would be happy for something fresh. Vegetables just weren’t a mithra’s forte. She walked to the river and washed them off in the cold, swift current. It amazed her that this river fed a lake that had no outlet and that the entire forest hadn’t flooded. There must be an underground stream or outlet that we can’t see from the shore, she thought. She set the carrots and other plants aside and cupped some water in her hands. They had refilled their canteens in the lake but that water was stagnant and not quite as clean. She would have to remember to empty them and fill them again from the river.

It was the gust of wind that caught her attention. She stood slowly, her ears twitching. Too far from camp to call for assistance from Serena, she slowly drew her katana. She moved quickly to her left, dodging the first arrow, but not seeing the second one that knocked one of the katana out of her hand. She looked at her hand, then the katana that had fallen into the river. Turning back to face her attacker she froze, her eyes widening.

Vatrina stood there, bow in hand, her long flowing hair blowing in the wind, her tail twitching in annoyance. She lowered the bow to her side and turned to face her sister. “You don’t need the weapon,” she said evenly. “I’m not here to fight.”

Luna stood erect, but refused to sheath her other blade. “You’ll have to forgive me for not believing you, Trin.”

Vatrina smiled at her sister’s continued use of that nickname. She took a couple of steps toward Luna. “I am simply here to warn you.”

Luna cocked her ears. “Warn me? About what, you?”

Vatrina shook her head and slung the bow back over her shoulder. “I am here to warn you about the duke. He is something sinister and very powerful.”

Luna was confused. “What can he do? He has no real army.”

Vatrina turned and scoffed at her sister’s shortsightedness. “Come now, Lunarflower, certainly you know there are more forms of power than simply the political and physical.”

For the first time, Luna thought that Vatrina was scared. “What’s the matter, Trin? Is he out to put a stop to your little quest?” she taunted.

Vatrina snorted, hitting Luna’s legs with her tail. “Don’t be so callous. I will achieve my goals, and unless you get in my way, you will be alive to see it. The mithra from Windurst have already set out for a new home, and now all I have to do is deal with those pesky rats while San d’Oria and Bastok battle to the death.” Vatrina knelt down to pluck some blades of grass. “He is a zilart. An ancient race that built places like Fei’Yin, and Delkfutt’s Tower. They are incredibly powerful and he seeks to open the Gate of the Gods. I plan to stop him before he gets that chance because it would wipe out all life in this world.

“However, something else must be done. He has far too many assets at his disposal. Find a way to take Jeuno from him. Reduce the number of people he commands and we reduce his ability to see and do anything.”

Luna was astounded. “It almost seems like you’re asking for my help.”

Vatrina stood again, blowing the grass from her hand. “I am. You do your part and I do mine. This world will bend to us. You have amazing power within you, sister, I can feel it. We could rule this world, none would stand in our way.”

Luna shook her head. “As tempting as it sounds, I cannot let you get away with destroying everything. I will find a way to save you from yourself.”

Vatrina stepped back. “So be it,” was all she said before a dark aura enveloped her and she vanished.

Luna waded into the freezing water and retrieved her katana. Drying it off and sheathing them both she gathered up the spices and carrots. Yes, Trin, I will find a way to save you.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Sat Dec 09, 2006 4:08 pm

Sorry, no extra commentary today.


The Curse of the Crystal

The amount of activity in Jeuno was incredible. The tension in the air was thick, and anticipation was high. Luna and Serena entered the city at midday, and could barely make it through the streets. Their first stop was the doctor’s office. Luna had fallen and cut her arm open. The hills in Batallia were steep and such a thing happened often. She was a little embarrassed at losing her balance like that, but had felt that something had made her trip and fall.

“Doctor Velugi, I require your assistance,” Luna said upon entering.

The elf emerged from a room and saw her wound. “And what have you done to yourself this time, Miss Luna?”

Luna blushed and replied, “I fell.”

He laughed, and she blushed some more. “I’m sorry,” he said. He looked at Serena and asked, “And who is this fine young girl you have accompanying you today?”

“My name’s Serena,” the elf girl replied. He took her hand and kissed it. Serena blushed at his gesture, while Luna looked on, a little irritated.

It took a tap from Luna’s tail to get Velugi’s mind back on her wound. He took the two of them into a room and closed the door. “Let’s have a look.”

Luna took her armor off, revealing the wrap on her arm. Velugi took that off and examined the cut. He murmured a little to himself, spreading it and pulling at it with his fingers to see its depth and length. Her fur, as short as it is on her body, did a good job of covering it up. The doctor walked over and grabbed a small blade. Luna knew what was coming next and sighed. The only way to repair the cut cleanly was to remove the fur surrounding it. It didn’t take him long and he had a clean working area around the cut.

“So what were you doing traveling by foot across Batallia anyway? Don’t you know that place is haunted?” Velugi asked as he examined the cut further.

“What?” Luna asked. “Haunted?”

He saw her wince as he spread the cut again. “Yes, haunted. Underneath is the Eldieme Necropolis, a tomb for many of the Kingdom’s nobility. Thousands of souls rest there, and it is said that during the night, they rise and wreak havoc on the land above. Few make it across as unscathed as you two are.”

Luna looked at Serena who had a look of pure horror on her face. “You can’t be serious?” the she-elf stammered.

But Velugi nodded. “I am. Quite a few people have set out across the downs and never made their destination. The souls within Eldieme are—uneasy at best. Many of them having fallen in battle, or even murdered. Few found vengeance in life and so seek it in death.”

Luna slapped the doctor. “Will you knock it off, you’re scaring the poor girl with such nonsense.”

“Nonsense, is it?” he replied as he dabbed some fresh blood from the wound. “Tell me, how did you trip and fall?”

Luna tried to pull her arm away from him and lick at the wound, but she didn’t let him. “I…I don’t know. It kinda felt like something had grabbed my foot.”

Velugi smiled, cleaning the wound. “I told you. It was a hand from one of the spirits of the necropolis. Probably one that was wronged by a mithra, so upon sensing you, it reached out of its grave to try and pull you under, but instead, made you fall down the hill.”

Serena was almost panicking, and now Luna could feel the fear creep up on her. “Velugi, for your sake you better be telling the truth.”

He patted her head and scratched behind her ear. “You needn’t worry, my dear. As long as you continue to take the airships, you won’t have any trouble in Batallia.”

This seemed to calm both of them down a little. He walked to a cupboard and pulled a small jar out. Luna saw it and said, “My sister had a jar like that. What’s in it?”

Velugi stopped. “Sister? There was only one other person I gave this to. She always told me that her sister had died in the war. I didn’t think Vatrina had any family left.”

Luna’s ears perked up. “You’ve seen Vatrina? Where? When? What’d she tell you?”

He thought for a moment while applying the ointment. “It was a while ago, after she’d gotten back from a trip to Delkfutt’s. She was pretty badly wounded, and asked me to make up a new jar of ointment for her.”

Luna frowned. “So it was a while ago then. You haven’t seen her since, have you?”

Velugi shook his head. “Sorry, Miss Luna, can’t say that I have.” He finished applying the ointment and pulled out a new wrap for her. “Take it easy with that arm for a day or two now.”

“Yes, sir,” Luna replied. “Thank you.”

“Always a pleasure you see you, Miss Luna. And a pleasure to meet you, Miss Serena,” he said as he escorted them out the door.

The girls nodded and headed toward the Tenshodo. The sun was warm, and Luna decided to take a quick detour to the auction house. She pushed her way through, leaving Serena at the edge of the crowd, and snagged a current “On Sale” list. She went back to Serena, and grabbing both of the girl’s katana, held them from her.

“Hey, what are you doing?” she protested.

“You need some new weapons,” Luna explained. “These are all fine and dandy for a beginner, but you’re far too skilled to be considered that.”

“Yeah, but…” Serena sighed. “I don’t have the money for any new ones, and neither does my mother.”

“You needn’t worry about that,” Luna said, imitating Velugi. The two got a good laugh out of that. “As long as you’re a member of my school, all your weapons and armor are paid for. I get funded a lot by the Tenshodo, thanks to Aldo, and I’m able to provide my students with top of the line weapons.” Luna beamed, proud of the fact that she could make her students the best of the best. “If you leave the school, you will be on your own though. But by then you’ll have the money or experience to get better weapons. Even some of the students that haven’t left have found better weapons while on quests. But for now, we’ll get you the best money can buy.”

Serena smiled at the generosity of her teacher, and looked over the list with her. Some of the names she recognized, but most she did not. She picked out a couple of possible weapons and Luna nodded her agreement. Serena was more versed in weaponry than Luna had expected. Luna pushed her way back in, and placed a high bid for a set of katana. Surprisingly, no one outbid her. She gathered her purchase in her arms, tossed the list aside, and pushed her way back out to Serena, handing over her new katana.

Serena examined them in the light and, satisfied with her purchase, nodded to Luna, who smiled. Serena fixed them to her hips and the two continued on to the Tenshodo.

****************

Vatrina sat in the Star Tree, looking down upon the chaos she had created. She admired her work, single-handedly bringing an entire country to its knees. There was only one thing left. She had to rid the world of this place and all its awful memories. So much hurt, so much suffering, all because of this place. She had tried to get away once and failed. This time, she would succeed.

She leapt down from the tree and landed on the bridge connecting it to the main road. The taru in the immediate area stopped and looked at her. She stood, her hair blowing in the wind. She looked up at the sun and took a deep breath, closing her eyes. Such filthy air. Tainted with spite and malice of these horrid creatures. Two of them came rushing at her and she knocked them down the twenty or thirty feet into the flooded ruins below.

One wearing some important looking robes approached her from behind. “What are you doing here? You mithra are no longer welcome.”
Vatrina smiled, her eyes gleaming a blood red. “Is that so?” she asked turning around to face the brave rodent that spoke to her. “But I have traveled far to see the Star Sybil. Tell me, is she still here?”

A scowl came across the taru’s face. Vatrina could see him begin to cast a spell, holding the power in his hands until the time arose to release it. “You mock us. Witnesses placed one such as you in the tower when the Sybil was slain.”

Vatrina acted shocked. “Well, I never. Being unwelcome is one thing but being called a murderer…” She flicked some hair from her face. Lowering her gaze she said quietly, “How do you know that you won’t be next?”

The taru’s eyes widened and the others around her prepared for battle. A flash of light gave away that he had released his spell, a ball of fire soaring toward Vatrina. She pirouetted, letting the spell pass her by and hit a nearby taru. The one that had released the spell stood in astonishment. “How…? Never have my spells been evaded such as that.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?” Vatrina retorted. Drawing her sword, she cut the cut the bridge in two, leaping to safety and watching the tarus on it fall to their deaths in the ruins below. She frowned, “Well, they put up hardly a challenge. I guess I overestimated their pitiful race.”

She closed her eyes, holding her sword vertically in front of her. Concentrating, she began to channel her power into her blade. Before long, it was glowing with an ominous power. When it appeared that the weapon could hold no more, she spun it so the blade was facing the ground and thrust it deep into the dirt at her feet. The energy was released into the ground, spreading outward from the sword like ripples in a pond. Miles and miles of land were energized, covering the entire city, and then some.

When her sword was empty, she withdrew it and slowly slid it back into its sheath. She smiled and jumped to safety, outside the city walls. As she walked away, she could hear the screams of the taru in the doomed city. She didn’t even look back as she snapped her fingers. The energy deposited into the earth released, creating a massive explosion that brightened the sky like a second sun. Wind and dirt whipped around her, trees flattened or uprooted and went flying through the air. When the wind subsided, she continued on to her next destination, satisfied that the city, and Federation, of Windurst were no more.

****************

The girls were greeted at the door, and were offered food and drink. Serena took it, thanking them, and sat down to eat. Luna refrained and made her way to Aldo’s room.

After knocking, she entered. He was sitting at a desk, but she could not see what he was doing. He turned and stood, a cup of tea in his hand. “It is good to see you again, Luna,” he said handing the cup to her.

She took it and after taking a sip, said, “And you.”

They sat down on the couch and Luna set the cup on her lap. “I see you made it back from Castle Zvhal safely,” Aldo said.

Luna frowned. “Yes. My sister, however, was not as fortunate.”

This caught his attention. “You have a sister?”

She nodded. “What do you know of the Crystal Warriors?” she asked.

“The Crystal Warriors?” He thought for a moment. “It has been quite some time since I heard about them. They were born from the powers that lie beneath the earth. But something happened and they vanished from this land. Why? What has happened?”

Luna started to cry, but choked back the tears. “I think my sister has become one.”

Aldo looked at her in amazement. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Luna shook her head. “I wish I was. I really do. It happened during our battle with the Dark One. All of a sudden, it was like she was enveloped by his power and transformed. She’s so powerful now. I’m trying to save her, to turn her back, but I don’t know how.”

Aldo pulled her close to him. “You know I’ll do everything I can.” He stood and went over to a bookshelf. Searching for a moment, he pulled an old tome from the top shelf. “I thought this book would come in handy one day.” He sat down again and began flipping through its pages. Luna came over next to him to see what he was reading.

“Hmm. The goddess Orlan created the world and everything in it. She gave birth to Altana and Promethia. However, due to Promethia’s immense powers, she banished him to the shadows. Altana became the goddess of the dawn, and Promethia the god of twilight. Altana created the Zilart and another race called the Kuluu. Equally matched in every aspect, they could not fight with each other, for it would just end in a draw.

“However, out of spite, Promethia tainted the hearts of the Zilart. They began to seek out and develop powerful magic, including the powers of the gods themselves. Building places like Fei’Yin and Delkfutt’s Tower, they were able to enhance their powers to the point that they had become god-like. They began construction on a Gate of the Gods that would open paradise to them. But the Kuluu refused to let such events come to pass for they would surely destroy the world itself. They opposed the Zilart and tried to stop them.

“It was the Zilart who created the Crystal Warriors. To cleanse the world of all they deemed unworthy. Powerful creatures, each made in the image of the current races. Apathy of the humans, arrogance of the elves, the cowardice of the taru, envy of the mithra and rage of the galka; each drew their power from that one trait.”

Luna was confused. “Wait, galka? What are they?”

Aldo laughed. “It’s not a surprise that you have never heard of them. They are all but extinct, their rage causing their own destruction. Together, the five warriors were an incredible force. Entire armies fell to their blades. The Kuluu were no match. Military force would not defeat the warriors, so the Kuluu mages began researching possible magic to banish the five. Years passed, but the Kuluu succeeded in banishing the dark powers from the five. Losses on both sides were great. The Kuluu were few and the Zilart nearly extinct.

“The five new races multiplied and spread across the earth. The few remaining Kuluu took refuge in their temple on Elshimo Isle. It doesn’t say what happened to the Zilart.”

“I know what happened to them,” Luna said. “The one that is left…he rules Jeuno. Vatrina told me so herself.”

Aldo was taken aback by this. Certainly the people had seen, had realized what he was. Aldo himself knew there was something odd about him. Having known the duke for countless years, he never seemed to age. If he was a zilart, then he was over ten thousand years old! “Are you certain of this?”

Luna shook her head. “As certain as I can be. For all I know she was just spinning another lie to try and get me to join her in her quest to cleanse the world. I can’t let her do that, it’s not right.”

“So your sister wishes to open the gate of the gods too. That must be what this zilart is after as well. But,” he thought for a moment. “I thought the crystal warriors were the keys to the gate. One would need to summon all five in order to break the seal. Something is not right. Even if they were to make it to the gate, they could never open it.”

He looked at Luna, expecting an explanation. “She didn’t tell me that. She said that the duke was the one seeking to open the Gate of the Gods, and that she and I could stop him if we worked together. She has no wish to wipe out all life on this planet, just anything that isn’t mithra.”

Aldo raised an eyebrow. “Hmm. She thinks she can stop him, but unless he has found a way to open the gate without all five crystal warriors, it won’t happen. As for her own ambitions, we can’t let that come to pass either.” He stood and started to pace. “If we can find some way to make the duke and your sister confront each other, it might just give us the window of opportunity we need.” He turned back to Luna. “Luna, you must find a way to get your sister back to normal. Head to the temple on Elshimo, the magic used to cleanse the first crystal warriors might still lurk within that place. But be careful. Though the Kuluu may be gone, their spirits still live on in vile creatures called Tonberries. Their hatred spans millennia, dating back to the Kuluu themselves. When you enter that temple, you will be entirely on your own.”

Luna didn’t like the idea of going alone, but couldn’t take Serena with her. It would be too dangerous. But if I fail, she will die anyway. She was a capable warrior, and Luna had gotten used to her company. Yes, Luna decided, she would ask Serena to accompany her. She would not push such a dangerous destination on the girl.

Aldo sat down next to her again. “There is little chance you will come back alive. But if anyone can, it’s you.”

Luna smiled, and blushed a little. “You place too much faith in me. I am not nearly as skilled as my sister. But I will do my best.”

Aldo nodded and escorted her out. He closed the door and sat down again, drinking some more of the now cold tea. Let us hope, for everyone’s sake, that your best is enough.

****************

They walked carefully amongst the battlefield, checking for life. The grass in this section of the plateau was soaked with blood. The smell of death filled the air, to the disgust of the Kingdom’s rangers. The worst part of their job, walking through the remains of the battle and checking for survivors.

The elves could see the human rangers from Bastok in the distance, performing the same actions. The laws of war prevented them from attacking the other “mercy men” as they’d become to be called. If they got close enough, conversation would ensue, discussions about the horrors and stupidity of another war. Possibly a casualty count from the other side to bring back to their commanders. Maybe even some family talk.

One of the rangers found someone who was alive and helped her to her feet. It looked like she’d taken an arrow to her shoulder, and fainted from the pain. He gave her some water and pointed her toward the rear of the field where the remains of his battalion were being reinforced by a division from the city. More knights would follow, but not before his job finished here. With the defeat of the Republic force, the Kingdom could press an advance through the dunes and meet the Republic’s reinforcements in the highlands.

He had lived through two previous wars, and hoped that he would make it out of this one alive as well. His son was undergoing knight training, and his eldest daughter was to be married in a few months. His youngest daughter was just entering school. She’d said she wanted to be like the great Curilla, the captain of the Temple Knights, defenders of the city. He’d always told her she could be anything she wanted, and she’d taken it to heart. Training as much as she could, given her young age, she’d become good with a blade. But she was still too young to become an apprentice, so he sent her to school instead.

He found another body and nearly broke down and cried. This fallen soldier looked so much like his own son. The life in the man was draining fast and getting him to the rear lines would not save him. He clenched his sword in his hand. The hardest part of his job, killing his own comrades. Placing the tip of the blade against the dying man's chest, he closed his eyes and swiftly thrust it through. He heard the last breath escape like a long sigh. The eyes remained open, seeming to thank him for ending their suffering. There must be a way to bring this tiring cycle of war and peace to an end.

****************

Luna found Serena sitting and chatting with a few members of the Tenshodo. She stood to join Luna, but the mithra motioned for her to stay. Serena looked confused, but Luna shook her head and left. She headed out of the Spire and climbed the stairs up to the gardens atop Jeuno. There was a minstrel playing at the entrance for anyone who might toss her a few coins. Luna pitied the girl, and handed her some money.

Luna moved on to the palace. Towering above the rest of the gardens, she climbed the stairs to the duke’s audience chamber. Only to be turned back by the guards. Furious, she tried to force her way through the doors, but was thrown back. The guards drew their weapons, but she pursued no further.

She stormed off, back to the Tenshodo. In her haste, she’d forgotten the contents of the letter that Serena had delivered. The Sybil had been assassinated. The only person she could think of that could perform such an action was Vatrina.

She walked back into Aldo’s study and tossed the letter at him. “Almost forgot about that.”

He picked it up and looked at it. “Well, it’s a good thing you remembered, because I’d forgotten,” he laughed. “But if what you told me earlier was true, it may have been your sister who did this. I was going to have you check it out, but I don’t believe that’s necessary anymore. Or at least I can have someone else do it.”

He still looked slightly concerned. “There’s something else?” Luna asked.

Aldo nodded. “The Windurst airship hasn’t returned to Jeuno for some time. I’d suspected that the taru may have just apprehended the flight crew, since most of them were mithra. But the co-pilot isn’t, and even if the others were apprehended, he would’ve flown the airship back to Jeuno, per orders.”

“What if the ship is just damaged?” Luna queried. She scratched her ear, trying to think about possible problems.

“I thought about that too, but we should’ve received word of the damage so parts could be sent out. Something else has happened, but like I said, I can send someone else to check it out. You get going to Kazham. The last airship of the day destined for there leaves in a few hours.” He handed over another slip of paper. “This will allow you and anyone you take with to board without question.”

She smiled and thanked him. She walked out and grabbed Serena by the arm to drag her with, amidst her protests. The two exited the Tenshodo, and the inn, and made for a little-known deserted section of the city. Well, it wasn’t so much little-known as it was avoided due to its structural instability. A platform and half a bridge that hadn’t been repaired due to the collapse of the tower to which it had been connected.

They walked partway out onto the bridge, praying that it didn’t decide to crumble this day. Luna took Serena’s hands in hers and stared into her blue eyes. “I have to ask you something. I have to go to the temple on Elshimo. If there’s a more dangerous place in this world, I haven’t heard of it. I don’t want you to think you have to go with me, because you don’t. But it is possible that I won’t come back, and if you come with, you may not return either. Which is why I’m asking you, not as your teacher, but as your friend. Do you want to come with?”

Serena thought for a moment. She looked at the sky, the puffy clouds passing, the sky turning red and purple as the sun began to set. Her mother had sent her to Jeuno to avoid life and death situations, and here she was trying to decide if she and this mithra were going to head directly into one. Luna had taken her in, agreed to train her. She couldn’t just let her go into this alone. There had to be something she could bring to this quest, some skill, some experience. But she couldn’t think of any. The only thing she could think of, was that she could watch Luna’s back. Two sets of eyes were better than one. And as far as the danger was concerned, she couldn’t avoid this type of thing forever. Her chances of dying as a Royal Knight were higher than as a ninja. And if what Luna said was true, she very well could have died in the battle in the plateau a few days ago.

She looked at Luna and smiled softly, having some to a decision. “Well, as much as my mother wished me to avoid these kinds of situations, I was bound to find myself in one sooner or later.” Luna started to look away, expecting the wrong answer. Serena lifted her chin. “Better I encounter one sooner, and with someone I trust with my life, rather than later. You really didn’t have to ask.”

Luna’s eyes twinkled, and the two hugged. “Oh goddess, if Sarano finds out that I’m going to that goddess forsaken temple, he’s going to have my head.”

Serena laughed. “That’s alright, my mother will have mine if she finds out.”

Luna giggled. “Come on, lets get off this thing and get our stuff together. We can gather the remains of our equipment and food while in Kazham.”

Serena nodded and rushed off, pulling Luna behind her. If there’s anyone who could get her back alive, it was Luna. She could only imagine what kind of experience awaits her.

It would be Luna’s first trip to the island paradise as well. Vatrina had lived there for a good portion of her life, and Luna hoped that being her sister might make them more welcoming to her and her companion. But she was still worried. Even if they do accommodate the two girls, there was no guarantee that she’d even find what she was looking for.

****************

She was amazed that it wasn’t raining. The canopy may stop most of the water before it reaches the ground, but rarely was the sky calm in Zi’Tah. It was about as tropical as a temporate climate could be. Rain, warm weather, it was perfect for the mithra to make their new home.

Vatrina passed under some downed branches and heard sounds from just ahead of her. Voices, sounds of woodworking, even some crackling fires. She encroached on the torchlight surrounding the emerging town. A few saw her, but ran. She continued on, passing the emerging buildings toward the center of the town. The entire city gathered around her, cubs peaking around their frightened mothers’ legs.

Perih and Semih emerged from the crowd. When Semih saw who their visitor was, she drew her sword. A few of the women around gave out screams of fear and Vatrina turned to face the former guard captain. Semih acted like she had in their former meetings, flattened her ears against her head with a low growl in her throat. But her growl did not phase Vatrina at all.

“Whatever business you have here, forget it and leave,” Semih said. She flexed her hand around the hilt her sword.

Vatrina smiled. But it was not the sinister grin that Semih had seen before. It was warmer, almost comforting. “No one will be harmed, you can sheath your sword, Semih.” She didn’t, but Vatrina continued on anyway. “I am not here to destroy you, I am here to protect you. This world will soon belong to the mithra.”

Perih stepped in. “What are you talking about, protect us? You’re the one that caused us to be driven from our homes in Windurst.” There were a few shouts of approval accompanying the chieftainness’s words.
Vatrina turned to her. “Surely, Lady Vishai, you could see that the taru were a plague on our people. A plague that is no more.”

Semih’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”

Vatrina smiled her sinister smile again. “Windurst has been wiped off the map.” Gasps and chatter filled the crowd. Vatrina noticed the circle around her widening as everyone began to take a few steps away from her.

“San d’Oria and Bastok will be next. Once they soften each other up a little, that is. When my task is complete, I will return here. This world will be ours. The other races are a disease, and I am the cure.” Vatrina smiled again. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have places to be and people to kill.”

She turned and started to walk out. The people gathered around her quickly made a path, while Semih and Perih could not believe their ears. Vatrina had disappeared beyond their sight before they could even move again. Their eyes met in wonderment and fear. She can’t be serious. But what if she is? Did you feel her power? It’s more than I could even imagine. What if she succeeds? They thought it at the same time, but could not come up with an answer.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Kiri~onna
Kitten
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:57 am

Post by Kiri~onna » Sun Dec 10, 2006 10:59 am

trin, do you have this whole story planed out, because I seam to recal a few characters that have been left out since the first few chapters
[url=http://ff-fan.com][img]http://www.ff-fan.com/chartest/terra.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://ff-fan.com/chartest]Which FF Character Are You?[/url]

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Sun Dec 10, 2006 5:08 pm

Yes, Kiri, it's all written and completed...for the most part. I'm always finding things I don't like or can add to. But as for the characters you mention, one of them is a small, non-impact character, the other will be making a hidden appearance soon. A bit of suggestive material in this chapter, please don't slam me for it, I'm not sure how to deal with it otherwise since it ties in to later on.


The Elshimo Temple

The rain was coming down hard, soaking them nearly the second they stepped off the airship. The one downside to living in a place like this, Luna thought. The torrential downpours every few days. They made it through customs with little problem, though Serena didn’t quite like the look the guard gave her. Although Kazham had opened its boarders to the other races, they weren’t exactly trusting of such people.

Luna had never been to Kazham before, and was unsure of which way to go first. So they picked a direction, which happened to be the driest one, and headed off to see what they could find. She was surprised to find tunnels through the rock faces and cliffs lining the town. It was quite beautiful, even while it was raining. Tall, green trees covering the sky, plush, soft grass under their feet. Tropical flowers of every hue imaginable growing both wild and in some gardens. Luna found a pair of wild ones, a blue and orange one, and picked them. Taking the orange one, she leaned up and tucked it into Serena’s hair above her left ear, when placed the blue one in her own hair.

After wandering around some more, Luna and Serena were content with their little tour and made for the shops. The mithra behind the counter looked up as they entered. She was quite tall, surprising both Luna and Serena. Her fur wasn’t the light brown that covered most other mithra. Mostly white, with a few splotches of brown and black, her fur also appeared longer than Luna’s. The mithra out here certainly are different, Luna thought.

“What can I do for you ladies?” she asked. She brushed some of her red hair out from in front of her dual-colored face. Her left cheek, touching the edge of her mouth and corner of her eye was brown while the rest of her face was white.

Luna looked around. There were quite a few weapons displays, and even some armor hanging on the walls. “I don’t know. Any advice on what to bring if we’re going to the temple?”

The shopkeeper’s eyes widened. “You’re going to the Temple of Ugglipih? Why in the world would you want to go there?”

“I need to save my sister, Vatrina, from herself. I was told that there might be some magic in the temple that can help.”

“Vatrina’s in trouble? Wow, I’d never expected that to happen,” the mithra replied. “If you need any more help, I doubt there’s a warrior in this village that would turn you down. We all owe Trin a great deal.”

Luna shook her head. “I thank you for the offer, but I wouldn’t want to risk any more lives than necessary.” She looked around again. “We’ve got packs, so I guess all we need is some food and cooking supplies.”

The mithra nodded, and turned, disappearing into a back room. She returned a few minutes later with a couple of small pans and a piece of paper. “Take this slip to Elsina. She’s in a shop north of here, and will get you the food you need for the trip.”

Luna nodded, took the slip and handed the pans to Serena. “Come back alive,” they heard the mithra call as they exited the shop. They turned north and found the dry goods shop they had been pointed to.

Elsina was black, her fur very glossy. The only other visible coloring to Luna and Serena was the brown patch over her eye. “Rrraow, what can I do for you two today?”

Luna handed over the slip that the mithra in the other shop had given her. Elsina examined it, mumbling to herself. “Hmm, a claim slip from Cebnir. Off to the temple to mess with those troublesome tonberries, are ya now? Alright, hang on a second there hun.” She turned around and started pulling packages from the shelves behind her. Luna looked through a few of the wraps as Elsina set them on the counter. A couple of loaves of bread, some seasonings to be used in soup, quite a few packages of meat, both salted and fresh. Luna knew the fresh stuff wouldn’t last long, so they’d have to eat it first.

Placing the last package on the counter, Elsina said, “There you two beauties go. You be careful now, and come back alive. I’d hate to be the one to explain to Vatrina what happened to ya.”

Luna giggled. “How much do I owe you?”

Elsina laughed. “You’re the sister of a legend around here, I couldn’t charge you anything even if I wanted to.”

Luna smiled and thanked her. Serena had the food packed and the two left. The rain had stopped, but the clouds still remained. Luna wondered what this place looked like when the sun was out. Serena wondered what it felt like when the sun was out. The heat was incredible, even without the sun.

They headed for the town gates, which led into the jungle. Wild, and considerably untamed, it covered the entire island. Even climbed half way up the volcano. There were thousands of paths, and, depending on the weather, they were almost never the same twice. Downed trees and mudslides were common across the island. Caves were ideal, but most ended in dead ends.

Horses were unheard of here, a surprise to Luna and Serena. Though becoming accustomed to traveling by foot, Luna still would’ve liked to have a mount to carry their packs. Serena seemed eager, seeing it as an endurance test. So Luna gave in, and decided to see it through her eyes. The guards at the gate wished them well, and gave them a few pointers for traveling through the jungle and dealing with the tonberries.

Although they had taken the overnight flight, they had spent a good portion of the day just wandering around the town. Luna had thought about talking to the chieftainness, but decided against it. Unsure of the time, they traveled quickly to get as far as they could before having to set camp for the night. Unfortunately for them the rain started again. So the two found a cave and set camp for the night. They were lucky and found one with a natural stream in it. They refilled their canteens, and built a fire from the dry wood they could find.

Luna had started setting up the cooking stuff for dinner when she noticed that Serena had disappeared. She looked around frantically, hoping that she hadn’t been swept away by the stream. She ran out to the entrance of the cave, only to turn around again in embarrassment. Serena was standing under some runoff without her clothes on taking a shower.

“What are you doing,” Luna asked, still blushing.

Serena was startled by her voice. Spinning around she saw Luna’s back to her. Relaxing a little, she replied, “Taking a shower. This water is actually kind of warm. That and I haven’t had one in almost a week. Come join me, you’ll like it.”

Luna hesitated, but gave in when Serena dragged her over. A shower would feel good. A chance to get rid of all the dirt in her fur, even if the water wasn’t as clean as her baths at home. She took her clothes off and stood next to Serena under the considerable runoff that could almost be mistaken for a small waterfall. She was right, the water was quite warm, Luna thought.

She had her back to the elf, and could feel her tail between the girl’s legs. She giggled, and wrapped it around one of the she-elf’s knees. In response, Serena clamped it between her knees, making Luna jump. Serena was giggling, and Luna couldn’t help but smile. She turned around again, and Serena put her hands on Luna’s shoulders. She quivered, but didn’t pull away. Something about this girl’s touch, the feel of her hands, was comforting. Almost like when Sarano laid his hands on her.

Luna turned, and their eyes met. Serena smiled, and so did Luna. Serena’s heart fluttered, her hands slid down Luna’s arms to take her hands. She gently placed the mithra’s hands on her own hips and pulled the two closer together. She could almost feel Luna shaking against her. Or that could have been her, shaking with anticipation. This kind of thing was entirely new for her, and appeared so to Luna as well. She slowly leaned forward, dragging her hands up Luna’s back. The mithra shivered some more, unsure of what was going to happen next, but curious nonetheless. Slowly, their lips met, and their emotions flowed free.

****************

The school was bustling again, most of the students having returned from their various quests. Sarano could hear the sounds of playful bragging amongst those he walked by. He laughed. He had sent them on their first real challenge, of course they were going to brag and boast about their experience. Stories of battle, defeated foes, and journey hardships would fill the air for a few days. And, hopefully, keep the students entertained long enough for him to have some time with Luna.

He went upstairs and opened their bedroom door…to find it empty. Weapons, armor, Luna’s traveling packs, all gone. Even Vittie was no where to be found. He sighed and made for the kitchen. If anyone knew where that troublesome girl was, it was Ehchillo.

****************

Cloaked in black, he entered the audience chamber to find the duke studying some maps. He approached slowly, unsure if the man was aware of his presence. A pitiful question, the man thought to himself. Of course he knows I’m here. He awaited patiently for the duke to finish what he was doing, only speaking when he raised his head. “All is prepared for us in the Stellar Fulcrum on top of Delkfutt’s Tower.”

“Good,” the Kum’Lanut simply said.

“There were no problems setting it up. We only await your orders to start the process.”

The duke smiled, eerily. He looked at the cloaked man with a gleam in his eye. “Oh but there is a problem,” he said. He raised his hand, a powerful spell building up energy. “We are in need of the rest of you no longer.”

The other man’s eyes widened as Kum’Lanut’s spell came to fruition. A shard of blue ice shot out from the duke’s palm, hitting the far wall a dark red, the cloaked man’s blood dripping from it. The man’s head fell to the floor, and his body shortly after. “Filth like you are not meant to enter paradise,” Kum’Lanut said to the corpse.

****************

They awoke in each other’s arms again, but did not pull away. Luna was purring softly as Serena slowly slid her hand along the mithra’s sides. She was startled when she saw how bright it was outside. Sitting up, she grabbed her clothes and handed Serena’s to her. Unsure of how long the weather would be in their favor, they packed up quickly and set off, again to the southeast.

The canopy was thick and did not allow much of the sunlight to reach the ground, but it was still incredibly warm. Luna thought about just traveling naked, but then decided against it due to the fact that she’d have no protection from any threats. Serena had the same thoughts and decided to go with as little clothing as possible, but still covering her vital areas…both in appearance and battle-related.

The monkeys, if that’s what you could call them, were everywhere. And they were quite noisy. A slightly different color than the ones the two saw in Kazham, they were more cat-like than monkey-like. Big, wide eyes, ears poking out of the top of their heads, and a tail more than twice their length, they swung from the trees and walked about on the ground everywhere the girls could see. They left the two alone, for the most part, wary of the unfamiliar travelers. Serena was glad that the creatures left her alone, but Luna, in her ever growing curiosity, would reach out to one or two of them every time they got close.

“You’re going to get your hand bit and I’m going to have no pity for you,” Serena scolded her teacher. Luna giggled but didn’t respond.

They continued on through the unusually rough terrain of the island. That so many dangerous cliffs and hills could exist in the middle of a forest baffled the girls, but here they were, using tree roots and branches to climb up and down various rises and falls of the ground. Probably because of the heavy rains and the still active volcano, the two concluded. Mount Yuhtunga, the mithra in Kazham had called it. Also known as Ifrit’s Cauldron, Luna remembered, she wasn’t sure from where. Weekly tremors and almost regular eruptions kept the island constantly changing, in size and terrain. They should build roads, Serena thought as they climbed down another cliff.

They had been traveling for a few hours when Luna suddenly paused. Serena started to speak, but Luna held her hand up to stop her. After a moment, she nodded and continued on, leaving Serena confused. “Someone’s following us,” she whispered.

Serena didn’t look but asked, “What? For how long?”

Luna didn’t know, but was sure that if their intentions were hostile, they have had plenty of chances to attack when the girls were in no position to fight back. They continued on for a little longer, then took a couple of quick turns into a cave, virtually vanishing from sight. They stopped, and waiting for their tail to turn the corner, and drew their weapons.

The footsteps they heard were light and cautious. Luna leapt as they turned the corner, knocking a young mithra girl to the ground. Caught completely off-guard by the attack, the girl jumped to her feet and drew her knives from her boots. She wasn’t wearing much. A similar top to the one that Luna had found amongst Vatrina’s things upon her return home to cover her breasts, some crude gauntlets of apparently similar color and material, a loincloth and a pair of tight-fitting pants and boots. Her ears were flattened against her head from which flowed a bright red hair, complimenting her white and orange fur colorings. Her eyes were bright with annoyance and rage.

Luna put her weapons away, and Serena did the same. “We don’t want to hurt you,” she said calmly to the girl.

The girl’s eyes darted back and forth from Luna to Serena and back again. Apparently satisfied that she wasn’t in any danger, she stood erect and placed her knives back in their sheaths. “You didn’t have to attack me,” she hissed.

“I’m sorry,” Serena said. “But you were following us and—“

“I was going home,” the young mithra snapped. “I live just over that hill.” She pointed to a ridge just down the path they were on. “What are you doing out here?” She looked back to Luna.

“We’re heading to the temple,” Luna explained. “We’re looking for a spell or something in there that might help me save someone.”

The girl looked at them. “Well, you’re going the wrong way,” she sassed.

Serena looked at Luna, clearly annoyed. “Well could you show us the way?” Luna asked.

The girl thought for a moment. “I guess. I’m Ashly,” she said.

“I’m Luna, and this is Serena,” Luna replied, looking behind Ashly as she heard a growl. “What was that?”

Ashly looked behind her. “Oh that was probably just Roban. He’s my torama cub. I found him trying to drink from the breast of his dead mother and have raised him as my own.” She rubbed her breasts gently. “His teeth hurt.”

Luna giggled. “I did that with a young rabbit I found. But I fed him from a bottle, not my own breasts. You’re a brave girl to let an animal do that.”

She led them off. “A torama’s a cat just like we are and I figured it couldn’t hurt.” They climbed the ridge and saw the girl’s small house atop it. The cub came trotting out to meet her, but stopped and growled at the two strangers. “It’s okay, Roban, they’re friends.” The cat seemed to understand his mistress, and again trotted toward Ashly to nuzzle and greet her. “Come on inside, sleeping in a real bed is much better than sleeping on the hard ground like you did last night.”

Luna and Serena stopped and said, nearly at the same time, “You saw us?”

Ashly nodded as she knelt to put some meat down for Roban. “This morning I did. Don’t be embarrassed,” she said as she could see both of them turning red. “It’s not like I haven’t seen a naked mithra before. But you,” she pointed at Serena, “were a treat for me to see. I’d never seen a nude she-elf before. And though I might not know what you two were doing, I can probably wager a good guess,” she finished with a wink.

Serena and Luna looked at each other but couldn’t think of anything to say. “How old are you,” Luna asked after a pause.

“Seventeen,” Ashly answered. She stood. “At least that’s what the mithra in Kazham tell me. Leave your stuff there, we’ll set out for the temple in the morning, no sense in leaving now.”

The travelers did as they were told and followed Ashly off to a bedroom. Her house may have looked small from the outside but it was quite the opposite. Only a couple of rooms were in the built shelter on top of the ridge. The rest of it lay inside the island, underground. Luna thought about how long it would have taken to dig the tunnels and rooms that this girl had to herself. Did she get many visitors out this way? She seemed friendly enough. Luna wondered how long this girl had been living on her own like this.

They stopped at a room with a single, large bed. “Here we are, you two can sleep here tonight and do—whatever it was you were doing last night,” she said with another wink, this time accompanied by a giggle. “I’ll wake you at sunrise, be sure to get some sleep, light doesn’t travel well down here. Makes any time of day look like sunset or sunrise.” She turned to leave. “Oh and if Roban comes down here, be nice to him or I won’t lead you to the temple.”

Ashly left them to each other, closing the door behind her. Serena breathed a sigh of relief, and looked over to Luna, who had already started to disrobe. Serena took the hint and decided to do the same. The sooner they got to sleep the more sleep they would get. Luna laid her clothes neatly out on the floor and pulled the bed sheets back with her tail. Serena also set her clothes on the floor, as there was no place else to put them, and climbed into the bed. Luna did the same and the two snuggled together. Jungle or not, being underground was always chilly, and the bed was quite cold. They slowly drifted to sleep, using each other as a pillow.

****************

The men at the top of the tower awaiting the duke received the same fate as their comrade had in the audience chambers in Jeuno. Kum’Lanut walked among the fallen bodies, their red blood pooling around their severed heads and necks. None of them were fit to enter paradise. Filthy vermin.

The room was large, and had a platform above his head. Blue crystals lined the walls, pulsing with energy and lighting the room. He raised himself up to the platform, the waist-high pedestal adorned with various crystals and labels. He knew their functions, and had no need of the labels, as crude as they were. There were no proper common tongue translations for the crystals’ functions.

He ran his hand across the console, digging through his mind for the proper sequence of crystals to activate; memories buried and saved for nearly ten thousand years. Smiling as he found what he sought, he looked down at the console. Slowly he started pushing the crystals: red, blue, yellow, red, green, red, white, blue, purple, green, black. The console lit up, pulsing with energy. The crystals in the walls did as well, changing color from blue to red. Two secondary consoles arose from their hiding spaces inside the platform upon which he stood. He reached out to both of them at the same time, pressing the single, purple crystal on their surface.

A deep hum sounded out through the tower as its inner workings were activated. The light in the room where Kum’Lanut stood again changed, to purple, as the crystals in the walls became completely powered up. Outside, a light shone from the top of the tower, lightning bolts jumping from spire to spire. Then, a bright beam of light shot out from the roof of the tower toward the sky. The energy the tower had built up, released in a single, violet colored blast.

High above the tower, a receiver was hit by that energy. A floating island, long since lost to time and memory, became active once again. A beautiful, but deserted place, its beauty hiding its true power. Kum’Lanut’s final destination, was the shrine located on that island. And that crystal warrior, Vatrina, will follow me there, for it is her destiny.

****************

Luna couldn’t sleep. Horrible dreams filled her thoughts as soon as she closed her eyes. Serena had told her to relax and just empty her mind, but she couldn’t. Every time her eyes closed, she saw Vatrina killing her. Her sister’s blade thrust through her chest, draining her blood and life. The gleam of pleasure in her sister’s eyes, the smile on her face…it was too much for Luna to bear.

She quietly got up and went upstairs. It was quite dark, little of the moonlight reaching through the treetops. Such a change, she thought. So quiet, no monkeys screeching, or birds chirping. It was hard for her to believe that such a busy place during the day could become so void of any activity at night.

Roban was sleeping soundly, she saw. She had never seen a torama before. Not so different from the coeurls she’d seen, she thought. Mostly yellow, with some dirty yellow or brown spots covering his body, white underneath, his tail was quite long, and spiked with fur at the tip. His whiskers were also amazingly long, at least the length of his body, she thought. She had heard that the whiskers of such animals were used for instrument and bow strings, but now, upon seeing them close up, found it hard to believe. They were too thick at the face, and tapered to a point. Unless there was something inside the whisker that could be used, it would serve horribly as a bow or instrument string due to it’s changing size.

“Pretty, isn’t he?”

Luna turned. She had heard Ashly approach but didn’t expect her to say anything, and was quite surprised when she saw the young mithra. Not that Luna had expected that the girl would be self-conscious about her appearance, what with living alone and all. Luna could see the girl’s eyes checking her out as Luna’s did. Ashly was quite good looking. Luna could see her muscles disrupt her smooth fur in some places. Probably due to living out here, she thought. “Yes, he is,” Luna finally said after a moment.

“You are very pretty, now that I get a better look at you,” Ashly said.

She was certainly not afraid to speak her mind, Luna observed. “As are you.”

Ashly knelt down to gently scratch Roban’s head, careful not to disturb him. “So tell me, why exactly are you going to the temple? I don’t normally get such young people as you out here.”

Luna was quite flattered with being called young. “I guess I do look about your age don’t I? Well, I wish I still was.”

“You’re not?” Ashly asked, a little surprised.

Luna giggled. “Far from it. Serena is about your age, but I am not.” She sighed. “Twenty-five years ago, I was taken from my home by my father. We left my sister and mother behind. There was a war brewing, and my father wanted no part of it. But my mother and sister were too stubborn to come with, bound by duty and such. After the war, I went searching for my sister, but never found her, or my mother. I thought they were dead.” She saw a couple of tears well up in Ashly’s eyes. “My sister was gone. But I had to move on. Then, a few months ago, she showed up at my door. I was so happy to have her back in my life again.” She stopped for a moment as the joyous memories came back to her.

“We were sent on a dangerous mission, to a land far to the north. Evil had risen again and we needed to stop it. But something went wrong. During our battle, my sister was consumed by that evil. She was transformed into the thing that we were trying to destroy. I had no choice but to leave her there, or perish by her hands. When I got home, I set out on this quest, to try and find a way to save her, to banish the evil from her. I was told that the temple on this island was made by an ancient and powerful race that had defeated this kind of evil before. I was hoping there might be something left for me to find and use to save my sister from herself.”

Ashly looked on in amazement. “Wow. That sounds like something I would’ve done for my sister. I loved her so much.” Tears welled up in her eyes again, and Luna walked closer to comfort her. “Her name was Misty. We lived out here with our mother and guided people to and from the temple, when the Chieftainness allowed it. One day she just didn’t come back. I went out and searched for her. I looked everywhere but all I found was her sword. She was gone.” She stopped, tears rolling down her face.

Luna pulled her close and embraced her. “Shhh, it’s alright.” She held the girl’s face against her chest.

“I’m the only one left of my family. I have to find someone so it may live on, but all the males in Kazham are too old or too young. I fear I may never bear a child to carry on my family’s life.”

Luna brushed her fingers through the girl's hair. "Do not worry, you have plenty of time to find a mate."

Ashly nodded and stood again. “Get some sleep, dawn comes early this time of year.” She walked off and disappeared into a room.

Luna decided to take her advice and felt like she could sleep now. She went back down and carefully climbed into bed with Serena again. The she-elf stirred a little, cuddling close to Luna. Luna wrapped her arms around Serena, feeling her smooth skin, and slowly drifted off to a calm sleep.

****************

The purple beam from Delkfutt’s lit up the sky, drawing the attention of everyone in Jeuno. As pretty as it was, some of the people felt an ominous presence with it. Most just took notice and went on with their normal business. There was nothing they could do, so why would they bother with worrying?

However, there were a few that knew what it meant, and became very worried. Such a spectacle had not been witnessed for hundreds of years, and only those that had studied the texts from those periods knew what was going on. Things had been set in motion to destroy the world as they knew it, but were powerless to have any effect.

****************

Luna was startled awake by Ashly’s pounding on their door. She shook her head and woke Serena. I could have sworn I just closed my eyes. The two got up, yawned, and dressed, hardly looking at each other. The door opened, and Ashly entered, making sure they were awake, and catching them only half dressed. The three went upstairs, and had a quick bite to eat. The sun was rising, though the light had changed little from when Luna had ventured up in the middle of the night. After gathering their things, Ashly said a quick goodbye to Roban, telling him not to get into trouble while she was gone, and they set off.

The fog was thick, inhibiting their vision. Ashly had traveled this path many times however, and knew the way and all its troubles by heart. They traveled quickly, avoiding most of the hills and ravines, traveling more in circles than in a straight line, Luna thought. They passed over some old bridges that Luna had some questions, and Serena some reservations, about. But they crossed anyway, after a gentle prodding from Ashly and a short lecture on the quickest route and having to take a day’s travel around to get to the other side of the bridge.

When the sun got high enough, the fog lifted, and the heat came back. The girls had prepared for that and dressed lightly. Water was plentiful, rain runoff into pools and streams was clean, according to Ashly. Serena and Luna had their doubts, because of all the monkeys around, but they hadn’t brought enough canteens to last them all the way from Kazham.

It took them two days of uneventful traveling to reach the temple. Towering above them, the old structure was covered with moss and vines that had taken root between the bricks. Luna and Serena saw a few of the tonberries around. Short, with apparently green, leathery skin, they wore nothing but a cloak, and carried a lantern in one hand and a knife in the other. Ashly had said that she had a few friends among them, due to the number of times she’d been here, and was able to pass others through as long as they did not threaten anyone. She was unsure of how, but they seemed to have a link with every other tonberry in the temple. If one was attacked, they all knew about it, and would seek out the attacker.

Quietly the entered the temple. The little critters were all over the place, it was hard to not get close to one or two, much to Serena’s dislike. They paid the three no mind, for the most part. A few glances here, some blank stares there. They were able to move through the temple unopposed. Not that opposition would have ended favorably for the two mithra and elf.

This place is a maze, Luna thought. I have no idea where we are. They were making turn after turn, with no real rhyme nor reason to it all. Luna almost asked Ashly where she was leading them, when they came to a door. She looked along the door, running her fingers over the glyphs imprinted on it. She picked one, shaped like a coiled serpent, and turned it. The grinding of the granite was nearly deafening as the doors opened.

They stepped through and found what looked like a library. Luna immediately started looking through the old books. Serena took up some of the papers lying on the floor, even though she wasn’t sure what to look for. Book after book revealed nothing. Many of them containing nothing she could use, some being completely blank of any text, while others simply fell apart in her hands.

Luna sighed and stood. “There’s nothing here. Is this all there is?” she asked turning to Ashly.

The young girl shook her head. “There is another room like this one, but it is difficult to get to. I’ll have to find one of my friends to lead us through, but I’m not sure how willing they will be. They guard this temple and its secrets with their lives. I was surprised when they showed me in this far.” She saw the sadness in Luna’s eyes. “But I will try.”

They exited the room, Ashly found a similar coiled serpent glyph on the wall and turned it, closing the doors. They went wandering through the temple again, Ashly checking each tonberry closely to find the one she was looking for. Luckily for them, he found her.

“Assshly, what are you doing here?” it hissed.

“Good to see you too, Ral’Patach. I need your help. I’d like you to take me to the other library if it’s not too much trouble.” For the first time, Luna sensed caution in the girl’s voice. Even she seemed to have trouble dealing with these creatures.

“That isss not a sssimple tasssk. We will need a key from a powerful tonberry and he isss not easssily ssswayed,” the creature replied.

Ashly knelt down, while Luna and Serena looked around, wary of the other tonberries watching them. “What does he want?” Luna asked.

The tonberry looked up at her, as if it just noticed she was there. “Who isss thisss?”

“Don’t worry, Ral’Patach, she and her companion are friends. They’re seeking a way to save her sister from a great evil and their search lead them here.”

The tonberry thought for a moment. “A great evil? Yesss, yesss, I remember, the Cryssstal Warriorsss. If your sissster has become one, there isss not much time, thisss way.” He turned and waddled off down the hall.

Ashly stood and motioned for the two to follow. They walked for what seemed like forever. Long halls, rooms filled with other tonberries, stairs, doors, even some wooden gates that looked like they were brand new. They entered a final room and stopped. Papers covered the floor, books lined the walls, and where there weren’t any books or paper, there were engravings in the stone walls of the temple itself.

Luna immediately went to work, searching through books and papers lying on the floor. It took some time, Serena and Ashly weren’t sure of how much had actually passed. It was when Luna started flipping back and forth through pages of the same book over and over that the others got excited.

Luna’s eyes widened. “This is it. We’ve found it.” She looked up at the others, beaming with happiness. “We’ve found it,” she repeated.

Ashly looked down at Ral’Patach. “Thank you, my friend. This will not be forgotten.” The tonberry swung his lantern back and forth, a dark energy sparkling off of it. The three girls disappeared in a flash of black light, appearing again outside the temple.

They were surprised at their sudden appearance in the jungle. It wasn’t raining, but the sun had set. The sky was clear and the stars bright. They moved off, looking for someplace to bed down for the night. Finding an empty cave, they spread their things out and lay down to sleep.

****************

The wind was howling, blowing dust and dirt everywhere. Vatrina sat atop the crag of Dem, as it had become to be called. Sitting in the Konschtat Highlands, a tall, white monument from an age long since lost. The magic of the crystals on the platforms had been harnessed into powerful teleportation spells, allowing the caster to travel from crag to crag after a simple chant. It was quite amazing, really, that such pitiful little creatures as the taru had been able to tame this power. But no more would those little rats bother her, save the few that were not in the city when she destroyed it. They would be hunted and taken care of in due time.

The battle below her was raging. The humans and elves certainly were experts at killing each other, she thought. It was hard to tell the numbers from as high up as she was, but she could tell that many had perished. The ground below the battle had become stained red with their blood. It was only a matter of time before the two countries wore themselves out and she was able to wipe them from the planet.

The only problem was that time worried her. The longer she delayed, the closer the duke came to using her to open his paradise. She had grown in power considerably since their last meeting, but she was unsure if she could kill him or not. His power was great, but his time would come. She just hoped it was before he finished his preparations.

****************

The three awoke the next morning at about the same time. They took their time preparing a meal, as once again it was raining out. None wanted to risk their new treasure in such a hostile environment. When the rain subsided, they packed up their things and silently set off, Ashly in the lead, Serena bringing up the rear.

They had been walking for only a short time when Ashly stopped, knelt down and placed an ear to the ground. She listened for a moment, motioning to the others to be perfectly still and quiet. Satisfied, she picked her head up and looked behind them. “We need to move faster,” was all she said. She led them off quickly, almost at a jog. They moved through the foliage, taking shortcuts and paths that she wouldn’t normally take.

They were crossing a bridge when it caught them. A very large, apparently very angry torama, the fur bristling on its neck and back, claws and teeth bared as it growled and hissed at them. Ashly switched places with Serena as they moved across the rickety bridge. She drew her knife to confront the angry cat, yelling at the other two to get across.
They kept moving, but the bridge was wet from the rain and very slippery. Serena fell a few times, one nearly off the bridge completely before Luna grabbed hold of her. But they made it to the solid ground, and after handing Serena her pack, Luna drew her weapons and went back to help Ashly.

The torama had yet to make it onto the bridge, and Luna took the opportunity to fire an arrow at it, but missed as the cat dodged. Ashly told her to not bother with arrows. The cat’s whiskers allowed them to sense even the slightest disturbance in the wind and arrows were just that. The torama started to move out onto the bridge, testing its stability with each step. Confident it was stable enough, the cat’s pace quickened, charging at the two mithra. A swift swing of it’s claws caught Ashly completely off guard and gashed her chest, spraying blood across the bridge. Luna pulled her back behind her as she grabbed the wound and launched an attack. She kept expecting her katana to hit something but constantly swung through nothing but air, the torama dodging each attack.

“Get back!” Ashly ordered, pulling Luna behind her, one of her katana catching a rope on the bridge and cutting it. the bridge swayed, and the torama steadied itself. Ashly saw an opportunity to attack and did so, slicing across the cat’s shoulder and neck. It roared out in pain, and lashed out, dragging its claws across Ashly’s stomach, turning her and nearly tipping her off the bridge. Luna grabbed her by her top and pulled her back just before another attack by the torama would have sent her over the edge. Instead, the cat’s claws cut the ropes on the other side of the bridge, which swayed some more, tipping slightly.

Ashly struggled to her feet, blood pouring from her wounds, but she was unable to keep her balance. She fell on her face, her knife slipping between a pair of boards, cutting another rope on its way to the canyon floor. The fight ceased as Luna and the torama tried to regain their balance, the sound of ropes snapping filled the air. Luna picked Ashly up and tried to run to Serena, but didn’t make it. Boards from the bridge fell and broke from her feet, the girl being tossed to safety as the last suspension rope snapped, breaking the bridge in half. Luna grabbed a board as the half she was on swung down, slamming her against the canyon wall. She cried out, nearly losing her grip as her fingers were smashed between the bridge and rock.

They heard the torama cry out as it fell, hearing a dull thump as the cat hit the canyon floor below. Luna looked up and saw Serena gazing down at her. They were too far to reach, and Luna would have to try and climb. Slowly, she reached up to grasp the next board, and the next, ignoring the pain of her broken fingers and ribs. Finally, when she was in range, she felt Serena’s hand grasp her wrist and haul her up onto the solid ground.

Luna falls onto her side, grasping her chest in pain. “W-w-where’s Ashly?” she stammered in painful breaths.

Serena pointed to the body of the young mithra. “Over there, but she’s not looking too good.”

Luna crawled over, looking at the wounds. They were deep, the blood oozing out of them, covering her fur and the ground beneath her. The girl was still breathing, barely. Luna quickly shuffled through her pack and pulled a jar of ointment the doctor had given her. Taking some of it out, she quickly spread it across the girl’s wounds. “We need to get her someplace safe.”

“What about you?” Serena asked.

Luna winced. “I’ll be alright. A couple of broken bones are nothing.” She struggled to her feet, nearly falling down again, but Serena caught her.

“If you can’t stand, you’re in no better shape than she is. Wait here with her, I’ll find us someplace to stay for the next couple of days.”

Reluctantly, Luna nodded and laid down next to Ashly, making sure the girl was still alive. She was, which was good, but Luna was unsure of how long she would be that way. She’d lost a lot of blood and was unsure if the ointment that the doctor had given her would replace that or just heal the cuts. She watched Serena disappear into the foliage and hoped that the elf would be able to find them again.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Kiri~onna
Kitten
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:57 am

Post by Kiri~onna » Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:07 am

im sry trin if it sounded like being mean, i apologyse, this is very good writing and wish to read alot more... there seams to be a bit of imagitive adult content in your story, but very well done :)
[url=http://ff-fan.com][img]http://www.ff-fan.com/chartest/terra.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://ff-fan.com/chartest]Which FF Character Are You?[/url]

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:32 pm

Don't worry about it Kiri. Like any artist I welcome constructive criticism. It's the "omg this sucks gtfo" people who can't offer an intelligent opinion who grate on my nerves.


The Fall of Nations

It was dark. The sun had set a few hours before, but the moon had yet to rise. Vatrina could see the torches and campfires designating the camps of the two armies. The battle of the day had been a draw, much to her disappointment. The body count was high, but she could see the archers from each side as they strolled through the battlefield looking for anyone who may be alive. Those with minor injuries were taken back to the camp, while others were simply put out of their misery.

Vatrina had been one of them once. Walking amongst the dead, trying to sort out the living. The smell was incredibly bad, even though the soldiers had been dead for only a short time. It had pained her much to have to kill her own soldiers in this way. But there were some wounds that just would not heal. It was better to die than to have to live without an arm or leg.

She wondered when the next battle would be. Surely they would not dare approach each other again until reinforcements arrived. And unless San d’Oria had an army already on the way, Bastok’s troops would get here first, and push the elves back into Valkurm. She had to do something. Another stalemate between these two would not work in her favor. She needed one to lose if her task of cleansing the world would be made easier. She thought for a moment, about which she should help. The humans were vile, filthy creatures, but not very strong. The elves were snobby and arrogant and would probably turn away any aid offered by her. But then she froze. There was an image in her mind. Nic…? She tried to shake his picture from her mind but couldn’t. Why? Why had his memory come to her mind now? She was unsure of what had happened to him. Perhaps he had been in Windurst when she destroyed it. If that was true, then there was no chance of her finding him again. But there was the slim chance that he wasn’t.

She rose, no longer caring about the outcome of this particular battle, and rushed off toward the carter that had been a city. It would take her some time to get there. Her strength wasn’t fading, but for some reason, her magic was not as effective as it had been. Her teleportation spells had just stopped working altogether. Something was amiss, something powerful had happened. But she hadn’t sensed it, and that is what worried her.

****************

It was incredibly hot, but Ashly was shivering. Serena had found them a safe place to tend to their injuries. A fresh water stream and enough dry wood to keep a fire going for cooking. Luna had tried wrapping her broken ribs, but could not. The pain was too much and her medical knowledge was severely limited. Her fingers were another matter however. The broken ones were wrapped together and tied so she didn’t move them much. She had protested, saying she’d be useless in a fight but Serena had insisted, saying that in her current condition, there wasn’t much she could do if they were attacked except die.

The elf had done well in tending their wounds. Ashly was awake and able to drink and eat, even if she was constantly shaking from the loss of blood. Chances were she’d make it. Serena had had to cut the girl’s top off for easy access to the wounds. Not wanting to risk further injury and bleeding by moving her arms and pulling the top off, she cut it and left it when they moved her from the bridge. She had complained upon waking that her top was gone, but when she saw her injuries she stopped arguing.

Luna was still wasn’t sure if the girl would make it. She shaking could be indications of shock, and she was constantly sleepy. But she was a strong girl, and had two very good people taking care of her.

Serena was fixing dinner their second day there when Luna called her out of the cave. “How is she?” Luna asked.

“I don’t know. She’s still shaking, still saying she feels sleepy. She knows that if she goes to sleep she may never wake up.”

Luna didn’t like it. “Our supplies are running low. We need to get her back to her house. At least from there we can get some of the mithra from Kazham to come out and care for her.”

Serena shook her head. “I can’t get us there. I was lucky enough to find this small cave for us to stay in. I don’t even know which direction north is because of the canopy.”

“Damn it,” Luna said. Serena took it as an insult and sighted, looking away. Luna noticed. “Oh no, it’s not you, Serena. I’m just mad that after coming so far, finding what I need, I may end up dying out here.”

Serena noticed the tears start to well up in Luna’s eyes and wiped one away. “We’re not going to die out here. I’m sure if we run out of food there’s more we can find. Those monkeys must live off something out here.”

Luna bit her lip out of shame. She had forgotten that they were in a jungle, and that there were possible sources of food all around them. She looked up at Serena in apology, who smiled at her. “Take care of her,” Serena said. “I’ll be back in a while.”

****************

There was nothing left. As she had intended, but now she wasn’t so sure. The wind from the ocean whipped up dust from the flattened city, making her eyes water. Or was it the thought that she’d never see him again? This wasn’t meant to happen. Those she loved weren’t supposed to be hurt by this. What have I done? Vatrina thought. She fell to her knees and scooped some of the dirt up in her hands.

For the first time, she questioned herself. Was this what she was meant to do? Surely there was something more…wasn’t there? She stood and walked among the ruins, kicking up a stone here, a piece of wood there. She knelt down and picked up a sword, blackened and broken. It must’ve belonged to a mithra, she thought. It was too large for a taru, even broken. A tear fell onto the blade as she held it. There was no way to know if the owner had been in the city when she destroyed it.

She shook her head. All wrong, this was all wrong. What had happened to her? Is this really the power she sought? What have I become? Voices flooded her mind, self-doubts, questions about who and what she was. She tried to get them out of her head, but could not. Thrusting the blade back into the dirt she stood and screamed. She grabbed and pulled at her hair, trying to erase the thoughts from her mind.

Finally suppressing them, she shook the tears from her eyes and looked at the sky. There was much she still had to do. The war between San d’Oria and Bastok would be coming to a standstill and requiring her intervention if it were to become decisive. She left the dusty remains of the city that had once been both her home, and her enemy.

****************

It took a week for Ashly to get enough of her strength back to move on her own. Their rations had long since been expended, but Serena had found a good supply of fruits for them to eat. Water was plentiful, which was a good thing as Ashly was drinking it down almost as fast as they could refill the canteens.

They made it back to Ashly’s house in the middle of the day and all three collapsed in the middle of the floor. Serena was the only one who wasn’t injured, but she’d exhausted herself lagging back to get food then having to catch up as the other two kept moving.

Roban tried to comfort his injured mistress, licking her wounds and nuzzling her face. Luna was confident now that the girl would survive. But her own injuries were much more severe than she initially thought. She’d been coughing up blood for the past couple days and did her best to hide it while they were traveling. The pain in her chest hadn’t subsided, but only seemed to get worse with each breath. Her will demanded that she continue to live, but would her body abide by that will? She was so close to freeing Vatrina from her curse. Studying the spell and confronting her sister was all that remained. She winced in pain as she rolled over. Serena noticed and brought her a pillow and some water. Such a wonderful student she was. She tried hard, and learned fast, but would be unable to follow Luna on this last part of her journey. That is, if she survived this part of her journey.

****************

Bastok. The youngest of the conflicting nations. And also the ugliest in terms of architecture and decoration, in the eyes of Vatrina. Built into the side of a mountain, three levels labeled the port, markets and mines districts made up the city. The port district was just that, the sea and air docks for merchants and travelers. Built as the lowest part of the city for the access to the ocean, airship flights to and from Jeuno, which had been suspended due to the war, were usually filled with adventurers, tourists, or immigrants looking for work. The markets district was filled with shops and merchants. Most had small carts on which they displayed their wares, but some of the more successful ones had the money to have a building chipped out of the rock to use as a shop. Most of the city’s housing was on this level as well. The highest level on the mountain was the mines district. Always seen as the heart of Bastok’s immense industrial capacity, and the reason for their rapid rise to power, the mountain wall was littered with mines dug deep into it. The passages twisted and crossed as they followed the rich veins of various metal and mineral deposits. Iron, darksteel, and the rare, and nearly impervious adaman, were shipped out of the long tunnels to the smiths and forges that lined the few roads in the district.

The Metalworks, housed in the mines district, was the hub for both research and development of new metals and alloys, and also the home of the country’s political facilities. The president and senate buildings were on the roof of the Metalworks, for safety reasons, and because there was little room left in the rest of the city. Room has been made since for the expansion of the city, as it became a very popular place to live thanks to the constant need for miners and workers for the furnaces. Foremen were always looking for replacement workers to those who died in accidents.

The Mythril Musketeers, named as such because their original armor was made from the jeweled metal, comprised the officer core of the Bastokian military. Trained from a young age, mostly children of nobles, they were proficient leaders, many going on to serve in the senate when their enlistment in the army was up. It was, in fact, the discovery of gunpowder by an early musketeer that turned the tide in the most recent full-scale war between Bastok and San d’Oria.

All their technology, all their advancements, and they still couldn’t figure out how to make something grow, Vatrina though as she looked upon the city. A desolate city in a desolate place. Mountans that had once been volcanoes, allowing for the precious metals to bubble up from deep within the earth, geysers and steam pits surrounded the city. Pools of bubbling sulfurous water dotted the landscape. As powerful as she was, the smell in the air nearly overwhelmed even her nose. If she were to destroy this place, she would have to do it quickly, or risk losing her most precious asset.

Vatrina strolled around the mines district, stopping at various forges and inspecting the metals as a weapon smith would. Eventually she made her way through the crowded streets to the elevator down to the markets district; which was even more crowded. She had to shrug off countless merchants trying to pawn their wares off on her. Growling, she thought about slicing a few of them open right then and there. But she stayed her hand. Their time would come. And that time would be soon.

It was about this time that Vatrina noticed that there was someone following her. A human woman, cloaked in black, had been matching her movements through the city. But Vatrina continued on, for the moment. Twisting her way around the streets, she came upon an abandoned section of the city and stopped. She turned, in time to see her stalker turn the corner as well. Why did I choose this spot to confront her? But she quickly shook the thought from her head as the woman removed her cloak.

Her body was pulsing with energy, Vatrina could see. The cloak must have hid that from the casual observer. A powerful mistress of the black arts, she concluded. An interesting challenge. This battle could easily destroy the city and save Vatrina the trouble later. She smiled at her new opponent, “So, has the Duke sent you to test me?”

The human looked insulted. “How dare you associate me with that zilart bastard. I know what you are, Unholy. You are an abomination to the lives of the citizens of Vana’Diel, and I am going to remove you from this world.”

Vatrina laughed. “You are welcome to try, my dear,” she replied, drawing her weapons from their sheathes. She readied herself for attack as the human maneuvered her staff into battle position. Vatrina leapt in, only to have to dive to her right as the human loosed a powerful lightning bolt that struck the masonry structure behind her, shattering it into dust.

“You are indeed quick, but it will not save you,” the mage taunted. Vatrina felt the air around her start to rapidly heat up, and she was forced to dive away again as the space she had occupied erupted into a firestorm. The mage looked frustrated, and Vatrina took advantage of her hesitation, charging in.

“Your focus should be on me!” she cried as she attacked. She thrust her swords toward the human woman, who deflected them with her staff. She spun, swinging her staff for Vatrina’s head, who ducked underneath and rose to find the sorceress preparing another spell, an ice spike forming in the palm of her hand. Vatrina sprung back a few steps as the woman released her spell, the spear of ice flying toward Vatrina, who quickly leaned and cut it in two, only to be thrown back by the amount of energy the cut released.

Vatrina was thrown back through a wall. She stood, and dusted herself off. “Impressive. But that alone will not save you.” Vatrina lunged in again, pushing through a slicing wind that the sorceress had conjured. Again, her swords clashed with the woman’s staff as the two were brought to a standstill, their weapons grinding, muscles flexing in a test of strength. Unfortunately for the mage, that was not something her order was well versed in. Vatrina easily bested her, shoving her back a few steps, getting her off balance and moved in for the kill. A couple of desperate blocks by the human left her in a bad position. But it was an overhead drive that caused Vatrina’s blade to slice through the mage’s staff, braking it in two. The remains shattered, under the wave of energy that was released by its initial destruction.

The woman stood by, looking at the small shard of her staff she still held. Vatrina stood and sheathed one of her swords. “A valiant effort. You provided quite the challenge. But now your time is up.”

Fear filled the woman’s eyes as Vatrina approached. She raised her sword as the woman uselessly started to cast another spell. She’d brought her hands together in front of her, a ball of fire forming. The ball was released before Vatrina got to the woman, but easily deflected it with the back of her hand, the mage’s power drained after the destruction of her staff. The human tried to back away from her, but ran into a wall. As Vatrina’s sword fell, it left a red streak along the wall, a faint gargling sound coming from the woman’s severed head as blood filled her airways, her lungs pitifully trying to keep her body alive, responding to the last few commands from her brain before the communication was cut off. Her lifeless body fell to the ground, her head rolling a few feet away. The eyes were still open, dark, but still filled with fear.

The fool sealed her own fate by challenging me. She took the fallen mage’s cloak and cleaned her sword off with it. Then she covered the body with the cloak, again troubled that she knew not why she had done so.

****************

Fires lit the encampment as if the sun was shining from beneath the earth. Cries of the wounded and the smell of the dead filled the air. A single rider approached from the south, his horse nearly out of breath. He coughed, choking on the stench of the dead a few miles away. The winds were calm, allowing the smells from battle to waft anywhere they pleased. The rider stopped at the edge of the camp and dismounted.

He rushed toward the general’s tent, knocking over several officers on his way. Throwing aside the flap covering the entrance, the general and his commodores looked over, angered by the interruption. “Bastok’s been destroyed,” the hurried messenger reported.

Gasps filled the small tent, followed by a few laughs. “This is certainly a joke,” one of the commodores commented.

“I’m afraid it’s not,” the messenger said, finally catching his breath. “The city, the mountain, everything, gone. Only a crater remains.”

The general slumped back in his chair, resting his elbows on the table he had been bent over. His underlings continued to chuckle at the messenger, trying to get him to admit his falsity. But the general knew different. He had just sent this messenger back to Bastok not three days before, after the conclusion of the battle in the shadow of the Craig of Dem, asking for reinforcements. The elves were fighting harder than he had predicted and his casualties were mounting swiftly. He must have ridden extremely hard to make it back in this short of time. It was no short distance from the exit of the narrow canyons in the highlands to the deserts of Gustaberg.

What was he going to do? His troops represented the last few Bastokians alive, and there were enough of them to start the city anew. But would they be given the chance? Surrender now meant their fate lie in the hands of the elves, who he could see were going for a total war. Already reports had come in from a messanger from the marshlands saying that the elfen knights had begun a secondary march to cut off all retreat for the Bastokian army. Both sides tired of the constant war and peace cycle, and San d’Oria had set out to finish it one way or the other. But with their capital destroyed, it didn't matter how, there was far too much at stake for them to continue fighting. Their very way of life could be lost if they lost this next battle. If they surrendered, they stood the chance of being able to rebuild.

He looked at the messenger and silenced his commodores. “Ride to the enemy lines,” he directed. “Tell them we surrender.”

****************

They spent a week at Ashly’s residence, mostly at the insistence of Serena after finding the extent of her mentor’s injuries. Luna had wanted to leave immediately, but was unable to prevent Serena from noticing the blood she kept coughing up. Serena had pointed out that Luna could use the opportunity to learn the secrets of the book they had retrieved from the temple. Luna had nearly forgotten about it and, in the end, was relieved for a little free time to study the ancient tome.

Its cover was worn, almost to dust, and its pages were extremely brittle. Fearful that her fingers might rub something important off, she flexed her claws and carefully separated the pages and turned them. The book resonated with the ancient power of the rhymes and verses held within. Her hands almost quivering as her eyes skimmed the pages for anything specifically related to Vatrina.

Enchantments, curses, ancient spells that could rattle the earth itself all passed before her eyes. She had started to think they had grabbed the wrong book, and misread what she had seen in it at the temple when he turned a page and there, near the end was the spell relating to the Crystal Warriors. “If the incarnations of evil should ever roam the earth, the incantation held within these pages will set the damned soul free,” Luna read to herself. She searched for some paper and started writing, furiously trying to get the words of the rhyme down on something that won’t disintegrate at the slightest touch. Twelve lines, fourteen, fifteen and she was finished. Thousands of years in that damp temple and the text was incredibly easy to read; as if time itself had selected this single book to withstand his continuous onslaught. Many of the others she’d found had crumbled, or the text had been worn away or smeared beyond recognition. But this single book was the only one that had survived reasonably intact.

She closed the book and set it aside so that it could be returned to the temple. There was no reason for her to take it to the mainland now that she had what she needed out of it. Packing the copied sheet into her pack, she prepared it for the coming days when they would leave. Odd as it may seem, she had come to enjoy the presence of the jungle, its living, breathing feeling surrounding her, and may indeed return to build herself a home.

It was two days after she transcribed the incantation that they set out for Kazham. The trip was slow and uneventful. Though able to move with little pain, prolonged traveling still took its toll on Luna. Serena insisted on resting often for her mentor’s sake, even though Luna protested. Her need was urgent, she did not know where or when she would next confront Vatrina, but felt like the longer it took to find her, the harder it would be to free her.

Four days of rain and humid sun shining through the treetops brought them to the gates of the Mithra city. The guards saw them, but instead of rushing to help, they drew their weapons and summoned their captain.

“Do not come any closer,” the captain ordered. She was tall, espically for a Mithra. Nearly solid black, Luna and Serena noticed that her feet, hands, and the open part of her chest that her armor didn’t cover was white. Her ears were in a neutral position, neither perked nor flattened in aggression. Clearly she didn’t want trouble. But then neither did Luna and Serena. “You have been charged with stealing from the sacred temple. The tonberries are marching toward this city as we speak. We cannot allow you to leave. Relinquish your weapons and you will not be harmed.”

“What?” Serena responded. “I thought you were welcoming of outsiders.”

“Welcoming as long as their actions do not lead us down the path of war,” the captain said. Two more guards showed up, their spears at the ready. “A tonberry scout arrived the other day saying you two had stolen a book from a sacred library in the temple. Our relationship with the tonberries is rocky enough. If we prevent the retrieval of this book it could lead to war.”

“We are no longer in possession of the book,” Luna said, shrugging off her pack. “We left it with the Ashly girl to return to the temple at her discretion.”

“We shall see,” the captain said. “Take their weapons and belongings and search them,” she said to her second in command.

The woman nodded, and walked over, her sword still drawn, and took the pack that Luna had let drop as well as the one off of Serena’s shoulders. A second guard took the travelers’ weapons. The packs were emptied right there, two guards sifting through the items as everyone else looked on. Remains of their food, water canteens, ammunition, all looked at and set aside. The paper that Luna had copied the inscription onto was opened and examined carefully. But since it wasn’t a book, it was also set aside. Satisfied that the book was not among their equipment, the guards repacked everything, unlike what some others might do, and handed the packs back to Luna and Serena.

The guards nodded at their captain, then sheathed their weapons. “I sincerely apologize for the delay, ladies. Since Vatrina left, it’s been difficult dealing with the tonberries. She seemed to have a way with them that no one else does.”

"What about the tonberries that are already marching toward the city?" Luna asked.

The captain nodded to one of her guards who disappeared. "We'll be able to get the book from Ashly and have it for them when they arrive."

Returning to their posts, they allowed the two to pass into the town. The airship hadn’t arrived yet, but they purchased tickets anyway. There was no one else there, which wasn’t much of a surprise. The villagers had little desire to travel to the mainland, and there weren’t exactly a lot of tourists to come out this way. It only took a couple of short hours for the ship to arrive. Luna and Serena picked their seats and simply waited. The flight back to Jeuno would be a long one, and it would feel good to fall asleep on something other than a rock or log.

****************

The streets were alive with celebration. Dancing, music, singing, parades, everyone pouring ale down their gullets. Vatrina could barely move. Damn these elves. Celebrating their victory over the Republic when it was me who paved their way to final victory. She was disgusted at the way these “proper” people acted with a few pints of ale in them. Pushing her way through, she made it to an almost contradictory quiet part of the city. There was a school here and she decided to pay it a visit.
She had little control over her power now. It was consuming her at an even faster rate than before. More often than not she thought herself sleeping only to find her body up and walking around. There were other things she had thought about, but not necessairily wanted to do, but her body did them anyway. Even her voice had seemed to change. Her power had seemed to take up a personality within her, and shoved her aside.

The door was open, so she decided to lean against it and listen to the lecture. The teacher was giving a lecture on the Crystal War, a topic that made her fur quiver. She almost left but instead thought that she might be able to shed some light on the topic. But the children were young, how could they ever care about something that happened before they were even born? Such was the way of things. Teach the young the lessons of history so they would not be tempted to repeat such sins.

“It was here, at the Battle of Jugner that our knights were able to push the cursed Orcs back into Davoi. We would have wiped them out, but the other, weaker, nations required our assistance with their own beastman problems,” Vatrina overheard. The teacher had a booming voice, amazing considering his age.

Fat lot of good it had done in the past, Vatrina thought to herself. A thousand years of almost constant war between San d’Oria and Bastok. And most of those were caused by the same problems again and again and again. Mithra had no use for a school such as this. Teaching about the past did not erase it, nor did it erase the temptations that led to it. And yet misguided races such as the elves still taught. And their children listened. And their children grew, and made the mistakes of their parents, then taught their own children who would grow and the cycle would continue.

“It was our Royal Knights who led the charge to victory in the glacier. Even the Alliance’s push into the forbidden lands of Xarcabard were led by San d’Orian knights,” the teacher continued. Vatrina had heard enough. As much as she had hated the Sybil for ordering her on that campaign, she could not allow this elf to sully her name by claiming that the cowardly knights had led the way.

She started clapping, applauding the speech. Slow, loud, cracks of her hands echoed through the schoolroom. The children were confused, murmuring to each other and looking around. She was surprised that the teacher had not seen her until this moment. She had made no effort to hide herself in the doorway. He glared at her for interrupting, the children following their teacher’s gaze toward the dark mithra.

“A moving speech,” she said, slowly walking toward the front of the class. “Full of amazing, but fictional, events.”

“Who are you, and why should we care what you think?” the teacher’s gaze never ending.

“General Vatrina, Captain of the Sybil Guards, at your service,” Vatrina said, bowing. “I’ve come to…take care of a few common misconceptions of my campaign.” She continued her slow walk to the front, the heads of the children turning just as slowly, following her.

The teacher was taken aback by her introduction. “Misconceptions? Your campaign? My dear, it was our current king, then prince, who led the assault through the northlands. He was heralded a hero for ending the war.”

“Was he now?” Vatrina knelt down and picked a small rock off the floor. “Well, his soldiers must have been so delirious that they would have said anything to cover their dishonor. Especially after Destin was wounded and his troops in shambles. I had them sent to the rear due to his inept leadership.” She rolled the rock between her fingers. “I’m surprised your little kingdom has survived with him on the throne.”

The teacher’s eyes were afire with rage at the mention that his king was inept. “San d’Oria was the one who led the alliance to victory! We were the ones who defeated the Kindred armies!”

“Well, defeated by perhaps,” she spun, facing the back of the room and flicked the rock out of her hand. It instantly flew to the wall, passing through the forehead of a small elf boy, a spurt of blood coming from the back of his head as the rock passed through. The child fell forward, then out of his chair to the floor, dead. The others screamed and panic ensued. “I now come to finish what the Kindred started.”

Vatrina drew one of her blades, a powerful aura surrounding it. “You cannot destroy us!” the teacher shouted.

“That is where you are wrong. I have more power than the darkest mage, I am stronger than the most powerful warrior. Your knights and kingdom are a thorn in my side which will now be removed so that the mithra can lay claim to these lands as they should have hundreds of years ago.” She willed herself to hold back, but found she now had no control over her body. She spun in a complete circle, holding her sword straight out from her body. The wave of power generated destroyed the building, and all neighboring ones for half a mile, killing all the inhabitants. She walked away from the ruins back toward the celebrations in the center of the city. The destruction of San d’Oria was at hand.

****************

It had been almost ten millennia since he had stood upon these hallowed steps. The clouds were thick, the scent of rain everywhere. It amazed him that the shrine hadn’t deteriorated to dust in the thousands of years it had been here. Indeed parts of it had crumbled, surrendering to the nearly constant rains. Lightning might have even played a part, striking some of the taller spires.

Perhaps it was fate. The misguided followers of Altana used this place as a shrine to their beloved goddess. They had kept the place clean of monsters, normally drawn to places of power such as this. If only they knew.

The Hall of the Gods. Gateway to Paradise. Though not entirely truthful. It was the gateway to the sanctuary his people had built. It alone could not bring about paradise. But it would lead him to the device, suspended on a column of powerful magic high in the sky, that could. His actions at the Stellar Fulcrum in Delkfutt's Tower had already powered up the floating gardens. All he needed now was to activate the Celestial Nexus and his paradise would be formed. Kum’Lanut approached the gate in the middle of the hall. It was here he would wait for Vatrina. But first he had to increase the power of this place, to draw her near.

****************

Destin was giving a victory speech from the Triumphal Arch. The entire city was gathered around to listen, except for the section she had just turned into rubble. She stood near the rear of the crowd, listening to his voice. He sounded frail, weaker than the last time she had talked to him. Yet the people actually believed it was he who had led them to this final victory, ending a thousand years of war.

Vatrina drew her bow. It was time to end this old windbag’s reign. Without him, the country will be divided between the two princes, and civil war will erupt. Quite entertaining indeed. She pulled an arrow from the quiver on her hip, slipping the nock onto the bowstring. She raised her bow, pulling the arrow back, listening to the quiet whine of the wood as it was stretched. She took aim…and the arrow pierced Destin’s heart.

Gasps and screams came from the crowd as their beloved king fell from the top of the arch to the street below. The crowd scattered around her. She smiled, watching her orchestrated chaos ensue. The city would become a battleground as the two princes vied for power. The Royal Knights and Temple Knights would be pitted against each other, fighting for their prince. She smiled at its elegance. And when she returned, the country wouldn’t know what hit it.
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

Vatrina
Tomcat
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Tue Dec 12, 2006 4:38 pm

Almost done now in case you were wondering.


Loss

Jeuno was bustling. Nearly rioting, Luna noted. Two of the airdocks were closed, sealed by their gates with numerous fully armed guards in front of each. Serena and Luna got pushed, bumped, and nearly attacked once, a case of mistaken identity, as they pushed through the crowd. So much for the peaceful calm of the city, Luna snorted.

The two made their way to the tenshodo. Tensions at the port had begin to escilate as they climbed the stairs out of the district. They were welcomed at the entrance in the usual fashion, and made their way through the bustling building to Aldo's room. The formalities were disposed of quicky, drinks were passed around, and conversation began.

"We found it," Luna began. Aldo almost dropped his drink at her enthusiasm. "We found the spell that will free my sister."

The human leaned back in his chair. "Good. Maybe this will all come to an end soon."

Serena and Luna looked at each other, a little confused. Sure they'd been gone for over two weeks but there certainly couldn't have been any large developments since then. "What all?" Serena asked.

"You saw it, didn't you? The closed airdocks and riots?" he began. "You remember, it started with the Windurst ship. I sent some scouts all along the flight path, thinking it had crashed, but when they arrived at Windurst, there was nothing."

He stopped a moment, leaving the girls looking at each other. "What?" Luna asked. "The boat wasn't there either?"

He shook his head. "That's just it, the boat, the city, nothing was there. The city had been leveled, there wasn't even an erranous wall standing anymore."

Luna's eyes widened. Serena sat there in shock, having dropped her drink on the way to her mouth dousing herself with it. He saw their looks of disbelief. "There is nothing I know of, no weapon, or spell that could cause such complete destruction."

Luna looked at the floor. "My sister could."

Aldo looked at her, she knew, but couldn't bring her eyes to meet his. Serena looked at him, "But the Bastok airdock was closed too. Surely the same thing didn't happen..."

Aldo nodded to the young elf girl. "It did. The city is nothing more than a gaping hole in the mountainside now."

This time it was Luna's turn to drop her drink. Serena had taken to trying to dry herself off with some napkins, unsuccessfully. "I have to stop her. She's going to continue until there's no one left if I don't."

Serena glared at her. "Sensei, surely you can't be thinking of going after her alone. If she has the power to destroy entire countries, you won't stand a chance; espically injured as you are."

Luna glared right back at her defiant student. "She's right," Aldo said before she could respond. "If you have to go after her, take a few days first. Besides, we don't even know where she is."

The mithra knew she wasn't going to win this argument so she surrendered. "Alright, I'll wait a few days before setting out again. I should go talk to the duke in the meantime, maybe we can arrange something to keep watch on San d'Oria to make sure the same thing doesn't happen there."

Aldo shook his head again, a habit he seemed to be getting into. "The duke is away from the city. They say he set out toward the sanctuary a few days ago, wouldn't even take any guards with him. Which, I might add, stressed out the general to no end."

"What? He went where?"

"To the sanctuary. Ro'Maeve I think it's called," Aldo repeated.

Luna stood suddenly. "I have to go there. I have to get there before my sister does."

Defiantly, Serena pulled her back to her seat. "You are not going anywhere."

"I have to!" the frustrated mithra cried. "Ro'Maeve is the entrance to Paradise, if he opens it, this world will be gone!"

Aldo was startled. "Ro'Maeve holds the Gate of the Gods!?"

Luna explained to him that in one of the books she read in the temple on Elshimo, there was a Zilart sanctuary called Ro'Maeve. The same sanctuary that the followers of Altana used as a pilgrimage destination to test their devotion. Connecting to it was a powerful magical center, housed in the Hall of the Gods. It was said that only the combined power of the crystal warriors was able to open the gate again, and that the gate led to a very powerful device that could wipe life from this world and reform it anew. Luna was sure that Vatrina had the power of all 5 of the crystal warrior races, but she did not know if it was enough to open the gate for more than a few minutes; which would be enough time for Kum'Lanut to pass through. "Which is why I have to go," she finished.

"This is not good. But you can't go yet, you need to rest a couple of days."

He can be so stubborn, Luna thought. "Alright, I'll stay here tonight and set off tomorrow."

"Three days," Serena insisted.

"Two. But you will stay here, Serena. I must do this alone."

Serena agreed with the two day rest, but protested to her remaining behind. "I should go with you, we'll have a better chance with the two of us!"

"No," Luna ordered, staying firm. "I can't protect you when she's around, she's too powerful. Besides, what would your mother say if I came back and you didn't?"

That caught Serena at a loss. She'd almost forgotten about her mother. She cared for Luna, probably more than she should have, but it didn't matter. She cared anyway. "B-but you could die," she stammered, tears welling in her eyes.

Aldo, ever the gentleman, stood and turned away. Luna placed a hand on the young girl's cheek. "It's a chance I have to take, not one you should. Go back to San d'Oria, tell the teachers at my school what is happenng. But do not set out after me, do you understand?"

Serena nodded, sniffling a little. Luna looked over toward Aldo. "Do you mind if we stay here tonight?"

"Of course not," he replied. "I'll begin gathering your supplies tomorrow so you can set out the day after."

"Thank you," she said. She looked back at Serena, who was crying softly, and kissed her lips gently.

****************

The sky always seemed to be gray in this place. How anything green could grow in Zi'Tah without the sun was beyond her. Sure, there was plenty of rain, Perih thought, but such plants needed sunlight to grow as well. And so did her people. Even on Elshimo the sun shone from day to day. She walked among what had become the center of their new town, observing the constant meloncholy look of its inhabitants. This was no place for them. Sure thery were safe from beastman attacks, but how could they hone their skills? How could they teach their cubs when the rain consantly washed away any scents and traces of game?

She knew they would have to leave, but where would they go? Windurst was destroyed, the plains of Saruta were losing their life-giving power, and none of the other countries would accept such a large and independant force inside their boarders.

Chieftainness was normally a ceremonial position. Someone who was granted the title when a group split off and moved. The Chieftainness was the one responsible for beginning the bonds of the mithra to their new land. The mithra had never really had the need for such a visible leader. They thought and acted with like intent, but now it was differet. Factions were forming, threatening to leave. Something like this hadn't happened for generations, and she'd be damned if it happened while she was Chieftainness. Civil war was the least of her worries, as her people hadn't fought one another for ages. But she just couldn't help but think that if people started leaving, they'd die and she'd be the cause. For 200 years she has led her people. But now that was all falling apart.

Semih approached, a look of concern on her face. "We cannot stay here, it was not meant for us."

"You think that I don't know that?" Perih snapped. Semih was taken aback, she had never seen her chieftainness like this. Realizing her harsh tone, Perih quicky apologized to the silver-haired warrior. "I didn't know where else to go."

"We have to do something. Every day we spend here drives our people further into dispair."

"Where would we go?" Perih asked, squeezing a clump of wet leaves in her hands. She was lost. She'd been unable to connect to this land like she had in Windurst. The land here wouldn't talk to her. Her thoughts drifted back to Windurst. "Windurst has been destroyed and the plains do not have enough materials to build a city from." She shook her head, not realizing she'd said it aloud.

Semih thought for a moment. "We could go to Ronafure. I have a couple friends amongst the Royal Knights. I'm sure that--" she stopped short when she saw the other mithra shaking her head.

"No, the elves would not welcome us. And I will not lead my people on a pointless journey. We would be asking for war every time one of their patrols would come near."

The warrior sighed to her ranger counterpart. "Then our only option left is Elshimo."

Perih thought a moment. "We are outcasts to them, but the island is indeed large. There must be some place far from Kazham that we can establish ourselves."

"It's the only option left to us, my Lady."

Perih leaned against the tree that had become one of the walls of her home. It had been years since Semih had called her that. She had never been big on titles, always wished to be treated as the ranger she was, not some goddess. She sighed and nodded. "Begin making the preperations. We leave in one week."

****************

She boldly entered the ancient temple, her footsteps echoing on the floor. Her hair was wet, which she swiftly dried so it would flow as she wished it to once again. Huge statues lined the walls of the great Hall of the Gods, testaments to the ages past. She looked around a little, her fur standing on end as she sensed him. He was directly ahead of her, near the gate. She knew in her heart that she could get no where near it if she wanted to win this battle. And she also knew that he would do everything in his power to get her close enough so that her powers will open it for him.

Vatrina fingered the hilts of her blades, almost nervous. The last time she had met Kum'Lanut in battle she had lost, miserably. But now her powers were much greater than the last time. She was confident in her abilities and powers, but not so much in her gauging of the situation. She was taking a risk, a large one. If she succeeded she could continue her quest to wipe the world of the unclean races. If she failed, she would lose her life and her people to the Zilart's paradise.

Kum'Lanut was exactly where she expected. The center of an altar with various crystal controlled machines. She could feel their hum through the floor. He stood as she approached, turning to face her, his robes flowing as freely as her hair.

"So you have come."

"How could I pass up the chance to remove your taint from my new world?" One of her hands gripped her sword, but she did not draw it.

"Please, my dear, enough with the self-rightous quest already. You know your role in this world." He took a step forward. "Do not make this any harder than it needs to be."

Now Vatrina pulled her blades from their sheathes. "Harder? I agree. Why not just stand still while I kill you?"

"It is not my destiny to die," the duke proclaimed, throwing aside his cloak to reveal a very beautiful set of plate mail. He drew his sword and pulled his shield from his back, "It is yours."

Vatrina coiled and sprung, straight at him. He stepped to the side and let her pass, but upon her feet hitting solid ground she spun with both her blades aiming for different parts of the duke's body. He parried one and deflected the other with his shield. He took a couple steps back, but Vatrina pushed on, slicing, thrusting, parrying his occasional attack, but could never get beyond his defenses. His shield was strong, and his skill with a blade sharp.

She kept him on his heels for a while longer then he struck. His speed was incredible, beyond anything Vatrina had seen, and his blade was the first to taste blood. She screamed as he used his shield to knock her back, stabbing his blade through her thigh. She stepped out of it and fell to a knee, blood draining down her leg, and the duke's sword. "You defile this sacred place with your wounds, Vatrina. Submit and I will make sure your death is swift."

The mithra used some of her power to seal off her wounds and stood, her blades at the ready. "You should really stop making promises you're unable to keep," she taunted, attacking again. The suddenness of her strikes caught him offguard this time, she deflected his shield to the side leaving him wide open. She smiled as her blade hit true, driving through his armor and into his hip. He spun away, his hand reaching for the wound and coming back covered in blood. Vatrina's sword dripped red on the floor, and she smiled. It was thirsty for more.

This went on for a time, the two of them pitched in equal combat, with the occasional taunt thrown in. Wounds were healed with their powers, there were even a few magic spells thrown in. Days seemed to pass as their fight continued, but Vatrina could not make any perminant headway against the duke or his shield, which, after all the battering, seemed unscathed. Her fury was building with each failed strike, slowly at first but then increasing in speed. But her mind was getting fatigued. She was no longer paying attention to where she was. Kum'Lanut had noticed her failing judgement, and he was careful not to push her directly toward the gate. When she finally realized what was happening, she was too close to escape it. A blue beam of light and energy shot out from the center crystal on the gate. It speared right through Vatrina's back, causing her to shudder and stiffen as if she'd been run through. The blue light eventually turned purple, then black as it sapped her power. She felt her life draining, her mouth trying to draw breath but failing. An echoing ring told that her blades had fallen to the smooth cermet under their feet.

When the spear of energy from the gate subsided, Vatrina fell to the ground, barely breathing. Columns on all four corners of the cavernous hall broke open, revealing powerful streams of the dark energy the place had sapped from the mithran crystal warrior. The gate, which had seemed as solid as the cermet she was laying on, disappeared, opening the path to the celestial elevator.

Kum'Lanut looked at the fallen mithra. "Hmm, so you did not perish after all. No matter. The gate has been opened, and my path to paradise lies ahead. It is a pity you will not live to see it." He stepped over her, walking through the gate and disappeared.

****************

It took her longer than expected to reach the stronghold at Ro'Maeve. The wather did not condone to her traveling. The sandstorms and torrential rains had delayed her for days at a time. Her stores had nearly run out when she finally had the ancient structure in sight.

The horses were exhausted and miserable, but at least they had something to eat in this rain-soaked land, she thought. Water was plentiful, but she'd had to ration her food for the past four days. Soaked to the bone, her fur dripping, and even more miserable than the horses, she longed for a sunny day to bask in. Luna twitched her tail in annoyance at the itch of another drop of water sliding down it.

The structure before her had fallen into decay in its millenia of disuse. She was surprised that there was anything left standing after having almost 10,000 years of rain and wind pelt the cermet structure. Leaving the horses at the entrance where they had a good grass patch for food and a pool of water to drink out of, she carefully took a few steps in, wary of any weak spots that may be hiding holes for her to fall into. It seemed stable enough, so she went in further. Arches had fallen over the doorways they enveloped, shattered blocks of cermet laying everywhere. Broken towers along the central path had indicated tall spires, probably destroyed by lightning, she thought.

The entire structure was a large quarter circle with four levels. Each one longer and higher up than the previous, tunnels and stairs lined by arches, most now broken, connected the levels. The entire structure was made of white cermet, formed with flowing curves and intricate detail. Luna could feel the magical presence in this place, seemingly what had kept it in such good condition.

She tried climbing the central path, but it appeared to be destroyed. Large gaps with no apparent bridge having been made spanned the path. Odd that the gaps hadn't filled with water, she thought. She turned and looked for a different direction to go, finding a set of stairs to her right. Was Vatrina here yet? She wasn't quite sure. She ate the last of her food while she walked, exploring for a path to the top and the Hall of the Gods. She finally picked her way through, after ending up in various dead end rooms, or others that simply had no floor; even finding one gate that she could not find a way to open. It didn't appear to have been sealed, but she didn't have the time to mess with it if it wasn't the way she needed to go.

The entrance she sought was at the top of a long set of stairs. Adjacent to what looked to be a dried up spring or fountain, the doorway towered in front of her, but appeared dark. She reached out her hand, slowly walking forward and expecting some kind of barrier or wall in front of her, but there was none. The dark hall enveloped her, step after unsure step pushing her forward. Finally, after a good hundred paces, the ceiling opened up in places, skylights that let the hall brighten. She shook her head, batting her eyes to try and not be blinded by the sudden light.

The hall she entered was enormous, huge statues lining the walls, columns of energy streaming up the corners. She was too late. The gate had already been opened. She rushed forward, looking for her sister. The gate was open, she saw, and there in front of where it had been was a dark figure. Tears started to well in her eyes as she ran to the fallen figure. Sure enough, it was Vatrina. She was barely breathing, her energy seemed to have been completely drained. Even her hair had lost its dark glow.

Luna rolled her sister onto her back, cradling her in her arms. "Oh goddess no."

Vatrina slowly opened her eyes, looking up at the familiar face. "Of all the people I expected to see, you weren't one of them."

"You never were good at sarcasm, Trin," Luna retored.

Vatrina winced a little. "What do you want? Come to make sure I die?"

"Goddess forbid," Luna looked at her, a little shocked. "I've come to save you, to make you the way you were before all this started."

"The way I was before," Vatrina scoffed. Her hand wearily reached out for one of her blades laying on the floor near her. "And what exactly makes you think that I'm going to let that happen? I haven't stopped that bastard Zilart yet, and I'm not finished forming this world to how it should be."

"Trin, you're in no poisition to do anything, espically fight me."

Vatrina rolled off of Luna's lap, anger beginning to wash over her face. Securing her sword in her hand she stood ready for battle. "You have been nothing but a thorn in my side since that day. I have enough power left to finish you off."

Luna sighed, tears now streaming down her cheeks as she reached for her katana. "Sister, please don't do this."

"Your death is at hand!" Vatrina cried, charging in. But she was too exhausted, Luna easily parried and deflected attack after attack. Which only angered Vatrina even more. "Are you that afraid that you refuse to attack?"

Luna didn't want to. She was going over the words to the chant she had memorized on her trip here; the one that would wash the crystal warrior out of her sister. A shot of pain brought her back to the battle. She'd been too wrapped up in her head to pay attention to her sister's attacks and got careless, taking a vicious slice across her thigh. Blood spilled down her leg as she grasped the wound.

"Will you just die!" Vatrina screamed out. She charged in again, fury filling her thoughts, rage guiding her muscles. There was little feeling left for anything, her mind corrupted and destroyed by the power that flowed through her. But there was something else. Something buried deep in her mind. A small voice, screaming at her in silence, trying to tell her to stop, that this was someone she loved.

Vatrina cried out in pain and fell to the floor as one of Luna's katana connected. Her hip gushed blood, causing her to groan in pain with every beat of her heart. She tried to stand but her leg wouldn't have it, giving way as she put her weight on it and she collapsed again. She looked up at her sister, who stood over her, tears still filling the younger mithra's eyes. "Finish it," Vatrina panted.

Luna sheathed her katana, and closed her eyes. She held out her hands toward her fallen sister and begain the chant. Vatrina was unsure why she hesitated, and couldn't hear the her soft voice utter a spell over 10,000 years old.

A white light begain to focus between Luna's hands. It was then that Vatrina knew something was amiss. She tried to stand again but her leg had gone numb and wouldn't move. She rolled to a ledge, hoping to roll off it into the darkness below but instead found herself lying on a pane of glass. The light between Luna's hands grew, and began to stream out toward her. Fear crept into her twisted mind, a feeling of panic shot through her body. As the chant continued, the light began to encompass her, circling her in a sphere of power. It lifted her off the ground, her mind was racing. Then it happened. Luna finished the chant and the sphere of power and light compressed. Searing pain ripped through Vatrina's body as the light dissolved the dark crystal warrior power. She screamed in agony as she felt like she was being ripped apart. Luna tried to rush to her, to stop her screams but knew she couldn't.

A blinding flash and it was over. Vatrina fell to the glass surface with a thump, unconcious. Luna had been thrown back by the powerful light, wincing in pain as her impact with the wall behind her had not been a plesant experience. She shook her head, trying to focus her eyes but was still blind. Trying to stand, her legs wobbled and fell out from underneath her, causing her to fall. She lay on her back, rubbing her eyes to try and get some semblence of sight from them.

"Uhhh..." groaned Vatrina. She was sore. Worse than after her skirmish with Mimas in Delkfutt's Tower. And she didn't think that was possible. She lifted a hand to her face, feeling it out. Yep, it was all there. She tried to open her eyes, but nothing changed. The world was as black with her eyes open as it was with them closed. She started checking herself to make sure she was still alive. Her hand drifted down her torso feeling very strange. She was...naked? How had this happened? She tried to roll onto her side or stomach but found it impossible as her body screamed out with pain at her attempt to move more than a few muscles at once. She twitched her ears around a little to see if she could gather any sense as to where she was. Blood was in the air, her nose told her once it began to work. But whose? Surely not...it started to come back to her. Her trip to Delkfutt's, and subsequently San d'Oria. The joy of reuniting with her sister, their trip through the northlands, abandoning her on the glacier and setting off alone. The battle with the Dark One, the power that seemed to flow from him into her and then...

"Oh goddess, no..." she whispered. She'd never really believed in Altana but it seemed like the thing to say, a way to beg for forgiveness from the dead. All those lives, their blood was on her hands. Tears welled up and poured out of her eyes, which had once again begun to see. Pale light at first, then rough, fuzzy shapes. Statues, cermet walls, she knew where she was from her memories but it seemed like an entirely different life before. Like she was living someone else's and seeing through their eyes. She tried to roll over again, ignoring the searing pain in her body, and looked up. She had to be here, she just had to be, but where?

Luna heard the groan from the other side of the room and realized that Vatrina was alive. She tried to stand again, this time with more success as her legs weren't quite so uneasy. Her eyesight had returned as well, not as clear as it had been and she hoped it would return to full soon. She looked over and saw her sister, long brown hair, light brown fur, completely naked, but she had clothes on her horses to remedy that. She tried walking but wasn't quite coordinated enough and fell on her face.

Vatrina's ears perked up at the sound of flesh hitting cermet. "L...Luna?"

The younger mithra smiled at the sound of her sister's quivering voice. "I'm here, Trin," she replied, her voice surprisingly just as uneasy. She tried to crawl forward, but couldn't get the strength in her arms to pull herself along, so she stood again, firmer this time. Slowly, she made her way toward her fallen sister, who had become clearly focused, along with the rest of the room. That is, until the tears started. She fell down to her knees at Vatrina's side, lifting her into her arms. "You're free, it's all over."

Vatrina felt her sister's grasp and for the first time in a long time, something felt truely real. She broke down and cried, sobbing and burying her face into Luna's shoulder. And Luna just held her tighter. "I'm s-so sorry. I couldn't stop it."

"I know," Luna replied simply, her own tears streaming down her face. Vatrina tried to pull away a little but Luna wouldn't let her. There was so much to say but neither knew where to begin. Finally after a few minutes, Luna released Vatrina and gazed into her eyes. "It's all over. You're safe now."

Vatrina smiled, a little ashamed at being naked like this in her sister's arms. "I couldn't...couldn't stop it. It overwhelmed me and then took over. I..." she stopped a moment, blinded by tears and blinked hard to clear them away. "I'm so sorry. Everything I said, everything I did. I tried to kill you and I couldn't stop it."

Crying again, Vatrina buried her face in her sister's soft chest. Luna kissed her sister's forehead. "It wasn't your fault, I'm not blaming you for anything."

Vatrina looked up at her sister again, finding nothing but love and forgiveness in her eyes. She wrapped her arms tighter around her sister, drowning herself in those eyes. "I love you," she murmured softly.

Luna smiled, "I love you too, my sister." She caressed and comforted Vatrina some more, waiting until she had calmed down a little before trying to stand. "We need to get out of here...and to find you some clothes."

Vatrina blushed, deep red visible even beneath her fur. "I don't know what happened to them, they just kinda disappeared."

"It's alright," Luna giggled. "It's still raining outside so it's not like clothes will keep you dry anyway, and we're the only two out here except for Kum'Lanut, and he's gone through the gate."

Her eyes widened. "Kum'Lanut! Where is he?" Vatrina stammered nervously. "We have to stop him! He wants to create the Zilart paradise, to activate the Celestial Nexus and destroy this world!"

"I know," Luna nodded. "But we can't go charging up there like this. You're not armed, and don't have anything on to protect you."

Vatrina thought a moment. "I could always distract him." Both of them giggled.

****************

It didn't take them long to get back to where Luna had left her horses, only now there were 4 instead of just the two. Luna was a little perterbed, but Vatrina went over to the horses, who were looking a little agitated. She spoke softly to them, petting their foreheads and necks. Luna was still a little concerned at the appearance of the second pair of horses with no apparent owner.

The sound of footsteps through a puddle made both of them stop and look around. And there, from out behind a tree, came Serena. She saw Luna and started toward her, but then she saw Vatrina. The naked mithra was a little shocked, but made no move to cover herself, while the elvaan girl blushed a deep red and looked away.

Luna however, was not amused by any of this. "What are you doing here?" she scolded, walking up to Serena. "I gave you strict orders to stay in San d'Oria."

"And if I had, I'd be dead," Serena retorted. "The city's a warzone, civil war has erupted. The princes are vying for the power vaccuum left by Destin's assassination."

Luna almost fell over, but Vatrina didn't look surprised in the least. Tears started to well in her eyes again as Luna looked over at her. "Oh goddess..." Luna ran to her sister's side, grabbing and hugging her tightly.

Serena didn't want to look but did anyway. She gasped a little, finally recognizing the naked mithra as Luna's sister. Quickly running to one of her bags, she pulled some clothes from it and handed it to Vatrina. "Here, I think these are yours."

Vatrina looked at her. She was very beautiful, her eyes, normally sparkling, were tainted with sorrow. She tried not to look at Vatrina, obviously ashamed at her appearance. So the mithra took the clothes offered her and dressed. Serena then looked at Luna, "And I am here at the request of Aldo. He overturned your orders and decided that you will need all the help you can get."

"Well, he's right about that," Vatrina spoke for the first time in Serena's presence. Her voice was melodic, but nearly drowned with sorrow and guilt, the elf noticed. "He's very powerful. Our odds are...well lets just say our odds aren't good."

Luna nodded. "We at least have to try. Trin, are you okay to fight?" She looked at her sister's hip. "I got you kinda good with my katana in our fight..."

"I deserved it," Vatrina joked, trying to lighten the mood. "But yeah, it seems like that spell you used healed me up quite nicely." She grabbed a pair of shortswords from the back of one of the horses, two quivers of arrows and a bow, fastening each of them in her usual place. The swords on one hip, one of the quivers on the other, the bow and second quiver strung across her back, then looked at the other two, who were just standing there watching her. "Gather your weapons, we do not have a lot of time."

"It'll be dark soon, we should wait until morning," Serena insisted. Luna agreed.

Vatrina looked at them like they were crazy, but knew she wouldn't win this argument. She reluctantly took the quiver off her hip to make it easier to sit then found a log to plant herself on. Serena rummaged through her bags and found some food. A large hunk of bread, and numerous packages of meat, and even some cheese. She tried starting a fire but that was nearly impossible with all the rain-soaked wood around.

The elf girl passed around the food, Vatrina taking her share even though she wasn't all that hungry. That was until the first bite of the salted pork hit her mouth. Her body seemed to come alive again, and her stomach almost hurt with hunger. The energy of the crystal warriors had sustained her for so long she hadn't eaten anything. Now she almost felt weak, trying not to eat too fast to make herself sick. The other two giggled as they watched her.

The meat went down first, Vatrina trying to savor each bite. She'd always loved the salted meats, but for some reason it tasted better than normal today. Then the bread, which seemed dry in comparison, but she loved the taste. Water was plentiful, large pools were scattered about for them to fill their water skins and canteens from. She finished but didn't seem satisfied, and looked at Serena. The elf nodded, and pulled another portion of each and handed it to Vatrina. "Eat as much as you like, I brought enough for a small army." Vatrina thanked her, embarassed at how she was eating, but glad that she wasn't eating critical stores.

When they finished dinner, they'd eaten enough for 7 people. Vatrina's hunger seemed infectious, and they knew that they'd need all the energy they could get. Sleep came slowly for them, what events the next day might bring running through their minds.

****************

It was light out when she got up. Well, as light as it gets in this place. Vatrina stood and looked around. She saw Luna and Serena lying together...both of them naked. She thought for a moment, then giggled. Quietly she went to the food stores, pulling some breakfast. After eating her fill, they were both still asleep so she decided she should wake them up. She filled her canteen in a nearby pool, then walked over to them and emptied it, pouring the ice cold water over them.

They shrieked in unison, trying to roll away, but each rolling into each other instead, ending up with more of the water pouring on them than they wanted. They sat up, shivering, both of them glaring at Vatrina, who was laughing her head off. "Dry each other off and dress. We'll set off after you get breakfast."

Dry each other off? they thought in unison, looking at each other. Does she think... The remainder of the thought fading as they immediatly acted embarassed, blushing and scrambing to look away from each other.

"Don't even try," Vatrina said with a mouthful of pork. "I'm not that out of it." She laughed again as they continued to act innocent.

They dried off, dressed and ate. Then, making sure everything was secure, the horses tied to a few trees to make sure they didn't run, and the bags secured in a secluded place, they set off through Ro'Maeve. It wasn't raining for once, as the three made their way through the ancient structure along the path that Luna had taken the previous day. The Hall of the Gods appeared the same to the two mithra, but Serena had never seen it and was gasping at the workmanship.

The gate was still absent. Luna was a little surprised, but didn't want to take the chance at pondering it and having it close in their faces so they pushed through. At the end of a long tunnel was a platform with lighted rings rising above it. Vatrina, ever the bold one, stepped onto it, feeling herself rise into the air a moment later. She was transported to a chamber with a glass floor and stepped off the pad. Luna and Serena soon followed.

The floor seemed to react to their steps, shimmering and rippling like water. Luna and Serena were awed by it, dancing around a little and watching the effects as their feet tapped on the floor. Vatrina giggled. "You two are like two cubs playing with a bug."

The room didn't seem to have an exit, other than back down the portal. Vatrina pulled her blade and started tapping along the walls as she walked around. She almost fell over when her sword hit nothing but air, passing through the wall itself. Luna squeeked, watching her sister's blade and half of her arm pass through what she had thought was a solid cermet wall. Vatrina quickly pulled her hand back, and seeing as it and her blade were unharmed, she risked sticking her head through, then passed her entire body through, much at the annoyance of her sister. She poked her head back when she realized she wasn't being followed. "You two coming?" she asked and disappeared again.

The other two passed through and beheld what could easily have been considered a paradise in its own right. A huge garden, high above the clouds. Clear blue sky and a very bright sun, rivers waterfalls, shining cermet sculptures, even trees. There were a few birds, chirping and fluttering here and there but other than that the place seemed absent of animal life. It amazed the girls how something like this could exist.

There was another gate in front of them, but this one opened as they approached. There was a large structure in would could be considered the center of the island, so they made their way toward it. Once inside they found a cavernous hall, similar to the one in the Hall of the Gods. Tall crystal spires rose up along the walls, energy visibly flowing through them like lightning. The power of the place was immense, all of them could feel it. Their shadows danced around as the light from the crystals pulsed and flickered. The duke was standing at a pedistal in the middle, obviously too engrossed in his own workings to notice the girls' entrance.

It was the ring of metal as blades were drawn that got his attention. "So you've showed up, my dear Luna. Can't say I'm surprised. A pity about your sister, she had such potential."

"You mean me?" Vatrina said.

"What?" Kum'Lanut spun around, staring at Vatrina. "How did you...?"

"Your friends, the Kuluu, were more than happy to supply me with a spell I could use to free Vatrina from her Zilartian curse," Luna explained.

The duke's eyes went wide, but then he laughed. "Now you're even weaker than before. You have no chance of stopping me." He turned back to the pedistal he was working at.

Vatrina caught what was going on, flipped her bow over her back, drew two arrows and loosed them one after the other, but not at Kum'Lanut, at the crystal spires lining the walls. Surprisingly, the arrows stuck, cracking the crystals. The power within them was set free, spiking around the room, even hitting a 3rd crystal causing it to shatter and explode, its energy destroying part of the wall and celing. Crystal shards and cermet blocks flew about the room, the occupants having to duck and dodge the flying debris.

After the energy discharge subsided, Kum'Lanut turned around, furious. "How dare you! This place is not meant for you! This world is too good for the likes of you!"

"We won't let you destroy it," Serena said, an amazing amount of courage filling her with each passing moment.

He drew his sword and reached for his shield, but another arrow from Vatrina split it in two. She was astonished. All those hits from her blades earlier had not made a scratch, and now her simple arrow split the beautiful shield into two pieces.

He watched his shield break but didn't care. He came rushing at them and they split up. Vatrina dodged to stay at range, letting Luna and Serena do the in close fighting. Blades rang out, the string of her bow singing along with them, though the swift movements of the duke made a good majority of her shots miss while the others deflected off his thick armor. Luna and Serena took turns in their assaults, but the duke was parrying both of them. He danced around them both, almost causing Serena to be shot by Vatrina at one point.

It was Luna's blood that was first spilled. The duke knocked her off balance then went in for the kill, only to have Serena step in and deflect his blade enough so that it only gashed into her sensei's arm. Luna fell to the floor and grasped her wound. Vatrina was out of arrows so it she took Luna's place in the melee. Serena backed off again and Vatrina charged in. She vigerously struck out at the duke, but he parried every blow. Vatrina risked a glance at Serena, who had moved around behind the duke, then nodded. She came charging in behind him, but the duke saw what was happening in Vatrina's eyes and jumped, clearing the remaining two combatants. Vatrina looked up, but Serena was too close to stop, her blades finding flesh.

Serena almost cried, Luna screamed and Vatrina gasped. The mithra looked down to see both of Serena's blades buried in her ribs. Her breath caught, blood gargling in her mouth as her life drained slowly. Serena withdrew her blades and Vatrina fell to the floor. She lay unmoving, Serena's face covered with horror.

Kum'Lanut hovered above, smiling and laughing at what had transpired. "Could anything be more ironic?"

Luna stood, furious and crying, "Damn you to hell!" She took one of her katana and threw it up at the duke, who was too engrossed in his own cleverness to know what was happening. The blade flipped end over end and buried itself deep into the middle Kum'Lanut's back. He gasped, reaching for it but couldn't grab it. He lost his concentration and fell to the floor in a heap, his fall only pushing the katana in further and twisting it, opening the wound for his blood to spill from. Serena quickly ran over to him and disarmed him, holding her blade at his throat.

She hesitated a moment, not sure if she should kill him or not, but that was all he needed. The fall causing the katana in his back to move so he could grab it, he pulled it from his back and plunged it into Serena's side. She screamed in pain, her eyes burning with fury as he took advantage of her mercy. Rage filled her and she slashed the duke's throat open with one katana, driving her other straight into his heart. His throat gargled the blood as he tried to draw breath, drowning in his own fluids. Serena stood and pulled the katana from her side, yelling in pain agian and testing her wound. She could feel the warm blood ooze out and slide down her hip and leg. Her vision started to blurr, but she shook her head and it cleared. Looking around she saw Luna had walked over to Vatrina, cradling her sister in her arms. Her rage subsided and she was overcome with grief and guilt at what had happened.

Luna was sobbing hard, the deep wound on her arm apparently not bothering her. "You can't die, you just can't! I just got you back, I don't want to lose you again!"

Vatrina's breath was shallow. "Shh, my sister. You already saved me once." She coughed, blood trickling down her cheek and neck. "You're not going to be able to this time."

Luna was still sobbing, blinded by her tears. "It's not fair! I just got you back..."

Vatrina's hand drifted up to Luna's cheek. It left streaks of blood from her fingers having been clutching her wounds. "I...love...you..."

Luna felt her sister relax, watched her eyes drift closed, and cried. Serena knelt down beside her, wincing. Luna looked at her and cried even harder, burying her face into Serena's chest but not wanting to let go of her fallen sister. "We should go," Serena was able to stammer out.

Luna nodded and struggled to her feet. She gathered Vatrina in her arms and carried her all the way back down to their mounts. She set her sister down in the wet grass, then fell to her knees and cried again. Serena was at her side, after tending to her own wound, and tended to Luna's. Luna looked at her but couldn't smile. She leaned into the elf, wrapping her arms tight around her and cried some more.
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Vatrina
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Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:46 am
Location: North where it's cold

Post by Vatrina » Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:12 pm

Final chapter. I know it ends kind of suddenly, but I never was good at writing conclusions to things.


A Return to the Past

It took them a couple days to even set out from the sanctuary. They'd cut apart some empty bags and wrapped Vatrina's body in it. Serena asked if they should bury her here, but Luna wouldn't have it. She knew where she had to go, where her sister would find peace. And Luna would look over her until she was able to join her sister once again.

They set off for Mhaura. It was a slow journey. The terrain wasn't favorable until they were able to get to the penninsula that the town rested on. The girls left the horses at the stable and went to the docks.

"How may I help you?" an overly cheery human girl asked.

"When's the next ship leave for Kazham?" Luna asked.

The girl cocked her head. "It's here right now, but it is pretty full. There were a number of mithra still left from the previous trip that couldn't fit so it might be kind of cramped."

Serena looked a little confused. "You mean there are other mithra here waiting to take the boat?"

"Yes ma'am, that's correct."

Serena smiled a little at being called "ma'am." She didn't think she was anywhere near that age.

"Three tickets please," Luna commanded.

"Three?" the girl looked curious. "But there's only two of you here?"

"We have..." Luna couldn't finish her thought, tears welling up again. The girl thought she'd offended Luna and started to apologize.

"Her sister's body," Serena finished. "We'd rather it not go in as cargo, she was too great a woman."

"Oh my goddess, I'm so sorry, I didn't know." The girl quickly punched up three tickets, making the third one free. Serena paid the girl and she directed them toward the docks.

They went back to the stables to gather their things then boarded the ship. There were indeed, many mithra on the trip. Serena went up to a few of them, talking and trying to find out why they were here. She made little progress, being an elf. Few would talk to her, most were busy with their own affairs, not wanting to talk to this prying stranger.

It was Luna who drew the first explination as to why there were so many other mithra here. "You're Lunarflower, aren't you?" a voice asked.

Luna looked up and saw Perih Vishai, the chieftainness from Windurst. She stood quickly, wiping a few tears from her face. "Y-yes, I'm Luna," she stammered.

Perih saw the tears and backed off. "Oh, I'm sorry for disturbing you."

"No, no," Luna said. "I'll be alright. What can I do for you, my Lady?"

Perih winced at the use of her formal title. "I was wondering if you have seen Vatrina lately? I know you're her sister and..." she stopped, seeing tears streaming down Luna's face.

Luna tried to hold herself together but couldn't. She simply motioned to the wrap beside her. Perih looked confused, but knelt down and started to unwrap the top...and there saw Vatrina's peaceful face. She quickly stood, gasping. "Oh no..."

Luna simply nodded. "I'm going back to Kazham to bury her next to our mother."

"I see," Perih replied. She almost started to cry. Never in her 342 years of life had she seen a stronger woman than Vatrina. To have her perish while still so young was almost unbearable, a great loss to their race. "I'm sorry to have bothered you." She disappeared into the crowd.

****************

It took a day at sea to arrive at Kazham. Luna and Serena were some of the last ones to disembark. Serena wanted to be first, having gotten seasick during the trip, but Luna was in no hurry. The jungle seemed colder than when they were last there. Serena was nice enough to field any questions about what Luna was carrying. Word quickly spread through the small town of Vatrina's death, and eventually a small funeral procession escorted Luna to where her mother was buried. The entire town had shown up, each of them owing something to the great ranger. It hadn't even been a year since she was reunited with her sister, and now she was burying her.

A few days later, Luna decided that she would live in Vatrina's old house. It had been kept in good condition by the chieftainness herself, probably in hopes that Vatrina would soon return, she thought. Serena insisted on staying with her, which the chieftainness approved. The days went by, slowly it seemed. The world had changed so much. San d'Oria had split off into two different countries, neither of the princes had wanted to give up his position. The country was literally split right down the middle, half of the territories held going to Trion, the other half going to Pieuje. Goddess knows they'll constantly be at odds with each other, Luna thought. Windurst had been refounded by the remaining Taru that had been living in Jeuno at the time of its destruction. Bastok was the same way, many of the humans in Jeuno rebuilding the city over the old site. Jeuno had lent out their best architects and masons to help rebuild the capitals. They had an odd time building to the Taru specifications, everything seeming only half as high as they would normally build for any of the other races. Tensions rose and fell between the two San d'Orian factions, neither one really wanting war, but skirmishes were almost a common event along their borders. Luna couldn't care less. She was done caring about the politics of the world. Done being sent on missions to unknown areas to face her own death, only to return less alive than when she had set out. Each mission, each quest having stolen a little of herself from her.

Here in Kazham it was simple. No quarrels with other countries. No beastman attacks. Just a pesky warm rain from day to day and the neverending screetch of the monkies outside the gates in the jungle. She could relax and live her life simply with Serena. The chieftainness came by from time to time to make sure she was alright. She was, for the most part. Memories and dreams still haunted her, but she was dealing with them better day after day. She'd gotten word of Sarano's death but for some reason it didn't affect her. Her old life seemed like the distant past. It simply didn't matter to her anymore. She'd found the life she'd longed for. No pressure from a head of state, no random missions from the tenshodo. She'd never thought about how unhappy she had really been in their service. But now she was in an entirely new life. She wouldn't get bored, the wild untamed jungle was waiting to take on all challengers. The airships traveled here regularly so she could go visit those she'd left behind, if through all the war and fighting they were still alive.

She went and looked out the window toward the jungle. How long would she live here? How long would Serena stay before her own instincts sent her off to find someplace else? They both had so many years ahead of them. Maybe I'll visit the chieftainness next week and see about joining her personal guard. She found her gaze drifting to the graves of her mother and sister. Tears welled in her eyes again, but she smiled. Her sister was at peace, and now she was as well.



END
75 RNG elite 75 BLM 75 PLD 75 SMN
Windurst Rank 10
Bastok Rank 10
San d'Oria Rank 10

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