Rebellion Against Fate
Chapter Five: Gathering of the Chosen
Once respective destinations were determined, and a decision to meet back at Ulara was made, no one felt like staying at the site of destruction any longer than necessary. After a short trip back to the forest to gather their supplies for the journey, Meru and Guaraha immediately headed southeast toward Sardio. Miranda waited until the sun was up, and then roused all the survivors, leading them into the Evergreen Forest.
Wink lingered in front of Setie's grave for a moment, gazing sadly toward where the palace used to stand.
"Queen Theresa and Luanna… They are still in there, under all the debris, without a proper resting place…" She whispered, her voice broke and she buried her face in her hands, her frail shoulders shaking with grief.
Lloyd gathered her small frame into his arms. "There is nothing you can do here," He said practically, but not without kindness, "Come, let's head to Ulara. We will get to the bottom of this, I promise."
Wink nodded weakly, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. Acting on impulse, she threw her arms around Lloyd's neck and hugged him tightly, drawing strength from his embrace.
They stayed together like that for some time, and then slowly released each other, parting slightly. Lloyd lifted Wink into his arms, and not for the first time, felt a wave of protectiveness wash over him. She was so slender, so frail, her weight almost negligible in his arms. After making sure she was comfortable and secure, he rose into the air and took off toward the Death Frontier.
Lloyd flew with such steady grace that Wink soon fell into an exhausted slumber in his arms. When Lloyd landed on a cliff overlooking the city of Ulara an hour later, she was fast asleep, her head turned toward his chest, her breathing deep and even.
Lloyd debated with himself for a moment. Deciding he could afford to wait, he flew around the area, found a shaded, flat area underneath one of the cliffs, and landed there gently.
With great care, he slowly placed Wink on the ground. For a moment, he remained there, crouching, gazing at her beautiful face. Brushing a few loose golden locks out of her face, he sat down next to her, leaning against the stone and pulling her head into his lap. She stirred slightly but did not wake. Instead, she curled her body around him and led out a small, content sigh. Lloyd smiled faintly. Absent-mindedly; he began stroking her hair and shoulder lightly as he gazed into distance.
He was neither a naïve nor a stupid man, and would be kidding himself if he believed this to be an easy matter to settle. No… Whatever was the force that destroyed Deningrad to acquire the buried energy, it was powerful, deadly, unknown in its appearance, unpredictable in its actions, and it bears Soa's will.
Clearly, world destruction did not end with the death of Melbu Frahma. Could the dragoons- and him- really defy the will of their ultimate Creator?
And the irony of this whole sordid business did not escape his attention either. For the last three years, he used, manipulated, fought and destroyed, for the very thing that he vowed to prevent now.
But he was used too. Manipulated into thinking he was bringing a blessing into the world, thought he was creating the magnificent Utopia in his vision…
No more! Now he understood, peace and love could not be constructed, but could only be worked for, and earned.
This time he would make sure he start on the right path, and stay on it. If that means fighting Soa himself, so shall it be.
Unconsciously, he sought Wink's soft hand, and held it in his, letting the warmth and life flow between them.
"I'm the master of my own fate," He murmured, "Damn anyone who tells me otherwise!"
Miranda was not a happy woman right now. And a pissed off Miranda often made choices she came to regret. At the moment, it was her decision to abandon the boat and fly rest of the way to Rogue.
What the hell had she been thinking- she was no dragon or wingly. Dragoon armor was not meant for traveling, and she was exhausted not long after she took off. The worst part was, she realized her mistake too late. It was a waste to turn back and look for the boat, and she couldn't very well stop and rest in the middle of the ocean. The only realistic choice was to grit her teeth and continue on.
Therefore, it was little wonder that she literally crashed into Haschel's practice yard, landing in an ungraceful heap at Kongol's feet.
"Miranda!" The giganto exclaimed, grabbing her by the wings of her armor and lifting her to her feet as if she was a doll, "Miranda, visit Haschel and Kongol?"
"Ah, Miranda! How nice for you to drop by!" Haschel walked over, chuckling, "However, you did it more literally than I expected."
"Kongol, let go of my wings!" Miranda wiggled out of the giganto's grasp. In a flash of silver light, her armor disappeared. She flicked a strand of hair out of her eyes impatiently, "I'm not here to chat. Deningrad was destroyed."
"Huh?" Haschel blinked, uncomprehending.
"Deningrad, the entire city gone, destroyed! Queen Theresa was killed, everyone was dead!" She brushed away her tears angrily, "I need your help. I want the bastard dead!"
"Ah yes, of course." Haschel replied automatically, his mind racing, "I'm- I'm sorry. How did it happen? Who did it?"
"We don't know, but whoever it was, we didn't stand a chance. That's why we need you two."
"Meru and Guaraha came over to help, my sister Wink is also alive… Lloyd saved her."
Haschel did a double take: "Lloyd?!"
"Yes. He is alive. Apparently he is on our side- if you can believe that. He took Wink to Ulara, while Meru went to inform Dart and Albert, and I came for you guys."
"I see…" Haschel exhaled slowly, "This is almost too much excitement for an old guy like me."
"But you will come with me?" Miranda demanded.
"Of course. Who am I to refuse a pretty lady?" He smirked slightly, "But, have some compassion for my old bones, let us go by boat to Ferni."
Miranda turned to the other dragoon: "Kongol?"
"Kongol go with Miranda." A large hand patted her shoulder sympathetically, "Kongol avenge Miranda's friends."
"Thanks big guy." Miranda allowed a small smile to grace her lips.
"Alright. Let's go prepare a boat." Haschel started leading them toward the house, "Tell us more about it on the way, Miranda. I'll grab a couple bottles of that Tiberoa wine I've been saving… Could always get more from Albert, and I think you may need it."
"Do. A couple glasses would do me a world of good." Miranda muttered, "Did you know- Lloyd is in love with Wink? I could end up getting that wingly for a brother."
Haschel blinked: "Come again?"
"Dart, Shana! What a wonderful surprise!" Queen Emille looked up as the door opened and exclaimed, "How are you two doing?"
"We are good. We came to visit Lavitz's mother, and decided to stop by." Dart looked around, "Where is Albert? Don't tell me- he locked himself in the study again?"
"Oh no!" Emille laughed, "He is in his study, but he only went there to fetch something for me… He should be back momentarily."
Just then, the King of Sardio walked in. He was twirling an object in his hand, and said in an airy tone, "Darling, I can't find it… Maybe your father took it on his last visit? But I think this article will suffice for our purpose."
"What is it, Albert? Relic to ward off unwelcome guests?" Dart chuckled, amused by the young king's inattention.
Albert looked up, startled, and then beamed widely: "Dart, Shana! I didn't see you there… What a pleasant surprise!" He came over in great strides and shook their hands vigorously, "And you are always welcome here, of course."
"We were visiting Lavitz's mother, and thought we'd drop by to say hi." Shana explained shyly, "We were not interrupting anything, I hope?"
"Oh no!" Emille laughed, "I was merely curious what an ancient Sardian shaman necklace look like, and Albert went to find it for me. But I guess my father was more curious than I?"
Albert grinned: "Well, I can't blame him really. I took enough antiques from his treasury to satisfy my own interest." He gestured to Dart and Shana, "Please, take a seat, and tell me how's everything going in Seles."
"It's going pretty good." Dart replied, sitting down next to Shana, "We finished rebuilding the church and the clinic… Some houses need more work, but everyone is sheltered at least."
"And Dart weeded out a lot of the monsters in the forest, so merchants are more willing to travel to the village now." Shana added with a smile, looking at her childhood friend and love affectionately.
"Yeah well… After what we've been through, it was a rather simple task." Dart scratched his head.
Their light-hearted chat was interrupted by a guard: "Your Majesties… There are two people here to see you. One claims to be your, ah, pal. Her name is Meru."
"Oh, let them in. Thank you." Albert chuckled, shaking his head.
Very soon, two silver haired winglies walked into the throne room, and Albert smiled: "Just in time for the reunion, Meru."
"Albert! Hey, Dart, you are here too!" Meru panted slightly, "That's good, I don't have to go to Seles then."
Dart frowned slightly, standing up: "Why? Is something the matter?"
"Yes! You must come to Ulara with us, at once. Deningrad was destroyed!"
"What? But… How?! I haven't heard a word!" Albert jumped to his feet.
"You should receive words soon enough. It happened last night, we flew straight here." Meru waved her hands frantically, "Anyway, you gotta come with us! Someone powerful is behind this… You should have seen, there was this huge earthquake, and a hurricane, and the entire city went up in flames!"
Shana paled: "And what of the people? Is Miranda alright?"
"Miranda escaped, so did another Sacred Sister. But the Queen and everyone else in the castle were dead." Guaraha was the one who answered, hanging his head in sorrow, "There were only thirty or so survivors from the entire city."
"This is… this is genocide!" Albert started pacing as Emille sat in her chair, stunned beyond words. He whirled around to face Meru and Guaraha: "Do you know who's responsible?"
"Nope, but we hope to find out. Al, Dart, you gotta come with us to Ulara. Miranda is bringing Haschel and Kongol, and Lloyd already went there to see Charle."
"Lloyd?" Dart repeated in confusion.
"Uh, yeah. Dude is alive and all… he saved Wink again, so I guess he ain't bad." Meru shrugged.
"Oh, okay…" Albert said slowly. He shook his head after a moment, and asked a guard to settle two horses.
"Make it three, please." Shana spoke up suddenly and turned to Dart, "I'm coming with you."
"Dart, there is something I didn't tell you." Shana's face was pale, but her voice was steady, "Last night… I felt a stir inside. It unsettled me, but I didn't think it was anything. Now… I'm not sure."
"Shana is still the moon child, is she not? This might have something to do with the soul of the God of Destruction."
"Albert." Dart said warningly, but Shana shook her head.
"Albert is right." She said slowly, "I'd like to go with you. This… might have something to do with me."
"…Alright." Dart sighed heavily, relenting, "If you truly felt something, it could be a bad idea to leave you alone in Seles."
He pulled her to her feet and turned to Albert once again: "We have to go back to the village and pack. I don't have the divine dragoon spirit with me. We'll meet you back here in an hour."
Albert watched them leave, and then turned to the two winglies: "Meru, Guaraha… I'm sorry, but could you please give me a moment with Emille alone? You are welcome to go anywhere in the castle, and if you need anything, just tell Minister Noish, he'll help you."
"Sure thing, Al, don't worry about us." Meru grabbed Guaraha's hand, "C'mon, I gotta show you some really cool stuff!"
As soon as the door closed and they were alone in the room, Albert went over to Emille's chair and knelt in front of her. "I have to go, you know," He said softly, "Before I'm a king, I'm a dragoon."
"Yes, I know." Emille nodded, "Your obligation is not only to this country, but to the world as well. I… I've always known, but it doesn't make it any easier."
"I wish I could go with you, you know. Like Shana is going with Dart. But I have my own obligations as well." She bit her lip, blinking back her tears, "Just promise me you will be very careful, Albert, and don't worry about anything else. I shall take care of everything here while you are away."
"Thank you." Albert embraced his wife tightly, "I'm very sorry, Emille."
"You need not be." She replied softly, "I fell in love with the hero in you too, you know? And I have always accepted this duty, as your partner, and as your queen."
"I thank you for that, with all my heart." Deeply moved, he leaned forward to kiss her passionately, "I love you Emille. I will come back to you as soon as I can."
"Cross my heart."
The King and Queen of Sardio stayed in each other's arms for a long time after that, kissing, caressing, and no more words were exchanged- none were needed.
Next chapter, most of the main characters gather in Ulara. Wink makes a startling discovery about herself; while Shana becomes even more confused with the role she was destined to play. As Dart and others search for a clue to the source of the mysteries light, it strikes again, in a most unexpected place.