Avatar of the Occuria
A/N; I originally planned for the end of this story to be much shorter but after writing this chapter I think they'll be another chapter of this sort of length and depending on how that goes either an epilogue tacked onto the end or a separate epilogue after that. Either way this covers the film's epilogue and goes into the Earth arc of the story.
Warnings; This whole story is SLASH but nothing too obvious in this chapter.
Chapter 11; Invasion
Harry stood at the head of the interactive display that hovered above the planning table. It was mostly magical in nature but what it showed was what was important. It was the best plan of the Barheim passage that their surveyors had been able to produce in just three days and a lot of it was old maps found in Nalbina and Rabanastre's records along with recent surveys of the tunnels.
Harry wasn't alone in the room either. It had been three days since Dalmasca, Bhujerba and Nabradia had been returned to her people and Harry was juggling the withdrawal of his base in Nalbina Fortress with ensuring the security of Dalmasca against these Death Eaters although no more had shown up since the group had attacked during the ceremony. Ashe had joined him on the Typhon which was on a slow orbiting path around Rabanastre so she could join him in securing her country and remain near her city to take over her responsibilities and duties. Also in the room were a couple of the Dalmascan Army's senior members, no longer referred to as the Resistance and also one of Ondore's senior fleet officers. Then, by Ashe's special invitation the ambassador from Rozarria that had arrived on the day of the ceremony. Harry's checking had informed him that the man was a trusted friend of Al-Cid.
Then, of course, there was Captain Atlan, the Typhon's Captain, as well as a couple of the Sixth Fleet's officers, both from the ground troops stationed all over the fleet and, right now, in the Barheim Passage.
"I don't know why you brought him to this meeting." Ondore's guy, Lieutenant Jennings, frowned as he turned to look at the man standing behind Harry. Blaise Zabini. "I'd feel better if he was locked up."
"He surrendered his weapon." Harry told the man simply. "And he has been more than willing to assist us in protecting Ivalice."
"For what price exactly?" Ashe asked.
Harry glanced back at the Wizard from under his cloak. "He didn't choose to come on this mission to create a foothold on Ivalice." Harry turned back to the rest as Blaise nodded. "I was planning on giving him back his weapon as a matter of fact."
"I'd rather you didn't do that in my country, Baltheon." Ashe mused.
"As you wish, your Majesty." Harry smirked. "Either way he understands our enemy better than any of us. He understands their motives."
"And what are their motives?" The Rozarrian Ambassador demanded.
"Depends on the individual." Harry turned to Blaise. "As Blaise has explained in his personal position it was survival of himself and his cousin that drove him on this mission. For others it was a way to prove themselves loyal to their Master, Voldemort."
"So how do we get them to stop invading?" The Ambassador demanded.
"Right now we can combat them in the small numbers they come through the portals in and we're slowly closing them down to smaller areas. We're still locating the actual portal in the Barheim Passage but our defences are growing." Ashe explained. "Or should I say the Imperial Defences. Thank you, Baltheon."
"Of course, your Majesty." Harry nodded. "Your few forces need to focus on building themselves up to the point that we can withdraw safely."
"Your Emperor was quick to withdraw to the safety of the Capital two days ago." Jennings frowned causing Harry to wave down his three men.
"My Emperor has other things he must deal with right now." Harry declared and tapped the table, manipulating the view to show a map of Ivalice. Blaise perked up for he had no real idea of what Ivalice was. He'd learnt about Dalmasca, Bhujerba and about the Archadian Empire and about the position that Harry held as a Judge Magister but he knew little else. Harry didn't mind the Wizard learning a little. Harry tapped another button and four red dots appeared. The one over the Barheim Passage spider-webbed out into red lines that marked the tunnels and then the green blocks that represented the Imperial troops stationed at the checkpoints that bottled anyone up who came through the portal. A blue block in Rabanastre showed their allied troops, the Dalmascan Army.
"These show the currently known locations of the portals." Harry declared. "This one to the south is in the Ancient City of Giruvegan. The Queen and I are confident that we need not fear an emergence from that portal."
"Why not?" Jennings demanded.
"Because the native creatures there, coupled with the city's defences make an escape particularly unlikely." Ashe declared.
"But I am sending the Hades and Vengeance down at this time to patrol and check for activity." Harry declared. "Unfortunately they must remain up above weapons range to avoid interference with even their advanced engines."
"Baltheon." Ashe frowned. "These two? In your Empire?"
"Two." Harry nodded. "They emerged yesterday. Blaise tells me that there was a surge in Voldemort's interest in getting to Ivalice before he was sent through and he knew other parties other than his own were coming through at different times."
"We don't understand these portals though." Blaise spoke up. "We found it in the Mediterranean Sea on Earth in an old city called Atlantis which was sunk thousands of years ago. When we first came through we scouted out the area but then waited for the other groups to follow but they never did. They must have been sent to other exits."
"That is my belief also." Harry nodded in agreement. "The party that came through into Giruvegan were likely small. When they didn't report back Voldemort most likely took stock of the situation before deciding to send a larger force. The teams that emerged in the Empire were dealt with two days ago and Emperor Larsa Solidor has returned to ensure our population is kept calm."
"What happened?" Ashe frowned.
"This group here hit a small farming town. An emergency signal was sent but the Ninth Fleet, who normally patrols the north-eastern reaches of the Empire were over the Capital after having been forced to come south to fight the rebel fleet." Harry sighed. "They arrived to find the local civilians and garrison dead but they caught the twenty or so Death Eaters by surprise when the Ninth Fleet's Dreadnought emerged from the clouds after their ground scouts had checked the area for any of our own survivors."
"Then what?" Ashe frowned.
"The Ulysses removed the town from existence." Harry announced. "Along with the Death Eaters."
"Blimey." Blaise breathed out.
"And here to the west of the Capital?" Ashe prompted.
"A lone Death Eater emerged from tunnels under the plains. He was badly wounded but reached a nearby settlement. He drew attention to himself when he tortured one of the locals for food and shelter. Soldiers from the Second Fleet apprehended him and interrogated him before he was executed. His information told us that another twenty Death Eaters came through with him and like Blaise here he got separated in the tunnels."
"Have they found that group?" Ashe asked.
"The Second Fleet are aware of the layout of the tunnels and are dealing with them." Harry nodded. "But they are being cautious to ensure none escape into the Empire without our knowledge. They will block them in and then close the area down slowly with overwhelming superiority."
"Then that makes six portals that we know of." The Rozarrian Ambassador spoke up with a frown. "I learnt this morning of two events in Rozarria. A group of these Death Eaters were discovered dead on the Pallos Plains in the south. Our military is tracking their origin into caves in the southern mountains but it looks like most of the party made it out only to be killed by the natural 'wildlife'."
"If memory serves the Pallos Plains are known for rather vicious flora." Harry prompted.
"They didn't get far before getting bogged down." The Ambassador nodded. "The military is planning on patrolling the area by air to prevent any other group getting off of the plains."
"You mentioned a sixth portal?" Ashe prompted.
"Right under the Capital." The Ambassador frowned. "In the underground water system that brings fresh water to the city. They did serious damage to the irrigation systems during the fight but we've now found the actual portal and have set up our best defences."
"What does the portal look like?" Ashe asked.
"Nothing." The Ambassador frowned. "It's a large room deep under the city that seems to have been made by the same civilisation that built Giruvegan. According to prisoners they simply appeared in the room."
"That's how we appeared." Blaise nodded before shuddering. "In the dark and then those… things… started walking towards us."
"Easy, Blaise." Harry turned to him. "It seems the natural creatures on Ivalice are not what they expected when they came through."
"Are these the only six portals?" Ashe asked. "Or are there more we don't know about?"
The song seemed to bubble but the tone told Harry his answer. "This is it." Harry nodded.
"How do you know?" The Ambassador demanded.
"I just do." Harry declared simply before turning to Blaise. "Is there any way you see that your people could get passed patrols and checkpoints?"
"We can make ourselves invisible but a decent defence will stop us." Blaise nodded. "On Earth we can shift ourselves with magic from one place to another instantly. We call it apparating but… I don't know… there's something here blocking it. Something in the air that contains it."
"Myst permeates our entire world." Ashe suggested. "Normally in low amounts but perhaps that is it."
"Possibly." Harry nodded.
"So we plan to bottle them up at these places?" Jennings asked.
"It seems the logical choice at this time." Harry nodded before turning to the Rozarrian Ambassador. "I do not wish to make assumptions but by your description of events you sound capable of easily closing up the two portals in your Empire?"
"Yes." He nodded simply. "I have been authorised to offer assistance in manning defences at other locations."
"In time my Army will close the one in our lands." Ashe announced. "But until we have the numbers and training I must ask the Sixth Fleet to assist us with that however I believe it only right to extend a similar request to the Rozarrian Empire as a hand of friendship."
"We would be happy to send a ground force to help the Sixth Fleet defend these Passages." The Ambassador nodded.
"It is your county, your Majesty." Harry nodded to Ashe.
"Then I will ask that the Sixth Fleet form the defence at Rabanastre and Nalbina Fortress." Ashe nodded. "As your troops know the areas already and I will ask that any troops that Rozarria can spare us take over the patrols and defences at the tunnel entrances into the Westersands and Estersands."
"A good plan." The Ambassador nodded. "An ideal way to coordinate our troops. I will send word immediately after our meeting. I believe Margrave Al-Cid already has a force in mind to assist you in any manner. The Commander of the troops has a great deal of respect for Judge Magister Baltheon's strength and integrity. The best man to work with him."
"If you have two ships to spare they can be sent down to join the Hades and Vengeance to patrol Giruvegan." Harry spoke up. "To cement our joint effort here."
"Your Majesty." Jennings spoke up. "I believe it fitting if Bhujerba can offer any assistance here also."
"I will speak to Marquis Ondore soon." Ashe nodded. "We must decide on our militaries soon."
"Can we close these portals?" The Ambassador asked.
"They can be closed at any time." Harry nodded. "But not by us and not by those on Earth. They are controlled by the Occuria."
"You have had dealings with the Occuria." Jennings told Ashe. "Perhaps a trip to them to ask them to close the portals?"
"Occuria?" Blaise asked.
"They are the Gods." Harry turned to him. "In the simplest of terms. They are an immortal race that watch over Ivalice. They watch over all worlds from a place that connects them all. Including Earth. They are holding the portals open that connect Earth to Ivalice but the portals are in one direction only until they open them in the other direction."
"Then will they?" Jennings asked.
"No." Harry shook his head. "To do so while Voldemort has control of a portal on Earth will mean he can travel freely to any other world. That cannot happen."
"Baltheon is right." Ashe nodded. "We know where the portals on Ivalice are and we are prepared to defend ourselves from these Death Eaters. I will not ask for the portals to be closed to spare us this hassle when it will result in the Death Eaters being able to reach any other unsuspecting worlds. Where ever they may be."
"Then do we have a plan?" The Ambassador asked.
"I have business to attend to eventually on Earth." Harry declared simply and raised a hand to cut off the astonishment at that. "But until my Emperor decides on a plan of action then I remain here on Ivalice until that decision is made."
"The Rozarrian Empire will most likely join any military effort he considers. Provided we can manipulate the portals." The Ambassador declared.
"My Emperor and your Emperor can discuss the matter." Harry nodded before nodding to Ashe. "Along with Her Royal Highness of course. Thanks to Blaise we know far more about them than they do us and that will give us the advantage in a military strike. I am recommending that Blaise be included in these plans as he has the best understanding of what might await us on the other side."
"Very well." Ashe nodded. "I trust you and if you say we can ally ourselves with this Wizard than I can do that."
"Your Majesty." Blaise bowed at the waist.
Two days later
"I thought I saw you." A cloaked Basch appeared at his side on the railings. "It's just weird seeing you walking around without your cloak. You realise people can actually see you, right?"
Harry chuckled and leaned his hands on the railing that overlooked the council chambers in Rabanastre. It had been converted into Vayne's 'war room' when he was Consul but Harry hadn't touched it before that. He'd preferred to leave the Palace just the way it had been before the Empire had occupied it. Ashe had since removed all the planning tables and replaced them with the original large oval table in the centre with its magical hologram that was currently showing a map of Ivalice.
"This is a public access area." Harry shrugged as he glanced left and right around the balcony that ran around the circular room's upper floor. A glass roof above them and the ornate pillars against the inside edge of the balcony gave the room a rather Royal air. Ashe had reinstated public access to certain areas of the Palace which included the council chambers so that her citizens could watch council meetings like this one if they so desired. Currently about two dozen people were watching the dozen below them, Ashe's probationary Council, which included Margrace Ondore and a couple of his officers. "How you manage to walk passed the guards with a hood up I don't know. Nobody is going to recognise me unless they already know what I look like and they are few and far between."
"I heard you haven't even lowered your hood around Ashe's Council or the Rozarrian Ambassador or that new General that seems to look up to you that arrived this morning." Basch chuckled.
"I have a certain reputation." Harry shrugged. "Knowing my face and my age will damage that reputation."
"And is that such a bad thing?" Basch asked.
"In the few days since the Emperor handed Dalmasca back to the Queen there have been eight attempts to harm me." Harry told him softly. Basch flinched at that.
"I didn't hear about that." Basch frowned.
"I have kept it quiet." Harry shrugged. "If Vaan found out he would go ballistic. If word got out to the bulk of my troops about such retribution from the, now freed, Dalmascans it could cause anger between the three forces working together here. It would not help future relations."
"And if eight attempts are made against the great Judge Magister Baltheon as people know and fear him how many more would happen if people knew you were just a kid?" Basch asked in way of agreement.
"I am not a kid." Harry glared at Basch but there was a twitch of amusement on his face.
"As to how I got in here most of the Resistance knows me and trusts me. They all know I was set up by the Empire and helped Ashe." Basch shrugged.
"Nothing about your brother?" Harry asked. Basch shook his head. "Have you given that any thought? Eventually people will note his absence."
"I keep dreaming about the way he died." Basch sighed and leaned on his arms and looked down at where Ashe was summarising her own army's progress in taking over the Rabanastre end of the tunnel defences. "About the last few years."
"Dreams or nightmares?" Harry asked sympathetically. He couldn't imagine the complicated feelings that must be within Basch about the death of his twin brother.
"Mostly peaceful." Basch sighed. "But I keep seeing his face. The passion there and the peace when he died. Whatever he really believed about what he was doing he felt it was for the best. He believed in what he was doing."
"He wasn't always like that." Harry told Basch softly as Ashe went on to talk about the four ships coming out of Bhujerba's docks that Margrace Ondore was selling to the newly returned Monarchy of Dalmasca. They'd decided that charity from either of the Empires wasn't the way to go and truly the Dalmascan Military weren't ready for that level of weaponry. Not yet at least.
"What do you mean?" Basch frowned.
"He wanted peace so bad that he went along with the plan to assassinate the King." Harry sighed. "Mostly because of Vayne's manipulation. After it though he didn't feel right about it all. He knew more than most about my part in it all. After all he'd been integral in setting up the ruse. He was troubled with what he'd helped achieve and as someone clearly opposed to the plan, as I'd been left out of it, he came to me with his troubles. He wanted out from under Vayne's control."
"You suggested he protect Larsa?" Basch asked.
"He chose his path because he wanted peace so that nothing like what happened to Nalbina could happen to anyone else. I knew that in Larsa he would find a true Imperial Icon. Someone that would show your brother what the Empire did stand for in the right hands. What it could be if the right people were allowed to have their hand in it." Harry nodded. "That is why he took that duty so seriously."
"And it's why he wanted to stop us from wielding weapons like the stones. We were pushing war against an Empire that he thought could be key to continued peace." Basch nodded. "The thing is the only thing I know that we both definitely agreed with, even at the end, was that Larsa is a true Emperor. Someone with a good heart. If I continue where he left off then I can keep my brother close to my heart. Where he belongs. I can see the world from his eyes and remember why he was my brother and not my enemy. I need that."
"Then you accept?" Harry asked him.
"I do." Basch dipped his head. "And the Queen has agreed to let me go."
"Then welcome back to the Empire, Judge Gabranth." Harry nodded.
"For Noah." Basch whispered softly.
"We should be cautious, your Majesty." Someone below them spoke a little louder and Harry turned back to look at them all. The map was now displaying the military forces above Dalmasca including the reports of positions for the Sixth Fleet's ships. The Typhon and Ifrit sitting above Rabanastre, the Hades Heavy Cruiser and Vengeance Missile Frigate down patrolling around Giruvegan and finally his two frigates, Damocles and Vanguard above Nalbina. Interestingly enough the Rozarrian Empire hadn't tried to match firepower with him and instead had sent a frigate and heavy cruiser to link up with the Hades and Vengeance down in the south and only had two armed transports in Dalmasca to support their troops in the desert and the small guard that Ashe had accepted into the city since the deserts were too hot and harsh for troops to be stationed there for long so they were planning to rotate through the city to recover from the heat.
"About something in particular?" Ashe half snapped. Clearly she knew exactly what the man meant.
"Keeping the Judge near at hand." The man frowned but didn't seem to want to argue too hard with his Queen. "It would be better for our public if the Empire withdrew completely. People are saying they're not really even giving up our land."
"Which Empire do you mean exactly?" The Rozarrian Ambassador spoke softly.
"The Archadian one of course." The man spared the Ambassador a quick look.
"So you would instead welcome our forces in without question?" The Ambassador asked softly.
"Better you than them." Another man nodded.
"Such an agreement could be made." The Ambassador looked around and Harry smirked even as Basch moved closer. "You could demand that the Sixth Fleet and its troops withdraw to Archadian territories and of course we would be happy to spare the additional troops and ships to take up their defensive posts around the portal in the Barheim Passages. Of course we'd be talking at least ten heavily armed ships, a carrier would be a must, a few thousand highly trained troops if not more." The Ambassador paused and Harry laughed.
"You find this funny." Basch frowned.
"So does he." Harry whispered back even as Ashe glanced up directly at Harry. She sighed but didn't speak up.
"Of course." The Ambassador continued. "In that case we would several outnumber your own forces so much that it would be us protecting your country. We would be the military force of your country, not you and not the Archadian Empire. And of course if we decided to force any issue what would your Queen have at her disposal to argue against us? We would command here, not you." The Ambassador paused for effect. "Far better that all parties have an interest here. As it stands our forces are not even but they are close enough that no foolish officer would dream of starting a fight. Your much hated Judge Magister Baltheon has born the scorn cast on him by thousands in the last few days yet he has done nothing to warrant increasing hostility towards himself. In fact he is going out of his way to keep the peace."
The entire group frowned at the Ambassador. "Even at the steadily increasing risk to his own life." The Ambassador made his point.
"What are you speaking of?" Ashe frowned even as she looked up at Harry who sighed even as Basch huffed.
"Are you not aware that old members of your resistance persist in making attempts on his life?" The Ambassador asked and noise erupted from the spectators around the room as the council members glanced at one another. "I know of six attempts in just the last four days and those are just the ones I am aware of. Judge Magister Baltheon has not tried to increase his protection detail or hide away in an effort to assure this alliance between our four countries can work together without issue yet he risks his life every time he steps off of the Typhon."
"What of the assailants?" One man demanded harshly. "Rotting in his prison?"
"Nalbina is our prison." Ashe hissed warningly at the man that had spoken. "The prisoners are being guarded by the Sixth Fleet because we cannot spare our own soldiers to do the task but it is our administrators that now govern it and are processing the prisoners."
"One of the reasons that there have been so many attacks is because there are no casualties to those that attack him." The Ambassador pointed out. "They get knocked around until they can't fight. Look over your own soldiers, you'll note the ones with injuries they can't explain properly."
"He's not defending himself properly or detaining our citizens that attack him?" A woman at the side asked.
"To preserve this alliance." The Ambassador nodded. "Our Empire recognises the effort that he and the new Archadian Emperor are making for peace throughout Ivalice. There is great respect currently for Judge Magister Baltheon within the Rozarrian Empire. He has made a lot of effort to secure and protect your country from people like Vayne Solidor and an equal effort to provide your country with its freedom and current security."
"He's a murderer and King-slayer!" Someone hissed.
"Yet if you asked him he would most likely withdraw his forces without question or argument despite the risk it would put on their borders when your forces fail to hold this portal securely." The Ambassador's tone became colder. "But I should warn you that our agreement to support you here is a three way agreement between all three parties. If you ask the Archadian Empire to withdraw then we will withdraw also. You will have to guard this portal, perhaps the hardest to secure, on your own."
Harry chuckled quietly. He could almost hear Al-Cid Margrace in those words. "He's very wound up isn't he?" Basch noted.
"Very astute observation." Harry nodded. "I was made aware an hour ago that a large force arrived through the portal under their capital city. Their first line of defence was overwhelmed and their second line had to withdraw to their third. Wizards reached the surface of their city."
"Damage?" Basch asked. "Deaths?"
"Four hundred civilian deaths." Harry told him. "Before their airships were forced to fire on their own city to eliminate the remaining Death Eaters."
"How did they get so far?" Basch looked truly worried.
"Sheer numbers according to the reports." Harry sighed. "But the information is sketchy and they're still resecuring the portal."
"How long until the next wave?" Basch asked.
"I don't know." Harry sighed. "The portals are only one way and their Master is simply sending progressively bigger parties through without even having word back to show any success."
"Maybe he's assuming they're winning?" Basch asked as Harry pushed away from the railing and began walking back to the suite of rooms in the Palace put aside for his own administration though it was only really a token presence since his forces were being commanded through the Typhon.
"Then he really doesn't place much value on life." Harry sighed. "Just as Blaise described."
"You like this Blaise." Basch pointed out.
"Despite his circumstances he is a good man." Harry nodded. "Like your brother was a good man despite his choices and his own path. Blaise also knows that the only chance he has of seeing his family safe is through helping us."
"This cousin you mentioned to Ashe?" Basch asked.
"A nine year old boy already working under this Master of theirs." Harry nodded. "Just one of the thousands that their Master would casually discard without a thought. Blaise would do anything to protect that boy."
"What of the Occuria?" Basch asked.
"I hear them still." Harry nodded. "They need me to act on Earth. It is my place in this world."
"I would offer to join you." Basch started.
"If I am to take a force to Earth then I need to know that Larsa is safe and cared for." Harry told him.
"And that's where I come in." Basch nodded.
"Come, Basch. I have a uniform for you on the Typhon." Harry prompted as they walked out of the Palace and onto one of the lawns where a number of Rozarrian, Bhujerban and Arcadian transports sat. Harry wasn't recognised by the crews but he had the papers necessary to get him a lift without questions. As far as people were concerned he was a member of Judge Magister Baltheon's personal household.
The next day
"You're still moping?" Harry asked Vaan when he walked out onto one of the outer decks of the Typhon where Vaan was leaning on the railing looking down at the sprawling Dalmascan city. Vaan had permission to come and go onto the Typhon without being hassled as a member of the Dalmascan Military. His soldiers always gave him a second look because of his age and appearance but after rumour spread that Vaan had been seen talking with Judge Magister Baltheon in the corridors they didn't question it.
"I just want to know where Balthier is." Vaan huffed. "You can't tell me you're not worried. It's been too long."
"He only stole back the Strahl five days ago." Harry pointed out as he lowered his hood and moved to pull Vaan against his front though he regretted the light armoured plating in the folds of his cloak that prevented him from really pulling Vaan against him.
"So why not contact us?" Vaan growled.
"My guess?" Harry offered and Vaan nodded. "I'd say that he or Fran are injured."
"Then why not come to you?" Vaan hissed. "You could take care of him."
"Or they've gone to Fran's village to recuperate." Harry shrugged, his arms jostling Vaan just a little. "If Fran is injured then she is better off being in the care of her own kind. There's little doubt that the Strahl will be set to watch the ships over the city and if I need Theo then I'll put out a call and I'm sure he'll respond."
"You're sure?" Vaan checked.
"I'm sure." Harry nodded. "How are things in the lower city?"
"Kytes isn't drawing pictures of you anymore." Vaan laughed and Harry copied him. "But your reputation down there still isn't brilliant."
"That's not going to change." Harry shrugged.
"Ashe said that you've been hiding attempts on your life." Vaan turned to frown at him. "Is that true?"
"Yes." Harry nodded.
"Why didn't you tell me!?" Vaan slapped Harry on the chest.
"Because none of them really got close to me and I didn't want you running off on some crusade to avenge my honour." Harry laughed. "Ashe is taking steps now and she understands why I kept it quiet. She'll put a stop to it."
"At least the people she can control." Vaan grumbled. "But you'd better tell me the next time it happens!"
"Yes, master." Harry chuckled. Vaan moved to swat at him again just as an alarm rung through the ship and the engines leapt up. The deck healed over sharply as thuds echoed above them as bay doors opened and dozens of Ramoras shot out and banked hard into a defensive formation.
"What?" Vaan frowned just as Harry's bracer beeped urgently.
"The entire fleet has been put on alert." Harry declared as he pulled up his hood and turned for the door just as men flooded the room to find him. "Report."
"Movement near the portal, My Lord Judge Magister." One of his personal escort explained quickly. "No visual contact yet but the inner checkpoints can hear noise. Lots of it."
Harry lifted his bracer and keyed the emergency alert network. "This is Judge Magister Baltheon on the Typhon. All ships go on alert. Reinforce all Dalmascan portal checkpoints. We have intruders through the portal."
Harry cut the connection as the Typhon's massive horn blared out to alert the city below them before the Ifrit passed underneath them closer to the city. Its Captain's voice rose from its hull speakers as the Typhon's aircraft swooped down through the towers and started patrolling the desert. "This is a general alarm. All military units report to their designated zones. All civilians are to return to their homes or suitable safe locations. Evacuate the lower city immediately."
"The Palace Guard are repeating our orders." One of his communications officers told him the moment he and Vaan walked onto the massive bridge complex on the Typhon.
"I don't know what's going on but whatever is coming up through the tunnels is big and it's loud!" A voice came over the speakers from the lower checkpoints. The sound cut off with a massive roar of noise before something loud like an explosion.
"Where's Blaise?" Harry turned on his officers.
"I'm here!" Blaise called as he ran into the room looking pale. "What's happening?"
"Another force through the portal." Vaan told the young man quickly. They'd spoken a few times and Vaan agreed with Harry about trusting the ex-Death Eater.
"Checkpoint One, report!" An officer ordered when there was just noise from the other end. "Checkpoint One. Report!"
"We've been overwhelmed!" The same voice called. "We can't hold our ground! It's some kind of metal machine. A war weapon. It's turret…"
The voice cut off with another loud explosion. "It's a tank!" Blaise grabbed Harry's arm. Harry twitched a hand to stop his escort from reacting.
"Explain." Harry turned to Blaise.
"A non-magical weapon." Blaise explained. "You can destroy it but you'll need something big. Your foot troops won't be enough."
"Checkpoint one. This is Judge Magister Baltheon, report." Harry prompted.
"We've had to fall back, my Lord Judge Magister. We can't even slow it down and we lost fifteen in two hits and we can hear more behind that one." The voice quickly explained.
"Withdraw and continue to withdraw but I need eyes on their advance. I have to know which way they go." He ordered.
"Yes, my Lord Judge Magister." The man panted as they were clearly running.
"Typhon Command this is Checkpoint two. We have eyes on our guys from checkpoint one. Do we try to make a stand?" Another voice asked.
Harry moved to the display of the tunnels and eyed the layout. The tunnels ran mostly straight between Rabanastre and Nalbina Fortress on a single level though it turned and twisted to either side and up and down like a maze. Two exits led up along that route to the deserts but about half way between the two cities there was a passage down where the portal lay. Checkpoint one sat down along that deeper passage like a forward observation post but the local creatures made being any further down too dangerous. Checkpoint two sat at the intersection that led up to the main passageways and then checkpoints headed in both directions towards the cities.
"Negative, checkpoint two." Harry denied. "Cover the others and then join them. Head for the exit onto the Estersand. I need you to stay in sight. Lead them to the exit. We'll fight these things in the open."
"All copied, my Lord Judge Magister." The voice cut off.
"Monitor everything." Harry turned to find his Captain. "Put the Typhon and Ifrit over the Estersand. If they encroach on checkpoint four then execute a withdrawal up onto the Westersand and we'll head them off there as well. Hopefully they'll follow our men to the exit. They're running blind down there."
"Yes, my Lord Judge Magister." The Captain nodded and rushed off to issue orders as Harry turned with Vaan and Blaise.
Harry headed for the Typhon's heavily armed cutter and it slipped from the dreadnaught carrier even as the door shut behind them and out into the streams of aircraft over the desert. The Ifrit was already heading to the Rozarrian camp near the entrance into the tunnels and Atomos' were dropping off troops and heavy armour.
"You going to let me fight?" Vaan asked Harry in amusement.
"I'll let Belias or one of the others fight." Harry retorted without a pause. "As for you two you'll stay with me."
"I've heard rumours about you from some of your soldiers." Blaise muttered. "You really good?"
"He's out of everyone else's league." Vaan announced proudly.
The cutter came down heavy over the Rozarrian command post five hundred metres back from the cliff that half covered the entrance into the tunnel. There were actually two entrances here, a small cave tucked into a small ravine and a more ostentatious temple in plain sight so the Rozarrian perimeter was a wide arc encompassing them both.
Harry was met by the Rozarrian Captain and the Ambassador who must have been out here for some reason already. "My Cutter can take you to safety, Ambassador." Harry announced quickly.
"I might…" The Ambassador started.
"Agreed." The Captain nodded and signalled his men. The Ambassador looked ready to argue but then simply nodded.
"Cutter, report to the Palace." Harry ordered as the Ambassador disappeared up into the door. "If the Queen wants to be taken to the Typhon then do it."
He got confirmation before turning to the officers of both forces all around him as they organised the reinforcements. The men of the checkpoints were already starting to emerge and according to the other checkpoints the invading force was obediently following the retreating soldiers towards the exit. Several Atomos' were sitting by the temple entrance with numerous guards ready to grab the last of the tired soldiers and get them to safety.
"The tanks will have trouble getting out of that temple." Blaise told Harry. "But they can blast their way out."
"What are they exactly?" Harry asked him.
"When Voldemort and his Death Eaters took over the magic world back on Earth the non-magical humans tried to resist. They outnumber us five hundred to one and it was bloody but we had been hiding from what we called Muggles for hundreds of years so we could get around them without much trouble." Blaise sighed. "But we have the magic necessary to take control of another mind. With the right people under our control their military started to become slaves. Some followed their leaders and others splintered away but Voldemort has a large force of muggles under his control and all their weaponry. Voldemort calls their weapons primitive and savage toys but in truth they have weaponry that even the Dark Lord fears."
Blaise still had trouble with saying Voldemort's name but after everything he had seen here he was gaining confidence. "He's had two decades to cement his control over them." Harry nodded.
"Right." Blaise nodded. "I've seen their tanks in action and they're not as advanced as yours. I mean your airships are way beyond them and your soldiers can mix muggle fighting and magic better than the Death Eaters and their muggle puppets so you have the advantage there. But there's some weaponry that I've seen the Dark Lord turn on entire countries that rebelled. Millions killed in an instant with a single weapon."
"If he sent one of those through a portal…" Vaan started.
"It's unlikely. He doesn't know what's on the other side." Blaise shrugged. "With the possibility that he's just sending reinforcements to his already winning troops he won't risk wiping them out."
"My Lord Judge Magister." A Rozarrian Lieutenant bowed to him taking Harry by surprise. Some of his own officers were clearly also surprised by the foreign officer's respect of their customs. "The last of the checkpoints are in sight."
"And, my Lord, the Queen and our Ambassador have given you command of all troops here. Formally." The Rozarrian Captain nodded.
"We go on the defensive." Harry nodded. "Until we can draw them out and let the Ifrit and Typhon do the work."
Just then the temple's façade exploded out over the retreating soldiers. The Atomos went into a hover but the rear door was still open as it lingered even as rocks fell around it. Harry just about saw a couple of wounded figures thrown into the back before two soldiers leapt up after them before the Atomos swung away and put on the power. A loud bark erupted from the dust and smoke and Harry saw the streak fly up. One of the Remoras yelled for the Atomos pilot to bank hard and the shot, whatever it was, clipped the side as the transport dodged hard right.
Smoke trailed off of it but the Atomos steadied itself and turned for the Typhon above them. Two Remoras fell in behind it to guard it just in case but Harry's eyes were on the cloud of dust just before a large tracked ground vehicle emerged with a barrel pointing up into the air. As he watched the tank emerged clear of the rumble and stopped. The barrel pivoted before the tank rolled clear of the cliff and into the sand. Another tank emerged followed by yet another and then a crowd of soldiers. They started to spread out along the face of the cliff.
"Ifrit, attract their attention." Harry ordered into his bracer. The Ifrit was currently up over the cliff and he doubted the invaders had spotted it above them just yet. But that changed when it slowly slid towards Harry's own position and the turrets whined to face the ground.
"You are trespassing on the territories of the Kingdom of Dalmasca under her Royal Majesty Queen Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca. Surrender immediately or your fates will be decided by the combined force of the Dalmascan Military and her allies from the Empires of Rozarria and Archadia." The Ifrit's Captain demanded but when nothing seemed to happen one of the turrets swivelled to the cliff and with a loud roar the top was taken off, raining stones down on the invading soldiers.
"Scout Remoras, what do you see?" Harry asked in general as he watched a group of Remoras slowly circling the area.
"My Lord Judge Magister." One of the pilots started. "The tanks seem to be their centrepiece but I can see at least a hundred soldiers and there are more inside the remains of the temple. I can see a command group just inside the entrance and they're arguing with one another. I can see at least five in cloaks but the rest are all in black and blue tactical gear. I think there's concern about something following them up through the tunnels. They keep pointing back."
"Those five in cloaks are Death Eaters." Blaise told him. "There'll be some loyal muggles with them in command as well as key people under magical control."
"Are you saying in the right circumstances most of those soldiers wouldn't even fight us?" The Rozarrian Captain frowned.
"Exactly." Blaise nodded. "Kill the right people. Those Death Eaters and the soldiers mad enough to be loyal to them and the rest might just lay down their weapons if you give them the choice."
Harry frowned as he spotted a flash of light from the tunnels in the distance before the six tanks leapt into motion. Shots rang out and something whirled towards them. Harry threw out his hands even as all the mages in their army threw up shields. His own shield went up with them and five of the shots exploded short but one got through and exploded against a transport which went up in flames.
"We can't wait on any plan to free them. Those tanks are too dangerous." The Rozarrian Captain ordered as he spotted the soldiers advancing carefully.
"Take out the tanks." Harry nodded with only a little pause. "If disabled let them live."
"Baltheon?" Vaan asked quietly, only just remembering not to call him his given name.
"Go on, Vaan." Harry nodded.
His officers frowned as Vaan moved into a clear space. "Let's see how they do against the Gigas." Vaan smirked before red light exploded from the ground around him before it streaked away clear of them with a gesture of his arm. The ground exploded up half way between them and the tanks as Belias, the Gigas, erupted out of the sand. He leapt up into the air and his massive spear stabbed into the top of one of the tanks and with a heave it was tossed into the air. Two of the tanks adjusted their aim but only one got a shot off as the Ifrit turned the other into molten scrap metal with a cannon. The blast from the tank hit Belias in the chest and Vaan flinched but the wound healed fast with Harry so close to feed his magic into Vaan and Belias.
"Come." Harry ordered and stepped forwards. A hundred soldiers moved to fall in with him with Blaise and Vaan right behind him. Harry lifted a hand and light collected in a disc above him before it erupted with a loud scream of burning air. The scathe slammed through a tank and on until it hit the cliff sending soldiers for cover.
"My Lord Judge Magister." The same Remora pilot called. "A group are fighting the command group from the rear. I don't recognise them but they're fighting with magic just like the Death Eaters."
Harry glanced at Blaise who just shrugged. "Ifrit, clear." Harry ordered and with a roar of engines the Ifrit threw down the engines and started climbing vertically. The downwash alone pressed most of the invaders to their knees. "Typhon, missile strike. Take out the Command group at will."
"Firing." A voice announced from the Typhon before three streaks shot over the battle field, twisted sharply and slammed down at the entrance of the tunnel one after another.
The only remaining tank, trying to move to face Belias, grinded to a halt so fast it tipped a little in the sand. Most of the soldiers between them and the cliff glanced at each other and Harry spotted several within the group shaking their heads as if to clear them. But then one stood up near the back, not far from the explosion with a long weapon aimed and fired right at Harry.
Harry's hand came up and his shield caught the bullet in the sudden silence. The bullet fell to the floor but Harry was amazed for a moment at it's power, far beyond any shot he'd protected himself from in the past.
"They're not under control." Blaise spoke up. "But some are still loyal."
Harry shrugged and lifted a hand and his telekinesis yanked the single soldier into the air to get him clear and visible to the rest before with his other hand he cast a shock that tore through the man's body. He let it fall to the ground.
"Wizards!" Someone yelled from the back of the Earth army's troops. There was general confusion as the soldiers half turned to a threat at their back and kept an eye on the massive force in the desert in front of them.
"Typhon, patch my words over external." Harry ordered and noted when his bracer linked straight through. "Those of Earth. You were warned. We can and will wipe you all from existence as we have with all those that came before you. Drop your weapons in piles, move away from them and kneel with your hands behind your heads and we will accept your surrender."
"Do it!" A voice yelled from near the back and Harry tracked it to a man that was rubbing at his head. His nose was bleeding.
"Blaise?" Harry asked after disconnecting the call.
"Sometimes if a muggle really fights the control spell their bodies suffer badly." Blaise told him. "He's one of the ones forced under their control."
Even as Blaise explained that the soldiers started to drop their weapons into piles and kneel a good distance from them.
"Remoras, report." Harry ordered and a Remora turned sharply to hover on the spot. It's weapons swivelled back to the entrance of the temple.
"My Lord Judge Magister. The group that were fighting the command group aren't surrendering." The Remora pilot declared.
"Fire a warning shot." Harry ordered and the Remora's four guns rattled as they put a dozen shots into the ruins of the temple.
"My Lord Judge Magister. They're kneeling." The Remora pilot declared.
"Captain." Harry turned to find the Rozarrian Captain standing with his own Captains. "Take all these men into custody. Search them for any type of weapons. Just hold them under guard."
"Yes, My Lord Judge Magister." The Rozarrian Captain nodded and started issuing orders. The combined Rozarrian and Archadian soldiers began moving forwards in squad to surround each group and move them slowly away from the battlefield itself. Several soldiers were kicked to the ground or prodded under tight control with swords but it seemed the heavily armoured soldiers with their massive support ships were scary enough that most of the enemy soldiers did exactly what they were told.
"Vaan, I think that's enough of Belias for today." Harry smirked at the pout on Vaan's face. Vaan shrugged and Belias roared in victory before fading from sight. The soldiers around them all gave Vaan looks of respect and awe. It was probably the last time anyone looked at Vaan as just a street kid.
Harry pointed to two of his soldiers and then at the soldier with the bleeding nose on his knees nearer the cliff. "Get that man and bring him to us near the cliff." Harry ordered before setting off towards the group of wizards near the ruins of the temple. The Remora still hung with it's weapons on them but as Harry, Vaan and Blaise moved into view of the wizards Harry turned to the Remora and made a simple gesture. The Remora's weapons swung back up into flight mode and the Remora spun and shot off.
Harry eyed the eight men and women on their knees and easily spotted the sticks in their hands. Wands just like Blaise's. "I thought my order was clear." Harry sighed from the shadows of his hood. "Your wands. On the ground. Now." He snapped.
They all looked at a man in their midst who lifted a slender dark stick and tossed it gently to one side, just out of reach of any of them. Four of the others copied him. Harry waited for the last three who held up empty hands.
"They don't have wands." The man in the centre declared. "They're not wizards."
"If you say so." Harry mused before glancing at one of his escort who grabbed the five wands from the floor. Blaise held out a hand from his cloak and the escort gave the wands to him without question.
"Death Eater!" One of the wizards on the floor hissed angrily. "They won already!"
"Won?" Harry asked.
"If they won then why did they fire on the soldiers?" A woman asked sharply.
"Blaise is the sole survivor of all that came through the portal before you." Harry announced. "He's proven himself willing to work with us to protect ourselves from your incursions."
"We're Resistance." The man in the centre told him.
"One man's Resistance if another man's Insurgence." Harry shook his head simply. "You're in our world now and there's no way back."
"The portals are really only one way?" The same woman asked again.
"Until we decide otherwise." Harry nodded.
Harry was about to say more when the Occuria's song in his mind screamed and Harry found himself on his knees with Vaan and Blaise holding him up. His soldiers called an alert just before the sky to the north-east flared white far beyond the horizon. Harry turned his head to look at the glow before an alarm blared loudly from the Typhon and it and the Ifrit slammed up their palins and gained height with their powerful engines.
"What was that?" Vaan gasped.
"A nuclear weapon." Harry twisted towards the voice and spotted the soldier that had commanded the rest to surrender. One of his own soldiers was more or less carrying him. "They must have sent one through after they realised a pocket of resistance came through."
"It's the Province portal." One of the Captains rushed up towards them just as a general military order piped through his bracer.
"Get these onto the Typhon!" Harry called angrily as he pulled himself upright. "The rest can go into Nalbina for all I care."
"The other portals…" Vaan grabbed Harry's arm tightly. "If they send another through."
Harry hailed the Typhon quickly. "Where's the Queen and the Ambassador?" Harry ordered as he started for the cutter as it approached the ground ready for him.
"We're here, Baltheon." Ashe's voice came back to him. Obviously they'd watched everything from their vantage point. "The Typhon has confirmed the explosion was the Province Portal but the sheer size…"
"Ashe, Ambassador." Harry started as he stepped into the cutter. "You must order the evacuation of the cities near the portals. Rabanastre, Nalbina… you're Capital, Ambassador."
"By the Gods." Ashe gasped before the voice was gone.
Harry monitored as the Ambassador contacted Al-Cid and the Queen ordered an immediate evacuation of Rabanastre and Nalbina. By the time he was walking onto the Typhon's bridge all three cities were being rapidly evacuated.
"We're evacuating all the towns by our second portal, my Lord Judge Magister." The Captain of the Typhon explained. "By the diameter of the explosion we have to empty three towns but it'll be done within the hour. The First, Third and Eighth are mobilising."
"And the province?" Harry asked.
"The explosion originated underground and created a fifteen mile wide crater right down to the portal room in the tunnels." The man sighed. "Nobody was killed because those tunnels were being monitored from the air but the seventh fleet took damage at the edge of the blast."
"Orders from the Emperor?" Harry demanded.
"We're to assist fully in evacuating Rabanastre and Nalbina to either Bhujerba or to Archadia itself." The Captain told him. "Also… an offer of aid to the Ambassador from the Emperor." He handed Harry a message which he skimmed.
Harry turned to find Ashe and the Ambassador talking together. "Your Majesty. The Sixth fleet, baring the Hades and Vengeance, are at your disposal for evacuations. The Damocles and Vanguard are ready at Nalbina and we're already turning for Rabanastre."
"Thank you, Baltheon." She nodded.
"Ambassador." Harry turned to him. "Our cities aren't close enough to the other portal to risk anyone and we'll have the three towns evacuated within the hour. Emperor Larsa has authorised the repositioning of any ship or fleet you want to help you evacuate your capital. All of them if necessary."
"Any ship you can spare." The Ambassador nodded desperately. "If the next device appears under our city seven million people will die."
"Unidentified incoming." Somebody called out. Harry turned as the incoming small ship appeared on the holograms. Vaan sucked in a relieved breath.
"Stand down." Harry ordered sharply and they leapt to obey by ordering the Remoras off their target. "Give it access to my personal bay." Harry ordered again and watched the windows as the Strahl shot gracefully across the Typhon's bow as it headed fast for Rabanastre.
"Come on Vaan, Blaise. We have guests to greet and then a story to listen to from our prisoners." Harry announced before turning to the Captain. "Notify all fleets to assist Rozarrian forces in the evacuation of their capital."
"I'm coming to question them with you." Ashe declared. Harry merely nodded and led the way out with Blaise, Vaan and Ashe following him. Vaan hung back to talk to Ashe like he wasn't really allowed to normally but Blaise stuck at Harry's side, nervous about Ashe since she had the power to lock him up for what he'd arrived on Ivalice as.
By the time they reached the docking space two levels down from the bridge that was reserved for private transports of dignitaries the Strahl was already sitting on its own supports and powered down. The underside door cracked open as they approached as if the occupants had been watching for their arrival.
Blaise hung back nervously as two very familiar figures walked down. Harry frowned at the sling holding up his big brother's arm. "You're okay!" Vaan called happily and dashed forwards and hugged Balthier before his brother could think to try to avoid him. Vaan's excitement for the man he saw as a role model and felt for as a brother was easy to see and hard for Vaan to contain.
Harry lowered his hood and narrowed his eyes at Balthier when Vaan stepped back out of the way. "What did you do to yourself?" Harry growled.
"You know. This and that." Balthier shrugged his left shoulder. "It's the life of a pirate."
Harry glared and slowly approached. Balthier swallowed as he realised he'd said exactly the wrong thing but he also wasn't surprised when Harry's expression softened and Harry hugged him closely and held on.
He pulled back after a long few seconds and looked into his brother's eyes. "You're okay?"
"I broke my arm in about a dozen places." Balthier shrugged. "But the lovely Viera have been working to mend it. I didn't see any need to travel for the same treatment."
"You could have left a note!" Vaan argued.
"I figured the absence of the Strahl was a sufficient alternative." Balthier frowned.
"Something I did not agree on." Fran spoke up softly. Harry turned to smile at her but knew he didn't know her well enough to greet her with a hug.
"I have no doubt you looked after him." Harry nodded to her warmly. "But you've been avoiding the excitement. Not very pirate-like if you ask me."
"Well to be honest I wasn't really sure what was going on around here." Balthier shrugged. "I figured you'd guess my location and why I was delayed. If you needed me you could have found me. And you had the encryption codes to send the Strahl a message."
"We didn't need you around to help with this chaos." Harry told him softly. "Just as our brother."
Balthier nodded and lightly prodded at Harry's chest with his left hand before turning to Ashe. "Your Majesty now I assume?"
"Quite." She nodded slowly.
"I'm happy for you." Balthier nodded. "Does this mean I need to get a visa to fly through Dalmascan airspace?"
"As if not having one stopped you from flying through it when it was my airspace!" Harry complained which made Vaan snicker.
"I already took the liberty of processing your travel visa." Ashe told him. "The Stahl has unlimited access to all airspace, even restricted and military airspace."
"Well isn't that nice." Balthier laughed. "Still a few of your nice ships did take aim at me. Visa or not. What is happening, exactly?" Balthier asked. "I never thought I'd see Rozarrian ships and troops working so closely with Archadian. Not this soon at least."
"Ivalice is united in a war against Earth." Ashe announced simply.
"So fast?" Balthier gasped. "I knew it was a possibility when we saw those corpses in Giruvegan."
"Since then we've discovered another five portals." Harry explained as he turned towards the door. "Two in the countryside of Archadia, one within the Barheim Passage and two within Rozarria. One in their plains but the last is right under their capital."
"And more came through?" Balthier asked. "There's something of a battlefield where you just left if you didn't notice?"
"It's hard to miss." Vaan laughed. "Belias enjoyed his exercise though but now the others wont shut up."
"As for more coming through I'll answer that first by introducing you to my guest." Harry announced.
"Don't you mean Ashe's guest. You're still over her land right?" Balthier teased.
"There are complaints about my keeping him around." Harry rolled his eyes as they moved into the corridors and Harry raised his hood once more for his own privacy. "You see, Blaise here came through the portal in the Barheim passage."
"You're from Earth?" Balthier asked and looked him up and down. "You're dressed like them."
"I offered to wear something a little more subtle but he said I'd do better making a statement and reminding people what I am." Blaise nodded. "My name is Blaise Zabini. I worked for the Dark Lord on Earth but that wasn't really my choice. Now that I have a choice I'd rather prevent any further pain and suffering."
"Well I trust you." Balthier announced. "My little brother here isn't someone you can trick."
"So I've seen." Blaise nodded. "I've got a cousin who's nine back on Earth that I want to help but other than that I'm all yours."
"Blaise has an understanding about the inner workings of the Death Eaters that we lack." Harry told Balthier and Fran. Wearing what he is comfortable in helps remind people that despite his age he has knowledge that we need and he should be listened to."
"And since then?" Balthier asked.
"Parties have invaded through all of the portals. They slaughtered a town in Archadia and were hunted down under the Rozarrian Capital when they triggered alarms. Both of the other portals are in highly dangerous areas. One man escaped in the north of Archadia's Provinces but his party was killed in the tunnels there and bodies half eaten out in the Rozarrian plains." Harry summarised. "This was the first time though that they've sent non-magical citizens through though they seem at least partially unwilling."
"Death Eaters use spells and threats to force control over Earth's muggle, non magical, population." Blaise explained. "They can't hope to control them all but they control the key people with the biggest weapons and rule by fear that way with the knowledge that they can and will use their magic for the worst crimes imaginable."
"Like what?" Vaan frowned.
"The normal public affair is rape, kill, suicide." Blaise looked down at his feet. "Take over the father of a muggle family and publically make him rape and kill his family before making him kill himself."
"That's…" Vaan started.
"Unthinkable." Ashe summed up.
"Anyway this time their non-magical military led the charge through the Barheim Passage commanded by a few Death Eaters. Once they were killed the non-magical force mostly surrendered to us." Harry explained. "But we also have some wizards that came through the portal after them. Blaise thinks they're Resistance members from some group on Earth so I brought them onto the Typhon to chat."
"Typhon?" Balthier asked.
"Larsa gave me a present." Harry grinned. "Ivalice's most powerful Dreadnaught-Carrier."
"And Ashe lets you fly around her country in it?" Balthier teased the Queen.
"We've reached a mutual protection agreement with Rozarria and Archadia until we can train up our own military." Ashe rolled her eyes at the Sky Pirate.
"I planned to pull back to just a couple of frigates to help train her new Bhujerban-built frigates but that's not enough with these invasions." Harry sighed.
"What happened just now though? The Strahl's sensors couldn't work out what it was." Balthier asked.
"It was a nuclear fission explosion." Blaise explained. "It's Earth muggle weaponry. It splits atoms to create a chain reaction. Most wizards don't understand the technology involved but now they control it through the Muggles they have control of."
"It exploded under the portal in the North-east Provinces of the Empire." Harry sighed. "Created a crater fifteen miles wide and the shockwave spread for hundreds of miles. Almost like one of the stones going off. The seventh fleet took damage."
"But if it had come through the one under the Rozarrian Capital…" Balthier trailed off.
"It would have killed millions." Harry nodded. "Every available ship in the Empire is heading for Rozarria or to Rabanastre and Nalbina Fortress to start evacuations. I imagine we're already over Rabanastre."
"And we're doing what?" Balthier asked. "I'm lost in this monstrous ship."
"The holding cells." Harry shrugged as they turned the last corner and into the guard centre that led into the complex of holding cells. The soldiers snapped to alert as he entered and looked down at the array of walkways that confused anyone trying to escape from the cells. It was a rather cavernous room with catwalks that shifted around on rails to join the far banks of cells to different interrogation rooms.
"Bring me all of the prisoners. The Earth ones." Harry ordered.
"My Lord Judge Magister." The Guard Captain nodded and issued a series of orders. "We just got them into individual cells and gave them food and water after they were processed."
"Any trouble?" Ashe asked.
"Your Majesty." The Captain bowed formally. "No problems. They've been peaceful and accepting so far. I believe mostly they are just tired, especially the soldier amongst them."
"A normal side effect of the Imperious Curse." Blaise spoke up. "Provided he wasn't too overly taxed he'll recover with bed rest and a measured diet."
"Was there not three non-magical humans amongst the wizards?" Ashe asked him.
"The Resistance has more non-magical people than magical ones." Blaise explained to her. "It's a well known fact because there are so few wizards willing to outright go against the Dark Lord. It's common to see them working together."
They moved to an area off to the side of the guard control centre. It was a circular area with a walkway around their own edge which headed off along to other interrogation areas just like this one. Spikes and mesh lined the walkway to prevent anyone from climbing up from the lower area half a level down from them. A catwalk lined up with the open edge of the area and the railing dropped down to become part of the bridge just as a door opened on the other side and their newest prisoners emerged with the sound of a voice over the speakers prompting them on.
The nine eyed the five deck drop under the catwalk as they moved along it single file. One of the wizards was helping the soldier to walk along with them and the man didn't seem all that bothered by their presence when you took into account that he'd been under the control of Death Eaters up until now.
The group entered the interrogation area and looked up at the six standing above them. Their eyes swept around but without fail they all stared at Fran the longest in amazement.
"Do you know where you are?" Ashe asked sharply from her place at Harry's far right. Harry stood directly opposite the catwalk with Vaan close on his right hand side with Blaise and then Ashe further along nearer to where they'd come in from. On Harry's left stood Balthier and then Fran a little more spread out. The group had to twist their necks left and right to take them all in and that was the point.
"No." The Wizard that seemed to have taken point announced simply. He wasn't the oldest though he was taking charge. There were two women, witches, present. One was a few years older than Harry by the looks of it, similar in age to Blaise while the other was much older. She was easily passed the age where most humans retired from anything active but she still had an air of strength to her but he already knew from Blaise that magical beings on Earth had longer lifespans than non-magical ones, about half again as long, sometimes longer.
Out of the men there was the soldier who looked to be about a generation older than Harry, perhaps the age that Harry's own parents would have been if they were still alive. The same was true for the wizard that had taken the lead. The last two wizards were much younger. One was about Harry and Blaise's age but the other seemed only a little older than Vaan. Which left the three non-magical humans that were all around the middle as far as ages went but they really didn't look all that confident.
"We're not on Earth. Another world. That's all we know." The young woman declared as she studied Ashe.
"This ship is the Typhon Dreadnaught-Carrier of the Sixth Imperial Fleet of the Archadian Empire." Ashe declared simply. "The Sixth Fleet answers to His Lord Judge Magister Baltheon of the Archadian Magisterial Council. This country however is the Kingdom of Dalmasca. I am Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca, Queen of Dalmasca. Together with the Kingdom of Nabradia, the Skycity of Bhujerba and the Empires of Rozarria and Archadia this is Ivalice."
"Your world is Ivalice?" The youngest confirmed.
"It is." Ashe nodded. "You have already met the honourable Judge Magister." She motioned towards Harry's cloaked figure.
"It is time for your own introductions." Harry announced simply. "The muggles first I believe."
The use of the world drew most of their attention to Blaise's form with his own face hidden. "First things first." The Wizard in charge sneered. "Why are you working with a Death Eater if they're invading you?"
"You answered your own question." Harry informed him simply. "We would not work with any Death Eater invading Ivalice. Therefore it follows that this is no longer a Death Eater invading our world."
"It's Professor McGonagall isn't it?" Blaise asked as he lowered his hood to fall loose on his shoulders.
"It's been nearly fifteen years since I taught at that school." She informed Blaise with narrowed eyes before turning to look at Ashe and then Harry. "I am Minerva McGonagall, transfiguration specialist."
"And I am Blaise Zabini." Blaise declared simply.
"Your family used to be neutral." The man in charge frowned.
"There is no room for neutralality anymore. Neutral just means dead." Blaise stated simply.
"Then you should have died." The man spat.
"Enough." Harry growled. "Your name." He used his power that time and saw the man choke as he made to refuse.
"Sirius Black." He grunted out in the end and the others nervously shifted.
"You cannot deny me the truth if I force it from you." Harry declared simply. "It is easier to simply give me the answers I want."
"At this moment you are our prisoners." Ashe declared simply. "But we do not pin on you the crimes committed by the Death Eaters. We recognise a second body of authority amongst magical users on your world. Do not force us to decide otherwise."
"Blaise has informed us that you're most likely part of a Resistance against Voldemort." Harry declared simply. "If it were not for Blaise I would have reduced that entire temple entrance to rubble, you along with it."
"Are you winning against Voldemort's forces?" The younger woman asked.
"Your name first." Harry declared sharply before anyone else answered her.
"Penelope Clearwater." She announced.
"Clearwaters have always been on the side of 'good'." Blaise declared simply. "Ravenclaws."
"You understand such terms?" McGonagall asked at Harry.
"Blaise has explained it in way of explaining the way you think of each other." Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Blaise can answer your question."
"When I came through two weeks ago there was only one portal on Earth. Has that changed?" Blaise asked.
"No." The man in charge shook his head. "We had to attack his base in Atlantis to get to the portal."
"There are six exits though." Blaise explained. "And not in nice places. The basic animal population on this planet is vicious. Everyone travels heavily armed or on airships to avoid them. One portal leads into a tunnel network in a massive plain covered in man-eating plants. One group came through there and were slaughtered. An airship patrol spotted the bodies. Another opens into an ancient city swarming with more creatures. Yet another two open into tunnels in the countryside of one of the two massively powerful Empires in Ivalice who have weapons that make muggle guns and ships seem primitive. One Death Eater group got out to a town and killed all the civilians there so the Archadian Empire levelled the town and slaughtered them from the air. The other set of tunnels only one of the Death Eaters got clear of and was arrested by Archadian soldiers and interrogated and then executed." Blaise glanced at Harry who nodded for him to continue. "The second to last portal is under the Rozarrian Empire's capital city. The two attacks through that portal were ended by their military."
"And that just leaves the portal we came through." The older of the two young men declared before rushing to introduce himself before Harry could demand it. "Oliver Wood."
"Blaise's party was the first through this portal. He was separated and eventually wandered alone up to the city and was taken into custody." Vaan spoke up. Harry knew he liked Blaise. "You might have noticed things that look dead down there really aren't."
"City?" Sirius Black frowned.
"My patrols led the attackers out into the desert and away from Queen Ashelia's city." Harry stated simply. "And you are?" He turned his head towards the younger man.
"Dennis Creevy, sir." The young man, or boy, declared. He wasn't more than a year older than Vaan. Clearly the Resistance was in trouble to use someone so young. Then again Reks had been only seventeen when he'd attacked Nalbina Fortress and been mortally wounded.
"Captain Simon Jones." The non-magical soldier declared.
"Blaise has explained this Imperious Curse to us." Ashe stated simply. "You three?"
"Michael Shanks, Theodore Roose and Leo Tanner." Sirius Black introduced the rather nervous three men.
"Tell us how you came to follow an attack through this portal." Harry ordered.
"We heard rumours that you-know-who planned to send a muggle army through." Sirius Black declared. "Our spies tell us that he doesn't have any contact with anyone he already sent through. Regardless of the portal being one way it doesn't seem to have slowed him. He's hoping that if he sends through a large enough force they can establish a way back. We are barely coping against his reign on our world with the power he already has. We can't afford him to take control of another world with unknown technology. We launched an attack on the once sunken city of Atlantis where he's staging attacks through the portal in the hopes of destroying the city. We can't hope to hold any stationary place for long so taking control of the portal was out of the question."
"You didn't intend to come through the portal?" Blaise frowned at them.
"No." Sirius shook his head. "We met more resistance than we expected. We hoped that while the army was moving through the portal we could use it as a distraction. Our own soldiers attacked and we slipped in to find a way to destroy the city. We got cut off when our forces had to abandon the attack. We had to hide and basically we got lost."
"And stumbled through the portal after the army." McGonagall finished the explanation.
"We kept our heads down when we realised nobody was going to come through after us and followed the army. We realised we'd come through." Dennis sighed. "We figured if we took out the Death Eaters controlling the army we could change the plan."
"If there are six portals in Ivalice does that mean there are six on Earth?" Penelope Clearwater asked. "Maybe knowledge like that may give us an advantage."
"There are more portals in Ivalice." Harry nodded. "But after Voldemort sent his first team through the portal the Guardians of the portals, the Occuria, locked the portals into place."
"Why?" Sirius Black frowned. "Can he still use the others?"
"If he knew their locations." Harry nodded. "The Occuria locked the portals in place because otherwise Voldemort's destination would have been random until he discovered how to target a particular world."
"The portals go elsewhere?" McGonagall asked.
"To thousands of worlds and civilisations." Harry nodded. "But not all worlds could have defended themselves against invasion. Ivalice can and so the Occuria locked the destination in."
"So the Occuria made these portals?" Penelope Clearwater asked. "Why?"
"The Occuria have no need of the portals." Harry shook his head under the hood of his cloak. "They can travel between worlds without effort. They are alike to gods. The portals were created by a slight less powerful race known as the Vaettir to themselves. You know them in your myths and legends as Elves. The Vaettir were the ones to create the portals to explore other worlds. They have since become virtually extinct leaving only ruins behind."
"You mean Atlantis?" Dennis asked. "That's a Vaettir city?"
"Precisely." Harry nodded. Just then Harry's bracer alarmed with a message of the highest priority. He read Larsa's message and turned to Ashe. "I've been asked to extend you an invitation to the Imperial Towers in Archades. Emperor Gal-ton Margrace is already on his way to meet with Emperor Larsa Solidor. They want your input."
"We're going to war." Ashe nodded and they all heard their captives muttering. "What of Rabanastre?"
"We'll be taking the Vanguard." Harry announced. "The Typhon will oversee the evacuation."
"Evacuation?" Sirius Black raised his voice.
"You witnessed the detonation of an Earth-made nuclear weapon from one of the portals in Archadia." Balthier spoke up for the first time. "If one detonates in the portal under the Rozarrian Capital or the one you just came through then the death toll would be in the millions."
"Them?" Vaan asked.
"They will remain prisoners here until the Emperors and the Queen decide what to do with them." Harry nodded.
"If it's all the same to you and you have a way of taking the war back to Earth we'd rather come with you." Sirius Black announced.
"We can take you to the Resistance. We can help you!" Dennis called.
"Perhaps." Harry nodded.
They all left the room together knowing that time was short. Balthier, Fran, Vaan and Blaise went straight to the Strahl so they could ready it to transfer them to the Vanguard that was already holding position nearby amongst the beehive of ships all around Rabanastre. Harry and Ashe stopped in the bridge to deal with matters before heading to join them. They'd have the chance to rest properly on the Vanguard on the way to Archades but Harry knew he'd be up most of the night working out a plan of attack and he needed to work out exactly how to get a fleet of ships through the portals and to Earth and fight Vaan off who was undoubtedly going to try to get Harry to relax for at least a little while.