( Author's Note: Dark Legion has been edited on 29th July, 2005, so that all chapter-heading epigraphs are weither fabricated or in the public domain. Some polishing had been done on the body of the work itself; these edits are minor and don't affect plot or anything like that. As always, to keep up to date on my update-to-update scheming, read my bio or my LiveJournal. magistrate)

/---DARK LEGION---\
--PART ONE--

I

"We dream because we dream more gently than we live. We dream because we do not wish to wake."
--Shumi Elder, remark to a protege


"--NO!"

The only thing about the dream Squall Leonhart remembered was that he woke up screaming. Which was odd, because in the his eighteen years of life, he had never doen so before. Tremblign in his surprise, all he could do was breathe and observe the world..

The lamps had come on automatically in the presence of sound, and the gunblade case in the corner of his room glinted reassuringly in the artificial light. The gunblade helped to calm Squall's stoic mind, to chase away the unreasoning fear that had gripped him. It was something familiar, concrete. Something he recognized.

Sliding out of his bed, Squall moved to the window next to the headboard. The moutainscape of the tiny Balamb continent showed through the dark light of false dawn, and the red beak of the spaceship Ragnarok loomed to his left. To look, everything seemed perfectly normal--there was nothing amiss. Squall shook his head. He wouldn't be getting back to sleep, he knew, which meant at this hour that there was about one thing in Garden that he could do.

Squall pulled the drapes over the window and turned away, pulling his old leather-and-fur jacket off the wall. Unlatching the case and opening it, he withdrew the fortified Revolver Advanced model from its cusion of black velvet and put on the swordbelt and scabbard. Placing the weapon by his side, he pulled on the jacket and exited into the hall.

Garden was quiet at this time, nestled in the grey haze just before the dawn. SeeDs slept, anticipating the day which would bring with it adventure or danger, hope or fear, routine or exception. Air, pushed and drawn by giant fans, moved furtively around the corridors, sneaking on a thousand feather-light wings. It was peaceful--but somehow incomplete, empty and longing. It spoke to emotions he didn't know how to name--emotions he so often ignored.

"Squall?" asked a sleepy voice from a couple doors down, halting him as he walked. Squall turned to see Quistis Trepe, a year his senior and his former instructor, moving down the hall towards him, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. "I thought I heard you yell. Is something wrong?"

"Not really," Squall said gruffly. "I couldn't sleep."

"Oh," Quistis said. "Bad dreams?"

Squall raised an eyebrow, and chose not to answer.

"I take it Rinoa hasn't gotten back from Deling City yet?" Quistis asked, nodding as Squall shook his head. "You should take a break too, Squall. I'm sure you need one. I hear the Shumis have started a statue of you; I'm sure they'd be honored to have you drop in."

Squall suppressed a shudder at the thought of cold, icy Trabia, and shook his head. "No time. I have too much stuff to do."

"Administrative duties and other dry work," Quistis said, a fond smile creeping onto her face. "Get Xu to take care of it. All work and no play makes Squall a dull boy."

Squall's hand moved to his forehead, two fingers sliding up along his temple as a mute gesture of mock-exasperation. "Think the Shumis will fix that?"

Quistis chuckled. "I suppose not," she conceded.

Squall nodded, and turned to walk away.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Training Center," Squall responded.

"Watch out," Quistis warned, sounding matter-of-fact rather than concerned. "They've moved new monsters in. They took all the Grats out, and-"

"I know," Squall said, glancing back. The tiniest flicker of amusement flashed in his eyes before he masked it. "I signed the order."

Quistis smiled as he left, shaking her head. (Rinoa's been good for him,) she thought, watching him go. Though by no means the most outgoing person in Garden, Squall had become much less... caged since he had met Timber's self-styled "princess." Of course, much less caged was a relative term--anyone meetign him now still thought him excessively closed off and curt, blunt and tactless to the point of inconsideration. But on occasion Quistis could detect a flash of emotion behind those enigmatic eyes-- the tiniest hint of what was going on inside his mind. Squall had spent years building up emotional defenses, and it would take far more than a year for his friends or him to break them.

Quistis debated going back to her room, getting her chain whip, and following him, but she decided against it. If she knew Squall at all, which she was fairly certain she did, he would want to be alone. It was the least she could do to respect those wishes--once in a while.

-

Squall moved through the halls, past the Garden faculty members who barred all the side halls except those leading to the dorms and the training center. Each one nodded to him as he passed--normal rules and regulations didn't tend to apply when Squall Leonhart, Commander of the mobile Balamb Garden and the Spaceship Ragnarok was involved. The privilege frequently proved itself useful--though, at times, Squall wasn't quite sure he liked the distinction.

Moving down the spur corridor and into the Training Center entrance, Squall took a moment to ask the Guardian Force Brothers to bolster his endurance before he moved in, pulled out his gunblade, and steeled himself for the new medley of creatures waiting in their cultivated jungle.

Stepping past the vault-metal door into the Training Center proper, he took a look around before making his way over to the bridge. The air warmed uncomfortably as he stepped onto the treated wood planks, and Squall wiped a sudden line of sweat off his forehead. Fire-elemental, he identified. Near by, too...

A flash of movement from his right brought him up to a fighting stance, snaring the point of the gunblade in a Bomb's armpit. The Bomb--bloated and burning, lines of smoke tracing its way from its spherical form and its coal-dark eyes--gibbered at Squall and sent a furnace-blast of fire towards him. Staggering to avoid the scorching heat, Squall took another swing at the elemental, sending a freezing Blizzard wind along the gunblade's length in reciprocation. The Bomb shuddered and fell, disintegrating into ash as it hit the surface of the running water beneatht he bridge. The aura of heat that had surrounded it vanished, to be replaced by the too-cool Garden air conditioning. Squall sent a command to the GF Diablos to make sure nothing attacked him, wincing at the twinge of dark joy Diablos felt as he made his consent known. The odd emotion faded, the air shuddered around him, invisible shadows creeping along the length of his arms, wrapping around his chest, clouding behind his eyes and shielding him from sight, from scent. It is done, murmured a silty voice.

Squall bent down to the side of the bridge, reached into the freezing water, and splashed it over his face. Closing his eyes as the streamwater cascaded over him, he shook his head vigorously and snorted.

(Spending any time with a sentient creature trapped inside your brain can be--interesting, to say the least,) he reflected, and winced. (Unnerving, more like.)

A spray of water hit him, and his eyes snapped open. Looking down into the stream, he caught a flash of silver--a sleek form moved downward, glinting as it swam. It seemed to shrink as it went, as if the meter-deep stream was a river deep enough for the serpent to dive far enough to be lost from sight. In moments, it was gone.

Squall had to blink several times before he could convince himself of what he had seen. The only thing he knew of that looked even remotely like the apparition was another GF--the Great Serpent, Leviathan. But Leviathan spent almost all his time in noncorporeal form, junctioned to Zell to help in times of battle. And even when he was summoned, he didn't stick around long enough to go swimming in the Garden training facilities.

As all of this began to arrange itself in Squall's mind, he rose. It was night--not the best time to be hunting down mysteries. It could have been a fluke, a trick of the light, a new monster--

--he didn't think so. There was a rogue GF in Garden.

He was at Zell's door before he had given any thought to the questions he wanted answered. (He's probably asleep,) he realized--not that it made any differenct, at the moment. Raising one hand, he pounded on the door.

The door flew open about three seconds after the first knock, suggesting Zell had in fact already been up. The flushed quality to Zell's tattooed face and the quivering punching bag in the corner confirmed it.

"Hey, no need to kill the door, Squall," Zell said, customary grin plastered firmly on his face. "What happened? You're kinda soaked..."

"Where's Leviathan?" Squall demanded, eliciting a confused look from Zell. Zell's eyes lost their focus, sight turning inward as he ran over the magic at the back of his mind.

"Same place he always is," he said at length, tapping his head. "Why? This some kind of trick question?"

Squall just stood there, dripping and thinking. "I just saw Leviathan in the training facility," he said. "About a minute ago."

Zell reached out a gloved, studded hand and put it on Squall's shoulder. "You need more sleep, man," he said, feigning deathly seriousness. Then he laughed.

Squall pushed his arm away, turned, and moved back into the hall. Zell jogged after him, grinning.

"Hey, no need to get ticked," he said. "Why do you think you saw Leviathan?"

(Because it was the right shape, color, and it disappeared like no normal monster can do,) Squall thought. "Never mind," he said.

Zell shrugged. "Fine. Got it. Squall doesn't want to talk about it. Well, come back when you think I can help," Zell said. With that, he turned on his heel and went back to hammering the punching bag.

(Maybe I do just need more sleep,) Squall thought as he turned to head back to his room. Somehow, though, he knew it wasn't the truth.