SquareSoft: Generations Chapter 12
ANARCHY! Part II
By Dawn Wilkins
"Ladies and Gents...we're still alive by the skin of our teeth...now it's the killing time...Angel in our pocket...Devil by our side...We ain't going nowhere cause heros never die...never die...(Blood of Heros; Megadeath; Youthanasia)
Glittering from a thousand pinpoints of diminishing light, like the hand of death, the scythe descended. It seemed that Magus', and only Magus', hand was the sole entity capable of activity. All the breaths of the unlikely companions and their opponents misted in the cold air of winter. None moved. It was only movement in a stoic world.
Cleaving akin to his blade, Magus's words, "Okay, give me your best shot--if you're prepared for the void!"
At that same instant a vicious wind, of origins unknown, erupted. While all present could see the effects, such as Magus's attire and mane rippling, only the dark wizard himself appeared able to hear it. Instead of completing the swing, Magus staggered and dropped to a knee. His scythe fell from nerveless hands and landed with an imprint in the snow. Cecil stared, shocked and alarmed, and waited the dark prince's next move.
"...What the...void?" After the momentary display he leapt to his feet, dodging the warrior's blow. Immediately, the two engaged. Aurora witnessed two return attacks before becoming embroiled herself.
Her foe was the nearest Nightstalker, and, first forced to duck a high cut to her head, her magic took it out. A massive violet wave blanketed it and three others, extinguishing them. Out of the corner of her emerald eyes, the healer saw Ben also in a magical battle of the wills with Nildemar. Terra and Edgar combated back to back, the esper girl dousing one Black knight with green flame while the monarch arrowed another. She offered up a prayer to whatever god might be listening.
Cecil's right. Good does win over evil...right?
She received no answer.
Even though Aurora had her own welfare to be fretting about she cast a glance at her companions from time to time. She must protect them, those mysterious wanderers from another realm. Prophecy dictated it. Legend dictated it. Hope dictated it. Her view of the paladin and Magus revealed two individuals, eyes blazing, engrossed in a bitter battle. Dispatching a Nightstalker with a fistful of energy, the healer's attention was more on them and her other allies at that moment.
Cecil retaliated from Magus' erupting blazes with several thrusts in succession. Dodging the assault as if it were of a novice's style, the mystic sorcerer made a clean slice at his adversary's abdomen. Again, unrewarded. Both exchanged acidic retorts. The paladin uttered something entirely unknightly. Sheathing his weapon, momentarily, Magus lifted his gloved hands heavenward to magic. Gigantic ice chunks projected out of his hands. This, Cecil evaded. The curse was in answer to the cold waves, akin to a dip in the ocean, slamming him to the hard ground.
If not for her own crisis Aurora would have immediately aided the warrior. He might not have appreciated itBthis duel contained some private score, she reckonedBbut her calling wouldn=t have permitted otherwise. As it was, the dodging of a thrice-pronged dagger redirected her attention. When her enigmatic powers failed, like the receding of sunrise, the healer gripped a fallen knife and plunged it in the gut of a black knight. Another surge, of green, exploded to her right. She needed not turn. It was Terra's amazing magical skill.
Magic...and exactly where is MY powers coming from?
Out of the corner of her eye she witnessed Edgar unsuccessfully sidestepping obsidian goo. His eyes comically expanded. He staggered, gasping with pain. With an alarmed cry, Terra flung bolts to ward her enemies away as she ministered to her friend. Aurora offered cover, tossing threads of ivory that gathered the foe's abandoned weapons in a sizable cluster and rained on them, and impeded their progress. While their ranks might have been thinned, they approached like a plague that found its victim and no amount of diversion prevailed.
"I don't know about you but I'm not up for dinner--particularly if we're the dinner. There's no way to take them all! We must go! NOW!"
So immersed in the duo's dilemma, astoundment sprang up the healer as she spun on her heel to see Ben also enmeshed. It was his voice, ever playful and unafraid. She knew he could be menacing when the azure-eyed wizard wanted to; now was just not the time (When did come a time that warranted seriousness?). His clash against Nildemar sapped the stamina but not the spirit from her driven 'dad'. At this very instant his white mane and moustache rippled down his shoulders, in tune to the magic, like spilled milk.
Gasps came from Cecil. "Escape...? Yes! Yes...of course!" As if that mention of command awoke the inborn leadership trait in him, the knight from Baron instantly barked orders. "Fall into circular formation! Bear all weapons! Let the enemy come to you!"
By this time, Edgar had risen, snow-glazed, and his eyebrows fluttered in inquisitiveness. The esper girl heeded Cecil's instruction at once and convinced the monarch to do so as well. Ben followed suit at a slower rate, still fighting Nildemar. Both had palms facing one another, manipulating the air before them, vying to compel the other to fall. Neither prevailed.
Scanning the army-congested surroundings, the blond king shouted, "And exactly how do we flee, oh white-haired one? If you don't mind me saying so, these fine gentlemen abhor such a breach of hospitality." The time he wasted to say that resulted in a blow to his hip which Edgar rewarded the attack with decapitation. Aurora shook her head at the casualness Edgar displayed facing their predicament--she didn't know whether to praise such zest or cry out in disgust.
Concentrating a number of invisible waves, their only indication of existing being the vacillated air, Ben shoved his non-too-wordy adversary back. Straightening his disarrayed moustache, he muttered, "Hmm...Surrounded. What I wouldn't give for a good puke nuke right about now..." Pausing, he seemed to be waiting for such a gift from heaven. When no boon arrived the wizard sighed and finally spoke, uncharacteristic firmness in his voice (Ah, now was the time!), "Best we head to the fortress. They couldn't get too many of their allies inside then."
The four heeded Ben's directions, at the same time hoping for an opening. Forming a circle ever proceeding to the aforementioned fortress, they left a space for their self-professed leader. Still battling, magically and physically, both Magus and Cecil appeared absorbed in their own affair and damn the world. Righteous indignation flared in the paladin's sapphire irises; cool hatred radiated from the sorcerer's bloody depths. Both parried twice. Both slashed and hacked. Both relied on enchantments to their aid--Cecil to recover from Magus' scorching golden bolts.
To them, there existed nothing but them and their burning rage.
"Cecil!" Terra cried.
"My damsel in distress, your knight needs you!" was Ben's try.
Still no response.
Aurora flashed a sharp azure beam at the knight, hoping to reassert his attention.
Again, no response.
Two pairs of green eyes and one of blue landed on Edgar. His snowball, one imperfect sphere, struck the paladin on the shoulder. Predictably, Cecil leapt downward, flattening himself as if in anticipation of further attacks. Thus, Magus' sideways slash passed over his nemesis, stirring the air, and left Cecil unharmed. The healer squealed in shock.
Not excatly what I would have suggested but, at least it got the job done. Aurora didn't so much mind Edgar's good-hearted attempt as the stupid ways in which he did them. She might think the monarch crazy but never would that confession come in words. That was the curse of a healer...
When the snowball-assaulted warrior climbed to his feet, his eyebrows lifted. Magus performed a return swing and, this time, struck true. It was partially deflected by the paladin's arm bracers but he still drew a thin line of crimson at the crook of the elbow. Fortunately, the limb was not severed. Unfortunately, it was bleeding severely.
The quartet, each fighting their own foes in the incomplete circle, raced to the knight's rescue. Neither monarch nor mages found the way easy; each step a struggle. Aurora, horrified, saw Cecil stumble, his blade falling to the snow. He clutched his wounded arm, now a river of blood gushing forth, coloring the snow red. With a snarl, Magus scented weakness, akin a wolf, and prepared to drive his scythe into Cecil's skull.
Like cries from the silent choir, the black winds engulfed its victimBthat being Magus. Before he could connect with the blow, the dark wizard was overcome and cast his weapon aside. With clenched fists, the portrait of despair and frustration, he pounded his own temples.
"Leave me be! I will not listen to you or to anyone! I am my own master! My own creator of my fate! I am my own MASTER!" His scream could have been a thousand glass mirrors shattering all at once, his blood-violet eyes mere feral slits.
Still, the sounds of battle raged near but Aurora could but fight absentmindedly. Breath failed, not out of physical exhaustion but unbidden emotion. As the words rent the air she could witness him staggering, an indication of pain. What's the matter with him? Her healer's heart ached, fresh with memories, even as the loathing brimmed.
So...the healer noted, unable to contain a note of sadness, He still cannot evade the darkness. He's in pan. I used to help him when he suffered. But what ever came of it? What kind of monster did I unleash onto this universe...If only...
But their was no time for 'if only's'. There was only time for 'now's'. Thus, a black slime caught her unaware. Sweeping its ample form around, wild black sludge flung at Aurora. It splattered onto her side, burning like flame come alive, oozing to the ground, merging with blood of both allies and adversaries. This prompted a cry of agony even as the warrior-healer instincts bide her be still. Thankfully, her father, yet engaged with Nildemar, offered her cover while she recovered.
Ben smiled faintly. She smiled in return. It was good to be with him again.
"They're proving troublesome, aren't they?"
Aurora couldn't help but agree--these prophesied heros were quite a handful.
Displaying an expression that would rival a child's, Edgar rained arrows into the enemy ranks. Several screamed hideously, impaled like pincushions. Terra herself obliterated an impressive number. Her Ultima attacks bore fine and bloody fruit, exhibition of that a plentiful eyeful. Both advanced toward the ice garrison, tossing conversation back and forth, injured but determined.
It was Cecil that incited worry. The paladin, bewildered but pleased by Magus' peculiar behavior, elected not to turn the tide of war but instead extended a hand to his fallen opponent. Snarling, the dark wizard accepted no such offer. His hand proceeded to retrieve his weapon. And when the knight realized his danger, reading it from murderous orbs, he whirled around, his off-white cape billowing.
With warriors and wizards as brave as these how can we not win? Aurora knew, without having to know, that Ben adamantly agreed. Unfortunately, while courage and perseverance are excellent qualities indeed, they were not prevailing in midst of their foes greater numbers. "We need an opening!" the healer cried.
A smile crossed Cecil's lips. Snatching up his blade in a hand, and aiming it at the fortress, the paladin. ordered for the four to stand out of harms way. They obeyed. Shutting his eyes, he whispered a scant few sentences, "One to be born from a dragon...hoisting the light and the dark...arise up high in the sky...with a bounty and mercy..." The voice seemed surreal, reminding Aurora vividly of her earlier assessment of Cecil--the white knight wielding a blade.
As if true to her thoughts, a brilliant ivory light parted the clouds. It rayed on Cecil, shimmered over his form, so bright none could see him at the center. Then it expanded outward, shaped in a dragon born of pure energy, and crashed into the Nightstalkers, Black knights, and Black slimes. It slew a deadly path that none within a decent radius survived. "Break formation! Run for the opening!" Again, they complied.
The five retreated through the corridor of death Cecil had created. Terra and Edgar led the way. Aurora followed next, tossing out slivers to prevent pursuit. Ben was not far behind. He and Nildemar separated from their mystic war, both wounded, both victors and losers. Lastly, the paladin came. His foe, a very, very angry Magus, was not so quick to allow his prey to escape.
"Look out!" Terra screeched.
A field of obsidian energy swallowed up Cecil. Twitching his index finger, agile, Magus collapsed the shield, searing his nemesis' flesh. One horrible scream accompanied the paladin's own cry of pain. Aurora saw Edgar restraining the esper girl, apparently concerned for her safety. She cursed him in a way that seemed so unnatural for her. Even the blond monarch was surprised.
Must save the wandererst...they are the key...
She, however, evaded her father's grasp and darted forward. Meanwhile, the dark wizard's sweeping slash missed Cecil. Both the woman of restoration and the weapon of destruction collided. Blood shattered like ribbons. The impact threw Aurora to the ground. Blood, warm and sticky, jetted from her injury, a shoulder. Cecil cried her name, as did Terra, Edgar and her father. But in the mere time it took to breathe the healer felt consciousness slip through her fingers. In an instant, there was nothing.
...As Aurora approached, bow aimed at no noise and every noise, her vision revealed a wounded man on the grassy canopy. Like wine the color of blood, his life liquid spilled from a number of deep gashes and laced into his chilling crimson cape. It was he, the one that had saved her life. And now she had to save his...
...As Aurora approached, the healer finally caught sight of him. At first there was but an immense waterfall, cascading and flickering in the afternoon sunlight. The next; he emerged from the depths. Surfacing, his vibrant azure hair seemed but waves themselves offering him an animalisticcaptivatinglook...
...As Aurora approached, her insides warped like a dishrag. It was a dreadful sight, no doubt, the kind that gave you nightmares which distinguish themselves from their predecessors. There he was, roped to a burning stake. Once she might have loved him but who could love those blazing fire-and-lilac eyes?
Aurora did not know how long she'd been out. Not long, she estimated, seeing as the situation was still as it was. Allies and adversaries yet surrounded the environment, the song of battle continuing. She struggled to sit but a gloved hand shoved her back on the hard-packed ground. Her jaw dropped as her emerald eyes at last took in the man standing before her.
His face shadowed, the wizard whispered, "No more games...Veronica...Aurora...whomever the void you are. I will accept no further betrayal."
Oh, Blessed Genesis...so this is how it is to end...murdered by an old flame!
His voice sounded soft and deadly. "Come with me and I will spare the others..."
Before the healer could indicate either an affirmative or negative, a spear of light rammed into Magus. His eyes flared in rage and pain. Her father's magic she identified, deciding to make good use of the distraction. Her wild flamed hair clogged Aurora's vision as she raced to her savior's side.
Once the five gathered, they immediately entered the wall cavity Aurora had produced. Refitting the mantle of leader merely out of habit, Cecil ordered the band to pool their magic and erect a forcefield. Soon, a cascade of light, like a waterfall that reflected the sun's rays, prevented the progress of Nildemar, Magus, and their wicked army. Both dark wizard and inarticulate sorcerer vied to dissolve it. Each attempt met with no success. The band was safe...for now.
Inside, they all were forced to dodge shattered columns, wall fragments, and whatnot. Grey light streamed over the objects casting a dull shade. As before various indicators of discord presented themselves. Everyone had to proceed with the utmost care lest it result in injury. A helmet in half lay here; a rusted breastplate was over there. Ben took particular interest in the weapons. Though he poured through the various series of hilts, a grunt of displeasure accompanied each examination.
Others of the group, Edgar and Terra hushed things the healer did not catch. Nor did she try to. Apparently, the two were friends and maybe even more than that. A rare smile claimed her lips--hopefully they would find time to nurture that relationship. Aurora was painfully aware of how far love can fall from grace when it is left unattended.
What might have become of US if I had heeded the signs?
Ah, but life is full of 'what if's'!
Tearing his eyes from their opponents, Cecil declared, "First, we attain the hilt. Second, we must escape with it and combine it with the blade. Ben, what corridor do we take?" His tone evidenced the paladin's obvious anticipation. However, it was not Ben who answered him.
"Problem!" It was no other than Edgar, adjusting his autocrossbow.
His arms wide, as if to lift up the world, the king explained, "I don't have the blade anymore."
"You don't!" cried Ben. His eyes sought his 'daughter's'. Aurora could do nothing but shrug helplessly.
Again, Cecil spoke, "Then we must retrieve it later. Let's get the hilt, get out of here, and return for it." No one else seemed to have a better idea and one glance at their shield convinced each that ice water must be running in their veins. Magus, his cape rippling like blood he intended to shed of his former allies, formed an ebony mist to decimate their protection. Terra hissed that she'd always sensed something dark of the mystic, directing it to Cecil. Ignoring the remark was easy, but, Aurora noted, ignoring the truth was not so easy.
Magus was lost to them. Lost to the darkness. Darkness of his soul.
Unfortunately, as the five attempted to determine an appropriate route all found their ideas exhausted. Aurora had only been here recently and never near the chamber containing the hilt. Ben explained that though he'd seen the room, centuries had passed since and the layout was so unfamiliar that it might have as well been alien. Terra's magic didn't avail them. Cecil was dumbfounded. It was Edgar's suggestion that became their decision in the end.
"Look at the hallways, pick one, and pray to the high heavens that we don't end up in Vector."
"Vector? Whats a 'vector'?" Cecil asked with raised eyebrows.
Eventually, Ben selected one, being the only among them to actually see the chamber, and speedily led down the passage. It was cold, damp, and unpleasant but none argued as they entered single file. Aurora followed after him. Next Terra and Edgar marched in that order. Cecil came lastly, insisting he keep an eye on their pursuers. Not that there was any, but this made the knight that much more cautious.
Passed a corridor.
Passed a second corridor.
Down a stairwell.
Through an antechamber.
Amazingly, the situation didn't change as they arrived. Ben indicated toward a plain wooden door. The four others investigated all the surrounding areas and finally inferred that they were, indeed, safe. Even Cecil lowered his warrior's guard, sheathed his sword, and gestured with a palm for the elder man to enter.
Staggering. That was the word for this majestic chamber. Warrior, wizard, king, half-esper, and healer all had to remind themselves to breathe. The beauty seemed like a living creature that crawled into their consciousness and took root. A rainbow dome held up a tapestry that must have been ancient. Two energy entities swirled in the tapestries, and it appeared to be so alive that, for a moment, they all believed it was. Windows were all triangles made of platinum and gold. Gold and platinum also made up the moldings that carved in reverse corners. Marble pillars that were leafed by glimmering copper supported the stunning ceiling. All in a word--staggering.
But even that paled in comparison to the item in the center of the chamber.
Crimson velvet carpet lead up to a thrice-tiered dais. And upon that dais rested a glinting hilt, crafted with gems of every kind and formed into a dragon, in a marble block.
There it was! The weapon they'd been searching for straight out of legend.
Thank Genesis, hope is yet alive!
Once the five collected enough oxygen to function, they admitted themselves in. Immediately inside, Terra cried out, in pain, and stumbled. Edgar was ahead of her and did not notice until it was too late. Too late, that is, for Cecil, who was coming in last, had already caught the esper girl in his strong arms. Smiling reassuringly at all, especially the blond king, the paladin held her for what seemed longer than necessary.
Even when Cecil released Terra, the two remained near each other. His offer of an arm to guide her was too eagerly accepted. Her thank-you came out too sheepishly. His answer was too sincere. It all appeared too much. Aurora frowned as she noticed Edgar expression. It was uncharacteristically grim.
"I guess I won't be hitting paydirt anytime soon..." This was articulated so softly that only she'd heard it. But she certainly didn't miss the hint of sadness beneath the masquerade of self-mockery.
Ben strode forward before the tension became any more unendurable. "Pull the sword out, Cecil. We've got no time to waste." His tone also sounded different. Exactly how she could not conclude. Flushing like a schoolboy, his eyes concerned, Cecil obeyed. The march up the carpet instantly refilled his face with awe. For a paladin of the light, acquiring such a weapon of righteousness was the highest of honors.
Meanwhile, after staring at Edgar in a peculiar way, Terra stepped over to him. He was less than affectionate. Disregarding that misfortune momentarily, the healer turned to her father. "I gave the blade to one of the warriors. His name's Locke. I wanted to bring him to Avida but the mobs at Bancock made that impossible." Grateful was Aurora when he laid a hand on her shoulder and provided the comfort only he could.
He forgives me...but can I forgive myself?
All in their own misery, Edgar's face dark, Terra's indignant, Ben's grim, and her own being pensive, they watched Cecil climb the dais and reach the highest pulpit. Blue eyes shimmered with reverence as two white-gloved hands closed in on the hilt. Light spilled down from a skylight above, making him appear as a god come for his cherished weapon and ardent to banish the darkness.
Unfortunately, the story didn't go that way.
One sable bolt cut through the air and arched for Cecil. The paladin didn't have time to scream let alone run. Slamming into his chest with all the force of a metal rod swung by a giant, he was flung into the air and came down just as hard. Wherever his own sword, Excalibur, disappeared to could not be told after his grip was wrenched from the hilt. He rolled over the three daises and landed on the flooring face down. His ivory cape exhaled once and then rested over the paladin like a death shroud.
...Don't tell me he's dead!
It was then that Aurora realized they were discovered. All heads turned to the door as their opponents flooded the chamber. In that instant, the healer recognized the danger. I must get the shield back up before we are all overrun. Reacting instinctively, urged on by her mysterious powers, the flame-haired healer lifted two hands and murmured, "Atnaladmian...dleihs!" A savage gold erupted from her palms and encased the door. Several Nightstalkers were unable to stay out of harms way and died in horrible metallic melting.
But the battle was far from over. Magus, Nildemar, five Nightstalkers, two Black knights, and a single black slime all evaded it and entered. Edgar rolled his eyes, offended, as the latter trudged in his direction and he pelted it six arrows to no effect. Both her father and Nildemar immediately engaged in another vie for magical supremacy with their one-on-one combat. Any number of elemental attacks came from the esper girl, inflicting considerable damage to the two Black knights. Aurora, herself, had little time to recover from the spell as a pair of Nightstalkers approached.
That left Magus unattended. The dark wizard dismissed the arrows that Edgar showered him with. Instead, he floated over to the pulpit and the comatose warrior. Two blood-violet eyes appraised Cecil, shades of disgust, regret, and other, unidentifiable, emotions took their turns over his face. "...I..." But whatever the dark prince might have said was lost forever as Terra hailed him with a burning globe.
Aurora gasped as the mystic sorcerer screamed in hate. Feeling more than seeing the coolness of glacial clumps, the healer could do nothing as the esper girl screeched once the magic impacted. She, too, was rendered unconscious. Things were progressing badly. VERY BADLY.
Though neither daughter nor father could aid the fallen wizardess (Ben's clash with Nildemar exhibited no signs of abating while foes still menaced the healer) Edgar could and did. Dodging limbs this way and that, he darted to her side. Mindless of the battle that yet raged, he elevated her in a grieved hold. "Terra..."
"You bastard!" bellowed the king in a voice that Aurora did not recognize. "She's dying!"
Magus shrugged. To him, war was war.
"Magus, stop!" Aurora cried, hoping to redirect his attention. Surprisingly enough, her attempt met with success. Tossing his blood-emulating cape over a shoulder, the dark wizard observed her, mouth set in a straight line. Those lips started to part slowly, as if in words, but it snapped shut when magic knocked him to the marble, a hand's berth away from Cecil. The latter groaned and stirred, flexing his fist as if to force the unconsciousness to recede. But he didn't have any luck.
Both Nildemar and Ben struggled to detangle themselves when this occurred but the process was slow. Aurora managed to blast the Nightstalkers into oblivion. Blood splattered but she ignored that. Running forward, she encountered the yet-to-be-dealt-with Black slime. He sent burning goo her way but the healer anticipated the move and ducked. During the clash, Magus placed two hands beneath him and rose. His expression could have cut stone. Oddly enough, it was Terra, not Edgar, who'd dealt the blow. And the dark wizard decided to return the favor in kind.
His arms dancing in patterns that the eye could barely see, Magus summoned the dark arts to his command and an obsidian saber formed in his right hand. Crimson electricity skimmed its blade. With a single underhanded toss and it sailed at the esper girl.
Edgar leapt in the line of fire.
At last, Aurora finished off her last foe and came to both the esper's and king's aid. Magus just stared coldly. The healer laid one hand on the fallen Edgar and the other on Terra. While the green-haired woman had injuries that were serious it was the blond-haired monarch that prompted her gasp. The 'blade' had opened a large gasp in his stomach from which blood, oddly colored, steadily poured forth. He would be dead within minutes.
Footfalls, like the toll of her heart, filled the healer's ears but she heeded that not. She could not permit another of the wanderers to die, if, indeed, Cecil had been slain. But she had neither the time to ponder that nor restore Edgar because a gloved hand snapped her head up by her red hair. Magus!
"Now you're going to obey me!" His breath, harsh, slid down her neck.
No! Please, Genesis give us hope!
As if in answer to her prayer, a white-capped abomination launched itself in the air and crashed into Magus. All threeMagus, Aurora, and her saviorstruggled to liberate from the mess. At that moment her father and the wordless one broke from their trance and tried to add themselves to the fray. Aurora dodged appendages and, intent on helping the dying Edgar, found only Nildemar's brutal, soulless gaze. "Come..." he commanded.
A brilliant flame bolt from Ben made the plainly robed individual retreat for the moment. Immediately, they also reengaged in battle. Exhaustion started to claim her limbs and Aurora could but crawl to Terra and Edgar. Her vision revealed the paladin and sorcerer were locked in a struggle, cursing and kicking, rolling over and over. Their eyes were as locked as their bodies in the grips of madness. When it appeared that Magus might win (and with a scorched hole in Cecil's chest, Aurora could understand why) she nocked an arrow in Edgar's bow and let it fly.
Magus howled. Not waiting to discover the effects, the healer laid her hands on each of the wounded again. She delved into her storage of magic. And came up empty. She tried again. Still empty. There was just not enough energy left to sustain another spell and the healer collapsed. Her sight dimmed to gray.
No, don't let this be the end...
Pain birthed in the deep recess of her body and mind. It grew, like a virus, and extended the length of her body. She gasped. That was more for the fact that the agony was a symptom of her current condition. Legs became claws. Arms became wings. Chest became feathery.
Blood, sweat, and tears stung her eyes, as the healer climbed to her feet...no, talons. Ben and Nildemar flung masses of magic at each other. It was so powerful the chamber had begun to tremble. Magus and Cecil fought physically, the former reeling from her arrow. The paladin leapt up the pulpit and withdrew the hilt His lips moved but no sound was produced. Obviously, it had some unexpected affect.
As this was happening Aurora tried calling up magic but again it was in vain. When she realized her appearance, the healer could have cried. A long array of multi-colored feathers bedecked her form. Claws. Wings. Feathers...A phoenix! And an enormous one at that. What was going on!?!
Oh, the irony of it all!
Finally, Ben reemerged. His legs brought him at impossible speed. He blinked twice as her father took in Aurora's new form. "What!?" Without waiting for a reply he mounted both Terra and Edgar on her back. "We have to get out of here! I'll get Cecil, then you must fly us to safety." Again, without giving her a chance to say anything (Could she even speak?) Aurora's father cried to the paladin:
"Take the hilt and get over here, Cecil!"
Grunting an affirmative, the wounded warrior rammed the hilt into Magus stomach. While his adversary was doubled over, Cecil dodged a fireball of Nildemar's and reached their side in short order. When he did, Cecil froze as if striking a wall. He apparently was more than surprised, so much so that one could have knocked him down with a feather.
"GET ON!" howled Ben. After only a moment's hesitation, Cecil acknowledged the command. He gripped the healer's mane and swung himself on, mindful of both Terra and Edgar. Ben then lifted up and bid she fly. At first, Aurora feared she had no voice to speak of (or was that speak with'?) but finally she whispered, "Where?"
When Ben blasted a hole in the ceiling, through the skylight, she immediately heeded. Sunrays poured in the crevice and Aurora tested the winds. Both Nildemar and Magus approached. Just as they were a stone's throw away, she had liftoff. Pumping her wings the healer soared up and up and up. Only two voices did she hear.
Magus: " You haven't seen the last of me, Cecil!"
Cecil: "Likewise, I'm sure!"
Flying through the clouds Aurora felt something stirring. Ben and the paladin both murmured. What, she did not know. She could only pray that Genesis had not betrayed her trust in protecting these wanderers. Light dappled and warmed wings even as it chilled her heart.
Cecil whispered words of healing. Whether they were having the desired effect, Aurora could only hope. Edgar's words, so faint that could have been nonexistent, filled her with dread. "I guess I won't be going on that date with you after all, Terra." The esper girl moved, not yet awake. Though she could not see, the healer got the impression that Edgar kissed the woman's forehead. Again, the paladin and Ben were muttering, anxious to keep the king alive.
But they failed.