A Mist Over Winhill Chapter 4
A Forest Dream
By Kate Lorraine
"He's not going to make it through the night," the doctor told Rinoa as she stepped into her father's mansion. The lights were dim, shades drawn and the musky smell of death pervaded the house. Rinoa knew death like she knew the taste of bread each morning, but never before had she felt death like this. She patted the doctor's wrinkly hand and nodded quietly.
"You should you sit beside him," the doctor whispered to her gently.
"I will," Rinoa promised as she led him away.
She walked slowly up the staircase to father's room knowing that the next time she walked up this way she would be an orphan. Tears began to cloud her eyes but she held them back. Squall Leonhart... his name haunted her like a shade, tearing her attention away from her hard reality into the ethereal ballroom once more. She walked up to her father's doorway and watched him laying there on his bed. He looked the same as he always looked, perhaps there had been a mistake. Perhaps he would get better by morning. But somehow, as Rinoa walked in and took a seat by him, she knew that morning would never come for him.
"Daddy?" She asked.
"Rinoa," he whispered in a hoarse voice as he rolled his head to her. "I told you, I would be here when you returned right?" he smiled faintly, his pale sweat drenched face forming an expression that contained more sorrow than joy.
"Daddy, I need you -" Rinoa began, unable to keep her tears back. She felt his coarse hand on her face.
"No, hush, don't cry. I'm still here. Smile Rinoa, please?"
Rinoa forced a smile on her face, for him. Smiling and crying at the same time, it was hard.
"What did you do while you were away? Tell me, I haven't been outside for so long." he gently implored her.
"I went to a dance," Rinoa whispered, squeezing his hand in hers as she whispered her tear drenched words. "I met a boy. . . he was wonderful. Maybe daddy, when you get better, I'll bring him here to visit you."
He nodded, smiling in silent interest.
Rinoa looked away, her eyes glittering as she thought back to the dance. "I tried to teach him how to dance," she chuckled sarcastically suddenly, "I wasn't very good at it. I'm afraid I might have scared him away. Maybe, you can teach him a few steps and . . . maybe he'll be a little less afraid .. of me."
The general weakly squeezed her hand forcing her to look back at him. "Rinoa, there is something I need to tell you."
"Is this the story you promised me?" Rinoa asked gently.
"Yes," the general whispered with uncertainty in his voice, "this is my story, the most important story I have to tell."
"Alright," Rinoa choked out, knowing that this was also his last story. "I'm listening, daddy."
"It happened fifteen years ago, Rinoa. Me and your mother, we went one morning to a tiny town called Winhill. It's the southernmost village on this continent," he told.
She nodded in understanding.
"We met this woman," he continued, "her last name was Loire, and her husband was a Galbadian soldier who died in a skirmish with some Estharians. It's tragic but that's not what's important. She had a son, about your age. Do you remember anything about this Rinoa?" he asked.
Rinoa shook her head. "No, I remember nothing."
The general closed his eyes quietly reminiscing. "That lady Loire wasn't happy to see us but that was understandable since we were intruding on her. But you see, your mother gave you to me and I took you for a walk, and after we walked away from her things turned ugly."
The general hesitated for a moment before he continued. "We . . . we were attacked, by a sorceress. She was dying. I tried to protect you but she was so strong, too strong, even for me, I'm sorry."
Rinoa reached over and placed her hand on his chest. "Don't be, I understand."
"She passed her powers onto you. . . ."
After a moment of silence Rinoa spoke up again. "What happened then?"
" Then a young man showed up, it was that little boy Loire from the future .. .and beside him . . .was you."
Her father looked over at her and placed his hand on her cheek he smiled gently.
"You looked exactly the way you do now, so beautiful and bright. I couldn't believe my eyes. Then you . . . fought the evil sorceress beside that boy. Something happened, things took a ghastly turn. I didn't know what to do. I-"
Her father was consumed suddenly by a fit of coughs. Rinoa reached over to pat his back until they went away.
"Rinoa," he said then with a sudden sense of urgency as he caught her arm. "You need to go find him, the boy Loire in our time. Your mother made me promise to tell you about him and the events of that day and I must keep that vow. He is the only one who can help you now. You two are bound together by destiny. You must promise me that you will find him. This is my last wish."
"Promise, Rinoa." he ordered her.
Rinoa closed her eyes. The voices in her mind echoed Squall Leonhart. Perhaps some things were never meant to be.
"I promise." She whispered.
"You must never tell anyone what I tell you now, understand? No one except Loire."
Rinoa nodded and kissed him on his forehead.
The general laid back and relaxed. "Maybe Rinoa, it won't end the same horrible way this time. Maybe . . this time you'll defeat her."
Closing his eyes, the general sighed as though he had finally given in to the pattern of fate that was meant to be. He could only hope that as the wheel of time turned, this time the past had been changed enough so that his daughter's life would not be cruelly cut short. Maybe this time, Loire would come through for her.
He passed away a few moments later.
* * * *
"You're taking your dog with us?" Seifer asked incredulously. He frowned at the large animal that had just followed Rinoa into the train. There was no reply as Rinoa walked past Seifer and took a seat in back of the train. Angelo sat close to her feet, panting. She kept her eyes away from his as though she was sleep walking.
"What's wrong?" Seifer asked, as the train jolted into motion.
Rinoa kept her face a mask of ice. "How has the president been? Has he voiced any objections to our plan?"
"No, the only objection the president has presented is his need to get to the television station as fast as possible."
"It is a bit sadistic." Seifer added with uncertainty.
Rinoa glared at him. "The terrorists in Timber have gone too far. They deserve this and more."
"But this, this is unlike anything I would ever expect from you."
Rinoa leaned back, allowing Angelo to place his gentle head on her lap. "Follow your orders, Seifer and leave the moral judgements to me."
She closed her eyes so that Seifer would leave her alone. In the back of her mind she wandered back to Timber, more than a year ago, when she met him, back when unicorns still existed, when rainbows weren't painted in black, when her hands weren't stained with filth.
* * *
It was a morning in midsummer when Rinoa was with her father in Timber. She had walked down the street from the Timber hotel to pick up some breakfast for him before he woke when she saw a young man laughing with his comrades on a street corner. They were all about her age, two males one female, joking, laughing, playing. At that moment she would have given anything to be part of that group, to be normal. They took no notice of her as she paused on the opposite side of the street and watched them curiously.
"The only reason you beat me, Almasy, was because the sun was in my eyes." the young lady said.
"Yeah all twenty four times." the red head male said.
"Hey shut up Roger, I don't even want to count how many times I kicked your sorry butt." The female retorted. "Can we duel again Seifer? I'll make it this time."
Seifer shrugged. "I'll take it easy on you this time, Maggie."
Maggie chuckled. "You'll be a SeeD soon for sure. You're the most gifted fighter in Garden."
Rinoa stood there listening quietly. A duel, how exciting. Was this how normal teenagers spent their lives? This was absolute fantasy. A smile formed on her lips as she watched Maggie playfully slap Seifer for making an obscene remark. Roger mockingly joined in to attack Seifer who pretended to be in pain.
Laughing, the gang walked away. Rinoa followed them with her eyes until they were gone. Then she continued on her way, a small smile on her lips and bottomless gorge in her heart. She could never be normal, she could only pretend, always and forever with the bane of sorcery on her back.
* * * * *
Later that night as she walked down the same street things turned ugly.
"Your money or your life," a man hissed in her ear from the shadows.
Rinoa felt the prick of the man's blade at her throat although she could not see his face. The stench of urine and sweat surrounded her, alerting her to the man's presence. For a moment she considered attacking the derelict to teach him a lesson about mugging young women but it was too dangerous. Someone might see that she was a sorceress. So, reaching into her pocket Rinoa pulled out a small pouch of gil. As she handed it to the man he shoved her forward and ran away. He only made it to the corner before he was stopped by a figure in white.
Into the streetlight the tramp stumbled as Seifer stepped forward, his gunblade outstretched.
"Give the lady back her gil," Seifer ordered.
Rinoa appeared beside them.
Trembling, the man reached over to hand Rinoa back her gil, yet, a second before it reached her fingers, the man smiled and drew back. His buddies attacked Seifer from behind with crude weapons made of sticks and junk metal. A white cloud appeared in Rinoa's palm as she cast holy upon the attackers. They were thrown away from Seifer. The derelicts rolled about the filthy ground groaning in pain. Rinoa's eyes flared yellow as she cast Thundaga on the man who had tried to steal from her. He cried out in pain as the thunder struck him in a mighty bolt. Regaining his composure, Seifer slashed his gunblade wildly at the fallen nincompoops. The fools realized too late that they were no match for the powerful pair and took to the darkness of the alleys, running for their lives. Funny though, back then, Rinoa would not have taken their lives. She was not the monster she had become, yet.
Seifer gave her a wild smile as he tossed his hair back.
"I see you didn't need my assistance after all Madame Sorceress."
Rinoa turned red. "Ssh, it's a secret between you and me. Thanks for your help, Seifer."
He raised an eyebrow. "You know my name? Should I be afraid?"
Rinoa quickly shook her head. "No, I mean you no harm. I saw you today with your friends. Will you forgive me for eavesdropping?"
Seifer shrugged. "Forgiven."
Rinoa sighed with a measure of relief. "You won't tell anyone about my powers will you?
Seifer smirked then. "You'll have to give me something in return for that?"
Rinoa frowned. "You want a bribe?" she asked.
"No, a kiss will do."
As Rinoa broke out of her reverie, she realized that those days truly were, a long time ago.
"Balamb Transit will be arriving in Timber momentarily," the voice announced over the loudspeaker.
"Squall, you don't still have a bad feeling about us kidnaping Deling do you?" Xu asked. "Zell, Selphie? How about you two?"
Selphie fidgeted in her seat. "I think it's a bad idea. They took Cid, so now we're taking Deling? It's not going to solve much."
"Well, we'll have a bargaining chip," Zell remarked.
"Squall?" Xu asked again.
"I'm under your command Xu." Squall said, simply reminding her that he was not about to take the burden onto himself and make a decision.
Xu shook her head and pulled out her katana. "The president is being taken into Timber by the train The Tempest. We are going to highjack it."
* * * *
The Tempest came into view as Rinoa and Seifer appeared along side it in their vehicle. Rinoa pulled out her cell phone.
"Zone? It's me, the princess. Tell me, are all the preparations set?"
"The preparations are done but there is just one thing. . ."
"What?" Rinoa asked as she watched Seifer fiddle with the control panel.
"There are more than just pheasant terrorists. There are SeeDs here too."
Rinoa smiled suddenly. "No, that is excellent."
Seifer looked up. "What's excellent?"
"Your friends have come to visit, Seifer."
"There are three active resistance groups that will board the train," Zone continued. "Group A and C are working together. Group B is independent. A and C will enter from the front and the back, C is undecided. The SeeDs are unpredictable as always."
"Alright." Rinoa said. She hung up the phone and leaned towards the control panel.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes into their plan to highjack The Tempest, the Woodland Hawks realized that they had stepped into a trap. Aaron had sensed something was wrong when he realized that there were no Galbadian soldiers on the train, in fact it was on autopilot. He motioned for his group members to retreat when the floorboards suddenly opened up sending two of the members of his team into a gory death in the train tracks. He reached over to his side and grabbed his girlfriend Laura and the remaining members of his group followed his lead in escaping.
It was too late.
A wall of fire picked off another member, burning him to ash as he screamed for them not to abandon him. The last two were taken out as Aaron neared the back of the train. So close. They were decapitated by a swinging pendulum.
Aaron, in shock from what he saw, grabbed Laura, the only remainder of his team and stepped out into the daylight. They stood there at the back of the train looking for a good moment to jump when the floor under them slanted. Laura slide into the tracks.
"No!" Aaron yelled as he tried unsuccessfully to pull her back. Her dress caught on the rail and soon she was nothing but a corpse attached to the train, dragged beyond recognition. Aaron stood up and swore revenge on the Galbadians knowing that he would pursue them for the rest of his breathing days. However, without a sound to warn him, a gun fired out of no where and shot him in the head.
His face exploded from the impact.
* * * *
"This is too easy, do you think it might be a trap?" Zell asked with uncertainty as the group jumped onto the roof of the Tempest.
"I got this information from a very reliable source." Xu said. "Don't worry."
"Sssh." Selphie whispered. "Hey, did you guys just hear that? Itsounded like someone screaming for help."
"Stop it Selphie! It's just your imagination." Xu told her.
"I hear it too," Zell suddenly pitched in.
Squall glanced around him. Something was wrong. He watched Xu shake her head in disdain as she jumped from the roof into the divide between the two carts. Selphie followed her, then Zell and finally Squall went in as well.
The train was carpeted in red with red leather on the seats and red wallpaper. It looked somewhat shabby for a presidential train.
"Yo, this place sure is empty," Zell said as two darts flew out of nowhere and made way for his head. Squall saw them coming a mile away and shoved Zell aside. The darts impaling themselves into the wall behind him.
"It is a trap!" Selphie exclaimed. Xu reached over to the door they had just entered. It was stuck.
Squall tugged at the handle. It wouldn't budge.
"Duck!" Zell suddenly yelled. The group bent down as a giant pendulum swung over their heads.
"Those Galbadian bastards!" Xu cursed.
"The windows!" Selphie suggested as she ran over and banged on them. The glass wouldn't break. A wall of fire appeared and cut her off from the rest of the group. Selphie stared in shock, unable to move as the fire closed in.
"Selphie!" Xu yelled helplessly. Squall got up from his position and dashed over. He flinched slightly but went straight into the fire, reaching for Selphie.
"No Squall!" Xu suddenly exclaimed. However, as soon as Squall reached into the flames, it disappeared. Selphie was left alone, cringing in fright.
"What's going on?" Zell asked in puzzlement.
"The door is open again," Xu said.
* * * *
Rinoa watched Squall pull the young girl to safety. Her finger lingered over the button for the fiery trap. One simple move of her limb and she could put an end to his life. Squall Leonhart would die. And the dead can never betray, reject, or hurt.
But, if she didn't.
She just watched him complete his act of heroism as he pulled the young girl to the door. The little thing in the sunshine colored dress was crying softly and he helped her out of the room. He had put her games to a definite halt with his act of heroism. It just didn't seem right suddenly. Rinoa closed her eyes and lost herself in her thoughts. She didn't see the look of surprise on their faces as the train came to a stop, nor did she see the relief that settled on the group as they walked onto steady ground.
A sorceress or a mortal? Which one was she?
If she was truly a complete sorceress, why did she feel such sympathy for their plight? It was such weakness on her part to feel so much for the sacrifice of a single boy. But truthfully, he had beguiled her scarce curiosity. She did not want him to die. Rinoa followed his figure with her eyes until they were all out of the sight of her many cameras. Only then did she turn her attention back to Seifer who was still shaking his head in disgust for some of the things she did. The gruesome death of the girlfriend of the Woodland Hawks leader was still troubling him. The vehicle came to a stop near the outskirts of Timber.
"I'm going for a walk, I'll meet you at the television station," Rinoa told him absently, not waiting for a reply. Rinoa motioned for Angelo to come with her as she walked into Timber.
* * * *
"I'm going to go ask for directions." Xu said the group stood in the Timber plaza. She walked over to one of the many cottage like house that lined the street and began to knock on the door. However something caught Squall's eye and he looked away. It was the girl from the dance, she was standing in the darkness of a back alleyway, watching.
"Squall," Selphie called. "Aren't you coming with us?" she asked, pointing at the opened door.
Squall shook his head. "I'll wait here."
She shrugged and disappeared into the house.
Squall turned to the young lady that fearfully walked up to him. It was an eerie feeling but she still looked so familiar, like the way she had seemed that night at the dance. On both occasions he could have sworn that he saw her before. Now as she came closer step by step, her blue dress fluttering gently in the wind, the deja vu was overwhelming.
"Do you remember me?" She asked tentatively as she motioned for her large dog to sit at her side.
"You left suddenly."
She smiled. "What's your name?"
"Squall, meet my dog, Angelo." Rinoa said. Angelo raised a paw, getting ready to shake hands but Squall ignored him.
"Do you live here?" he asked her.
"No, I live in Deling. Perhaps if you drop by sometime . . ." Rinoa offered, not quite able to believe in her own intrusiveness. A feeling of sorrow overcame her as she spoke of Deling and for an unknown reason, she wanted to share it with him.
"My father died last night, Squall. I'm an orphan now .. just like all of you."
He said nothing. He had never been the one to bother listening to the burdens of others, but her words struck a cord within him. He had a dream when he mysteriously dozed off in the train on the way to Timber. He dreamt that he watched his father die on a cobber stone walkway while his mother watched forlornly at her window. A single bullet ruptured his chest and Laguna Loire perished one sunny morning in Winhill. It was more than a dream, it seemed as though those events actually happened a long time ago and someone was sending these messages to him. He had never been the one to fall asleep spontaneously.
"I . . . I guess I just wanted to tell someone that." The dark haired girl continued quietly. "It's strange to be all alone in the world."
"We're all alone." He answered.
She nodded. "I know that, but there was always the hope for something better."
"I never knew my father," he told her but as soon as the words escaped him lips he wished he could shove them back in. Here he was revealing the most personal facts of his life to a girl whose name he didn't even know.
"Your father would have been proud of you today for what you did on The Tempest, when you rescued that girl" she told him watching his eyes narrow in silent shock. Before he could speak she answered the question she knew he was about to ask. "I'm part of a resistance group. My group isn't active so you might not heard of us, we call ourselves the Forest Owls." It made her want to laugh - Forest Owls, Woodland Hawks. Funny, she had just made herself a member of the group she had just annihilated.
"Everyone here seems to be part of a resistance group." He spoke in understanding.
"I must be going now, Squall." Rinoa said sadly as she noticed the house behind him stir.
He caught her by the arm suddenly. Rinoa stared at his hand which clasped her forearm and then followed it up to his eyes.
"What's your name?" he asked once more.
"I'll tell you the next time we meet." Rinoa replied as he gently removed his hand from her. "We will meet again, I know we will." she said slowly, choosing her words carefully as she turned and ran back into the alley. Angelo followed at her heels.
Squall watched the shadows into which she had vanished. Behind him, his colleagues stepped out of the cottage.
"The television station is nearby, Squall." Xu said shocking him out of his stupor.
"Yo Squall, you look surprised. Did you see something?" Zell asked.
Squall ignored him. "Let's go."
* * * *
Seifer found it hard to believe that it was only two years ago. Timber. He had nothing to do as he stood at the Broadcast Station waiting for Deling to finish his speech. Rinoa. He had met her here, in Timber, an eternity ago.
She was pretty when he first saw her. She was one of those innocent little damsel that thought 69 was just the number that came before 70. Now that he thought about it, she wasn't even that pretty. Just innocent. Like one of those pathetic stray dogs that get kicked around by drunks on their way home to their nagging wenches. It was late and he was in a good mood so he did a good deed and saved her from getting mugged. She acted real grateful and all, telling him not to tell anyone that she was a sorceress.
The truth was that he was never too good at following rules, Garden's rules, Galbadia's rules, society's unspoken rules. Well people just don't date sorceresses, they're supposed to be evil. The entire bloody murderer spiel. In the end he wanted to dance with the devil around the hell fire and see if he would really bite back. But you see, the devil doesn't, he just leads you around in circles until you trip and fall on your ass in the wildfire. After that the devil runs away with your arch enemy giggling like a fucking ten year old.
But he would be a liar to say that he didn't love her once. He loved her when she ran laughing through the apple orchards under the midnight moon, loved her as they spent boring afternoons lying in the meadows naming the clouds, love her as she frowned comedically each time he told her one of his wild schemes.
"Seifer," she used to say, "I would give anything to be like you. To be normal, to go to parties, to eat hot dogs. . sometimes I just hate being a sorceress."
He laughed. "Sure, I'll bring you some hot dogs, Rinoa."
She looked away then. "That's not what I meant."
"I know what you mean," he replied then as he caught her hand, watching the disappointment on her face. "I'll make you normal, Rinoa. Just stay with me and you'll forget all your gloomy mish mash."
She smiled then and he thought that he said the right thing, pushed all the right buttons but he was wrong. He realize now that she never wanted to be normal. She wanted to be better than normal but in the end even more than that, she wanted to someone to share her darkness with, someone who he would never be. Women are particular. They talk in riddles and rhymes but in the end, they know exactly what they are after.
* * * * *
"Where is Rinoa?" Seifer asked Zone suddenly as the young man showed up, alone.
Zone shrugged. "No one tells Rinoa what to do. She's the sorceress's pet. She does whatever she likes."
Seifer ground his teeth as he watched Vinzer Deling end his speech.
"It is for the purpose of resolving these issues that I will have discussions with the leaders of other countries. I'd like to introduce my ambassador, who will serve as my agent and partner in these discussions with world leaders... the Sorceress..."
The door burst open suddenly and Seifer saw Xu, Zell and Selphie appear. Squall was there was well, hanging on the fringe. Xu ran up and attacked Deling with her katana but Seifer rushed forward and threw her aside.
"How dare you Seifer." Zell exclaimed as he helped Xu up.
"Shut up Zell!" Squall shouted, but it was too late.
"You betrayed Garden!" Zell yelled.
Deling laughed. "So you are from Garden? If anything happens to me-"
"What are you talking about?" Xu chipped in suddenly. "You kidnaped our head-" A fire spell burst forth from Seifer's hand and knocked Xu onto her back. He ran forth and pointed his gunblade at her throat.
"I've had enough of this. How dare you attack the president." Seifer felt his hand shake with anticipation. It was close, a word more and Deling would know that they had taken the headmaster. Where was Rinoa? He couldn't take them all alone.
The sorceress Edea came to his rescue. A thick green fog covered the broadcast station, blinding the SeeD members. Seifer reached over and grabbed Deling with Zone's aid. They escaped through the back. On the way out he bumped head first into Rinoa.
"Where were you?" He snapped at her.
"Where's Edea?" Rinoa asked furiously. Seifer handed Deling over to Zone and he continued to try to stare down Rinoa.
"Don't you mean where's Squall? Maybe it is you who must decide where your loyalty lies."
Rinoa glared at him and left insulted.
* * * *
"Is everyone okay?" Selphie asked as the mist cleared. Zell was on his back getting to his knees, Xu rolled over onto her stomach and tried to get into an upright position. Squall was already on his feet although his steps were slightly unsteady. There was something in that cloud that had made them fall asleep.
"Are they gone?" Xu asked wearily.
Squall looked about and realized that Deling and the sorceress were gone from the broadcast tower. He ran over to the back door and glanced out, hoping that it was not too late. As he looked out the door he saw no one. Suddenly something nudged his hand. Looking down, Squall saw Angelo. Licking his hand once, the large dog bounded down the alleyway and disappeared.
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